Major leaguer steps to plate for Peddie School
Pitcher, alum Erik Hanson donates $365,000 for field house upgrade
By Kyle Moylan
The Packet Group
Saturday, January 9, 1999
When Erik Hanson left the Peddie School in 1983, he left behind a legacy of pitching greatness.
When Mr. Hanson leaves Peddie Saturday night, he'll leave behind a remodeled field house with his name on it.
Mr. Hanson, a major-league pitcher for the past 11 years, gave the school a $365,000 gift to pay for the remodeling of the basketball courts, indoor track and bleachers at Peddie.
The facility officially will be named the Erik B. Hanson Field House during a ceremony between games of a boys/girls basketball doubleheader Saturday. The ceremony will take place on the basketball court about 7 p.m., following an informal gathering in the school's Hall of Fame room.
"Erik Hanson has quietly and generously supported Peddie for many years, but this gift was a surprise," said Peddie Head of School Thomas A. DeGray. "For a young alumnus to step up to the plate in such a magnificent way is wonderful."
"It looks like a new gym," Peddie Athletic Director Susan Cabot noted. "Erik chose to do it. Part of the reason he liked the idea was he did have an important part on the basketball program at Peddie and Al Lozier (the former boys' basketball coach and athletic director at Peddie) meant so much to him."
Actually, throughout most of his career at Peddie, Mr. Hanson appeared destined to make an impact in almost every sport but baseball.
Mr. Hanson played soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter. He played on the junior varsity baseball team as a freshman, but elected to golf during his sophomore year.
"I was getting tired of baseball," Mr. Hanson noted in a 1990 interview with the Windsor-Hights Herald. "Baseball didn't turn my crank at the time. That year helped me out, though, because I realized how much I missed baseball when I came back my junior year."
Mr. Hanson played baseball in the summer after his sophomore year. Another important factor in his growth as a baseball player was his amazing physical growth. When he entered Peddie in 1979, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall. By the time he graduated, he was 6-foot-5. Mr. Hanson since has grown 2 more inches.
"The other coaches used to tell me that they wanted to come around and inspect my stretching room," laughed Lew Watts, Mr. Hanson's former baseball coach at Peddie, in a 1990 interview with the Herald.
Mr. Hanson's rapid growth led to some awkwardness. But since he started to feel comfortable with his own body, he has created an uneasy feeling among opposing hitters.
"Basketball was my dream," Mr. Hanson told the Boston Herald while he played for the Red Sox. "I had offers in my senior year (at Peddie) to play, but all of a sudden, after I went from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-5, I was throwing the ball 90 miles an hour."
Mr. Hanson was 4-2 as a Peddie junior, rising only to the second spot in the rotation. This was hardly a case of mismanagement on Mr. Watts' part, though. Brian Meyer, a former major-leaguer with the Houston Astros, also was on the team. At the same time, Ed Whited, a former major-leaguer with the Atlanta Braves, was playing for Hightstown High School. Three future major-leaguers were playing high school baseball in the same town.
"Erik was good, but not exceptional," Mr. Watts recalled. "When we started practice in his senior year, the first pitch I saw him throw, I thought, 'Oh boy, we have something here.' He had matured tremendously ... what an arm."
In addition to being able to throw a fastball 90 mph, Mr. Hanson had developed a nasty curveball that has made numerous major-leaguers look foolish.
During his senior year, Mr. Hanson was 8-0 with an ERA of 0.32. According to Mr. Watts, Mr. Hanson is the only prep athlete ever selected First-Team All-State in New Jersey.
Every time Mr. Hanson pitched during his senior year, he was greeted by about 25 major-league scouts, all aiming their speed guns at the mound.
"From what I heard from the scouts, I became a major-league prospect my last five or six games at Peddie," Mr. Hanson noted in the 1990 interview.
Mr. Hanson was drafted by the Montreal Expos, but elected to attend college at Wake Forest. After his junior year, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and signed for $107,000 and the promise of the money needed to complete his college education.
In his 11 years in the majors, Mr. Hanson has an 89-84 record with an ERA of 4.15. His best year came in 1990 when he was 18-9 with a 3.24 ERA for Seattle. He was 15-5 with a 4.24 ERA in 1995. Unfortunately, injuries have limited Mr. Hanson to pitching only a combined 64 innings the past two seasons.
Mr. Hanson has had a colorful major-league career. He has gone from being a youthful Mariner, to Erik the Red, to a black-and-blue Red Sox and Blue Jay. He recently signed a minor-league contract with Kansas City. While Mr. Hanson hopes to be back to baseball Royal-ty, he knows he'll always be a Peddie Falcon at heart.
"When I first looked at the school, I made the decision that's where I wanted to go," said Mr. Hanson, who grew up in Kinnelon and now has homes in Kirkland, Wash., and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mr. Hanson's latest contribution is just a reflection of his love for the school. Of course, many students and staff feel the same way. Mr. Watts and Mr. Lozier will be there Saturday night to honor Mr. Hanson. The entire 1983 graduat ing class also is being invited to the ceremonies.
"The Peddie School is thrilled to have someone like Erik give to a cause like this because he is such a role model," Ms. Cabot noted. "He's a young, successful individual who is interested in giving back to the school."
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