Perez adjusting to coaching role
Former Braves backstop played 20 professional seasons
ATLANTA -- Eddie Perez played in 564 Major League games during an 11-year career spent primarily with the Braves. Now the bullpen coach with Atlanta, Perez has seen his role change drastically, and he is still warming to the change.
As a player, Perez had some say in a game's ultimate outcome. As a coach, he can only watch and hope that the help he offers a player sinks in. He misses being able to take part ownership in whether his team wins or loses.
"The difference is, as a player you helped the team do something," said Perez, in his first year as a coach after playing professionally for nearly 20 years. "And after the game, when you lost, you felt that you tried something. As a coach, you don't have that feeling. You just come in early and work out with the guys."
Perez, a native of Venezuela, spent a season each with the Indians and Brewers, but he will be best remembered for his nine years with the Braves, and for being the personal catcher for Greg Maddux.
When Perez's playing days ended in 2006, he knew he wanted to be a coach. He didn't expect to join a Major League staff so quickly, however. Instead, Perez thought he would learn his new craft in the low Minors.
"I never thought I was going to get a big-league shot right away," Perez said. "I knew I was going to get a coaching shot [somewhere] right away. I don't want to spend a couple years at home doing nothing. It did surprise me to get a job here in the big leagues."
A catcher has to be a leader, and Perez was certainly that. Being a coach also provides leadership opportunities, but Perez has approached his new role with different ideas about what a leader really is.
When he played, Perez wasn't afraid to yell at a teammate in order to get his message across. It's more difficult to deal with today's player with such a strategy, so Perez has done his best to tone it down.
"When I was a player, I used to get in [teammates] faces and talk trash," Perez said. "As a coach, you have to be careful because you have to tell them why they made an error or tell them, 'This is what happened and how you fix it.' But you can't get in their faces. You can't do that anymore. They don't learn that way.
Since Perez has been out of the Major Leagues for just two years, he can offer insight not held by coaches and managers with more experience.
As a catcher, Perez learned tendencies of opposing hitters, and he has used that knowledge to help the pitchers with whom he works to gain an advantage.
"Pretty much all the guys in the big leagues are guys that were there when I used to play," Perez said. "I just keep telling them, 'This is how we pitch this guy. This is how we get him out.'"
Perez said that he eventually wants to become a manager in the Major Leagues. If that happens, he'll join a small contingent of Hispanic skippers.
The only big league manager ever to come from Venezuela is Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox. Perez and Guillen were teammates with the Braves in 1998 and 1999.
"Right now, I'm learning," Perez said. "[Becoming a manager] would be big for Latin players, and especially for Venezuela. We have Ozzie already as a manager and he's doing a great job, so it would be big."
Jeff Lutz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.