Former MTSU baseball coach Steve Peterson was a great coach, better man – Daily News Journal

Cecil Joyce, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal Published 6:15 p.m. CT March 12, 2020 | Updated 6:26 p.m. CT March 12, 2020


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It was summer of 1991.

Still a young reporter for The Daily News Journal, I was relegated mostly to high school and middle school sports. I had dabbled in Middle Tennessee State sports mostly baseball in the past, but not a lot.

I didnt like writing about tragedy or death. Being young, naive and shy at the time, I was uncomfortable at the thought of having to interview someone about a loved one dying.

It was July 25, and I rolled into the office to begin my work day. Being the middle of summer, it probably didnt start out as a busy or eventful day.

That changed when I had to not only step into an MTSU storyin a pinch, but also do so for one involving tragedy.

A former Blue Raiders baseball star, Chris Whitehead, had died in an automobile accident in his hometown of Maryville. MTSU coach Steve Peterson was holding a summer youth camp that day and it was likely still going on. I had to rush tointerview him quickly for a story.

I got to MTSUs baseball field, and it looked deserted. Maybe I had avoided the dreadful assignment.

But then I saw him. One person, standing alone on Reese Smith Field. On the pitchers mound. It was Coach Pete, as he was always affectionately known.

I slithered out of the car and onto the field. Probably the slowest Ive ever moved.

I walked up toward the mound and Peterson was just standing there, head down. As I got near, he looked up and greeted me. My first (and only) response was, Hey, Coach. I guess you know why Im here.

Coach Pete shook his head and then, without a question needed, started talking about Chris, what he meant to the program and how tragic it was that such a promising baseball player, husband and father had been taken from the world in his early 20s.

I had everything I needed, and Coach Pete made it much easier for me than I could have imagined. Even in a time of heartbreak, he had the mind-set to make things easier on a young reporter.

Thats the kind of man Coach Pete was. Thats the kind of coach he was.

Peterson treated every player who donned a Blue Raiders jersey like they were his own son. He even treated me like that on week-long road trips I would take with the team. He would stay on me as hard as his own players. But I appreciated that.

Anyone taking the time to read this column knows what a great coach Peterson was. His 791 wins at MTSU (944 overall)are most in school history.

He was an even better man.

We lost that great man and coach Wednesday evening, as Peterson died at the age of 68.

Our talented MTSU writer, Joe Spears, was all over the story when it broke.

Im still uneasy about interviewing folks after tragedies or death.

But I would have gladly stepped up for this story. For Coach Pete.

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Former MTSU baseball coach Steve Peterson was a great coach, better man - Daily News Journal

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