The 31st Peddie Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on June 1. Read more about the Sports Hall of Fame here.
Blessed with explosive and flexible athleticism and simply astonishing speed, Fernando Perez excelled in soccer and baseball at Peddie. Perez was a prolific scorer who, according to opposing coaches, "did things differently" than what they could prepare for in his creative, artistic and unpredictable work with the soccer ball. Awarded the Joseph R. Wilbert Award for sportsmanship, ability and dedication to the game, Perez played with a special enthusiasm and joy. One can only imagine what Head Coach Steve Collis would say today about Perez's skill and style.
Perez was perhaps the most electric and the most talented player during the most successful era in the history of Peddie baseball. In his three years as starter, the varsity teams won two state championships, a Mercer County championship and multiple MAPL championships. His senior year team, which finished 23-2 and included a state championship and a runner-up finish in the Mercer County tournament, is likely the best team in Peddie history. Perez ended his baseball career with a lifetime .400 average and was one of the most prolific base stealers in Peddie history.
Perez always stood out, even on a team comprising future college players. He had the ability to make the difficult look easy. Coach Erik Treese recalls one catch in particular that set Perez apart from his peers. "From his position in short center field, Perez ran full speed, tracking a ball hit to deep left center field. Just as the ball was about to clear the fence, Perez jumped, never breaking stride, catching the ball while simultaneously hurdling the four-foot high fence in one graceful athletic movement. The umpires, confused at what they had just seen, called it a home run." That play remains a testament to the extraordinary skill that Perez brought to the field each day. Perez's skills and grace were complemented by his fierce competitiveness and team-first attitude. He inspired confidence in his teammates; they knew the best player on the field was on their team.
Perez enrolled at Columbia University and devoted himself to literature and baseball, playing in the footsteps of Columbia alumnus and Yankee star Lou Gehrig. Perez played well enough to attract the attention of scouts, and he was drafted in 2004 by Tampa Bay in the seventh round, the highest selection of all Columbia players ever drafted. After almost a full season with their farm team, AAA Durham Bulls, he got the call "to the show" and joined the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, a big league club bound for the playoffs and the World Series.
Perez contributed mightily to the Rays' American League pennant in 2008. Starting in center field, he hit his first major league home run, a shot into the right center field seats, in an important September win. Perez would hit two more homers in September and scored the winning run in game two of the Championship Series against the Red Sox in the eleventh inning, flying home on a sacrifice fly to very shallow right field. Perez appeared in the 2008 World Series in the final game, stealing second base in the ninth inning, the tying run and last man standing when the Phillies closed out the Rays.
Perez is the fifth Peddie athlete to appear in Major League Baseball and the only big leaguer to have an Ivy League degree in creative writing and American studies.