Perez's mother, Yilda, used to toss her son bottlecaps and r corn kernels from across the room. Salvador used a broomstick and smacked them around their home in Valencia, Venezuela. He also remembers missing a few, but he never broke a lamp in the living room.
Yilda Perez raised her only child with the help of her mother, Carmen, since he was four. She recognized his enthusiasm for the game and took him to a baseball school in the industrial hub of Valencia. There, he played with Astros 2B Jose Altuve.
When he was eight, Perez was the catcher for his team that went to tournaments. When he was 12 or 13, his mother heard coaches talk about her son's pro potential. He was just 16 when the Royals signed him.
Salvador has been friends with 3B Pablo Sandoval since he was 13 years old.
In the spring of 2009, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Salvador as the 19th-best prospect in the Royals organization. They had him at #20 in the spring of 2010. And moved him up a bit to #17 in the winter before 2011 spring training.
- Salvador's Major League debut on August 10, 2011 included catching five popups. Unusual, to say the least.
In fact, since STATS, Inc. began recording such statistics in 1974, Perez is only the fourth catcher to snag five or more popups in a game.
The others were the Cubs' Keith Moreland, who caught six on June 13, 1982; the White Sox's Jim Essian with five on July 7, 1976, and the Mariners' John Marzano with five on June 11, 1997.
Greeting Perez, one is immediately struck by his luminous smile—and his right hand. It makes you wonder what happened to your own when he shakes it. Your hand disappears inside his catcher's mitt of flesh and bone.
Very quickly, his eyes large and alive and his in-progress English endearing, Perez calls to mind a Venezuelan star from another era: Andres "The Big Cat" Galarraga.
Salvador always smiles and is always "up." He has a lot of energy, and you may see him get mad on rare occasion. But you won't see him down.
In Venezuela, Salvador played Little League ball with Bruce Rondon.
May 25, 2013: Perez flew to his home in Valencia, Venezuela after learning of the death of his maternal grandmother. He was placed on the three-to-seven day bereavement list.
Salvador has a new sideline—clubhouse reporter for FOX Sports Kansas City. With the TV camera rolling, Perez took the microphone and did a pregame "interview" with pitcher Bruce Chen, who was celebrating his birthday on June 19, 2013.
"Chen, how you feel to get old?" Perez said.
"I don't know," Chen replied. "Every day that I go by is different. Some days it feels a little bit better, sometimes it feels a little more painful. But right now, it feels great to come here and be 36 years old."
"Now wait a second—36 or 42?" Perez asked, thrusting the mike at Chen.
"[Chen laughing] 36. This is my contract year, so it's 36," he said. "Once I sign my contract, I'll go for 42."
And so it went, with Perez's rich voice booming as he alternated between questions and laughter and both players obviously enjoying the moment.
On July 16, 2013, Salvador was the catcher for Mariano Rivera in Mariano's final All-Star Game before retirement.
Late in October 2013, Perez traveled to Spain as part of the RFEBS Clinic organized for a pitchers and catchers.
March 19, 2014: Perez struck Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the face with a line drive. Reds manager Bryan Price said Chapman was conscious and talking as he was taken off the field during their game against the K.C. Royals.
"Not good," Price said. "He left the field on a stretcher, took a line drive just above his left eye is what it looks like—a contusion, a laceration, and certainly needs to be taken to the hospital and checked. We've got Tomas Vera, an assistant trainer, is going to be with him. And then we'll get our updates from there."
The ball caromed into the third base dugout. Medical personnel, including Royals Dr. Vincent Key, rushed the field. Players from both teams huddled around the mound as the 26-year-old Cuban was being attended to and the stadium became silent. An ambulance's siren could be heard in background while Chapman was loaded onto the stretcher.
"I know this isn't as uncommon as we would like it to be, but it was frightening, certainly frightening," Price said.
The game was then called with Kansas City leading 6-3.
Sal had already been an All-Star and won a Gold Glove Award by the age of 23. No wonder that his manager, Ned Yost, rates him among the best catchers in the game.
"He's the total player," Yost said. "He's offensive, he's defensive, he's got leadership skills. I think he's going to be the best. I don't think there's going to be anybody better than he.
