MTSU Hosts Celebration of Life for Coach Steve Peterson
By: MTN Sports Reporter Caroline Colvard
Middle Tennessee State University hosted a celebration of life for former head baseball Coach Steve Peterson last Friday at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
Coach Steve Peterson, who dedicated 25 years to the MTSU baseball program, passed away in March 2020 at the age of 68. A private family service was held shortly after Peterson’s passing, and a public celebration of life event was scheduled as well. However, Coach Peterson’s memorial event was postponed until this year in compliance with strict health and safety regulations due to the pandemic.
The MTSU Athletics department hosted Coach Peterson’s celebration of life on the very field he helped create.
“Coach Pete showed us and taught us the power and the transformative nature of believing and investing in others,”
Director of Broadcasting Chip Walters began Coach Peterson’s celebration of life by recognizing the Peterson family. “We’re all here to remember Steve Peterson, but we’re also here because we have a great deal of love for Rita, Jill, Jenny, John, and their families,” said Walters, who also asked the crowd to stand for a round of applause.
Walters introduced each guest speaker throughout the night, which consisted of President Sidney McPhee, fellow coaches and players, and Coach Peterson’s only son, John Peterson.
Dr. McPhee championed Coach Peterson as the "all-time winningest baseball" coach in the university’s history as well as acknowledged his caring and inspiring nature. “Coach Pete showed us and taught us the power and the transformative nature of believing and investing in others,” said Dr. McPhee.
President McPhee continued his speech by listing some of the great feats Coach Peterson achieved during his time as head coach. Coach Peterson led the Blue Raiders to 11 conference championships, nine conference tournament championships, and to nine NCAA Regionals.
“Coach Pete showed us and taught us the power and the transformative nature of believing and investing in others,” said Dr. McPhee.
Coach Peterson was also responsible for a record of 791 wins at MTSU as well as 944 career wins total. Of Coach Peterson’s former players, 71 have gone on to play professional baseball and eight individuals earned their way to the Major Leagues.
The former players of Coach Peterson who spoke at his celebration of life were Dwight Robinson, Jason Maxwell, John Williams, and Michael McKenry. Maxwell and McKenry went on to become professional ball players after their time with Coach Peterson.
Director of Athletics Chris Massaro spoke at the celebration of life event of his time with Coach Peterson as well as announced an upcoming project that will honor Coach Peterson. Massaro spoke of how Coach Peterson was dedicated to and concerned about the placement of championship flags on the field that displayed MTSU’s achievements. Massaro said, “At the time I didn’t quite understand, but the flags just represented more than just flags. That’s how he felt about his team. That was all his memories were those championship flags and he hung those with great pride.”
After this anecdote Massaro revealed that, with John Peterson’s assistance, a new project was put in motion to honor Coach Peterson’s memory. The area by the left field line of the stadium will be named The Steve Peterson Championship Plaza. In front of each championship flag, there is to be a two-foot marble foundation with an aluminum plaque engraved with the names of each coach, player, and manager associated with that specific championship team.
The celebration of life ended with a group photograph on Reese Smith Jr. Field of Coach Peterson’s former players gathered in front of his image.