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Todd Peterson: At the Top of His Game

How Todd Peterson went from a kid from Orlando, to an internet sensation at LSU, to the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ most clutch closer.
April 26, 2024

Today, Todd Peterson is the MiLB leader in saves with six at the beginning of his third season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Growing up in Orlando, Peterson enjoyed mixed martial arts, golf, and dominating his opponents in soccer. As a young kid, he never expressed interest in playing baseball,

Today, Todd Peterson is the MiLB leader in saves with six at the beginning of his third season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Growing up in Orlando, Peterson enjoyed mixed martial arts, golf, and dominating his opponents in soccer. As a young kid, he never expressed interest in playing baseball, let alone choosing the sport as his career path.

That is, until one fateful day at Target, one that the right-handed pitcher recalls quite vividly.

“I remember I was walking around Target, and I saw this bright green bat,” Peterson says. Nine years old at the time, he was awestruck and bought the bat with little to no hesitation. “Then I started swinging and I was hitting balls really far, and then started playing baseball.”

From then on, the game was in his life. He continued with other hobbies like playing basketball with his dad and friends, but baseball quickly became Peterson’s top priority. Despite being 6’5” heading into high school, he decided not to try out for Lake Mary’s basketball team and instead pursued the school’s baseball team, focused solely on becoming the best he could be.

Once he made the team, Peterson faced another decision that would determine the course of his adult life and professional career. Lake Mary’s varsity coach gave him the option: to become strictly a pitcher on varsity or play on JV with opportunities to pitch, bat, and field.

“At that point, I kind of knew that pitching was what I was going to do,” Peterson says. In his four years, he was named a 2016 Perfect Game All-American and was rated among the country’s Top 400 College prospects by Baseball America.

Despite not hitting in games, his choice to become a varsity pitcher didn’t mean that he completely threw away the thing that got him into the sport in the first place. Peterson would hit batting practice often with his teammates, but it wasn’t until college that he got a rare opportunity to step up to the batter’s box.

He attended Louisiana State University studying interdisciplinary studies and was a valued member of the LSU baseball team’s bullpen.

Looking back, Peterson recalls memories with the team’s accomplishments, as well as his personal achievements that led him to professional ball. He looks back fondly on his entire experience at LSU, from the Zombie movie classes he took every Thursday his junior year to the lasting impact that LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri had on him in three years.

“Through my college career, he didn't want to just make you the best baseball player, but wanted to make you the best man that you could be, you know, really make you a good person and taught a lot of life lessons.”

Despite all of this, many people don’t focus on his pitching career at LSU but rather harp on the only collegiate at bat he ever had.

Louisiana State took on South Carolina in the third round of the 2018 SEC Tournament, and the game was tied at three to force extra innings. Peterson, a sophomore, pitched the final five of twelve innings for LSU, but he also had a chance to contribute on offense – an opportunity he did not take lightly. With two runners on and two outs in the top of the 12th, Peterson stepped up to the plate with one goal in mind, “Go yard.”

Meantime, Coach Mainieri had just told him to do the exact opposite. “I told him, ‘Don’t swing…Stand there and don’t get hurt, you’re still in the game,’” he told ESPN reporters postgame. After stretching the truth about his previous batting experience and risking injury, it all paid off. Peterson hit an RBI double off the left-field wall to put the Tigers up two and then took the mound to finish off the 6-4 win.

Even now, Peterson says he still gets recognized and asked about it from time to time. “Can’t live it down,” he says. “It was a great moment.”

The following year, when Peterson was a junior and LSU was preparing for the Super Regional series against Florida State, he was selected in the 2019 MLB Draft. Peterson watched from his friend’s laptop surrounded with friends and family in his college apartment. He received “the phone call” from his agent, and was selected by the Washington Nationals in the seventh round.

“It was pretty exciting,” he recalls. “You know, I was really looking forward to getting going from there. I knew it was gonna be a great opportunity and a great organization to be a part of.”

Six years and five seasons later, Peterson is still working in the Nationals organization. 2024 is his third season with the Blue Rocks, and the 26-year-old says that his out-of-the-gate start is very different than previous years.

“I've always had a rough start, didn't know what it was and then postseason comes around and I'm always at the best of my game. You know, I'm always throwing the hardest that I've thrown my stuff is the sharpest it'll be. Mentally I'm just locked in ready to go.”

So, what’s changed? How did he go from consecutive slow starts to leading the league in saves?

Peterson says that it’s all about his mindset.

“It's almost like I was doing circles for the last couple of years, and then I finally broke out of that circle, and now I'm in a really clear headspace. I'm having a great time pitching and playing baseball.”

He is undoubtedly one of the biggest personalities on the Blue Rocks, but Peterson’s new ability to switch from fun to business in a snap applies immediately when he hits the mound. The team is performing well and leads the South Atlantic League and a lot of that has to do with the clutch performances he has demonstrated in final innings.

When asked about his personal goals for season, “Just dominate,” he says bluntly. So far, so good.