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Nine Innings with Peter
By Phil Stanton
Junior Peter O’Brien of Bethune-Cookman has
developed into one of the top catchers in the nation.
A native of Miami Gardens, Fla., O’Brien is a
preseason All-American after hitting .386 in 57 games a season
ago with 20 home runs and 56 RBI. He was the MEAC Player of the
Year and helped the Wildcats capture their fifth straight
conference title. O’Brien played with Team USA this past summer,
batting .306 in 13 games with four homers and 10 RBI.
O’Brien took some time to answer our questions
about the Wildcats and the upcoming season.
First Inning - Did you feel you had a chance
to be an All-American coming out of high school?
Yes. As a kid, I was always taught to go big. No
matter what I did I always wanted to be the best at it. Coming
out of high school, I found myself incredibly dedicated and
motivated to this game. It's when I said that this is what I
want to do the rest of my life, God willing. I strived to get
better every day.
Second Inning - How important was it for you
to stay in the state of Florida to play college baseball?
I was never too concerned about staying in
Florida because I just wanted to play ball. Looking back on it,
I'm glad I decided to play here. I was never recruited a whole
lot coming out of high school. I've always been really close to
my family, and we have a real tight-knit team. When I was
offered a scholarship to B-CU, I jumped on it immediately. The
coaches were great and it was only about three hours away from
home, which gave my family and I the opportunity to stay close
to each other. Also being in Florida gives you the leeway of
practicing year round.
Third Inning - What were the biggest factors
in your improvement from your freshman to sophomore year?
So many things contributed to my transition.
After finishing my freshman year, I really wanted to bust out
onto the scene as a sophomore. It all started the day we got
knocked out of regionals. I had that huge emptiness in me after
we just got knocked out and when we got back to Daytona Beach, I
unloaded the bus with the team and got in my car and drove to
DeLand to practice with my summer team. Some people thought I
was crazy about not taking a couple days off but at that time, I
knew that's what I needed to do. Since then I have worked to get
bigger, faster, and stronger. I had the opportunity to talk a
lot with Davey Johnson, who was our skipper over the summer, and
really learned a lot from him about the game. When I got back to
school I hit every day as much as I could and worked out with
the team and on my own. I did my best to eat right. I had alarms
on my phone to tell me when to eat. I had a lot of support from
my family, coaches, and teammates. A lot of people see what goes
on but few know about the help behind the scenes. My teammates
knew where I wanted to get so they'd push me. We'd push each
other. We fed off of each other.
Fourth Inning - How valuable was your
experience with Team USA this past summer?
Playing with Team USA was amazing. The amount of
talent on that team was crazy. It was the best summer of my
life. When I stepped onto the field at Rosenblatt it gave me
goose bumps. It was a surreal feeling. It felt like I had just
shaken Babe Ruth's hand or something. I feel it really made me
bring a sense of experience to our team that will be valuable to
us this season. You know what it feels like to be at the top and
to play at your best. You have to know you're the best. You've
got to play with swag. We knew we were good and we played like
it. When we played in Japan and lost to Cuba in that
championship game, I was heartbroken just like losing in
regionals. That's a feeling I never want to have again nor want
anyone on my team to experience. It lit a fire in me.
Fifth Inning - What are your expectations for
the 2011 season?
I want really big things. We want really big
things. The team has been working harder than ever and we have a
huge goal in mind. The coaches have presented us with a
challenge and we want to accomplish it. We're tired of being
thought of as the underdog. Player for player, we can hang with
anyone in the nation. Durrence, Leonard, Castro, Sanchez, and
Wright, to name a few. All those guys are animals. We have a
strong sense of leadership this year. Everyone loves being with
each other, and we are all pulling the same way. We've got a
good thing going here and it's really going to be a fun year to
be a Wildcat.
Sixth Inning - What do you expect from the
Wildcat pitching staff for the 2011 season?
I expect them to leave everything they've got out
there on that mound. I want them to compete. I want them to go
out there and dominate. They've been working day in and day out
to get better and there are a lot of guys on there, especially
young guys, who will be impact players for us this year.
Seventh Inning - What makes Bethune-Cookman so
dominant in the MEAC?
Coach Melendez has done a lot for this program.
He took it over from scratch and just went uphill with it. The
level of respect and maturity he has for the game is unmatched.
We are the Alpha male in the MEAC and that's what we are trying
to do in Division I baseball. We don't slack off and we play our
hardest every game, no matter the opponent. We try to play with
a chip on our shoulder; they're all out to get us.
Eighth Inning - What do you think of the bat
restrictions from a hitter's point of view?
They changed something, that's for sure! The
weight is distributed differently and the ball doesn't jump off
as much, but I guess it just means I have got to hit my forearms
that much harder! I think it's for the better, though. They
resemble wood bats more. When you get jammed you get JAMMED! But
if you hit that bad boy on the barrel, it still goes a long way.
I think it will really make you a better hitter, you'll learn to
square the ball up more consistently. Although I feel more
comfortable with wood in my hands, the new bats are fine with
me. It will just take some time to get used to them.
Ninth Inning - What do you think of the bat
restrictions from a catcher's point of view?
I think it's going to be fun. Calling the game is
going to be easier. It's going to make pitching and defense that
much more important. The inside part of the plate is going to
open back up and I know the pitchers are happy about the new
bats. The guys that can hit will still hit, but the jammed and
off-the-end shots won’t make it out of the infield as much.
(photos courtesy of Bethune-Cookman
Media Relations Office)