The return of Fernando-mania!

October 12, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 1 Comment

Recently, Wax Heaven featured an interesting post on Fernando Valenzuela, the early 1980s pitching phenom who inspired “Fernando-mania”.  Well, I am here to tell you that Fernando-mania is back!  Let me introduce you to the smart, speedy, switch-hitting rookie outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, Fernando Perez!

I’ve been wanting to write a post about Fernando for a while now because he is such an intriguing player.  Last night’s game winning run gives me the impetus to finally do it.

I’ve been following him since 2006 when he led the entire minor leagues in runs scored while playing for the Visalia Oaks.  I learned that he was the Rays’ 7th round draft pick in 2004 out of Columbia University.  Yep, Columbia.  He’s an Ivy Leaguer.  I’m not saying that just going to an Ivy League school automatically means someone is smart, but it only takes listening to one interview or reading one blog entry to realize that Fernando Perez has an excellent head on his shoulders.

Did I say blog?  Yes; Perez was one of a few minor leaguers to blog on milb.com during the 2007 season.  You can check out his writing here.  I highly recommend this post, as it gives great insight into the life of a minor league baseball player and a great look at the intellect of Fernando Perez.  I doubt that many major leaguers or minor leaguers can casually use words like “allegory” or “aesthetes”, but Perez drops them into his eloquent writing.

I first saw Fernando play in person during the 2007 season when he was playing in Double-A for the Montgomery Biscuits.  I went to see the Biscuits play the Carolina Mudcats in July, and I couldn’t wait to see Evan Longoria.  Evan was impressive, but Fernando’s speed, hustle, and hitting ability really impressed me too.  I saw the Biscuits play the Tennessee Smokies, near Knoxville, a couple of weeks later, and snapped a picture of Fernando Perez:

I was privileged to be able to watch Fernando all season long in Durham this year.  Game after game, he proved himself to be the type of player that I love to watch by playing great defense in center field, using his blazing speed to steal 43 bases and leg out 11 triples (I love triples!), showing pop in his bat, and getting lots of clutch hits.  He also demonstrated the hustle, poise, confidence, and leadership that are the hallmarks of a successful major leaguer.

You can tell a lot about the kind of player that Fernando Perez is by watching this video.  It’s gotten over 92,000 views on YouTube already and it really is one of the coolest things you’ll ever see in a baseball game:

Fernando was called up to the Rays on September 1 and immediately made an impact.  He played a lot while Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton were injured, and he performed very well, even hitting 3 home runs in 60 at bats!  He earned a spot on the Rays’ post-season roster.  With Upton and Crawford able to play again, his role is to be a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner.  His pinch running won Game 2 of the ALCS yesterday.  When I look back on what he said on his blog one year ago and I can’t help but smile at how prophetic he was:

If a player is lucky, he’s known for just one play, or just one hit. I hope it’s ahead for me.

If everything that I’ve said so far isn’t enough to make you a fan, I’ll add one more thing.  Fernando has great taste in music.  In Durham, the song that he chose to have played when he came up to bat was Uptight (Everything’s Alright) by Stevie Wonder, and in Tampa Bay it’s Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag by James Brown.

I can’t wait to watch Fernando Perez in the majors for a full year in 2009.  I believe that he can win the starting right field job in spring training and that he’ll be a legitimate contender for American League Rookie of the Year.  His future is very, very bright.

The card that you see below is the only card that I have of Fernando Perez; it’s from the 2008 Durham Bulls team set.  However, since he was a September call-up and he’s a good, but not elite, prospect, he’s sure to be featured on 10-20 certified autograph rookie cards in 2009!

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  1. Well, this is timely. I was wondering who this Perez guy was last night. And then I saw the video on your post and the light bulb went on over my head. Oh yeah, him! … I like that card of him, too.


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