The reigning World Series MVP prepares to relinquish his title
By Jeffrey Flanagan
Four-time All-Star. Three-time Gold Glove winner. Reigning World Series Most Valuable Player. Meet Salvador Perez, the Royals' first-rate catcher whom Manager Ned Yost calls the best backstop in the American League, if not all of baseball.
"And he keeps getting better and better," Yost says. "We haven't even seen his ceiling yet."
Still just 26, Perez showed the world his elite defensive skills in the 2015 postseason, and hit .364 in the World Series to lead the Royals past the Mets in five games, bringing home Kansas City's first title in 30 years.
Royals fans long have known of Perez's talent. But that's only half of the reason they are so enamored with the catcher. He is also the unflagging cheerleader on the team, as well as its fun-loving face on social media.
"It's just who I am," Perez says with a sheepish smile. "I like to work hard, and I like to have fun. And I like to be involved with the fans. I think it's great."
As the season drew to a close, Perez took some time to chat about life as a world champion this year.
How did you find out that you won the World Series MVP Award last year?
It was such an exciting moment after the final out [of Game 5]. Everyone was running to the mound and jumping. I felt someone pulling my jersey and screaming, "Salvy! Salvy!" And I said, "Leave me alone. I want to celebrate." I didn't know who it was. The guy started telling me, "You won the MVP. You won the MVP." For about 25 seconds, I didn't understand him. And he kept saying, "You won the MVP." And I just said, "What do you want me to do?" But I was excited. I was very happy for my family, too.
My mom [Yilda Diaz] came out on the field, and she was crying when I told her I won MVP. And she was crying when she saw the trophy. I said, "This is for you. We did it." She liked the car, too.
Among so many great moments in the playoffs last season -- the ALDS Game 4 comeback over Houston, ALCS Game 6 against Toronto, Game 5 of the World Series -- is there one that stands out?
It was the Houston game when we were down, 6-2, going into the eighth. I was out of the game (Terrance Gore had pinch-run for him the inning prior) and we came back to win. Everybody kept hitting; no one ever quit. We did that all year and all through the playoffs. That's Kansas City Royals baseball.
How was the parade?
Oh, that was crazy. Almost a million people in downtown Kansas City. I've never seen anything like that. Unbelievable. Getting on stage and seeing all the blue and hearing the fans scream, "MVP! MVP!" was a special moment I'll never forget.
The next day, a private jet picked you up to bring you and Eric Hosmer to a TV appearance with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show."
Oh, that was so fun. He's a funny guy. He wanted me to give him the "Salvy Splash." We were in [the green room] and he came in and said, "You need to do it, man. You need to do it." That was great.
Speaking of the Salvy Splash, the Royals put up a billboard on Southwest Trafficway in Kansas City with a 3-D version of you giving the Salvy Splash. How did that make you feel?
That was so great. I loved that. I couldn't believe they did that. The thing that was incredible was that I'd drive by there and see families out on the lawn in front of it having their pictures taken with it. That made it very special for me.
Not long into Spring Training this season, you and the Royals agreed to a five-year contract extension. That had to be quite an exciting day.
The most important thing is to be with this team for a long time. I'm very appreciative of the way it turned out and everyone involved. To be a part of this organization for years to come means so much to me. They didn't have to do that, but they did.
There was controversy on the [previous] contract, on whether Kansas City had to do that [extension], but I think the job that I've done merited, at least, opening up talks. And the integrity of the Royals came through again. Dayton [Moore] and everyone above him, they listened. We were able to have nice conversations about how I was feeling and how they were feeling. It was great to move forward. And to have my family set up long-term [financially], that's important.
And it was important to get your mom back into the States, especially knowing that she got mugged just two days before you signed the deal.
Yes, it is sad. It's just not safe [in Venezuela]. She was okay, but it made me want to get her here, and she is now. She had a visa but with that she could only stay six months at a time. Now we are trying to work on her residency so she can stay in Kansas City.
You really embrace social media. Why is that?
Sometimes it's fun just to show the fans what it's like in the clubhouse or what we do on the field so they can see it. They really like it. I like when they send me pictures or have their picture taken with me. I don't do as much on Twitter anymore. But I do Snapchat.
You used to antagonize your teammate Lorenzo Cain, in a playful way, on social media. But you haven't done it much this year. Why is that?
(Smiling) He just told me, "Salvy, no more, please." So I don't do it anymore. For now. We'll see what happens later.
You collected one of the most famous hits in Royals postseason history: the walk-off down the left-field line against the A's in the 2014 Wild Card Game. Do you still think about that one?
All the time. First of all, I don't know how I even hit that pitch. It was a foot outside. Then it got through and that was just an incredible feeling. I think that's when we knew we could be a special team. We knew that if we could come back and win a game like that, we could beat anyone. And we proved that.
Everybody dreams of playing in the World Series. You got to do it in two straight seasons. Can you describe what that felt like?
In 2014, we were just looking forward to getting into the playoffs. Once we got in, we got hot and it was a great ride. But in 2015, the expectations weren't just to get in; they were to win it all. It was different. Anything less wasn't going to be acceptable.
As far as the World Series goes, it's the only show on at that time. The whole world is watching. You know everyone is paying attention. That's what makes it so special.
This article appears in the MLB Official World Series Program. To purchase a copy, visit shop.mlb.com.
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.