SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Inside his humble community college dorm room in Lake City, Florida, about as land-locked of a location as it gets in the state, midway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Roberto Pérez learned to swear.
The room, which he shared with a teammate on the college’s pitching staff, was where Pérez found himself in 2006, after being drafted by Dodgers out of high school in Puerto Rico but opting not to sign. Just 17 years old, Pérez didn’t know a lick of English, despite courses in school, and knew that to achieve his goal — catching in the big leagues — communication was going to be essential.
“I really wanted to go to college and test myself,” Pérez said. “Instead of rooming with a Latin player, I chose to room with an American guy. He would talk to me in English and I would talk to him in Spanish. We kind of helped each other out. I didn’t know at first what he was saying, but I got used to it. I would talk by pointing at things.”
The dirty words, of course, came first. His roommate was a New Yorker, after all.
“That’s the first thing you learn, those bad words,” Pérez said with a laugh. “He had a New York accent. It was tough.”
Now 34, Pérez finds himself in another unfamiliar setting.
Gants catcher Roberto Perez #1 in the dugout during the San Francisco Giants spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Scottsdale Stadium on March 5, 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (John Medina for Bay Area News Group)
It took him two years at the community college to grasp the English language, while also doing enough on the field to maintain his draft stock. He piqued Cleveland’s interest in the 33rd round in 2008 and spent the next decade of his life in the organization. He made the improbable climb from late-round draft pick to the major-league roster, won two Gold Gloves and helped Cleveland to three playoff appearances, including an American League pennant in 2016.
But after a slew of injuries, most recently a torn hamstring that ended his 2022 season and required surgery, Pérez is once again the new guy, this time in the Giants’ group of catchers, his third different spring training camp in as many years.
In a competition that has been billed as a four-way battle for two spots, Pérez’s veteran stature and defensive acumen stand out among a group that otherwise includes less than 1,000 combined major-league at-bats and question marks across the board regarding their receiving ability.
“Look,” manager Gabe Kapler said this week, “we don’t have Buster Posey on our roster. We don’t have J.T. Realmuto on our roster. So we’re going to have to figure out what combination of catchers is best for our pitching staff. …
“Roberto, his health and his physicality are what need the most focus for us right now. So those things are the things (we’re looking for) from a really high quality, very experienced game caller and defensive catcher.”
In his last fully …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment