As a three-sport star at University High School, Mike Peterson distinguished himself in a diverse number of fields, playing varsity basketball and earning all-league status in football and baseball.
Since graduating from Titanville in 1978, Peterson has continued to soar on a range of fronts, from major modified fastpitch softball to sports broadcasting to NCAA basketball where he has worked as a respected official for the past 25 years.
In February, Peterson added another honor to his list of achievements, as he was elected to the Amateur Softball Association Northwest Region 15 Hall of Fame. He will be inducted into the hall – which includes esteemed players and coaches from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska – at a regional council meeting in January.
A 1978 graduate of University High School, Mike Peterson (right) has gone on to a successful career in sports broadcasting, the technology field and NCAA officiating. After excelling as a receiver for Washington State University in the early 1980s, Peterson developed into one of the area’s top softball players, winning two national championships and being elected into local and regional Halls of Fame.
“It was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t really dwelling on it,” Peterson said of the election. “But when I got the call, I was like, ‘Wow, cool.’ It’s a great honor.”
During his softball career, Peterson was named to eight All-American teams and contributed to a pair of national championships, one in 1987 and another in 1995. The 1995 title team finished the season with a 42-0 record.
Peterson, a centerfielder, compiled an overall batting average of .489 with 1,106 hits and 1,090 RBIs. In 15 national championship tournaments, he hit .436.
“Mike was a great hitter and an outstanding defensive player,” said Fuzzy Buckenberger, a pitcher on the 1987 club and coach of the 1995 squad. “In a pressure situation, Mike was the one you’d pick to be at the plate. He had the best work ethic of anyone I’ve seen.”
A standout receiver for Washington State University in the early 1980s, Peterson began playing softball the summer before his senior year in Pullman. A three-year starter in baseball at U-Hi, Peterson said it may have made more sense to concentrate on the diamond instead of the gridiron.
“Looking back on it, I should have gone into baseball,” he said. “I think it was my best sport.”
Peterson was no slouch on Jim Walden’s WSU teams after transferring from Wenatchee Valley College as an all-conference receiver in 1979. He led the Cougars in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a senior in 1982.
“As a kid growing up, I’d always had a goal of playing college sports,” Peterson said.
After originally signing to play football and baseball at Portland State, Peterson became homesick for Eastern Washington and found a home at Wenatchee VC where he played for two years. His time at WSU was highlighted by a 24-20 win over the University of Washington in the 1982 Apple Cup and a near-win over highly ranked Tennessee – featuring future NFL stars like Reggie White, Willie Gault and Bill Bates – in Knoxville.
“The first time you walk onto some of those fields, it’s sort of surreal,” Peterson said. “It was a great experience to play at Washington State. I loved the environment and the campus.”
Peterson, who graduated from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and moved on to a successful career in the technology field, has continued to participate in NCAA Division 1 athletics – only this time as a top-flight basketball official. He has worked as a referee in a quartet of conferences – West Coast, Big Sky, Pacific 10 and Big West – for the past 25 years. He has also officiated in a Division 2 National Championship Game and a Division 3 Final Four.
“I love sports and refereeing is just another perspective of the game,” Peterson said. “As an official, I practice what I call ‘patient decisiveness.’ You have to anticipate the play, not the call. The key is being fair and consistent.”
Peterson has also emerged as a stellar sports broadcaster, providing color commentary for Spokane Shock football and adding his insight to televised college baseball and football games on SWX and Fox Sports.
At 50, Peterson continues to stay in shape by playing basketball, swimming and lifting weights. He is also the No. 1 fan of his three kids – all graduates of West Valley High School – and their athletic pursuits. Bryan, the oldest, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2009 and is currently back in college at Whitworth University where he will play football and possibly a second sport. Mitch earned a baseball scholarship to Washington State last year, but is now on the football team and Leah, an All Great Northern League volleyball and softball player will continue her sports career at Pacific University in Oregon.
“I’m proud of their achievements in sports, but I’m more proud of the fact that they’re all honor students,” Peterson said. “The athletic window is small compared to the academic window. My wife Robin and I (the two have been married 26 years) have taught our kids the importance of being a good person with good character.”