Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Royals' Salvador Perez thanks God after setting home run record for catchers

The spotlight was shining brightly on Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez on Monday night after he hit a record-setting 46th home run of the season. He was quick to deflect it, though, and turn it back on God and his teammates.

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Perez broke Johnny Bench’s record, set in 1970, for home runs in a season by a player who played at least 75 percent of their games at catcher.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “… I thank God for this. It’s amazing.”

 

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Perez also tied Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major-league lead with his blast, which led the Royals to a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians. Perez leads the majors with 115 RBIs and is the first catcher to hit that many since Mike Piazza in 1999 (when he hit 124).

Earlier this season, Perez earned his seventh All-Star Game selection, and since the All-Star break he’s hit 24 home runs to propel him to the top of the leaderboard.

His goal was to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs this year, despite the fact his highest totals in those categories were 27 and 80, respectively. He finished with those same marks two years in a row, in 2017 and 2018. In 2021, he hit his 27th home run on Aug. 4 and his 80th RBI on Aug. 20.

On Monday, Perez called his season a “dream come true” and said both marks are things he can’t do by himself. He took time following the game to thank everyone from his teammates, to his coaches, to front office staff.

“It’s about the team. It’s about everybody,” he said. “The support I have here, it’s amazing. I feel like I’m home.”

Perez missed the 2019 season due to an elbow injury but returned in 2020 to hit 11 home runs during the pandemic-shortened season. The 31-year-old is hoping this breakout season is the sign of many more productive years to come, and he pointed to guys like St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina playing at age 39 as inspiration for him to play as long as he can.

He said he also feels honored to be in the same company now as Bench.

“When you see a Hall of Fame catcher, you try to be just like him,” Perez said. “I’m going to try my best to be one of those guys.”

Perez’s record-setting home run was a 429-foot blast off of Indians starter Triston McKenzie. As he crossed home plate, Perez — who often gives credit to God in interviews and on social media — pointed to the sky as he crossed home plate.

“For a guy who’s so respected in this clubhouse, it was different than your normal home run,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after the game. “You could see the look on Salvy’s face. He’ll never forget it.”

In just about everything he does, Perez makes a point to thank God. A native of Valencia, Venezuela, Perez became an American citizen in 2020. He’s been open about how tough an upbringing he had and never misses a chance to say how grateful he is for his mother, his family, his teammates and the ability to play baseball.

“Every time I hit a homer, my mom makes me cry because she calls me and tells me, ‘Congratulations, I love you,’ and she starts crying,” Perez recently told the Kansas City Star. “Where I was coming from when I was growing up, it was a bad part of Valencia.

“I never thought anything would happen to me [like] right now in my life. The only thing I can say is I thank God and thank my mom for all the sacrifices she [made] to make me the player that I am right now.”

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