D.J. Peters broke a number of records for Western Nevada College during his final season for the Wildcats in 2016. He added one more on Friday morning when the Los Angeles Dodgers selected the WNC outfielder in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Peters bested the previous Wildcat record of pitcher Dylan Baker, who was taken in the fifth round by the Cleveland Indians in 2012.
“Amazing; he worked so hard,” said WNC hitting instructor Aaron Demosthenes on his star hitter’s high selection. “Truly, it’s his work ethic. When things aren’t going well for him, he gets to work, instead of feeling sorry for himself.”
When the 131st pick in the draft was announced, Peters and his family and friends began to celebrate in Glendora, Calif.
“It was a very exciting time for me to share with the people that mean the most to me,” Peters said. “I’m just grateful I got my name called because most kids don’t get to hear that. I’m really happy with the spot where I went; that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Few players wind up being selected by their favorite team. Peters has bled Dodger blue since early childhood, attending as many games as he could.
“I can’t wait to get in there in that organization and impact them with my tools and the way I play the game of baseball,” Peters said. “I’ll keep on working. Signing isn’t when all the work stops; it’s when the work begins.”
The Southern California native set records for WNC in batting average and home runs in the Wildcats’ recently completed season. The Region 18 Player of the Year batted .419 to became the first Wildcat to hit above .400 for a season. Peters smashed 16 home runs to reset the Wildcats’ single-season record, as well as the career mark at 23.
During his final season in a Wildcat uniform, Peters slugged 31 extra-base hits and drove in 65 runs.
“He was a madman with his fitness in the offseason,” Demosthenes said of the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Peters. “He gained strength and weight. Playing with the pro-style flat-seam ball helped, too.”
Peters became the third Wildcat selected in three straight MLB drafts. He was taken in the 36th round by the Texas Rangers last year and in the 36th round by the Chicago Cubs following his senior year at Glendora High School.
“That’s really special that he’s among the top 200 players in this country selected from any level,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “He has that kind of talent, no doubt about that.
“JC players tend to be undervalued, and WNC players, in general, have been undervalued.”
Sophomore catcher Tim Lichty protected Peters for most of the season, hitting behind his teammate in the cleanup spot. He’s seen firsthand the work Peters has done to become a better player.
“D.J. deserved what he got,” Lichty said. “He kept the drive to get better and excel past everyone’s expectations. I am a huge Dodger fan and am so happy to have him a part of that organization. I am excited to see how he does and hope the best for him.”
University of Oregon sophomore right fielder Jake Bennett and Peters worked side by during the 2015 season. Bennett essentially groomed Peters to take over his spot in center field.
“I’m so happy for him; well-deserved, and I know the entire WNC family is proud,” Bennett said. “We hit extra together and battled each other every single day to get the best out of one another. He’s an awesome kid who I now consider my brother for life.”
JoJo Romero, the left-handed pitcher from Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., whose team ousted WNC in the Western District championship and won the JUCO World Series, was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies to open the fourth round.
College of Southern Nevada’s Mikey York was the second player from the Scenic West Athletic Conference selected. The Tampa Bay Rays took the right-handed pitcher in the fifth round.
Peters said he’ll always remember his two years of junior college baseball at Western Nevada and the people who helped him become a more-rounded person.
“I absolutely love Western Nevada College, and it will always have a special place in my heart,” Peters said. “I’m grateful to every one of my teammates, coach ‘Whitt,’ coach ‘Demo,’ coach ‘Gonzo’ (Ryan Gonzalez), coach (Connor) Klein, coach Joe Purus and coach Frank Carey; those guys helped me a lot to become a better person, student and player. I learned things from them that I will never forget.”