"There's only really one that's better for me right now and that's Yadier Molina. There are guys that are good. Posey's like Sal, he's really good and he's won an MVP. He's in the other league and I don't see him enough, but I've always been impressed with Yady. When Sal came up, I saw so many similarities with Yadier Molina's game when he first came up."
A reporter mentioned that Molina, a five-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove Award winner with the Cardinals, sometimes seems to be on another planet. "Sal can be on that planet, too," Yost said. (Kaegel - mlb.com - 4/2/14)When Salvador is asked which catchers he looked up to as a kid, he doesn't hesitate before answering, and he only needs to name one.
"Molina, Yadier Molina," Perez says. "I watched a lot of video. I wanted to be like him because he's the best in the league. I just try to be like him."
"If you ever watch him play, just how he affects the game every day, it's unbelievable," teammate Alex Gordon said. "I hope a lot of guys try to steal on him, and we'll get to see how good he is back there."
Perhaps the best indication of what Perez means to the Royals is this: When asked which dimension of Perez's game jumps out the most, closer Greg Holland replied, "All of them. He's only what, 24? To be able to call a game like a veteran, it's unbelievable," Holland said. "I take it for granted sometimes. The way he catches, the way he defends with guys on base, throwing guys out, picking guys off, it's unbelievable."
And Perez's personality might mean even more than his physical skills to his teammates.
"He has a real passion to win the game. He loves the game," Holland said. "You see him out there fist pumping and screaming and yelling, it kind of brings that little kid out in you. I think that's what drives him. Just the love of the game drives him to be better each and every day. He doesn't take a pitch off. For me, coming in the ninth inning in close games, I can't really afford for my catcher to take a pitch off. It's a lot of fun, but I think just that passion is the biggest attribute, aside from the natural ability he has."
Despite his youth, Perez said he's tried to take on a greater leadership role for a second-place Royals team that hopes to make a playoff surge in the second half. "I try to be a leader," Perez said. "I'm the catcher, and I have to be a leader for the pitcher, talking. I want to be the leader on this team one day." (Swieca - mlb.com - 7/14/14)
Perez wears women’s perfume for every game. One day, shortstop Alcides Escobar—who said he wore it for good luck—sprayed some on Perez’s jersey and told him he would get four hits. The prophecy came true, Perez said, so he ordered a dozen boxes. His preferred brands are Victoria’s Secret and 212 VIP.
Umpires, he said, are grateful.
“You smell good, my friend, thank you,” they tell him, according to Perez. “We sweat, stink, you know. We need to put on something—just on the field. A lot different off the field.”
Salvadorcontinues to burnish his reputation as the best defensive catcher in baseball not named Yadier Molina. Perez has soft hands, a strong, accuratearm and an agility that belies his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame.
Perez also plays the game with a rare exuberance, bouncing up after foul tips and responding to the success of his pitchers with body language that reflects his emotional investment in their performance.
“He’s like a little kid in a gorilla body,” teammate Alex Gordon said. “He’s huge, but he’s the nicest guy. He’s always joking around and having fun. With as much negative attention as we get for failing in this game, it’s nice to have that kind of personality out there when you’re doing well or not doing well.”
2014: Perez is known for rarely taking a day off. During the previous two offseasons, he played in a total of 63 Venezuelan Winter League games for Tiburones de la Guaira.
"There were times last year and the year before when we'd play a 162-game season, and he'd want to go straight to Venezuela and play baseball there," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Perez during the World Series. "It was like, 'You need to take a break.'"
But that's not Perez. Despite establishing himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the Majors, the 24-year-old doesn't want to take his foot off the pedal.
"I just like playing baseball," he said. "It's what I love. Every time I put on the uniform, I'm going to go out and give 100 percent."
March 27, 2015: The Lawrence, KS public library held an edible books festival featuring public submissions of edible works of art based on a book. One submission featured the book Catcher in the Rye with a cutout of Salvador in a bag of a loaf of rye bread.
Esquire Magazine: What it's like playing the toughest position in the game?
"I got a short story about when I started catching," Perez said. "I was always playing third base and shortstop and this scout from KC, who signed me, told me to throw from home plate to second base. I still don't know why he told me that, but after I did that, he says hit, and he came back and said I want to sign you.
