Maybe when Felix Perez left Cuba on April 26, 2008 he never imagined he would not even be close to reach MLB. If there is a time when Felix Perez is close to MLB it would be now without hesitation. The lefty outfielder did not imagine he would be MVP of the finals in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP by its Spanish acronym) in 2015. Perez is already 30 but he has not said his last word yet. The numbers never lie. Felix Perez is the kind of placer that has had several years of real rise and not many have been apt to see this secret.
Perez, who was born in the Isle of Youth, only hit .264 in Cuba with 7 HR in 3 seasons. But who would have thought that a player with a record of service as unknown could have some kind of promotion? Perez, who was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, changed some parts of his daily performance. He became the 30th prospect of the franchise in 2010, and went climbing the scale of the minors to arrive at AAA stably since 2011.
The progression of Felix Perez in the AAA subsidiary Louisville Bats between 2012 and 2014 has been prominent. He has hit 118, 121 and 129 hits in the last three seasons with average above .280. He has raised his rate of extra-base hits (30, 35 and 51). His RBIs also increased (35, 65, and 74). The improvement of Perez was not only in a respectable league as the AAA but also in the winter leagues where he proposed himself as interesting player since 2013 with the Zulia Aguilas. He participated in the 2014 championship with the Licey Tigres in the Dominican League (LIDOM), deciding a memorable seventh game. And he won with the Anzoategui Caribes in this 2015 where he won the MVP award at the end of the Venezuelan league.
The winter season was quite surreal to Felix Perez. In LVBP he was the prize man in 2015. He received awards such as the Golden Glove, the leadership in hits and RBIs and the MVP, in addition to being champion as reinforcement with the Anzoategui Caribes . Perez won incentive with two of his awards ($ 3000 for the MVP award and $ 2000 by being champion).
Currently in Arizona , Perez is training with 3 other Cubans (Aroldis Chapman, Raisel Iglesias and Bryan Pena) whom will be with the Cincinnati Reds on the Opening Day. OnCuba spoke with Felix Perez on his latest achievements in baseball and future goals, which are still intact and are driven by hope and sacrifice in the game.
When you left Cuba to try your luck in other leagues, did you imagine you’d be the MVP of a tournament as recognized as the Venezuelan League?
I did not imagine it. When I left Cuba I was not the player I am today and thank God everything went well and I could sign. In 2010 it was not like now that much money is given. If you had not quality you could not sign. Now it is easier, and I think that playing every day is what makes you a better player and a better person and because of that I could have this great year in Venezuela, winning several awards, including the one of MVP.
How did it go for the 2015 Caribbean Series?
My experience at San Juan 2015 Caribbean Series was very exciting and very beautiful. I saw my friends and brothers of my land. That was really cute, not for what I did by giving everything I had, because it was not a duty, but a beautiful detail. Again I feel myself close to Cuba through them; the emotion was bigger every day. I went to give them support and applause, because winning or losing, they are my people and we are Cuba. The saddest part was when I played against Cuba, on the ground I looked normal, but inside I was suffering and did not want to screw up their plans. I felt really bad about that part, but as you know I was an important figure in the Caribes and I had to play anyway; otherwise I felt very happy and excited with this experience.
You’ve been in the minors since 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds. How have you been with this organization?
I went very well and now I’m waiting for the opportunity. God’s timing is perfect and when you work hard and love what you do everything arrives. I’ve been a long time in the minors doing the work, but hey, it is not in my hands. Batting, fielding and playing hard is what it is in my hands; the rest is a matter of the coaches. I hope getting my chance soon, and then I will try to seize it and take many fruits of it. Overall, I think it went well.
Do you think you’re still in time to get to the MLB?
Of course. I’m in the best moment of my career and as I said everything has its time and I do not think there will be another better time for me. I’m ready to take the plunge.
What player in your organization has contributed most to you to keep improving every day? How do you get along with other Cubans who are currently in this Spring Training?
My player is Carlos Gonzalez, who plays for the Colorado Rockies. Here I get along great with all my teammates and especially with the Cubans, we are a family. We are always together and very happy. My batting coach also really helps me, we are good friends.
In recent years you have hit with more power, what kind of adjustments have you done with your batting?
I have tried to take Carlos Gonzalez´s batting mechanics and style. That has worked great and thanks to this I have been finding more power and can hit for average. That also helps me a lot in games to produce home runs and RBIs.
In the last 3 seasons you hit more than 100 hits, 20 doubles and 10 HR in Louisville but you’ve struck out 60 times in each of those seasons. What kind of training are you doing to reduce your number of strikeouts?
Well, I’m working more on contact with the ball. Our league is very strong and has great quality. This year I think it will be better in that aspect for me and I have to go out every day to play and not worry about the strikeouts. Sure, I must reduce them because that would help me hitting more.
What do you miss most about Cuba?
I miss my family, my island and my baseball; I miss everything, and even more playing with Isla de la Juventud. I do not lose hope that someday it will happen again.
Who has been the Cuban player you have admired the most?
What is it for you to get to MLB? Is it a distant dream or a possible goal?
More than a dream, it is possible and pleasant goal. I believe that reaching it and achieving it is very possible. So here I am fighting every day and looking for that goal.