His chest protector reads “Laird” across the throat guard. His glove has an insignia running up the side that reads “McCann.” His helmet, rather than being in colors of Pinecrest Academy, is red and blue.
If it’s suspicious that Pinecrest’s junior catcher Andres Perez has had some access to the Atlanta Braves clubhouse, namely the equipment worn by former Braves catchers Gerald Laird and Brian McCann, it’s because he has. After all, his father, Eddie Perez, was the preferred catcher for Greg Maddux while with the Braves between 1995 and 2001.
Andres made his rounds around the Braves organization growing up. He had McCann as a mentor, and has undoubtedly operated in the shadows of his father, but he’s balanced that marquee lifestyle with the humble relationship he’s kept with Pinecrest, which has been his home since pre-kindergarten. He’s also embraced the scrappy style of play that his father and other Venezuelan’s are known for. He called it A-B-C baseball.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t grown into his own mold.
Now, at 6-foot-6, Andres isn’t standing in anyone’s shadows unless he’s behind the dish. He’s much taller than his father, and in reality has become a very different baseball player. While Eddie had humble career numbers at the plate, Perez has become an offensive force for the Paladins.
Though, he won’t admit it.
“We’re better defenders,” Perez said of his father and himself. “We all hit every once in a while, but we take pride in our defensive approach.”
At the plate, Perez has led the team with 16 RBIs and five home runs—the latter statistic good enough for second in the county.
However, it’s the nuances and details behind the plate that Andres attributes to his father’s impact. When asked whether or not he felt comfortable within the wake of his dad, Perez had no hesitation—he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve embraced it,” he said. “He’s helped me tremendously. He’s taught me everything I know about the position. It’s better because everything he knows from the pros, he’s taught them to me and brought them upon me. My mom will send him videos and he’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong and correct me just like that.”
While Eddie had the luxury of catching primarily for Maddox, Andres has learned through the high school years how to adjust from game-to-game with different pitchers. It’s just one of the many extra chores required to be a top catcher.
“It’s important to know what each pitcher likes,” he said. “I caught every single game last year, so I got really close to the pitchers above me and under me too.”
Pinecrest coach Ryan Weingart considers Perez’ presence with a young team invaluable.
“With his dad being a former major leaguer, luckily it trickled down to him and he’s just an unbelievable player,” Weingart said. “He’s a junior on a senior-less team, so he’s really stepped up as a leader. You expect that from a senior, but because we don’t have any he’s filled that role.”
Through all of his avenues with the greater baseball world, Perez has kept his eyes focused solely on what’s directly in front of him, whether it be a hanging curveball, a pitch in the dirt or the prosperity of Pinecrest baseball.
For the time spent talking about college and big league ambitions, which has yet to develop, Perez talked two-fold about his team and teammates.
“There are no seniors this year, so the team we have this year is the same one we will have next year, plus freshman. We have all of this experience and growth from the last two or three years, so we want to make the playoffs and go as far as we can,” he said.