Saluki Sparkplug

By JOE McFARLAND

Everywhere Tristan Peters has played, he’s been a sparkplug that keeps the engine running.

His resume is nothing short of impressive, from his Canadian roots to his American college career. The accolades continue to mount with every stop he makes.

His latest success came this spring with the Southern Illinois University Salukis, helping lead them to a 40-20 record, including a 14-0 start to the campaign.

In 60 games, the star centrefielder hit .355 with six home runs, 46 runs batted in and he stole 16 bases en route to being named an All-Missouri Valley Conference second-team all star.

A deeper look at his statistics show Peters led the conference in hits, walks and doubles, and was third in on-base percentage, stolen bases and RBI. He also walked nearly twice as much as he struck out.

“We focused a lot on taking pitches that we can’t hit well,” Peters told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “Taking balls and trying to draw walks. Ninety feet is huge, so any way you can get it, that works.”

The Dawgs Academy product says he had never walked so much in his career, but believes it’s contributed to his development as a player.

AWAY FROM HOME

Peters has come a long way from his hometown of Winkler, Manitoba, a city of more than 12,000 and less than 20 minutes from the U.S. border.

Baseball was among the many sports he played, but it wasn’t until high school that he wanted to chase the diamond dream.

“I’ve just always enjoyed it,” Peters said. “It’s a tough sport. I like to be challenged and I definitely think baseball is the hardest sport I’ve played.”

He recalls some friends asking for his email address, then getting a message from Dawgs Academy general manager Tyler Hollick asking if he might be interested in heading to Okotoks.

That led to a conversation while the Dawgs were in Manitoba, although it came with some trepidation.

“It was really crazy, because I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to an academy as I don’t know if I can move away from home,’” Peters laughed. “Then all of a sudden, it just happened and I now think that was a really great decision.”

He admits it helped that he was living with his aunt in Calgary, but as a 16-year-old, he still had his days of being homesick. It also prepared him for the college life.

“The Dawgs program means a tonne to me,” Peters continued. “They know how to develop character there. I just learned how to be a good ball player and a good man.”

COLLEGE-BOUND CANADIAN

The opportunity in Okotoks also provided a springboard for Peters to continue his baseball journey.

He committed to Hollick’s alma mater, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, where he continued to put up great numbers.

In his freshman season, Peters hit .373 with six homers, 32 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 49 games. He earned a National Junior College Athletic Association Gold Glove and was an All-Conference team member.

The 6-foot, 180-pound outfielder continued his dominance the following campaign, hitting .354 with a home run, six RBI and 13 stolen bases in in 19 games before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Peters ranks his two years with the Coyotes among the best of his life.

“I think that was the best decision of my life,” he said. “It was such a good time. I met some of my best friends there.”

His success also propelled him to Illinois, as well as a return venture to his second home in Alberta.

DAWG GONE GOOD

When asked, Peters jumped at the chance to return to Okotoks in 2019 to be part of the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Dawgs.

Having seen the popularity of the program up close with the academy, he relished in the opportunity to play at Seaman Stadium as a freshman.

Peters rewarded the team with an outstanding campaign, hitting .396 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 52 games. He won the league’s batting title as well as the Canadian Rookie of the Year for his efforts.

He continued his assault on WCBL pitchers in the post-season, hitting .313 with four RBI and three stolen bases in eight games, while being named the Playoff MVP as the Dawgs collected their fifth league championship.

READ MORE: Let the Big Dawg Eat

“It was unreal – and so much fun,” Peters smiled. “The guys on that team were incredible. They were great ball players but even better people and they were just so much fun to be around.”

A QUIET CONFIDENCE

It was during the WCBL All-Star Game in Edmonton where a conversation was overheard with a coach remarking “if only he knew how good he was.”

He – as in the 21-year-old Peters.

While it felt like a weird question to ask a young man coming off a few years of great baseball, it was one worth asking.

“I don’t know because there are those ups and downs,” Peters told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “When I’m confident, I think I’m good. But I could also easily tell myself that I’m not good enough or whatever.”

He admits confidence is something he wants to work at, and he hopes doing “the little things” will help him keep succeeding on the field.

Peters draws on his own experience, as well as that of others, to bring himself out of slumps, something he doesn’t see very often.

He’s also quick to point out that he can’t get too far ahead of himself, whether it’s in a game or in his career. It’s advice he offers to young players just starting their baseball journeys.

“Don’t worry too much about your future,” Peters said. “I worried a lot back then and I still do sometimes. For me, everything worked out because I put in the work.”

You can’t fault him for looking ahead though, especially as the Canadian Baseball Network has him pegged as the No. 7 draft-eligible Canadian in the 2021 MLB Draft.

“I really want to play pro baseball,” Peters said. “That’s my goal and I just have to take it a day at a time.”

He will take another step towards that goal this summer when he suits up for the Savannah Bananas.

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