On November 1, 2015, baseball history was made. After an intense, 12-inning battle that went well into the night, Kansas City finally claimed their first world title in 30 years. As soon as pitcher Wade Davis recorded the final out, every KC player sprinted from the dugout, bullpen, outfield — wherever they were — and started to celebrate together by the mound. It was madness and, as series MVP Salvador Pérez recalls, a memory he will always cherish.
“I don’t even remember what I was thinking,” Pérez admitted. “We were all running towards each other and just started jumping. All of a sudden, my son came towards me and started grabbing my jersey, saying ‘Salvy! Salvy!’ but I was still distracted celebrating with my team. But he kept going ‘Salvy!’ and then he said ‘You’re the MVP of the series, you’re the winner!’ I was like ‘WHAT!?’ Okay, I had to stop a second for that. My little guy coming to me in that moment and telling me I won MVP, that’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
For the catcher, reaching the apex of the sport he loves was the culmination of a long, grueling journey. It goes back way further than his team’s heartbreaking defeat at the hands of San Francisco during the previous year’s title matchup. It even goes back further than 2006, when the Kansas City organization took a chance on a 16-year-old catcher who didn’t speak any English. It goes all the way back to when he was four years old, first learning the game of baseball in Venezuela.
“That was when I started playing the game,” Pérez said. “It was just tee ball, and we would play for fun, but that’s when I began to love it.”
His one constant throughout life was also his role model, his mom. A single mother, she was the one who encouraged him to take up the sport. “I lived with her and my grandma,” he explained. “They saw that I was an active kid and were always there for me.”
As he began to flourish on the diamond, his family saw how great he could be and gave him the push he needed when it came time for some difficult choices. “Signing with a big league team (at 16) was a tough decision,” Pérez explained. “I didn’t speak any English so that part was hard. But the hardest part was definitely leaving my mom and family in Venezuela.”
But with his family’s support and love, Pérez came to America and immediately started to stand out in KC’s system. “Even in a new country, I was still playing the same game,” he said. “From the minute I got here, I just played hard and had fun like I always do.”
It also helps that he has a cannon of an arm behind the plate and a dedicated training regimen. “My favorite thing to do during the game is throw people out who try to steal on me,” Pérez said. “That comes down to the work I do with my catching coach. We watch a lot of film of fast baserunners, work on consistency, and really making that perfect throw.”
Most of Pérez’s gym workouts focus on his lower body, so that he can explode out of his catcher’s stance at a moment’s notice. “That’s something I work on a lot with my trainer,” he said. “It’s all about trying to do the best job that I can.”
So now, with a championship ring and MVP trophy in tow, one would understand if the 26-year-old takes it a little easier during his training sessions and game-day prep. After all, he’s been to the mountaintop. But easing up hasn’t even crossed his mind.
“I will always work as hard as I can and keep that same level of energy,” Pérez said emphatically. “For me, it’s about making my mother proud.”