Tim Perez never wanted his son to take over the family business. Perez Tile & Construction was started by his father, and the keys to the company were handed down a generation. However, the only pile of dirt Tim wanted his boy to worry about was the one on a baseball field.
On those hot summer days when Chris Perez headed to his dad's Florida office to work, Tim made sure it was the less desirable duties that awaited him. He would send Chris out to various job sites and push him to the point of exhaustion.
"I wanted my son to do better," Tim Perez said. "My dad always told me when I was growing up that, as a father, your job is to make sure your son does better than you. That's what your job is. Don't let him slack and make him be better than you.
"So what I did was I'd make him do the dirtiest jobs -- digging foundations, picking up trash, moving sand, moving material -- all while it's hot and nasty out."
There is one day in particular that causes Tim Perez to chuckle to this day. One of his workers came into the office at the company's Bradenton, Fla., location and told him that Chris had grown ill at one of the sites. It turned out that Chris simply overheated and threw up the water he had guzzled down.
"Just like he did the other night in the game in St. Louis," Tim said with a laugh.
That would be this past Sunday, when some warm water did not sit well with Perez after he finished off the Cardinals for his 20th save of the season. The All-Star closer threw up on the mound, but ultimately was fine. Tim, who watches as many Cleveland games as he can, was reminded of that scorching day so many years ago.
Chris Perez has always pushed himself hard, wanting to complete any job handed to him by his father as swiftly as possible. The culprit on the day he became sick on the job site was a large pile of sand. Chris was tasked with moving the mound, but he attacked the chore too quickly rather than pacing himself.
It is that type of personality that has made Perez such a good closer in the big leagues.
"He always needed to accomplish what he set out to do," Tim Perez said. "That's how he is and that's how he was. He's always had that competitive edge and I've never tried to dull it. You need it whether you're playing baseball or whether you're running a small business."
Spend a few minutes talking with the younger Perez, and it will not take long for him to mention his dad.
"He's the reason I'm here today," said the Indians closer. "He taught me the game. He taught me everything I pretty much know about it. He provided me the opportunity."
"It was just me and my dad. All we did was baseball."
-- Chris Perez
Chris' parents, Tim and Julie, divorced when he was just 5 years old. At first, Chris lived with his mother and his sister, Courtney, but as he grew, both physically and in terms of required attention, he moved in with his father at the age of 10. As the boss of his company, Tim had some flexibility for dedicating extra time to his son.
During the summers, Perez attended IMG Baseball Academy during the day while his dad worked, and often headed to Tampa Bay Rays games in the evenings after his dad came home. During the spring, he attended Pirates Spring Training games after school at McKechnie Field -- just three blocks from his dad's office in Bradenton.
"It was just me and my dad," Chris said. "All we did was baseball. Everything. Watching it on TV. We'd go to Rays games. I think their first season, we went to like 25 games. I didn't have a bedtime or anything. As long as I did my school work and got up in the morning, he didn't care.
"That's where it started. He would never say no. I remember one season I played on three different teams at once."
Knowing Chris' personality, Tim Perez tried to find a way to take advantage of his son's competitive fire. That is why Tim would use Chris -- initially trained to be a catcher, which was his dad's position during his days at Southeast High School in Bradenton -- as a closer in the youth league games.
"I'd put him in the seventh inning just to shut the game down," Tim said. "I used to tell him, 'You've got one inning. You can throw as hard as you want. Just get three outs.' That's what he did and he loved it. Back then, though, he scared those kids. He threw so hard."
Tim lets out another laugh.
"That's how it started," he added. "I didn't know it'd end up like it is now."
Now, the 26-year-old Perez (a first-round pick in the 2006 Draft by the Cardinals) is one of the game's top closers. He has also gained a reputation for being outspoken. He's created a stir off the field on occasion, upset opponents on the diamond at times, and earned the nickname "Pure Rage" along the way.
Like father, like son.
"I've been in the office a couple times when he was chewing some people out," Chris said, "whether it was employees for not doing what they said they were going to do, or other companies for not paying him on time. So I definitely get that from him, too."
Tim is willing to shoulder the blame for Perez's fiery personality.
"It's all my fault," Tim said with a chuckle. "Hey, you've got to stand up for what you think is right -- no matter what. You've got to do that. Chris always saw me that way. But you've got to understand, him and I both, when we're not in the business field or on the baseball field, we're both easygoing."
As for who might one day inherit the family business?
"I think Max is next in line right now," said Chris Perez, referring to his son. "I was doing a different apprenticeship."