MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Peralta a prime example of never giving up

Peralta a prime example of never giving up

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- David Peralta's big league hopes were seemingly over without him ever getting a chance.

Peralta was 19. His pro ball resume featured 18 pitching appearances and 61 2/3 innings over two seasons with Rookie-level Johnson City of the Appalachian League, an achy left shoulder and his release from the Cardinals, who had signed him shortly after his 17th birthday.

It was time to head back home to Valencia, Venezuela.

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"There was a plan B," his father, also named David, said. "He could be an athletic trainer. We actually spoke about it. He told me, 'Hold on. I'm not done yet.'"

Son knew best.

Peralta underwent surgery. He rehabbed. He tried for the better part of three years to make a comeback on the mound.

"A Tampa Bay scout even clocked him at 92, 93 [mph]," his father said. "But when he threw, he still had the shoulder pain."

Peralta also still had hope about being a big leaguer, and he wasn't about to give up.

If Peralta couldn't pitch, he could hit, something he had been able to do since he was a 3-year-old playing on his first competitive team in Venezuela. No reason to think he couldn't hit 16 years later. Peralta's dad taught him the basics of a pure swing. He was still poetry in motion.

"Originally, scouts were looking at him as a hitter, but he pitched in a game in a tournament, five innings, one hit, and his fastball was 86, 87 miles per hour," said father David. "The scouts said there were left-handed hitters, but there was a need for a pitcher, especially a lefty, with control."

He paused.

"And if he had not had the injury, he might be a great pitcher right now."

Instead, Peralta is a great hitter in the making, with the D-backs, who after a year and a half in the Minor Leagues is now a fixture in Arizona's outfield, and a fixture in the upper part of the lineup. He hit .312 last season, his first full year in the big leagues, and led the National League in triples, with 10. Peralta hit 17 homers and drove in 78 runs.

And David Senior said his son has himself to thank for it, downplaying the younger David's claims that his father was the driving force behind his emergence among the game's key young players.

"There was a lot of motivation for both of us, but his motivation was even higher," said the father. "I knew how important a parent's support and encouragement was."

He knew all too well. He loved baseball in his youth, but his own father wasn't supportive.

"I learned to hit in the streets," he said. "My parents were not big fans. I would hide [in the alleys] and play. When I was 14, I joined a league."

A career never developed. The highest level of competition he reached would be equivalent to the Class A level in the U.S.

His son's interest, however, rekindled his own fire. He taught his son how to hit, having him stand with his back to a wall, which would serve as a reminder not to put his elbow too far back, because it would hit the wall.

Those childhood lessons were not wasted. The son paid attention. His desire never waned.

Finally, three years after being released by the Cardinals, Peralta decided he had to be proactive if his dream was going to become a reality. He embarked on a three-year tour of the independent leagues, which took him to Harlingen, Texas; Wichita; and Amarillo, Texas, where he appeared in 42 games in 2013 before the D-backs came calling, offering a chance to resume his pursuit of that big league dream.

And a year later, the hope became reality. After 51 games at Class A in 2013 and 53 games at Double A in 2014, Arizona, its outfield depleted by injuries, called Peralta up.

Tony La Russa had become the D-backs' chief baseball officer in mid-May 2014, and shortly after that, he began a tour of the Minor League system.

"I had flown into Huntsville to watch our Mobile team, and Kevin [Towers, general manager at the time] called and asked me what I thought of Peralta," said La Russa. "I had seen him take eight at-bats, and remember asking [then-Mobile manager] Andy Green, 'Who taught that kid how to hit?'

"He could hit and he played every game, every inning with 100 percent commitment to winning."

The next day, Peralta was called up to the Majors; his father said the biggest moment of his son's career was his big league debut, on June 1, 2014. Peralta hit seventh against the Reds at Chase Field, with his father in the stands.

"That first hit," the father said with a smile. "The first at-bat, he struck out. The second at-bat, he singled to center. His third at-bat, he had another hit. Then he faced [Aroldis] Chapman and struck out. He was 2-for-4. That's good."

Peralta is still good, and his parents and sisters follow him closely, watching every game on television. Sister Yvonne, a swimmer, fills out the lineup card every night and keeps score while her parents and sister Erica, a volleyball player, watch intently, despite the three-hour time difference between Arizona and their home in Venezuela.

"Even if it is 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, we are watching," the father said.

David Peralta, after all, has given his parents and sisters something to see.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.