Updated: 10:16 p.m. Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Posted: 10:10 p.m. Thursday, July 29, 2010
Braves' Perez started from scratch in America
By Michelle Hiskey
For the AJC
Braves bullpen coach and former catcher Eddie Perez spoke before a recent home game to 36 middle-school children from the Friends of Refugees program in Clarkston. The children came from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand and Burma. Some had never seen a baseball game.
Like them, Perez came to the United States, from Venezuela, to start a new life.
I was just like you guys. I didn’t know anything when I got here. But I wanted to play baseball, and I wanted to be somebody in life. I [had to] work hard.
Now, baseball is everywhere -- in Spain and all countries, but baseball has always been the number-one sport in Venezuela. Soccer, we don’t like. We like baseball.
So all my family play baseball. I was playing since I was 5 years old. I didn’t like any other sports. I have an idea of playing [professional] baseball, but I have to work hard.
People from the Braves went to Venezuela and watched me play. They said, ‘This kid is good,’ and brought me here.
I left all my family at home. I was 18 years old. I don’t know any English, nothing.
But I wanted to be a big-leaguer. I want to be a baseball player, and I want to be a good one. So I work hard. If they want me to run from here to there, I'll do it twice. I wanted them to see me as someone who worked hard. Sometimes you get a chance, to get an opportunity, but it’s hard.
When I got here, there were no cell phones, no Internet. It was hard. It was hard being here by myself. It was hard, but everyone has to make sacrifices to be somebody in life.
I am 42 now. All these years, I have been with the Braves. I was in the minor leagues, and then with the Braves in the major leagues. Those were my only two teams.
I liked everything about baseball. I love baseball. Like everyone, I liked hitting the most. No one likes to catch or throw as much as they like to hit. So catching and throwing were the things I did, because everyone else liked to hit more.
I was a catcher, and now I’m in my fifth year as a coach. Catcher is the hardest position in baseball. You have to take care of the guy in the middle -- the pitcher -- who is not so smart. He needs me to take care of things for him and tell him what to do.
I helped my family in Venezuela. I have five brothers, and I helped all of them. I take care of my mom. For the first time in four years, she’s here with my four kids at my home in Atlanta.
Atlanta was the best city for me, and I wish for any of you guys who have a dream to be somebody, to remember that I came here just like you guys have.
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.