The trading deadline has now come and gone, and it is usually the time of year when Rick Peterson can finally settle in and know fully the hand he has been dealt with a pitching staff. However this year has been a different one for the former Mets pitching mentor, a year spent away from the ballpark for the most part, and in a sort of “pitching lab,” working in the development of tools and techniques to help clubs and individuals attain their best performance, just not with one club.
A managerial change over the winter left Peterson, who had spent last season helping make John Axford into a closer and reshaping the delivery of Chris Capuano with the Milwaukee Brewers, a baseball nomad. The move came late for many teams solidifying staffs and left Peterson without a team for only the second time not in his career, but in his life. “It’s a little weird, but it has given me new perspective on the game and even on life, and I think it will help make me better when the phone rings again for whatever is the next job.” Peterson has not spent his time out of uniform idly sitting around and watching the waves crash in the shore near here is Manalapan, New Jersey home. On the contrary, he has probably been busier with a multitude of tasks personal and professional than at any point in his storied career.
Trips to Italy (where he was married last month) and the Caribbean, attending school functions for his son, travelling across the country conducting seminars with Bloomberg Sports (whom he is advising on their analytic evaluation tools), helping run and manage his own company 3P Sports (which works with young players in technique and improving their game) and a great number of media appearances from Philly to Boston have kept the New Jersey resident engaged in baseball, and maybe learning more from a macro perspective than at any point in his career. “It has been great to talk to so many people, from players to agents to young developing talent, and really understand what they see as value in the game of baseball and how I can help them,” he added. “That has been really gratifying.”
What has also been gratifying to Peterson is seeing so many clubs embracing the use of data and technology to improve their on field play and protect the valuable investment they have made in players. It is that type of data analysis that helped Peterson sculpt winning staffs with the Oakland A’s and the Mets, and helped get the Brewers back on track last year. “We have all this technology available today and companies like Bloomberg have made large scale investments into helping teams and players use technology to improve their performance, so seeing how the game is progressing is really impressive,” he added. “Fewer guys are hesitant these days to use technology and data to improve, and that means we will hopefully see a better and more completely healthy player going forward.”
Even with his new scope of work, Peterson still longs to get back on the field, especially as summer turns to fall and the pennant races heat up. “Putting on that uniform is always a privilege, and it’s one I don’t think I ever took lightly, and I certainly take more seriously now than ever before,” he added. “This year has been one of continued growth, and now I want to take all of this work and help a club, should the opportunity arise and the situation is right.”
That situation could come this fall as clubs make their annual evaluation and changes of staff occur. However Peterson adds, it has to be the right situation for it to work. “You need the right commitment and the right situation to be a success and what I have seen is that more and more clubs are willing to make more of an investment to win now and grow their player’s ability long term. That is refreshing, and it makes me feel very good about where baseball is headed,” he added.
For Peterson, he hopes that he is headed back to the field sometime in the near future. It has been a year of growth and education, but for a guy who has spent so much time between the white lines and near the mound, the beach and the broadcast booth can still wait in favor of the day to day clubhouse activity, glove in one hand and laptop in another.