Perez honored to rep Clemente, Puerto Rico

February 18th, 2021

It wasn’t Michael Perez’s choice to come to Pittsburgh, but in a way, it was meant to be.

The catcher was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, who could use him as the primary backup to Jacob Stallings. But the black and gold mean more to Perez than just an opportunity to play.

Perez was born in Cataño, a municipality on Puerto Rico’s northern coast that is famous for its Bacardi rum distillery. On the other side of the city lies the municipality of Carolina, the home of an even more iconic export: the legendary Roberto Clemente.

The connection to Clemente is not lost on Perez. In fact, before he was with the Pirates, he joined them in wearing No. 21 for Clemente Day last season. He was the lone player to do so for the Rays, and when he posted the photo of his jersey on Instagram, he captioned it #Retire21.

“He's basically an idol on our island of Puerto Rico,” Perez said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “He's very similar to Jackie Robinson to us. And for me to wear that No. 21, I never imagined I was going to be able to wear that No. 21, and being given the opportunity to wear that No. 21 was a huge moment in my career and for my life.”

As a left-handed-hitting catcher with an excellent arm, Perez should see playing time at some point this season. When he dons the black and yellow for the first time, he said, it will be another special moment.

“I'm very excited now to represent him as a patriarch of Puerto Rico,” Perez said, “and to be able to not only represent him, but to try to continue to reflect who he was in the organization of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Frazier gives gifts on drive down

The beginning of Spring Training feels like Christmas morning for some fans. And on his way down to Pirate City, Adam Frazier played the part of Santa by handing out gifts at his alma mater.

The Athens Banner-Herald reported that Frazier donated 60 backpacks to the Oconee County High School baseball team as it begins its season this week. The native of Watkinsville, Ga., makes the trip to see his parents every year as he travels from his home in Nashville, Tenn., to Bradenton, Fla.

“I thought it would be really good for the guys and something they could use and appreciate,” Frazier told the Banner-Herald.

Worth noting

• The Pirates took to the fields at Pirate City for the first time on Thursday after being held inside on Wednesday because of rain. Manager Derek Shelton said the focus was on bullpen work and fielding drills.

 “That’s what was done, just spaced out over a longer period of time, because you only have eight guys in a group or 10 guys in a group,” Shelton said.

• Though Shelton said that Stallings will get the starting reps at catcher, he plans for Perez and Tony Wolters to “get their fair share” of starts. The objective for now, though, is to get them familiar with the pitching staff so they’re ready to go with whomever, whenever.

“We have to be very mindful not only in their bullpen sessions, but in games of who they catch,” Shelton said, “because the last thing we want is we open up and all of a sudden, we get somebody that has only caught a guy one time or two times.”