Jon Peters of Missouri City is a typical middle-aged man, raising two kids, active in church, and working a good job in the oil and gas industry.
Oh, and he also happens to hold the national record for most consecutive wins by a high school baseball pitcher with 53. In his career at Brenham High School he was 54-1 and led the Cubs to three state championships. On May 8, 1989, he became the first high school baseball player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.
It all went downhill from there.
There was the suicide attempt the night before the record-breaking game and the career-ending surgeries on his arm. Although he was recruited by Texas A&M, he never played a game of college baseball and lost the dream of playing in the Major Leagues. He did coach some at the college level and even married his college sweetheart. That was in 2003. Six years and two kids later the marriage was over.
“I had recently gone through a divorce and I couldn’t stop drinking vodka,” he said. “I felt worthless and wanted to die.”
He became an expert at concealing his drinking problem from everyone but himself.
“I hid everything,” he said.
His experience as a high-profile athlete taught him to keep his problems low-key.
“Even in high school I saw how professional athletes messed up and it got smeared everywhere,” he said.
Then came the night when he couldn’t hide it any longer. After binging with the bottle he finally listened to the voice in his head telling him to get help. At first he resisted.
“I’m supposed to be a strong, tough guy. I’m not supposed to reach out for help,” he told himself.
But the voice was persistent and at 2:30 a.m. he picked up the phone and called his boss.
“I want to die. I can’t stop drinking,” he told him.
His boss, stunned at the news, came over and soon Peters was in rehab and entering Alcoholics Anonymous. He got better and then relapsed. Then he got Jesus and got serious.
“I have more happiness, more peace, and more freedom today than I’ve ever had,” he said. “I wake up with a lot of hope.”
Having been highly self-centered in his younger years, Peters has found a passion for helping others.
“I’m seeking out other people to help,” he said.
One of those ways was by sharing his life story in a book. Published in March, “When Life Grabs You By The Baseballs: Finding Happiness in Life’s Changeups” is a no-holds-barred look at the rise, fall, and rebirth of the man who squandered greatness but beat the devil in the bottle. Getting the book written, however, was one of the toughest battles of Peters’ life.
“There were many times I wanted to throw it in the trash. I was tired of writing,” he said.
The process began in late 2014 when Peters felt called to, “try and do more with what God has given me.” In 2015 he began writing and journaling. He found the process to be both a blessing and a curse, as he had to re-live hard times and fight for details lost in an alcoholic fog. Finally, in 2017, he finished the manuscript. He woke up the next day and realized he was only going to get one shot at this, so he determined to make it the best he could.
He turned the manuscript over to ghostwriter Ginger Kolbaba.
“Ginger took the original manuscript, interviewed me for two days, and reworked the whole thing,” he said.
She did enough revision to get co-author credit. Kolbaba wasn’t the only one to contribute to the book. Earlier, Peters had befriended Scott Nethery, whom he had seen one day in a restaurant wearing a giant blue ring. The ring was from the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Nethery was working in the front office at the time. Nethery got Peters in touch with former Braves pitcher John Smoltz and asked him to write the foreword.
“We reached out to him and he’s like ‘yeah, let’s do this,’” Peters said.
Nethery and several other notables – among them Nolan Ryan, Bo Eason, Larry Dierker, Woody Williams, and Peters’ former high school coach Lee Driggers – all contributed endorsements.
Today Peters is a new man. He is enjoying fatherhood and is active at Sugar Creek Baptist Church.
“If I’m God-centered, then life’s really good. But if I’m Jon-centered, you never know what you might get,” he said.
Publishing the book has also opened new doors for Peters.
“Speaking requests have been coming non-stop,” he said.
In addition to being an author, he is also a motivational speaker and shares his testimony on a regular basis. His book can be purchased on his website, www.jonpeters.org, along with booking requests to have him speak. The book is print-on-demand and can also be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
“Writing the book has really increased my faith,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is get out of God’s way and walk through any doors that are opened. He will do His part, and it’s up to me to do my part.”