Ray Peters, Harvard baseball's skillful right-hander, is no longer an amateur. For three years Peters spurned professional offers from such teams as the Tigers, Mets, and Athletics because Harvard and his education were more important. But Ray Peters is a senior now, and when he was drafted February 1 by the American League, expansion club, the Seattle Pilots, he signed.
Harvard's former baseball coach, Norm Shepard, labeled Peters' professional status "a tremendous blow to Harvard baseball." When pressed further, Shepard elaborated: "A pitcher like Ray comes along just once in a while. He was one that could throw the ball by the hitter. You don't get a real stopper like Ray every day."
There can be few doubts about his being what Shepard said. Last year he pushed Harvard to the top of the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League with an 8-1 record, accounting for 7 of those wins himself.
He guided Harvard through the NCAA Eastern Regionals, beating B.U. in the first round, then squelching Connecticut the next day in ninth-inning relief. With that kind of pitching Harvard traveled to the NCAA finals in Omaha as a respected challenger.
Though Harvard failed to win the NCAA's, the team compiled an outstanding 19-9 record. Every player had a fine season, especially Peters. He garnered EIBL and NCAA district All-Star honors, as well as an election to the national All-American team. The last Harvard player to earn that distinction was also a pitcher, Paul DelRossi in 1964. Like Peters, DelRossi turned professional. He signed with the Yankees, but he never made it. It should be different with Peters.
A lot of people think he has the best chance of a successful major league career of any pitcher drafted this year. He's big, 6'5" at 225 1bs., and has the savvy to pitch, not just throw.
He owns all the right "junk" too, throwing a strong fastball, a sweeping curve, a quick-breaking slider, and a confusing change-up. He has endurance, as evidenced by his 16 strikeout performance against Yale in '67. Those major league scouts watching that game must have been considerably impressed, for Peters was the only right-handed pitcher selected by the major league scouting directors to the Sporting News All-American Team last summer.
He Can Make It
The pros think that Ray can make it; so does Norm Shepard, who said, "If Ray doesn't have a fine chance, I don't know who does." With a new club Peters certainly has every chance to make it his first year.
Loyal Park, in his first year as head baseball coach, is going to have a difficult job trying to develop a pitcher who can equal Peters. In two varsity seasons, Peters hurled a 17-5 record. His sophomore year he owned a 1.67 ERA, followed last year by a 1.80 mark.
One has to dig back more than 20 years into the record book to find a Harvard pitcher who bettered his feat of 115 strike-outs in 90 innings. Unlike most pitchers, he can hit, batting .286 in his first season and .273 last year. Those are hard marks to curpass, let alone equal, but if Park is the kind of mentor Norm Shepard was, he might find that talent in a pitcher.
A part of Harvard baseball left more than a year ago when they removed splinter stadium and the team fought to a berth in the NCAA finals. This year Harvard has lost considerably more than those bleachers, forcing any fan to hope that Harvard baseball thrives on adversity.