"So they put me at catcher and I was happy to have a job. After that, it was just working, working, working—every day. That's what I do. Working hard every day, trying to work hard and listen to my coach. That's why I'm a little bit good behind home plate.
June 6, 2015: "Royals fan dressed as pope catches Perez's home run."
Historically, royalty and Catholic religious leaders have had pretty close ties, which it's why it's not that surprising that the Pope was at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday. OK, a pope. Sure, these Royals are from Missouri and not, say, France, but that doesn't mean they can't have a pope of their own.
And, since all pontiffs (especially this one) are infallible, it's no surprise that he caught Salvador Perez's ninth-inning homer. You could even call it a miracle. (G. Kaneko - MLB.com June 6, 2015)
Perez was selected to start in the 2015 All-Star Game.
Plenty of camaraderie exists between players who hail from the same country, but in the case of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and Royals catcher Salvador Perez, their Venezuelan mutual admiration society began long before they were Major Leaguers.
The two played together as youngsters, when they were around 11 or 12 years old. Their travel team took them to other countries, where they represented Venezuela with as much pride as they do as adults and professional athletes today. Perez said Altuve was superior even way back when.
"He played," Perez said. "Leadoff, he threw hard, he stole bases, made some plays. Always. Whatever [he's] doing here [in the big leagues] -- nothing is a surprise to me. I know where he comes from and I know what he's about."
Altuve remembers his youth baseball days a little differently.
"I was on the bench," he deadpanned. "I played second when we were winning by 10 or losing by 10."
And his memories of Perez?
"All I remember is he played first base because our manager said he couldn't catch," Altuve said. Looks like things have changed.
Asked if Altuve ever got picked on for his small stature, Perez shook his head with an emphatic no.
"He was better than everybody on the team," he said. "Nobody could say anything. "I'm 6-4, and he's like 5-1. And he's way better than me." ( Alyson Footer / MLB.com )
2016 Spring Training: The 2015 season would have been difficult for Salvador Perez to forget no matter what, but thanks to a new tattoo, he never will.
The Gold Glove catcher now has the Royals' World Series championship logo inked on his body to match the series MVP tattoo he got after the Royals beat the Mets in the Fall Classic last season. (Joe Rodgers - Sporting News - March 2016)
Perez had an immediate use for his reworked contract that was signed on March 1, 2016. Perez, who signed a $52.5 million extension, confirmed that he is donating $1 million to Kansas City's Urban Youth Academy. A baseball field will be named after Perez.
A million-dollar donation is quite a gift. But Perez said it will be well worth it.
"But when it's something you really want to do," Perez said, "and see how many happy faces you're going to make, you don't see the million dollars. You see something different." (Flanagan - MLB.com - 3/2/16)
July 3, 2016: The Phillie Phanatic is a landmark of the game of baseball, doing all sorts of silly, zany things on the field. Just this season, he's beaten Jose Bautista in a fitness battle, arrested Jose Fernandez after the Marlins' ace stole his keys, and brought a visiting team's broadcast crew some ice cream.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez is also a treasure, whether bear-hugging umpires or making quick-reaction catches on foul ball ricochets look easy.
The matchup between the Royals and Phillies, therefore, facilitated some silly shenanigans at Citizens Bank Park, one that involved the two of them exchanging flexes. And, later, Perez trying to douse the Phanatic with a water bottle and the Phanatic retaliating with a bucket of glitter. Good thing for Salvy he was given the afternoon off, since that glitter bomb would have been a hassle to clean off his jersey in time for the game. (A Garro - MLB.com - July 3, 2016)
Katie Strang, a writer for ESPN.com, talked with Salvador about catching in extremely hot weather, with on-field temperatures over 100 degrees -- even 110+ degree heat! And Kansas City has some of the most swampy, oppressive heat in the U.S.
"The first time I caught a really hot game I was thinking, 'Am I gonna die today?' Seriously, after six innings, you start to feel like ..." Perez said, doing his best slack-jawed, bone-tired expression.
