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

Only 7% of high school athletes evolve to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and Bulldog teammates achieved the rare feat in a signing ceremony held at THS on November 10. Sotomayor, a wide receiver, will play for Washington State University next year, while Petersen will pitch for University of the Pacific.

“It took a long time to come … It takes a village, and it took a lot of hours, a lot of time,” Sotomayor said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and being there with Kaden by my side was a great day.”

In the sport of baseball, it’s important for the pitcher and the catcher to be on the same page no matter what – a partnership built on trust that can mean the difference between a home run or a shot. swung by the opposing hitter. Petersen and Sotomayor have a distinct advantage on the mound and behind the plate, however, as the two varsity baseball teammates share a friendship that extends far beyond the field.

It all started in Little League, as all good baseball stories do. Petersen and Sotomayor attended different primary schools in Turlock at the time, but both ended up being selected to the Little League All-Star squad when they were 10 years old. They had played against each other at the age of eight and nine, but became friends as they competed as teammates on the All Star team.

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

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

The now friends were reunited as classmates at Turlock Junior High School soon after and say it was there that they became best friends. They got to play baseball together again as part of the same travel baseball team and even served as their class president and vice-president together in eighth grade.

It was in junior high school that Petersen and Sotomayor began to discuss together what baseball meant to them and where they would like to go with the sport. They both knew one thing for sure: They wanted to play baseball in college and would work to make it happen. It’s no surprise that these conversations took place as they recalled some of their favorite memories, playing baseball for fun and not for scouts.

“It’s nice to have someone with me with the same goals and aspirations. We are able to push each other and hold each other accountable, and this is certainly something that has applied throughout middle school and high school for both of us, “Sotomayor said.

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

Sotomayor’s second and junior years in college saw him compile an overall batting average of .410 with a base percentage of .500 and a slugging percentage of .573. Petersen’s freshman year at college 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 ERA of 1.64.

The pandemic brought new challenges the boys didn’t see coming when they first considered their path to varsity baseball, but Sotomayor was able to commit to the WSU before things got shaky for him. recruits.

“It was difficult for a lot of players,” Sotomayor said. “A lot of guys missed scholarships. The places on the list at the university were changed as the teams got bigger.

Thanks to the hard work of the summer and numerous demo tournaments, Petersen signed up for UOP in July. Now the friends are looking forward to enjoying their senior baseball season at THS without any stress on their shoulders.

Yet they know life as they know it is drawing to a close. Next school year, they will wear different uniforms and live in different states rather than the same city. Sotomayor and Petersen will always have one thing in common, however, in that they will both be big cats – Petersen a tiger and Sotomayor a cougar.

There will be plenty of conversations via SMS, FaceTime, and, of course, their respective PlayStation consoles, as the two navigate the next step in their friendship over the next four years.

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

Sotomayor reflected on one of his favorite memories with Petersen; that was after they played in the Little League State Tournament nearly a decade ago. The boys’ team had lost and like all passionate young athletes, Petersen and Sotomayor were upset and maybe even shed a tear or two. Yet their parents wanted them to take a photo together despite the gloom – and it’s a photo they still cherish today.

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