ARLINGTON -- Rangers rookie outfielder DJ Peters has more in common with his dog than one may think.
Peters’ wife, Shea, got him Peaches, a golden retriever puppy, as a present almost two years ago. Rangers hitting coach Luis Ortiz said Peters is exactly like a golden retriever puppy, clamoring after the tennis ball -- or in this case, a baseball -- after it’s thrown.
Just like Peaches wants the tennis ball, Peters is eager to do anything and everything on the field, which Ortiz says is more fun to be around for everybody on the team.
“He just constantly wants to please you and wants to learn,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “His tail is wagging and his tongue is out the whole time. This kid is relentless, man. This is what I knew about him during my time in L.A.”
“Maybe that’s why we decided to buy a golden retriever,” Peters added, when asked about his new nickname. “But I think it's just always wanting to be alert, always wanting to retrieve the ball, whether that's in the box or in the outfield and doing anything I can to help us win.”
Peters, Woodward and Ortiz all crossed paths in the Dodgers' organization, which Peters says has been a tremendous part of helping him through the transition.
And having known Peters for more than four years, it’s clear that Ortiz’s description isn’t wrong at all. The rookie plays with a sense of recklessness on the field, which Woodward describes as “playing with his hair on fire.” Typically a center fielder, but with the ability to play all three outfield positions, Peters spends most of his time diving and flying through the air, robbing home runs and running into various outfield walls.
“You always play with a fire under your butt,” Peters said. “I want to make the plays for my team and my pitcher, whether that's running in the wall, jumping over the wall. I mean, I really don't care. I'll run through the wall. I love it out there.”
His energy on the field is something he credits to his junior college past. Instead of attending Cal State Fullerton out of high school, Peters opted to go to Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev., for two years. That mentality is something he always took with him.
“At junior college, it’s kind of a grind-y mentality,” Peters said. “I had the best two years of my life there being around guys that were overlooked, I guess. To go on and play big Division 1 schools [was] awesome, but going to junior college was the best thing for me. I loved it there. You just show up and play and take care of business on the field and in the classroom.”
The Rangers have already played a plethora of rookies this season, but with seven players landing on the COVID-19 injured list last week, those numbers spiked once again.
Entering Saturday, Texas has 13 rookies on the 26-man active roster. Glenn Otto, who made his MLB debut against Houston on Friday, became the 25th rookie to appear in a game for the club in 2021, extending the club record and tying Baltimore and Miami for the most rookies used this season.
The Rangers have had a player make his debut in each of the last three games: pitcher Jake Latz on Wednesday, infielder Ryan Dorow on Thursday and Otto on Friday.
Ortiz said that despite the unfortunate situation of having injures pile up, these last two weeks have been some of the most fun he’s had coaching since he’s been with the Rangers.
“[The rookies] are always hungry,” Ortiz said. “They understand that there are some deficiencies and then you can prove a lot of things despite the deficit of information. ... It’s about knowing your players. Collectively, we're pushing these guys. That's the only chance we have for these guys to compete today. The less experience you have, the more you're going to need the right information and strategy, even with skills.”
Woodward added that it’s not an ideal situation, and he’d rather have the rookies be surrounded by a number of veterans in the clubhouse. Despite this, it’s good for the rookies to go out and play fearlessly with the opportunity they’ve been given.
Peters said it’s been a journey for all the rookies this season, even though he’s just come into the fold this month.
“The only way to get better playing in the big leagues is [by] playing in the big leagues,” Peters said. “This is an amazing opportunity for this organization and every player that gets to step on the field. ... Woody tells us every day just to compete, whether we win or we lose. I feel like we're competing each and every night. Just getting that experience at the [big league] level is what you need.”