"I think it’s one of those things that people don't realize. After we play, even after each inning, we feel it [even] more in the dugout," Perez said. "We get a cold towel, put it on our legs, we put cold water [on our neck]. I change the jersey, like, four times during the game -- inside, in the cage, because you have the AC on -- so you feel a little better."
A sweat-laden jersey weighs down Perez’s 6-3, 240-pound frame. And that’s on top of the gear he’s already sporting, including a chest protector, shin guards and a mask -- all of which feel even heavier on a hot day.
"It weighs more. It’s a little heavy. That’s why we're always changing the jersey," Perez said. "I sweat a lot. All the gear I have, the masks. Sometimes I have to change my mask [during the game], because it stinks a lot."
During a particularly toasty game, he’ll drink upward of 10 bottles of water. He’ll mix in Gatorade that’s available between half-innings as well. Sometimes, even that's not enough, so Perez seeks hydration in the form of intravenous fluids before the game to prevent dehydration, though that has been slightly more difficult to accomplish this season compared to previous seasons.
"Last year it was little bit easier to get IVs. It's a new rule, I think," Perez said. "So [the medical staff] just has to get [permission] that you really need it, and then guys come down and give it to you. Now, it’s a little harder to get IV."
A source confirmed to ESPN.com that though there has been no official rule change, the league’s medical supervisor did recently clarify, in the form of written guidance to all teams, the situations in which IV hydration is considered the best practice.
Besides the standard sweat and stink, the heat can have other, more serious physical manifestations, such as nausea and muscle cramping. The most taxing part of all, Perez said, is the mental toll it takes on players who are already subject to the rigors of a 162-game schedule.
"I think that’s the hardest part," Perez said. "If you think you're going to be tired, you're going to be tired." (Katie Strang - ESPN.com - 8/26/2016)
Salvador was scratched from the starting lineup vs. the A's on September 12, 2016, as he was with his girlfriend Gaby Ruiz, who gave birth to their son, Johan Salvador. It is Perez's second son -- the oldest is named Salvador, Jr.
Lots of people are nervous holding newborn babies. Given that Salvador is a catcher who has to handle all sorts of breaking balls, that doesn't seem to be a problem for him. Especially when the newborn he's holding is his adorable, bundled-up, new son, Johan. (Clair - MLB.com - 9/12/16)
December 2016: Perez committed to play for Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
2006: Perez signed with Royals' scout Juan Indiago, out of Venezuela.
February 27, 2012: Perez and the Royals agreed on a five-year contract that runs through 2016 with club options for each of the following three seasons. The contract guarantees Perez $7 million, but could be worth a total of $26.75 million for the full eight years if all the options are exercised and all the escalators and performance clauses are achieved.
Perez will receive a guaranteed $750,000 for 2012, $1 million for 2013, $1.5 million for $2014, $1.75 million for 2015, and $2 million for 2016. The option year salaries are $3.75 million in $2017, $5 million in 2018, and $6 million in 2018. The escalators are based on various awards earned during the first five years; and performance bonuses based on games started at catcher in the three option years.
- March 1, 2016: Salvador and the Royals agreed on a 5-year contract extension, through 2021 and guaranteeing him $52.5 million over 5 seasons.
|DOB:||5/10/1990||Agent:||Rick Thurman-Beverly Hills. S.C.|
|Birth City:||Valencia, Venezuela|
|Draft:||2006 - Royals - Free agent - Out of Venezuela|
Perez is a solid hitter with solid bat speed. He probably won't hit for a lot of power, but he has a nice righthanded swing to make consistent contact with.
He has a fundamentally sound swing. He has great hands, a short stroke and impressive pitch recognition. He is a good two-strike hitter. He makes contact and puts the ball in play.
- Salvador has long arms, so his swing is always going to be a little long.
Perez concentrates on making contact and likes to use the middle of the field. That approach figures to produce high averages and good strikeout-walk ratios, but not a whole lot of power.
He took a step forward at the plate when he started making adjustments and stopped swinging at as many bad pitches and pulling off balls. He's still a free swinger, yet he doesn't pile up big strikeout numbers. He doesn't offer a lot of power but can drive balls to the alleys. (Will Lingo-Baseball America-10/06/11)
- Salvador rarely draws a walk.
