Not only is he in the process of starting up a documentary on the American dream, but he also traveled overseas as part of the Marlins’ fourth trip to visit U.S. troops with Armed Forces Entertainment.
Though both events might not seem to have that much in common, the 25-year-old has actually found the opposite to be true.
“Soldiers not only protect our safety and stuff like that, but they also protect our dreams to do whatever we want,” Petersen said. “The military gets harped on a lot. But at the end of the day, if it weren’t for them, a lot of stuff wouldn’t be possible.”
No stranger to travel, Petersen has seen what the American dream means to those in other countries.
At the age of 15, Petersen experienced it firsthand when he visited Mexico on a mission trip with his church, far removed from the resorts and beaches.
“Americans become so blind by the fact of what we have and what is so readily available to us at any time of the day, that I think that for people to go outside of the country and see what it’s like in different places, I don’t think that they would have the same mindset,” Petersen said.
More than a month ago, it started making the rounds that Petersen and his friend K.C. Holiday formed a Los Angeles-based production company called Legit Films, which is currently in the process of filming a documentary called, “Project: American Dream.” His friend Joseph Coleman is also involved with camerawork and onscreen time.
Petersen’s role is that of producer, and he will work more on the business side, especially during the season.
The distance between California and Florida is something that Petersen believes will pose the biggest test during the making of the project, which could take up to 16 months.
“Right now it’s the holidays, the industry out of here kind of shuts down and takes a few weeks off, but I think that once the New Year rolls around, we’ll get a solid foundation of what we want the film to be about and encompass,” Petersen said.
“Project: American Dream” was inspired by the YouTube phenomena, “Life in a Day,” where thousands of people sent in video clips of what they did on July 24, 2010.
For Petersen, who didn’t major in motion pictures while attending the University of California, Irvine, it’s not that unusual of an undertaking.
He would use video cameras both in high school — as part of the film department — and college. One of his best friends is in a Hollywood production company.
“I think the interest in the subject is a really big thing,” Petersen said. “Living close to LA, everybody else is involved in film or production or acting or whatnot. I remember one time a producer told me, ‘Only take on projects that you like as opposed to ones that will make you money.’”
Which brings us back to Petersen’s trip to Japan, Guam and Hawaii from Dec. 1-15 with teammates Brett Hayes and Mike Stanton, as well as team personnel, the Marlins Mermaids and Billy the Marlin.
Both soldiers and players spoke about how much the trip meant to them, but to Petersen, it represented something more than an often-heard soundbite.
It was about taking action, spending time with soldiers who haven’t seen their families for as long as three years and just wanted to discuss sports.
“A lot of people will sit at home and talk about the military and talk about politics and go, ‘It would be great if we could send a soldier a package or if we could write an e-mail or a letter,’ but I feel like a lot of the time people don’t do anything,” Petersen said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. The difference between saying we’re going to do it and actually going to the squadron and having them explain what a Humvee does is completely 180 degrees different.”
So what exactly motivates Petersen to take time out of his offseason following a breakthrough year in which he played in a career-high 74 Major League games?
A season when he hit .265 with two homers, including a walkoff blast that gave Javier Vazquez a win in his last career start, and 10 RBIs?
“It’s tough because I try not to be a jerk about it, but I don’t really care what peoples’ stereotypes of me are,” Petersen said. “I live in a stereotype-ridden society where my goal in life isn’t to prove people wrong; it’s to prove myself right or happy. I don’t do it to prove that not all [athletes] are one-dimensional. I do it to bring me happiness, and it’s interesting to me.”