CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez (@ChrisPerez54) has 98 saves over the past three seasons, including a pair of All-Star appearances.
The 27-year-old flamethrower, who was drafted in 2006 by the St. Louis Cardinals, played college ball with current Major Leaguers Ryan Braun, Gaby Sanchez and Jon Jay.
I caught up with Perez after the University of Miami preseason baseball banquet to talk music, velocity and rowdy fans.
Q: What’s the one song if you had to listen to every day of your life?
CP: I would say… That’s a good question! Let me think for a second. We’ll come back to that.
Q: When did you know you could throw fast?
CP: I was about 14 years old and I was catching, and I was throwing it back harder than they were pitching it. I never wanted to pitch and my coach just finally pulled me aside and told me, ‘You’re throwing it back harder than they are. You’re pitching next inning.’ The rest is history. I pitched from that day on.
Q: How did you do that next inning?
CP: Not very well. I threw like a catcher. I think I gave up a couple hits, I hit a couple of kids, but I threw hard!
Q: What’s the biggest thing going into closing you’ve got to do in order to be successful?
CP: There are a couple of things. You’ve got to have a lot of self-confidence, and it’s easy to do it when you’re going well. You’ve got to have that same confidence when you’re going bad, and if you don’t — your body language, the way you’re throwing — your team picks up on that. No matter how good or bad I’m going, I have the same body language, and it’s portraying that positive, ‘I’m going to get you out. No matter what happened yesterday. It’s a new day.’ I think that’s the biggest thing.
Q: What’s the weirdest or most outlandish thing you’ve heard from a fan?
CP: I can’t think of a specific thing, but I can tell you an area — Baltimore. They’re right on top of the bullpen right there [at Oriole Park at Camden Yards] and obviously they try to do their part psyching out the closer. They’re drinking all game and by the time I’m up, they’re five or six deep. Their filter’s off. One game I think it was 2011, there were four big, big guys just giving it to me, and I just wanted to turn around and be like, ‘Really? Come on! At least I’m athletic and I’m trying to do something. You’re just sitting there drinking beer.’
CP: Back to the song! Led Zeppelin ‘Rock And Roll.’ ‘It’s been a long time since I rock-and-rolled.’ I could listen to that for a long time. That’s my favorite band.
Q: Since we’re at UM, when you were here, what was your favorite memory?
CP: It’s a lot of memories together. When we had team parties and stuff or we went out to another party, we were a team. I think the camaraderie with the teammates since we spent so much time together. It is hard being a student-athlete, especially at a private institution like Miami keeping your grades up and at a high level. Unless you go through it you really don’t understand. It’s a brotherhood.
Q: Favorite milkshake when you were here?
CP: The grasshopper. Mint chocolate chip. Oh yea.