Jorge Perez is the Head Coach of the Saint Thomas University Bobcats. The Bobcats were runners-up at the NAIA Baseball National Champiosnip last season, and Perez was selected ABCA/Diamond Regional Coach of the Year. His record at Saint Thomas over seven seasons is 240-172.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: In the final game of the National Championship tournament last Spring, you led Lewis-Clark State 7-1 after five innings, and 7-4 after seven innings. What was going through the minds of you and your players at that stage of the game?
Jorge Perez: We did not get caught up in the score of the game. We were living in the moment and thinking pitch-by-pitch.
BB: But you got two big wins in the tournament over Oklahoma Baptist and Faulkner. Tell us about them.
JP: We felt good vs. Oklahoma Baptist. We led the entire game and played very well. Faulkner’s game was a true indication of the character of this team. We played the entire 27 outs.
BB: And on the way, you got a shutout against a good Westmont team.
JP: Our ace Marcos Barrios pitched great and we got several clutch hits when we needed them.
BB: You got a win against Embry-Riddle in The Sun Conference tournament, but it looks like the people who watched the tournament final got to see quite a ball game.
JP: We won 18-1 in the first game, then the game we lost was a 2-1 thriller in 11 innings. It was a typical STU-ERAU game – incredibly competitive.
BB: Did your post-season run attract any attention from the Miami-area media, above and beyond the attention that Ben Ancheff got?
JP: The Miami Herald gave us some great coverage as did the local tv stations with the storyline that we were tyring to bring home the first national championship for the school in any sport. We became the focus of attention for the entire University community. The Miami Marlins honored us as well at one of their games.
BB: Your top hitter, Eric Santamaria, has graduated, and Jerry Downs is playing pro ball. So, let's talk about your returnees. Bryan Bermudez:
JP: Bryan continues to improve. He’s a great defensive shortstop and a streaky hitter who is also a strong baserunner.
BB: Chris Rodriguez:
JP: Chris is our closer who we are looking forward to producing another great year.
BB: Ben Ancheff
JP: Ben is our number one starting pitcher going into the season. One of the best pitchers in the NAIA. We are lucky to have him.
BB: Cesar Ramirez
JP: Cesar is a great overall college player who will hit in the middle of the lineup for us.
BB: Steven Fischer
JP: Strong catcher who is the leader of the team in so many ways. Solid overall player.
BB: Do you have any new guys coming in that you expect to do great things?
JP: Orlando Rivera is a transfer from the University of Tampa. He is a great player, a leadoff hitter. He was First-Team All Sunshine State Conference. Kendrick Gutierrez, a transfer from Palm Beach State solidifies our first base position. He’s a great defensive first baseman who will continue to improve with the bat. Outfielder Jose Gomez, a transfer from Miami-Dade, is fast, can hit and is very talented. DH Oscar Aguirre is returning after an injury. Oscar is a switch hitter who provides a strong presence in our lineup.
BB: What's your schedule going to look like next season?
JP: Very tough. One of the hardest schedules in the country. (here) We play Florida International and the University of Miami back-to-back as well as playing 10 games against nationally ranked teams in February. We should know how good we are.
BB: You didn't play Georgia Gwinnett during the regular season, but you saw a lot of them during the post-season. Are you going to get them on your schedule?
JP: We plan to play them in 2017.
BB: When people look at your roster, they can't help but notice a lot of Hispanic names. Is there a reason why you're attracting a lot of Hispanic players?
JP: That is because of our location in Miami and the benefit of having so many talented local players. Myself and several members of my staff are bilingual which also helps the Latin players feel comfortable.
BB: You played for Rollins, a Division II school, and the Tars did quite well when you played there.
JP: Yes. We had a lot of guys drafted and we were talented and hard working.
BB: Then you had a pro career. Were there any highlights, or lowlights, that you can tell us about?
JP: I was fortunate. I was a defensive catcher that stuck around because managers and pitchers liked me as a leader and a catcher. My .218 career batting average is the lowlight.
BB: Tell us a bit about Saint Thomas University. What is it known for, and what are its academic strengths?
JP: We are known as a small family-like community that cares about our athletes and students. We have one of the best Sports Administration programs in the nation with an amazing alumni base through the sports world including baseball front office people like Al Avila and Jim Hendry as well as Paul Mainieri at LSU. Our business and education programs are very strong as well.
BB: When you're talking to potential recruits, what do you say to them to convince them to go to Saint Thomas?
JP: I believe we have a first class program. We work hard and our student-athletes improve as players and as people. Incoming students feel comfortable with us and to school.