Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Interview Part 2: Victor Perez, Beautiful Moment

The iconic Baseball Hall of Fame induction tent at the 2010 ceremony. Victor Perez' father Tony Perez was inducted in 2000. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: That Feeling | Part 2: Beautiful Moment

Victor Perez' father got the call in January 2000. It was a call his father and the rest of the family had waited nine long years for.

The call was from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Perez' father, Tony Perez, was going to Cooperstown.

"I got the call from both of them, both my mother and father were on the phone," Perez recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently.

His parents relayed good news.

"Oh my God, oh my God, finally," Perez recalled of his response. "Finally you get your due. I was so proud, so, so proud."

Victor Perez spent much of his youth growing up in the ballparks his father played in. He was born in 1968, in his father's fifth season as a pro.

He also played the game growing up, playing it in high school, college and getting to play it professionally. Perez' own career, though, was brief. It was limited to a single season of rookie ball.

The Cincinnati Reds C behind home plate at Great American Ballpark in 2010. Victor Perez played for the Reds organization in 1990.
Victor Perez spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his New York City office. Perez went on from his brief baseball career to a successful career outside the game in real estate and acting.

Perez spoke of growing up in Cincinnati, surrounded by baseball. He told of hanging out with other ballplayers' kids and playing youth ball, with all the expectations that went with it.

Perez told of following his father through his career, to his native Cuba and to Cooperstown as his father was finally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Perez' own career started after playing his college ball at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The Reds, his father's old team, signed Perez as an undrafted free agent for 1990. The team sent him to Billings, Mont., and rookie ball.
The moon and Great American Ballpark. Victor Perez grew up in Great American's predecessor Riverfront Stadium. (G21D Photo)
One of the things that struck Perez was the crowd. The place was packed. "The crowds were amazing," Perez said.

"It's funny, you'd think one would be used to it," Perez said. "At Riverfront, we were used to 30-40,000 people a game during the Big Red Machine days. But it's different being a spectator than being on the field."

On the field, Perez didn't fare well. He got into 24 games for the Billings Mustangs with 58 plate appearances. He got just seven hits. His average came in at .143.

Perez recalled speaking with Reds officials later about where his career was going, something he said was very gracious of them. "I think we all made the decision together that it was just best for me to move forward," Perez said.

"Baseball is always in my heart, but I have other experiences that I enjoy in life, as well," Perez said. "Now that I look back, I'm glad I had the life experiences I had."
Olympic Stadium in Montreal in March 2014. Victor Perez' father played first base for Montreal from 1977 to 1979. (G21D Photo)
So, Perez left the professional ranks, but he didn't leave the game for good. He returned to Cincinnati and finished a finance and computer science degree. He then caught on with a telecom corporation.

In 1992, Perez was finally able to visit the country of his father's birth, Cuba.. He also got to meet relatives he had only spoken with on the phone.

"That was an experience," Perez said. "That was the first time I ever got to see my grandmother on my dad's side."

He also met aunts and cousins.

"I had grown up talking to them on the phone, grown up hearing about them from my father, but I never met them," Perez said. "It was a great experience."

Perez also always had baseball, Perez said. On the side, he played in the local leagues. He even seemed to get better.

His whole family had the game. By then, his father was waiting for his Cooperstown call. His brother Eduardo Perez was working his way up to his own 13-season big league career. His mother, he recalled, was right there with the family living the game.
Victor Perez' father Tony Perez in the 2010 Hall of Fame parade in Cooperstown. (G21D Photo)
Perez credited his mother with making everything possible.

"She breathes baseball inside and out," Perez said of his mother Pituka Perez. "That's why we have it in our soul because she promotes it."

"My mother," he said later, "is the whole key to all of this."

Perez has gone on to pursue other career opportunities. He now works in real estate and acts. His acting career even took him to London for stage work and some television work. To start that career he went to acting school.

In the middle of it all, in July 2000, his father was inducted into the Hall of Fame for a career that Perez had grown up watching. The whole family was there.

"It was just a beautiful moment," Perez said. "Words can't express. We were all so happy for them."

Part 1: That Feeling | Part 2: Beautiful Moment

Read Part 1 of the Victor Perez interview: That Feeling

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