Everything fell into place that night in 2019 as Peter “Bo” Buckley was playing an exhibition baseball game in Connecticut.
The local teen pitched two and two-thirds innings, struck out five, gave up no hits or walks, and delivered a fastball approaching 90 miles per hour.
Watching closely from the stands was the pitching coach of Fairfield University, an NCAA Division 1 school that has produced 20 Major League Baseball draft picks.
“They made me an offer that night and I accepted it,” Buckley said. “I’ve always wanted to play Division 1.”
This fall, the 19-year-old will take the mound for Fairfield on an athletic-academic scholarship with the goal of studying business.
He got his start with SMAA baseball in Sarnia at the age of five.
“SMAA is a great way to introduce young kids to the sport. I still remember the coaches I had, and they taught me a lot,” he said. “It’s just a great way to learn.”
By the age of 14, he was playing for the Great Lakes Canadians, a London-based team in the Canadian Premier Baseball League, and around then settled on pitching.
“I’ve always loved pitching because you’re always in control of the game,” he said. “As a pitcher, everyone is looking at you and I’ve always felt that I performed well under that pressure.
“I was a better pitcher than I was an infielder and I thought I would have more success.”
He honed his skills at the Blythe Academy, a London prep school that tailors schedules to help young athletes with an eye on professional sports and post-secondary scholarships, he said.
In 2019 he joined a semi-pro team in Connecticut. Pitching 17 innings for the Fairfield Clubhouse, Buckley posted a sparkling 0.4 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just one walk.
“American baseball is a whole other grade of baseball,” he said. “It’s so competitive.”
At the end of the five-week stay, during which he lived in a hotel with his dad Peter Sr., they invited recruiters from nearby Fairfield University to come and watch.
“They really liked what they saw.”
Last year, when the pandemic kept the right-hander off the field, his father tracked down two shipping containers, which were modified and attached end-to-end to the family barn. The result was a practice facility in a 90-foot enclosed space, complete with artificial turf and lighting.
Buckley’s fastball is about 89 mph, but his go-to pitch is a slider that swoops diagonally through the strike zone, spinning at about 3,000 rpm, he said.
A special device at the family’s London Line farm calculates pitching speed, direction and other variables, giving him and his Fairfield coaches valuable feedback on technique.
This summer, Buckley is playing with the London Majors, getting as much in-game experience as possible before reporting to university.
“I was always a guy who performed well under pressure and got better when a guy stepped in the box. But I didn’t have that for 18 months,” he said.
“It’s all about getting back to my groove… where I was when I threw in front of Fairfield. I’m just working on trying to get back to who I was then.”
Buckley said his goal is to play baseball for as long as possible, and hopefully make it to the MLB one day.