Betcha can't read just one!

Remembering 2012: Profile of Andres Perez

It may be the slowest time of the year for Revolution news, but we still have plenty to post here in case you missed it during the season.  As we did last year, we’ll be posting a different column at the beginning of each week from the past season of the York Revolutionary Times in case you missed an issue at the ballpark.

Perez, Andres 34

Perez Getting Defensive In Order to Become a Complete Player

By Ron Gardner

Hitting a baseball with authority has rarely been a problem for Revs second baseman Andres Perez.

Not from his earliest days as a Little Leaguer growing up in New York City…or when he earned the NYC high school batting title by hitting .643 as a junior shortstop at Lehman High School in the Bronx.  Or as a senior a year later in the NYC high school championship game when he blasted a home run that landed in the second deck at Shea Stadium, the home of the big-league New York Mets.

Or when flashing forward to the present day, where the 28-year-old Perez is currently second in the Atlantic League with a .332 batting average, with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 65 games played.  He leads the league in total bases and is third in extra base hits.

“I have good hand-eye coordination,” Perez says with the hint of a smile.  “I guess I just really work on that.  Since I was a young kid, I was always hitting somewhere.”

Despite that impressive high school career, Perez was passed over by every team in the subsequent Major League draft.  Determined to pursue a career in baseball, he opted for college, first enrolling in 2003 at LamarUniversity in Beaumont, TX, before transferring to GulfCoastCommunity College (now Gulf Coast State College) in Panama City, FL. 

“It was a great experience, we played against the best players in the country,” Perez said of his season at GCCC, where he hit .370 with nine home runs.  “We had a lot of guys get drafted high.  I ended up putting up good numbers and I got a scholarship to go to Auburn.  From there, he (Auburn’s coach) got fired, so that (fell) through.  And that’s when I made the decision to go to Stony Brook.”

Located on the north shore of Long Island about 60 miles east of New York City, Stony Brook University has built a strong reputation as a baseball school, garnering lots of national attention in reaching the College World Series last month.  During his one-year stint with the Seawolves back in 2006, Perez was second on the team with a .327 average, with a team-high seven home runs and 29 RBI.

He planned to return to Stony Brook the following year, but over the summer, Perez played for the Torrington Twisters in the New England Collegiate League, where he was second in the NECL with a .355 average, including eight doubles and six home runs.  For his outstanding summer, Baseball America named Perez the number two prospect in the NECL and his hometown New York Yankees also took notice, signing Perez as a free agent.  As a lifelong Yankees fan, it was a dream come true for Perez.

“It was, like surreal,” Perez said.  “It was hard to put into words.  The feeling was great.  Everybody was excited.  I was super-excited.  It was hard to believe – I was like wow, that this was the team that was going to give me the opportunity.  I was definitely thankful for that.  I wouldn’t have written it that way.  It was something good.”

In 2007, Perez played for four different teams in the lower levels of the Yankees’ minor-league system, including a very brief seven-game stop with New York’s Staten Island (A-) team, where he was able to play at home in front of his parents, family and friends.  Uncharacteristically, Perez’s results all season long at the plate were not up to his customary productive levels, as he hit just .237, with seven home runs and 29 RBI in a combined 82 games.  The next year, Perez played in 86 games all with the Tampa Yankees (A+), batting .269, with eight home runs and 44 RBI.  Then, at the end of spring training in 2009, he was released by the Yankees – a disappointing ending to Perez’s dream of one day playing at Yankee Stadium.  

 “When I got released, I was already working on stuff with my swing, getting more mature with my strike zone, being more selective (with pitches he swung at),” Perez said.  “I transferred everything that I learned and I took it into this league (with Newark in 2009).  I feel like that was the best thing that could happen, because I was able to develop and I had some veteran guys (like former big-leaguers Carl Everett and Newark manager Tim Raines)  there that would give me little bits of information about the game and I listened to them and I had a real big season with them.”

Truth be told, the 6-0, 205-pound Perez dominated the Atlantic League while with Newark, blasting 17 home runs with 54 RBI in just 64 games, earning himself at second shot with a major-league organization – this time with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Perez batted .340, with five home runs and 20 RBI in 26 games with the Dodgers’ High-A Inland Empire 66ers to close out the season.  He was off to another hot start with the 66ers in 2010, when a fluke injury he suffered to his left elbow during a practice swing with a weighted bat in the on-deck circle essentially ruined his season.

“I went into spring training and I was just on fire,” Perez said.  “I started off the season great, hitting .385 with a lot of extra-base hits, and then I got hurt for like a month and a half.  When I came back, I had to change certain things in my swing, because I had an injury to my left elbow, so I wouldn’t feel that pain.  I ended up hitting .285, which was decent, but …”

Not good enough for the Dodgers, who released him.  Once again, Perez opted to return to the Atlantic League last season.  Perez played in 87 games for the Bridgeport Bluefish, posting impressive hitting statistics (.313, 15 HR, 54 RBI), with 14 of his homers coming after July 1. 

From his vantage point in the York dugout, manager Andy Etchebarren was drawn to what Perez could do offensively, which led to Etchebarren signing Perez on April 13 to play for the Revs this season.  In parts of two Atlantic League seasons prior to 2012, Perez had batted .310 with 32 homers and 108 RBI in just 151 games.

“He had energy,” Etchebarren said.  “When I saw him play, he’d always had energy when he played against us.  I knew I was getting an energy guy that really worked hard.  I knew he could hit – there was no doubt.  Defensively, I had a few qualms about that.”

Those qualms Etchebarren mentioned were unfortunately well-founded, as Perez committed nine errors (mostly throwing miscues) by early June playing at second base.  Etchebarren knew that Perez had a strong enough arm to play second base, and thought that York player-coach Liu Rodriguez and bench coach Enohel Polanco could smooth out the rough edges of Perez’s defensive game.

“They’ve done a tremendous job with him and his throwing,” Etchebarren said of Rodriguez’ and Polanco’s extra efforts with Perez.  “He turns double plays now as good as anybody in the league and his arm accuracy has gotten so much better.  It all comes from confidence and hard work and he’s a hard worker.”

Perez said that combination of extra work in the field and allowing his natural athletic instincts and skills to take over are the factors behind his improved throwing of late.

“Just staying more relaxed and loose,” Perez said.  “Sometimes, I get a little bit mechanical instead of letting myself just go.  Just getting those reps, and getting the footwork and that going.”

In fact, Perez has gone 18 consecutive games without an error, dating back to June 9.  And as his play at second base continues to improve, his production at the plate has surged as well.  Named to the Freedom Division All-Star team, Perez has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Revs’ offense in the first half of the season.

“There’s really nothing he can’t do,” Etchebarren said.  “He can hit with power.  He stays inside the ball – he moves it from right-center, left-center, right field, left field.  He’s a determined player and he’s not that old, I’m hoping that when people see him play second base now compared to how he used to play second base before, that they’ll give him another chance.

“Starting the year, he wasn’t our most consistent defensive player – there’s no doubt about that.  But he’s been our most consistent hitter during the whole year.”

For now, Perez is keeping his focus on what’s happening in York with the Revolution, and not think too much about what might happen next depending on how he continues to play the rest of the season.

“That I don’t know,” Perez said.  “I try to improve every day and wherever I am, try to just win games and help the team win.  As far as for the future, we’ll what happens, if any opportunities present themselves, we’ll take it from there.  I’ll just keep playing until I feel like I’ve done everything like I feel like I can do.  When that time comes, (I’ll) just sit down and think about it and make a decision from there.”

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