Bronx Bred Juan Perez back with Giants and hopes to stay there

BY Rich Mancuso

Juan Perez took his swings in the cage this weekend at Citi Field. And then the native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, who spent most of his young life in the Bronx, came out of the cage and took a look. The 27-year old San Francisco Giants outfielder was back with the big team after a prior stint earlier this season.

“Back and forth sometimes you have to be mentally prepared and take it the way it is,” Perez said prior to getting a start Friday night against the New York Mets. He would double to left in the third inning against Mets’ starter Jonathon Niese. Saturday night he singled to right, one of four Giants hits against Mets rookie Jacob deGrom.

It was his fourth recall from Triple-A Fresno where he has compiled a .333 average, with 10-doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI in 32 games after making the team out of spring training.The Giants, with a crowded outfield are looking to give Perez more playing time with hopes he will help them in their chase against the first place Dodgers in the National league west.

“He has the tools and as long as he is here, we will take a look and give him playing time,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about the 13th round selection in the 2008 first year player draft.

This is an overall success story. Perez spent a good amount of time learning the game in Santiago where baseball is taken seriously. Then, when the time was right, he and some members of his family moved to the New York and settled to a predominant Dominican community in the Bronx, off the Grand Concourse and 15-minutes from Yankee Stadium.

“Last year they gave me a chance to play and I am here,” Perez said.  He has a quick bat and can play all outfield positions. Friday night he got the start in left and Saturday he moved to center, so Bochy is trying to find a role for him. And that suits Perez well because when he played high school baseball at DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx, he was used at various positions.

The 2006 graduate of the school always had talent, but went un-drafted. It was his association with sandlot ball and meeting Cuba Villenueva, a local area scout that gave Perez an opportunity that led to a playing career with the amateur La Caribe Baseball league, a team where  Manny Ramirez once played on the Crotona Park ball fields in the Bronx. He would then attend Western Oklahoma Junior College and hit .465 with 37 home runs and 102 RBI.

He finished his college playing career with a .530 on base percentage, with 62 extra base hits in 64 games.

“I went to tryouts and finally got a call,” said Perez. He was called the “Mystery Guy” because only one scout had reports on him. And that was Villenueva who convinced the Giants to take a chance.

With a four-game wrap around series against the Mets, that concludes with a Monday afternoon matinee, there has been plenty of time again to catch up with family and friends. Perez, as he did last September when he was called up, stayed in the old neighborhood instead of the team visiting hotel in midtown Manhattan.

“My mom cooks, I am with old friends and family and we share every time together,” Perez commented.  He showered and dressed quickly after the Giants opening game win Friday night. Waiting for him were family and friends. His mom was home making the welcome home dinner in the same apartment building by the Concourse.

He said about the adjustments of starting, coming off the bench and going from Triple-A to the big team, ”I’m here to help the team, hopefully in every little aspect…I do my job run the bases, play defense,  play the whole game and help, do my job. Playing the whole game and having success in the game.”

And if he gets a call off the bench, something that may happen because Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford get a bulk of the playing time, he said:

“Got to be ready for every moment,” Perez said. And for the second of the most recent Clinton graduates, the other being pitcher Pedro Borbon Jr. in 1996 to make it to the big leagues, just getting an opportunity to play professional baseball is a rare and great opportunity.