CORVALLIS, Ore.– The youngest of three boys, Andy Peterson calls himself “the little mistake of the family.” But there is value in the little things; something Peterson embodies as Oregon State’s second baseman.
“Both ffensively and defensively, I don’t think he gets the recognition,” head coach Pat Casey said, “the little things, for us, are big because we’ve got some guys in the middle of the lineup that are pretty good.”
“He gets the fire started for us a lot of the time,” outfielder Michael Conforto said, “you’d think it was the home runs that would get the team pumped up, but a lot of times, it’s just ‘Petey’ putting down a great bunt.”
“I’ve never been the biggest kid,” Peterson said, “I think I’ve hit four home runs–actually, I know I’ve hit four home runs in my life. So I’ve taken pride on that–the bunting, stealing bases, stuff like that; playing good defense.”
It’s an approach Peterson learned at a young age, from his father, Walt.
“After every practice or game, he would just have his one thing, ‘Alright, so little thing today, guys.’ It always just related to baseball or football growing up, but the more I kind of realized it’s just life in general; the bigger picture,” Peterson said.
Few see life’s ‘bigger picture’ more clearly than Peterson. As Andy prepared to graduate high school, his father began suffering headaches. Tests revealed the worst, brain cancer.
“Dad had the surgery. It was kind of funny–he wakes up, opens his eyes the next day, looks at all of us and says ‘so you guys just going to sit there, or is somebody going to get me a beer?’ It was funny. One of the more awesome moments in my life,” Peterson explained.
In October, four months after his initial diagnosis, Walt Peterson died. He was 55 years old.
Just a year after losing his father, Andy’s mother, Debra, was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
“[She] just did radiation for that, and it basically went away. Then had to get more checkups and eventually, they found she had lung cancer.”
As Peterson began his junior season–his first at Oregon State–Debra resumed her battle with cancer. This second fight was more aggressive than the first.
“It spread to her spine and through her arm, and there was a point when we had to decide as a family that the chemo wasn’t really worth it–just the pain of going through the chemo wasn’t worth it.”
As his mother’s health deteriorated, Peterson played on. In the 2013 season, he led Oregon State in runs scored, stolen bases and sacrifice hits. He helped the Beavers win the Pac-12 title and return to the College World Series.
“Right before Omaha, [Debra] was getting pretty sick. Some of the other parents [at OSU] pitched in, actually helped to pay for a flight, hotel, and all that stuff,” Peterson said, “she got to come here for Super Regionals first, which was pretty cool. Saw all that–all the excitement, the dog pile. Then came out to Omaha.”
“One of the best stories ever is last year, we’re at the World Series and she wanted to see the fireworks, but couldn’t walk up the stairs, so one of our parents carried her up the stairs,” Casey recalled, “I thought about her in the hotel, and I remember her saying to my wife ‘this is probably the last time I’ll see Petey play.”
It was. Six months after returning from Omaha, Debra Peterson passed away.
Now without both parents, Andy would need his second family–the one in Corvallis–more than ever before.
“The one thing he said to me was ‘I need to get back up [to OSU], that’s my family.’ Ultimately, the impact that Petey has had on us and the impact we’ve had on him will be a lifetime deal,” Casey said.
“He’s very, very repetitive about saying we’re his family and we’re his brothers,” Conforto adds, “a lot of people say that, but in his case, it’s really real.”
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s amazing; the support from just our coaches, all the players, all my buddies. Random fans coming up to me saying ‘if you need another mom, I’m here for you,’ and I just have no idea who it is. It’s really pretty special how much support there really is,” Peterson said.
On May 11, 2014, Oregon State went for a sweep of UCLA. With the game tied in the seventh inning, it was PEterson who had the big hit. It wasn’t a home run. It was a bunt, and it was the game-winning RBI, on Mother’s Day.
“I touched first base and coach [Aaron] Matthews looks at me and he goes ‘that one’s for momma.’ That was pretty special. That was actually really special to see, you know, doing it on a bunt, too. Just almost fitting–something you work so hard at–one of those ‘little things,’” Peterson said.
The ‘little things’ make the biggest impact. A lesson Peterson learned from one family. A value he personifies for another.