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If you dig the long ball, you probably don't dig Cole Peterson.

The West Michigan Whitecaps shortstop hasn't homered yet as a professional, and he homered just twice during a collegiate career at St. Bonaventure.

But this week, Peterson earned himself quite a few admirers for his amazing acrobatics on defense — notably a play that might be among the best you see all year, in any ballpark, at any level.

In the first game of a Tuesday doubleheader in Comstock Park, the string bean of an infielder flew through the air "like Superman" — the spot-on words of Whitecaps lead broadcaster Dan Hasty — to make a ridiculous catch, to say nothing of the degree of danger.

"I was kind of in shock for a second," Peterson told The News this week. "I've had a lot of diving plays.

"But that one's definitely the best."

No kidding.

In the sixth inning of Game 1 on Tuesday, Peterson was shaded up the middle with a left-hander at the plate. But an inside-out swing sent a flair headed toward a gap between shortstop and left field. Peterson immediately went racing, never heard left fielder Garrett McCain call him off, so he left his feet, fully extended and, someway, somehow, made the catch as he went crashing to the Fifth Third Ballpark turf.

 

Peterson landed at McCain's feet, popped right up, saw the ball in his glove and casually flipped it to the infield. No big deal. At least, that's what his poker face said.
On the inside, though, he couldn't believe it.

"It could definitely be a dangerous play, but I know our left fielder pretty well and if I was about to dive, I knew he would pull off," Peterson said. "I wasn't scared. It literally happened so fast."

His Whitecaps teammates were wildly impressed, each with their own version of an "attaboy" when he got back to the dugout between innings.

The videoboard showed a replay, and Peterson admitted he took a peek.

He got a better look after the game when the team's video guy pulled up the clip and showed him — and the next day, he got even more looks, as the catch quickly went viral.


Peterson's catch ended up ranked No. 3 on the night's "SportsCenter" top 10. Which begs the question, how the heck were there two better plays?

"I was just hoping I made it on there," Peterson said, laughing. "I mean, James Harden threw down that dunk (over Draymond Green) ...

"It's unbelievable. Every kid that plays sports since they were little wants to make a web gem, a play that makes 'SportsCenter' top 10. To see it on there was really cool, really exciting."

Peterson, 22, a 13th-round pick by the Tigers out of St. Bonaventure in 2017, received all sorts of texts and messages from friends and family. Old college teammates tagged him on Twitter. They all drooled over that particular play.

But Peterson made another gem, on a grounder up the middle that completed the doubleheader sweep of Fort Wayne. Peterson ranged well to his left, grabbed the screamer and, while falling down, he fired a strike to first.

He also had four hits and an RBI in the doubleheader for the Single-A Whitecaps, and he entered Friday night's game at South Bend batting .301/.350/.361 through 44 games. He played last season at short-season Connecticut after signing with the Tigers.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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