SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Kirk Gibson managed the D-backs during David Peralta’s rookie season in 2014, he appreciated the outfielder’s work ethic.
“Every time I see him, he’s sweating,” Gibson was fond of telling reporters.
No one knew quite what to expect from Peralta back then.
Originally signed out of Venezuela as a pitcher in 2004, Peralta suffered through a pair of shoulder surgeries before the Cardinals released him in 2009.
Peralta resurfaced as an outfielder in independent ball in 2011.
“You could make a movie about what he’s gone through,” said D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed, who came to the big leagues the same year as Peralta.
Indeed, Peralta worked his way into an everyday role and improved each year. He won a Silver Slugger Award in 2018 and followed that with a Gold Glove during an injury-shortened 2019.
It led to a three-year, $22 million contract extension for Peralta during the offseason.
Far from being content, though, you can still find Peralta sweating often, as he puts in extra time in the batting cage or weight room at Salt River Fields this spring.
“I still want more,” he said. “Those two things [Silver Slugger and Gold Glove] are checked, but I want to repeat them. My biggest goal, though, is winning a championship ring. Of course, I want to be an All-Star too, but I want to win a championship.”
After a surprise 85-win season in 2019, the D-backs, on paper, look to be a contender for the postseason this year, and if they get there, they will rely not just on Peralta’s on-field contribution, but what he contributes off it as well.
Over the last several years he’s morphed from a rookie to one of the team’s leaders.
“He brings an energy that most people can’t bring,” Ahmed said. “There are days throughout the 162 games and even Spring Training where it feels like a grind, but he shows up with a smile on his face and he brings a gratitude and appreciation of being here. It’s not a complacent kind of gratitude, it’s a gratitude with an understanding of where he came from and where he is now. He enjoys the moment. He enjoys everything he’s doing and he just brings people up that are around him.”
Peralta, 32, doesn’t take his success for granted, because he remembers it was just seven years ago that he was working in a fast-food restaurant trying to pay the bills so he could play independent baseball.
The D-backs saw him playing for Amarillo in the independent American Association and took a chance in 2014 that the then-25-year-old would be able to one day be a big leaguer.
“I still get butterflies when I step onto the field,” Peralta said. “I like that feeling. It’s all the hard work that I’ve been doing and it’s paying off. Every single day I get them. It’s a great feeling. That day that I stop feeling that way, I’ll retire. But it’s not going to happen any time soon, I’ll tell you that. That will mean I’m over baseball and I can’t ever imagine that.”