Salvador's manager with the Royals Ned Yost, rates him among the best catchers in the game, even with the bat.
"He could take a few more walks. What happens with good hitters is they have to learn to take their walks. Yost said, "When you're swinging at pitchers' pitches in situations, you're not helping yourself, you're not helping your team. But if you're staying in your approach and hitting your pitches, you're going to be far more successful, you're going to be on base more. And any time you get on base more, there's an opportunity to score a run. You can't score a run when you swing at a ball and make an out."
"It's just plate discipline, he'll grow into it," Yost said. "You can't just sit a guy down and say, 'I want you to take more walks.' They have to learn how to do it. And they do it through experience and do it through time." (4/2/14)
June 28, 2015: Perez delivered the 500th hit of his career. Perez became the 21st catcher in Major League history to have 500 career hits by the age of 25, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Number 500 also happened to be a home run. Because of that, he put out a request on twitter for the fan that caught it to return it to him.
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Perez had a career batting average of .272 with 87 home runs and 343 RBI in 2,556 at-bats.
Salvador doesn't have the typical catcher's build, but he is very solid defensively. He sets up well behind the plate, providing a very good target for his pitcher. He has soft hands and does a good job of blocking balls in the dirt.
He is a good catch-and-throw guy, receiving the ball well and handling a pitching staff solidly.
Perez has a very good arm—rated a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and it plays up because he has a very quick exchange, a quick release and his throws are very accurate.
His pop times (glove-to-glove) are consistently in the 1.8 to 1.9 second range, extremely good.
- Salvador has a knack for getting he and his pitcher through an opponent's lineup. He does all the video study and listens to coaches, other catchers and his pitchers. But he is very perceptive at game-calling.
THROWING OUT BASE-STEALERS
- In 2008, Salvador threw out 45 percent of runners who tried to steal.
- In 2009, Perez threw out 33 percent of opposing Pioneer base-stealers.
- In 2010, he threw out 42 percent of Carolina League base-thieves.
- In 2011, he led the Texas League by throwing out 48 percent of basestealers!
- Perez's strong arm is made even more effective by his quick release to second base. The average Major League time for a catcher's throw to second base, glove to glove, is 2.0 seconds, according to Royals manager Ned Yost. Perez is regularly clocked at well under that, sometimes as fast as 1.84. That fraction of a second often makes a difference.
And, in 2016, Salvador led all catchers (Min. 80 starts) with 48.1% caught stealing!
Perez does a very good job of calling a game. He is a leader and works well with his pitching staff. He has earned respect from the pitchers for his ability to analyze opposing hitters, manage a game, cover the position and throw.
He puts his work in, preparing for a lineup, knowing what pitches to attack certain hitters with, but he also has a great feel for the game, because the situation changes and he adapts.
- On September 6, 2012, Perez picked his fourth runner off base for the season. Those four pickoffs are the most ever in a single season by a Royals catcher. Perez broke previous record of three, by John Buck (2005) and Darrell Porter (1977).
A commanding presence at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Perez is the extreme opposite of the old idea of a small, squat, pepperpot catcher—Yogi Berra he ain't. Yet his big size belies his quick-responding hands, arms, legs and feet that fill a catcher's every need. His mind is quick, as well.
"He's very intelligent," pitcher Ervin Santana said. "It's the type of talent that's difficult to get, and he's got it. So he's taking advantage of that."
"One, people take for granted his blocking abilities. I don't think anyone here is afraid to throw anything in the dirt on any count with a runner on third base," Bruce Chen said. "And we have some of the nastiest guys with the nastiest stuff, like Greg Holland, James Shields with that changeup, Ervin Santana's slider. These guys won't even think about it twice, about throwing it in the dirt."
Because Perez is so good at stopping errant pitches.
"The thing is, when we have him behind the plate, we're not going to think about—is he going to block it or not?" Santana said. "We just have so much confidence that he'll block it; he does everything it takes to keep the ball in front of him so the runner doesn't advance.
"He's big, but he just gives a good target. I like it because he just puts the glove down and you just feel comfortable to pitch to him. And he's a big guy, but he moves quick for being that big."
