Honkers attract another big bat
Peterson may challenge team home run record
The name Zach Zubia should be very familiar to Rochester Honkers fans. Two years ago, the big first baseman from Texas came to Rochester and shattered the Northwoods League’s single-season home run record, pounding 22 balls over the fence.
Thomas Walker was an assistant coach for that squad and saw what Zubia could do. Walker is about to begin his second season as the Honkers manager, and he brought up Zubia as he described New Mexico State’s Tristan Peterson, who will play for the Honkers this summer.
“Tristan should make Mayo Field look as small as Zach Zubia did,” Walker said. “He is going to bring a lot of offense to the Honkers, in just about every category possible.”
Peterson’s numbers at New Mexico State this year are nothing short of eye-popping. The Aggies just wrapped up their regular season, and in 49 games Peterson hit .402 with nine doubles, a triple, 20 homers and 88 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .836, and his on-base plus slugging (OPS) is a ridiculous 1.444.
It’s been a breakout season for Peterson, who spent his freshman year at Kansas State and his sophomore season at a junior college in Texas. At 6-2, 230 pounds, he’s always been a power hitter, but he said the New Mexico State coaching staff has helped him take things to a new level this year.
“Coach Brian Green has really helped my offensive game,” he said. “We made a couple adjustments to my swing, and he’s really helped my approach at the plate. It’s been paying off.”
Like Zubia, Peterson is a right-handed batter who will play first base, with perhaps some time in the outfield. “But really, as long as I get to hit, I don’t care where I’m playing in the field,” he said.
Walker offered several theories to explain Peterson’s sudden offensive explosion.
“When guys have to bounce around a little bit in their college careers, which is something I did, you start taking fewer things for granted,” he said. “You can tell by the way his body looks that he’s been working really hard in the weight room. Also, I think his improvement is a product of the program he’s in. New Mexico State is a very strong offensive program. The way they work, the things they teach — there are a lot of guys on that team with outrageous numbers. I think it’s just their hitting philosophy, the way the way they work at it. I have a very high level of respect for that coaching staff and what they do with their players.”
That coaching staff is a big reason Peterson is coming to Rochester. Former Honkers manager Trevor Hairgrove is an assistant at New Mexico State, and Peterson said Hairgrove had good things to say about Rochester.
“He said it’s a fun place to play, and he talked about the field,” Peterson said. “He said it’s not the biggest field. That’s fine with me.”
While Walker wouldn’t predict that Peterson will break any home run records this summer, he did predict that Peterson will wreak plenty of havoc at the plate and will keep fans’ attention when he’s in the batter’s box.
“He’ll bring not just power to the plate, but consistency, too,” Walker said. “He’s not just all-or-nothing, selling out to hit homers, but he has that kind of power. He gives you a quality at-bat every time, and he’s going to be the spark for the entire offense, I think. He’s probably our best power hitter and our most consistent hitter all at the same time.”
Peterson, as is true of several Honkers players, might not be in town when the season opens on Tuesday, because he’ll stay with the Aggies throughout their playoff run. New Mexico State is the defending champion in the Western Athletic Conference tournament and is the No. 1 seed this year.
And, as is always the case with top-level Northwoods League talent, there’s a chance that Peterson will be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft in early June.
He said he’d love to be drafted and definitely wants to play pro ball, but he’ll be happy to play for the Honkers and then return to New Mexico State for his senior season. “This summer I just want to create some new relationships with the guys, learn some new things about the game and help the Honkers any way I can.”
Walker can’t wait for Peterson to arrive in Rochester. “I really hope we get a long summer of Tristan Peterson,” he said. “I always wish our players the best in their playoff hunt, but I hope we get a long summer with Tristan.”