Rotation dreams a family matter for Peacock
As prospect makes bid to be Astros starter, parents have front-row seats
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Before Astros prospect Brad Peacock met with the media after throwing three scoreless innings against the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, he took some time to chat with his father. After all, family comes before anything else.
That's especially true in the tight-knit Peacock household, where playing baseball, breathing baseball and traveling thousands of miles to watch baseball have been a way of life.
Peacock, who's battling for a spot in the Astros' rotation a month after a trade shipped him to Houston from Oakland, made a good impression in his fourth -- and clearly his best -- outing of the spring against a stacked Phillies lineup, drawing praise from his father.
"He was excited," Peacock said of his father, Jerry. "He was pumped. He was more pumped than I was."
Jerry Peacock retired 10 years ago at the age of 54 after 31 years as a police officer in Greenacres Police Department in Lake Worth, Fla., in part to be able to watch his son's career unfold. He's traveled everywhere from Sacramento, Calif., to Harrisburg, Pa., to Syracuse, N.Y., to watch his son live out his dream, calling it a dream of his own.
The elder Peacock's preferred method of travel and sleep for much of his son's career was an enclosed utility trailer that he'd park anywhere he could find a spot, including a Wal-Mart parking lot, a Minor League field or even a friendly stranger's yard. Now he and his wife, Jacyne, log miles in a Class C motor home.
"I really wanted to watch him play baseball and everything, because he started showing some signs of making a career out of it," Jerry Peacock said. "It's everybody's dream, and I've met thousands of people from California to Maine, and they really envy what I'm able to do -- to go and watch my son step up the ladder and work his way up, hopefully to the big leagues at some point. Hopefully this year."
Brad Peacock, 25, is with his third organization in three years, having been drafted by the Nationals in 2006, traded to Oakland in '11 as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal and acquired by the Astros as one of three players in last month's Jed Lowrie trade. Peacock is ranked No. 10 among Astros prospects by MLB.com.
"I love it here," Peacock said. "It's a great place to play, and I'm really excited."
The Astros see Peacock as one of their starters of the future, and outings like Sunday give them hope that future is soon. He dazzled for the Nationals when he got a taste of the Majors at the end of the 2011 season, and a disappointing '12 in which he was 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento provided some lessons.
"My confidence was definitely down toward the end of the year," said Peacock, who's taken up a sinker this year to throw when he needs a grounder. "I really don't know how to explain it. I never went through something like that. It's a good learning process, and I took it to heart and I prepared myself even more this year. Hopefully it works out."
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Peacock has top-of-the-rotation stuff.
"He had an unbelievable year two years ago, and last year the results were more mixed," Luhnow said. "But the stuff is there and we believe he's got the potential to be a good starting pitcher at the big league level. He's still young, and he still has a lot of upside."
Peacock leaned on family more during his struggles of a year ago, and it was usually a heart-to-heart conversation with his mother that helped him see the light. Jacyne Peacock coached her son's Little League team when he was 10 years old and was the one firing the thousands of Wiffle balls to him in the family's backyard in Palm Beach, Fla.
"We were just there for moral support," she said. "If he wanted to talk, he'd talk to us, and sometimes he didn't want to talk. We would just tell him to learn from it, so we consider last year to be a learning year. He learned a lot."
Another important part of the Peacock family dynamic has been his grandparents. His maternal grandfather, James S. Paul, still attends as many Spring Training games as he can at 91 years old.
"I would say I think he's made every Spring Training game that Brad has pitched in this year," his mother said. "That's been really nice."
Jacyne Peacock, who's semi-retired, is now more likely to make road trips in the motor home than she was to rough it in the utility trailer that Jerry once called home. But for Jerry Peacock, a chance to sleep in his own bed, even if it was in a trailer equipped to haul a lawnmower, was the ultimate in comfort.
"I was fortunate with all the years I worked for Greenacres and all the support I had from my in-laws to be able to take some time off, and so is she," Jerry Peacock said. "That's what we're doing at this point in our life. We may go back to work some day, but right now we're just chasing baseball."
Peacock could be in the Astros' starting rotation on Opening Day or he could begin the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Whatever the location, his parents will be there.
"It really is a dream come true," his mother said.