ST. PETERSBURG - He is one of the best closers in baseball, coming into the game in late innings and saving the game for his team, which is currently the Cleveland Indians. His name is Chris Perez and he grew up on Holmes Beach in Manatee County.
“I went to Manatee High School for my first three years. I played baseball growing up, I was a starting catcher. And in my senior year, I transferred schools to the IMG Pendleton Academy. They made me a pitcher and told me that’d be my future. That is when I really kind of really began doing baseball full-time,” says Perez.
Chris and his family and friends may be wearing Indians gear these days, but for Chris and his father, they’ve probably been in the Trop more than most Rays fans. “1998 -- we sat on the top of the nosebleed (seats) for the first game ever,” says Chris’ dad, Tim Perez.
Chris was 12 years old at the time. “It was the first time I saw a big league field…the lights, how big it was…it was impressive. Made me think that day, ‘this is cool. This is something I might want to do’,” says Chris.
“This is so far away, you know from reality, really. I mean who expects that their son is going to play Major League Baseball? I didn’t,” says Tim.
“I lived in Bradenton, and we would drive over the bridge every night and come watch games. That’s where I really learned how the game works,” says Chris.
Since his Major League career began in 2008, Perez has 94 saves. 36 saves last season, and 26 so far this season. And he was named the All-Star Game in 2011 and 2012.
“I know, it's unbelievable. It's surreal, it really is,” says Tim.
“If I have a bad game, sometimes he takes it harder than I do,” says Chris.