"In my opinion, he's the best catcher in the American League," said manager Ned Yost in 2013. "He blocks balls as well as anybody, he calls a great game, he's a great receiver and he controls the running like very few catchers in baseball can control. He's a top-notch defender. He's the best I've ever seen and he's a joy to be around."
Yost was right . . .
In 2013, Perez won his first Rawlings Gold Glove. Salvador led A.L. catchers with 71 assists and stymied 23 base-stealing attempts for 35 percent. Pitchers had a 3.36 ERA when he was behind the plate, and he added the ninth career pickoff of his career.
September 28, 2014: Salvador Perez, played his 146th game behind the plate. That broke the team record of 145 by Darrell Porter (1978).
Perez also became the first Major Leaguer to catch 146 games since 2008, when the Brewers' Jason Kendall and the Dodgers' Russell Martin each caught 149.
November 4, 2014: Perez won his second Gold Glove as the best defensive catcher in the AL.And Salvador won his third straight Rawlings Gold Glove for 2015.
November 2016: Catcher Perez won his fourth Gold Glove award.
Royals G.M. Dayton Moore spends much more time on-the-field than most any player you will see. Practice, repetition -- Salvy doesn't tire of it, it seems.
"He absolutely loves to play,” Moore said. “But he also is a person who takes responsibility very seriously. He wants to lead. He wants to be there with the pitchers. His energy never wavers. I’ve never been around anyone quite like him."
Manager Ned Yost is impressed with how he cares more about his pitchers than his offense or anything else.
"Unselfishness is is really important for a catcher running a pitching staff,” Yost said. “Salvy is unselfish to the point that in time he will learn he’s so good back there he can concentrate more on his hitting.”
Aug 13, 2016: One day early in August, 2016, as Royals manager Ned Yost was sitting in his office gabbing with a couple of reporters, he was asked point blank if Salvador Perez was the best defensive catcher in baseball.
Yost didn't hesitate. "Absolutely," Yost said. "But well, wait, I'll say best in the league. That other guy [Yadier] Molina is pretty darn good, too."
But every season since Perez emerged on the scene in 2011, the Royals have seen improvement in his defensive skills, whether it's throwing out runners, picking off runners, blocking wild pitches, you name it. That's the reason that Perez is a four-time All-Star. This season especially has been phenomenal for Perez. His caught-stealing percentage is an off-the-charts 53 percent, best in baseball and a career high.
And most impressively, Perez has improved his pop time -- the time it takes after a pitch reaches his mitt to the time it takes to reach a middle infielder's glove -- to a consistent 1.73-1.74 seconds. The league average for pop time is anywhere from 1.85-2.00. Those with lower than 1.85 pop times are considered very good.
"Nobody does that [1.74] consistently," Yost said. "It's crazy." (J Flanagan - MLB.com - Aug13, 2016)
- Salvador is a very slow runner, even for a catcher.
- 2008: Salvador missed almost half of the season with a twisted ankle.
March 14-June 22, 2012: Perez was diagnosed with a lateral meniscus tear and required surgery. He was injured while warming up pitcher Jonathan Sanchez prior to an exhibition game that day.
"I was catching Sanchez in the bullpen, and I felt something funny in my knee, but I didn't expect that it was something very dangerous," he said. "But right now they told me that it was way more than I thought it was. It was a pitch inside, so I was trying to move in, and that's when my knee tweaked. My spike got stuck and ... my knee moved out of place."
The meniscus cushions the knee between the femur and the tibia, and Perez's tear is on the outside. That type of surgery typically requires several weeks' recovery.
August 4-11, 2013: Salvador was on the D.L. with a mild concussion.
March 11, 2017: Venezuela felt the thrill of victory for the first time in Pool D play, but this win hurt, too. Catcher Salvador Perez made a game-saving putout at the plate in the ninth inning against Italy, sending the World Baseball Classic contest into extra innings. Venezuela went on to win, 11-10, but both Perez and reliever Francisco Rodriguez were injured on the play.
According to a Major League Baseball official on site, Perez sustained a left knee injury and has been referred for further diagnostic testing. According to a tweet by Team Venezuela, an MRI revealed no structural damage. But the inflammation forced the catcher to miss the rest of the tournament. (J Sanchez - MLB.com - March 11, 2017)