Fort Wayne third baseman Dustin Peterson stepped to the plate against a South Bend pitcher who had handcuffed the TinCaps, shutting them out on three hits through five innings.
In an instant, Peterson turned a hanging slider into a soaring shot over the left-field fence, ending the shutout.
Fort Wayne hitting coach Morgan Burkhart marvels at what the 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-handed hitting Peterson has done this season at a young age. The 19-year-old third baseman is hitting .270 with eight homers and a Midwest League-leading 65 RBIs.
"Dustin has got strength of the hands," Burkhart said. "His hands are some of the best I've seen in a long time at that age. His ability to hit the ball to all fields is impressive. He's as good as anyone going the other way, and he can definitely turn on some balls."
A second-round selection (50th overall) by the Padres in the 2013 Draft, Peterson turned down an opportunity to play at Arizona State. His talent for delivering with runners in scoring position has been a bright spot for the TinCaps. Peterson is hitting .300 (39-for-130) in those situations.
"The thing I'm impressed with is his ability to be clutch," Burkhart said of Peterson. "Usually, when there are guys on base, he has great at-bats. He has a knack to drive in runs. That really is impressive for a kid his age."
Peterson displays an even-keeled approach at the plate and has impressed the Padres with his improvement in hitting breaking balls. He is highly regarded for his mature approach at the plate.
"Dustin studies the game, but one of his biggest strengths is he takes the right approach before he gets in the box, then he sees it and hits it," Burkhart said. "Some guys have to guess one way or the other, but I see Dustin seeing the ball and reacting. He's very advanced in that area for this level. I haven't seen him overmatched by anyone at the plate, and for 19 years old, that's impressive."
One area of emphasis for Peterson is improving his fielding. He has committed 27 errors at third.
"On the field, I'm just trying to make plays and be the best fielder I can be," Peterson said.
Peterson said he has thrived with help and advice from his older brother. The Mariners took D.J. Peterson 12th overall in 2013, giving the Peterson family two top 50 players in the same Draft.
"It was an exciting moment for the Peterson household." Dustin said.
According to Dustin, he and D.J. have a relationship that is a balance of cooperation and competition, with each brother pushing the other to be better.
D.J. is hitting a combing .321 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs in the Mariners farm system this season.
"For a moment, I was beating him in RBIs, so there was a little smack talk between my brother and me," Dustin said. "Then he started to take off with the RBIs. At one point, he was only one home run ahead of me, and I told him I was going to beat him in homers by the end of the year, but he wasn't going to have any of that, and he just took off in that, too.
"We compete, we talk … about the successes and about the bad games. It's huge to have an older brother going through the same stuff I am. Even through we're competitive, he's always been helpful. It's awesome to call him and talk about the game, and he'll say, 'It's baseball, man. You just have to have fun. Keep swinging it. If you're not swinging it, keep swinging it, and when you are, keeping swinging it.' That's what we live by."
Ownership change: Palisades Arcadia Baseball is set to purchase the Dayton Dragons franchise from Mandalay Baseball Properties for a reported price tag that could be as high as $40 million, the most ever for a Minor League Baseball team. Forbes Magazine ranked Dayton the sixth most valuable franchise in the Minors, valued at $31 million. The Dragons were the only non-Triple-A franchise in the Forbes Top 10 list. According to a press release by the Dragons, the local management of the team, led by team president Robert Murphy, will stay in place.
"We're delighted to have reached an agreement with Palisades Arcadia Baseball," said Art Matin, CEO of Mandalay Baseball. "We are tremendously pleased with what has been accomplished in Dayton and at Fifth Third Field, and with our stewardship of the franchise for the Dayton community."
Extra special: West Michigan lefty Raph Rhymes became the fifth player in Whitecaps history to slug four extra-base hits in a game. The four extra-base hits and three doubles in a game tied a franchise record. The 15th-rounder from LSU drove in four runs in West Michigan's 12-4 victory against Lansing.
Reversal of fortune: Last Friday, the Lake County Captains struck out 17 times but scored an 11-2 victory against Dayton in the battle of Ohio. On Tuesday night, Lake County pitchers struck out 17 Bowling Green batters, but the Captains lost 10-2.
Curt Rallo is a contributor to MiLB.com.