By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bulldog athletes share baseball brotherhood
baseball bros 1
Turlock High School seniors Griffen Sotomayor and Kaden Peterson recently achieved their dream of signing to play baseball in college (Photo contributed).

When Turlock High School seniors Kaden Petersen and Griffen Sotomayor signed letters of intent to play college baseball earlier this month, the pair fulfilled a dream spanning numerous years, schools and jerseys — together.  

Just 7% of high school athletes move on to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the Bulldog batterymates achieved the rare feat during a signing ceremony held at THS on Nov. 10. Sotomayor, a catcher, will play at Washington State University next year, while Petersen will pitch for University of the Pacific.

“It’s been a long time coming...It takes a village, and it's been a lot of hours, a lot of time put in,” Sotomayor said. “I wouldn't trade it for anything, and to be there with Kaden by my side was a great day.”

In the sport of baseball, it’s important for the pitcher and catcher to be on the same page no matter what — a partnership built on trust which can make the difference between a homerun or a swinging strike by the opposing batter. Petersen and Sotomayor have a distinct advantage when on the mound and behind the plate, however, because the two varsity baseball teammates share a friendship which extends far beyond the field.

It began in Little League, as all good baseball stories do. Petersen and Sotomayor were attending different Turlock elementary schools at the time, but found themselves both selected to the Little League All Star team when they were 10 years old. They had played against each other as eight- and nine-year-olds, but became friends as they competed as teammates on the All Star team.

baseball bros 2
Sotomayor and Petersen first became friends in elementary school when they played on the same Little League All Star team (Photo contributed).

“Griffen and I both made the team and we played about 10 games. We just bonded,” Petersen said. “We started going over to each other's houses and stuff like that, and that's pretty much where it all started.”

The now-friends were reunited as classmates at Turlock Junior High School shortly after and say that’s where they became best friends. They were able to play baseball together again as part of the same travel baseball team, and even served as president and vice president of their class together in eighth grade. 

It was in junior high that Petersen and Sotomayor first began to have discussions with each other about what baseball meant to them and where they’d like to go with the sport. They both knew one thing for sure: they wanted to play baseball in college, and would put in the work to make it happen. It’s no surprise that these conversations came as they made some of their favorite memories with one another, playing baseball for fun and not for scouts. 

“It's been nice to have someone there with me, chasing the same goals and same aspirations. We’re able to push each other and hold each other accountable, and that's definitely something that's been applicable throughout junior high and through high school for the two of us,” Sotomayor said.

As their friendship continued into high school, Petersen and Sotomayor transitioned into hard-working student athletes with the same goal in mind. They currently both hold over 4.0 GPAs and have thrived as varsity baseball players. 

Sotomayor’s sophomore and junior years on varsity saw him compile a .410 overall batting average with a .500 on-base percentage and .573 slugging percentage. Petersen’s first year on varsity in the spring may have looked different due to the pandemic, but he was one of the team’s top pitchers as a junior, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.64 ERA. 

The pandemic brought on new challenges that the boys didn’t see coming when they first envisioned their pathway to college baseball, but Sotomayor was able to commit to WSU before things got shaky for recruits.

“It's been uneasy for a lot of players,” Sotomayor said. “A lot of guys missed out on scholarships. The roster spots in college were changed when teams expanded.”

Thanks to hard work over the summer and plenty of showcase tournaments, Petersen committed to UOP in July. Now, the friends are looking forward to enjoying their senior season of baseball at THS without any stress on their shoulders. 

Still, they know life as they know it is coming to an end. Next school year, they’ll wear different uniforms and live in different states instead of in the same town. Sotomayor and Petersen will still have one thing in common, however, in that they’ll both be big cats — Petersen a Tiger and Sotomayor a Cougar. 

There will be a lot of conversations over text, FaceTime and, of course, their respective PlayStation consoles, as the two navigate the next stage of their friendship over the next four years. 

“Kaden’s one of those guys who’s easy to be around and everything goes back to normal when you see each other,” Sotomayor said. “Maybe one of these years we'll be able to play college ball together, or maybe even play against each other. And I know we'll keep in touch.”

Sotomayor reflected on one of his favorite memories with Petersen; it was after they played in the Little League state tournament almost a decade ago. The boys’ team had lost and like any young, passionate athletes, Petersen and Sotomayor were upset and maybe even shed a tear or two. Still, their parents wanted them to take a photo together despite the gloom — and it’s a picture they cherish to this day.

“It’s kind of funny looking back, because we thought our world was over,” Sotomayor said. “But we had no idea what was to come.”