Charles Peterson, veteran minor leaguer and MLB scout, dies at 46

By Richard Sandomir

(Those We‘ve Lost)

Charles Peterson, a high school sports star in South Carolina who played minor league baseball for 14 seasons before becoming a professional baseball scout and a volunteer football coach, died on Sept. 13 in Columbia, S.C. He was 46.

His sister-in-law Missy South said the cause was complications of COVID-19.

Peterson brought a charismatic, gregarious style to his work as both a defensive line coach at Spring Valley High School in Columbia and a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. In June he signed the team’s top draft pick, Jordan Walker, a third baseman.

“He had a real infectious presence,” Randy Flores, the Cardinals’ assistant general manager and scouting director, said in a phone interview “He was everything that’s fun about scouting. And he did a great job forging a relationship with the Walker family.”

His travel schedule as a scout did not leave Peterson much time to coach football until mid-August. This year, as the coronavirus delayed the start of practices, Peterson was already sick, and he was hospitalized for several weeks before he died. His son Charles III, known as Trey, plays for the team.

“Charles was the most humble guy; he never talked about his athletic accomplishments,” Robin Bacon, the team’s head coach, said. “He never said ‘No’ if somebody asked him for help.”

In June, Peterson opened a facility in Columbia, Carolina Playmakers, to train young baseball, football and softball players.

“At a very young age, he set a standard for me, him being a hometown hero, not only just in sports but how he treated people within the community,” his daughter Alexis Peterson, who played basketball at Furman University, told a local television station in Columbia after her father’s death.

Charles Edward Peterson Jr. was born on May 8, 1974, in Laurens, S.C. His father was a mason; his mother, Carolyn (Lattimore) Peterson, worked outside the home.

Charles was a receiver for his high school team in rural Laurens in 1991 when he reached over the sideline in the end zone to catch a touchdown pass in his fingertips, with four seconds left, to win the state championship game.

“We try that play all the time,” he told The Greenville News. “This is the first time it ever worked.”

The next year, as a senior, he switched to quarterback, excelling enough to be named to Parade magazine’s 1992 High School All-America Team. His coach, Bobby Ivey, called Charles his best player ever.

Despite being recruited to play college football, he chose baseball. In 1993, after batting .429 as an outfielder for the Laurens Raiders and pitching to a 4-1 record, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of baseball’s amateur draft. He played at various levels in the Pirates’ system, for independent minor league teams and in Mexico and Taiwan, but never reached the big leagues.

After his playing days, he began working at the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau; six years later, the Cardinals hired him. He was named a special assistant to Flores last year.

“His playing career created the lens through which he evaluated players,” Flores said. “He knew how hard it was to get to the big leagues.”

In addition to his mother, his daughter Alexis and his son Trey, Peterson is survived by his wife, Karen (Andrews) Peterson; his brothers, Deron and Chris; another daughter, T’Keyah Peterson, a high school volleyball player; and Keegan Kolesar, whom he raised and who is a minor-league hockey player. A previous marriage ended in divorce.

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