February 22, 2012

Jeremy Peterson's loss becomes UCSB's gain

The college baseball season is just starting, but pitcher Jeremy Peterson has already taken a bunch of losses for UCSB:

They include about 60 pounds, a few inches of hair ... and his big, right toe.

Peterson is expecting less to be more in his comeback from an amputation that delayed his Gaucho career for two years.

"I was worried that I'd never get to pitch again," the 6-foot-6 and 230-pound righthander conceded.

Instead, he's going to be put into save situations as a closer in the bullpen of new UCSB coach Andrew Checketts.

"It's a tremendous story about what he's been able to do and overcome what happened with his toe and his health and his condition," Checketts said. "He appears to be on a mission to succeed and I think to prove to himself, most importantly, that he can do it.

"To be able to change your body like that, you have to have serious commitment and work ethic."

Peterson, a San Diego native who pitched two seasons at SBCC, lost his toe after entering UCSB during the fall of 2009. A small ulcer had become infected with MRSA, a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. A battery of treatments finally got rid of the infection, but the internal damage to the toe convinced doctors that it had to be removed.

The surgery was performed on Dec. 22, 2009, and it's been a long road back for the Gaucho senior.

"It's my right foot, so it's the foot that I push off from," Peterson said. "It was tough at first. I had to learn how to walk again, balance again.

"But the training staff here at UCSB was great - they basically got me back on my feet and able to walk again, and run, and balance, and all that."

He has had to deal with more than the loss of his toe. The MRSA has already flared up a dozen times, requiring several hospitalizations. He now changes his bed sheets and bath towels every other day, and he's also changed some bad habits which had pushed his weight up to nearly 300 pounds.

"Last year I did the master cleanse to flush out my body, and ever since I decided to really make a lifestyle change in how I ate and how I worked out," Peterson said. "What happened with my toe was a tough way to realize that, but it's definitely become a blessing."

The results began to show up last summer when he went 3-3 with a 2.29 earned run average for the San Diego Waves semi-pro team. He got one of the wins plus a save at the National Baseball Congress World Series.

His improvement continued throughout the fall, Checketts said.

"His velocity has been up since we got back in the spring, and he's developed a change-up," he said. "His slider is improved, too - we just refined it a little bit ... He's been able to tighten it up and throw it a little harder. It has a little more late movement.

"He's also showing some leadership skills. He has a presence in the clubhouse and in the dugout, and his teammates respect him."

Losing the long locks was Checketts' idea.

"He looked like a surfer, and I don't think he surfs much," he said with a laugh. "If he saves a bunch of games, I may let it grow. If he doesn't, it'll get shorter."

Peterson didn't mind. It wasn't the unkindest cut of all.

Mark Patton's column appears on Thursdays and Saturdays. Email: mpatton@newspress.com

View: Mobile | Desktop