Steve Peterson, Middle Tennessee’s head baseball coach for the past 25 seasons and the program’s all-time winningest coach, has left the dugout.
Peterson, who announced his retirement July 5, amassed 791 wins during his Blue Raider career while leading MT to 11 conference regular-season championships, nine conference tournament titles and nine NCAA Regional appearances.
Associate head coach Jim McGuire, who has served alongside Peterson for the past 20 years, will act as the interim head coach as the University’s Athletic Department begins a national search to fill the vacated position.
“I love baseball, and hopefully I’ve taught players to love baseball,” Peterson said. “But it’s not about me. I’ve been a part of the improvement of the program. Was I the program? No, and I never tried to be. I was just an extension of it.
“I said this at the Groundhog Luncheon: where there’s a will there’s a way. I tried to be the will. Everybody out there was the way. The players were the way. The people that donated money and people that came to the games were the way. I just had a will for 25 years to try to keep improving the program. And it’s going to keep improving.”
Peterson began his MT career in 1988 and since has led the program to 16 seasons of 30 or more wins. In four seasons, Peterson’s Blue Raiders cracked the 40-win plateau, including a record-setting 2009 campaign where the squad finished with a 44-18 record, marking the most wins in school history. The three-time Coach of the Year will exit the profession with a 944-733-3 career record and 791-637-3 mark at the helm of the Blue Raiders.
“Today we celebrate the career of one of our departmental icons,” said Chris Massaro, MT director of athletics. “His personal impact on hundreds of student-athletes cannot be measured but can only be told in their success stories. Peterson has been a model coach who has won championships doing it the absolute right way.
“I hope now his dreams are more about his grandchildren, rather than groundhogs. On behalf of all the employees in our athletic department, he will be missed on a daily basis, and we wish the very best to Coach Peterson and his family.”
In addition to the numerous team accomplishments, Peterson has produced eight conference players of the year and 10 All-Americans during his tenure at MT.
Many of those student-athletes under Peterson’s guidance have continued their careers at the next level, with 60 signing professional contracts, including the No. 3 overall pick of the 2001 Major League Baseball First-Year Amateur Player Draft, Dewon Brazelton.
Others have taken skills and fundamentals learned at MT and are earning a living as coaches at various levels. Thirty-one former Blue Raiders are currently coaching at the high school, college or professional levels.
Peterson’s peers have recognized his achievements and contributions to the game by bestowing several honors on him. He was named the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association College Coach of the Year in 1992, 2000 and 2009. Peterson also received his first ABCA Region Coach of the Year honor in 2009 after guiding the Blue Raiders in their record-breaking season.
He was also inducted into the Rutherford County Old Timers Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Huntsville-Madison County, Ala., Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. In fall 2010, Peterson was inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame.
Not only has Peterson been a winner on the field, he’s also been a successful fundraiser during his career. Events such as the annual Chuck Taylor Golf Tournament, the Groundhog Day Luncheon and the Grand Slam Fish Fry have become mainstays on calendars of Blue Raider baseball supporters across middle Tennessee and have raised thousands of dollars for the improvement of Blue Raider baseball.
Peterson spearheaded the efforts to pay for the construction of the Stephen B. Smith Clubhouse and Indoor Training Facility, which opened its doors in 1998. One look inside the facility shows the time and effort spent toward this endeavor; it has become known as one of the finest collegiate clubhouses and training facilities in the country.
Reese Smith Jr. Field has also benefited from Peterson’s fundraising abilities. He has helped transform the park into a fan-friendly area by leading efforts to expand the seating area, add an information center just inside the gate and improve restroom and concession facilities.
Peterson guided efforts during the summer of 2001 to enlarge the dugouts at Smith Field. He also spearheaded a capital campaign to do significant remodeling of the concession stand and improve and expand restroom facilities, as well as add a modern press box to accommodate media.
While Peterson has spent 24 seasons leading the Middle Tennessee baseball program, his tenure with the program is much longer. He took two separate tours with the Blue Raiders as an assistant coach under John Stanford before becoming the team’s head coach. In 1976-78 and 1985-87, he helped the Blue Raiders win two OVC titles and four Southern Division crowns.
During the interim, Peterson served as head coach at Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tenn. While at Roane State from 1979 to 1984, Peterson’s teams won a Tennessee state title in 1981, and he was named TJCAA Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984. Peterson put together a sparkling record of 153-96 for a .614 winning percentage.
A native of Huntsville, Ala., Peterson stood out as a catcher under the legendary Rudy Abbott at Jacksonville State. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville State in 1973 and later earned a master’s from Middle Tennessee in 1977.
Peterson is married to the former Rita Albert, and the couple has three children—Jill, Jenny and John—and six grandchildren.
To see comments from friends, colleagues and players, see the whole story at GoBlueRaiders.com.
— MTSU Athletic Communications (GoBlueRaiders.com)