Former Middle Tennessee baseball coach Steve Peterson will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame during the national convention in January.
Induction to the ABCA Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the organization. The organization was founded in 1945 and the Hall of Fame began in 1966. It will become the fifth Hall of Fame in which Peterson has been enshrined.
“This is a very huge honor, and I am overwhelmed, humbled and almost embarrassed,” Peterson said. “It is so inconceivable that it could happen to me. As a kid my dream was to be a baseball player and get into the Hall of Fame. Maybe this was not the plan I had envisioned, but it was the plan God had for me. My dreams, goals and aspirations came true. As a kid I was hoping for Cooperstown, but I guess this was the plan.”
Peterson retired as Middle Tennessee’s all-time winningest baseball coach with a sterling 791-637-3 record following the 2012 season and after leading the program for 25 years. Peterson also served as an assistant coach for the Blue Raiders for six years.
Peterson produced 16 seasons with 30 or more wins, including a school-record 44 victories in 2009. He also had four campaigns of at least 40 wins, including 2009’s 44-18 record.
Peterson already is a member of the Blue Raider Hall of Fame (2010), Huntsville-Madison County (Ala.) Athletic Hall of Fame (2009), the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2007) and the Rutherford County Old Timers Baseball Hall of Fame (2003).
“It’s a very proud moment for Coach Pete and his family, but it is also a proud moment for Middle Tennessee baseball players, former coaches and players and fans,” said current Head Coach Jim McGuire, who spent 20 years as Peterson’s top assistant and was heavily involved in the nomination process.
“This is our Cooperstown for our profession,” McGuire added. “Consistency is the word to best describe Coach Pete. He was consistent in everything he did, whether it was how he handled practices or games or alumni. He was very consistent and he always took time for others. The best compliment I can give Pete is he is a baseball guy. People in our profession know what that means.”
Peterson guided Middle Tennessee to 11 regular-season conference championships, nine conference tournament titles and nine NCAA Regional berths, including two at-large selections. During one stretch, Peterson guided the Blue Raiders to a remarkable seven consecutive championships.
“I would have to say the thing I am most proud of is the consistency,” Peterson said. “During the four seasons I have been retired I have done a lot of reflecting. I have finally learned how to be retired and be a fan. Looking back it just amazes me. When I was coaching I really didn’t pay attention to the success we were having. When I look at the quality of teams and championships we won all through the 1990s and year after year, it really never dawned on me what was taking place. I was just worried about the next game, the next win, the next dollar.
“The consistency of it all is amazing to me now as I look back.”
Peterson coached a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and six Ohio Valley Conference Players of the Year, a Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year, an OVC Pitcher of the Year, two Sun Belt freshmen of the Year, two First-Team All-Americans, five Third-Team All-Americans, five Freshman All-Americans and 44 first-team All-Conference players.
Professional baseball has seen 71 former Peterson performers earn the chance to play the game at the highest level, with eight making their way to the Major Leagues.
“I have to give credit where it is due and that is my players, my assistant coaches and my administration,” Peterson said. “There have been a lot of people out there that were potentially good coaches, but they didn’t have the players. Players win games.
“I have to thank my family. My wife, Rita, and my children (Jill, Jenny, John) allowed me to pursue my dream. I really wanted to play the game but the good Lord said I really wasn’t that good of a player. I couldn’t live without it and (coaching) was my way of staying in it. I am so thankful my family allowed it. I’m very fortunate and blessed.”
McGuire said the nomination process is extensive because the organization includes coaches of all level of baseball from amateur to professional.
“A lot goes into the nomination,” McGuire said. “It is not as simple as just submitting a name. There were a lot of coaches, high-profile coaches, who wanted to step up and be involved for Coach Pete and they wrote recommendation letters and made phone calls. It was a tedious task but people stepped to the forefront to help. They wanted to be involved because they knew Pete was very deserving.”
Peterson will be enshrined into the ABCA Hall of Fame in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 7, 2017.