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‘Paciencia y Fe’

Andrew Perez used to be a closer for USF and was selected in the eighth round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

Andrew Perez wasn’t always a closer for USF baseball — he didn’t even make the junior varsity team at Orlando’s Timber Creek High School his freshman year.

Instead, he spent the year on the drum line with his sister.

Perez would take home snare drums and practice alone in his family’s garage. He’d do the same with drum pads in his bathroom at home. He would sit on the floor and practice on his own, privately improving himself.

As time went on, the goal of Perez’s practice changed from percussion to pitching, but his work ethic stayed the same. His laser-focus came from his family, especially three words his late grandmother, Ana Rosa, who told him — “Paciencia y Fe,” which translates to “Patience and Faith.”

He writes her slogan on the inside of each of his baseball hats.

“He went from a drum major in high school who barely played baseball to being an eighth round selection by the Chicago White Sox,” coach Billy Mohl said. “That doesn’t just happen overnight and that’s a testament to his work ethic.”

Perez’s drive came in the form of self-discipline and self-motivation. Now, he is a professional baseball player.

“You never had to hold his hand through anything,” Mohl said. “He’s very rare in terms of commitment that he has to improving himself. He is the hardest working pitcher I’ve ever had.”

Perez tried out for his high school baseball team his freshman year, but was cut after the final day of tryouts. He tried out for both pitcher and first base and felt that he performed well even though he didn’t make the team. Obviously, he was disappointed, but he didn’t quit.

He played with a travel team linked with the high school. Perez said he played a lot of games in front of his future high school coach. When tryouts came along the following year; his arm strength got him called straight up to varsity.

In his first start for Timber Creek, Perez pitched a complete-game, 2-hit shutout.

Paciencia y Fe.

It took more than a year, but for the time being, Perez’s patience and faith paid off as he became the top pitcher for his high school before committing to USF.

Perez was already committed to the team when Mohl took charge of the pitching staff. After watching him pitch, Mohl signed off on Perez to join the team.

Before finding his role as a reliever, Perez joined USF as a starting pitcher. His first start came Mar. 1, 2016 against Bethune-Cookman. He found himself in a familiar situation after the game.

“I was staring at the bus seat in front of me just disappointed because I knew I kind of threw the game away,” Perez said. “It was like in high school where I could either quit or fix it.”

Perez gave up two hits, walked five batters and allowed six earned runs in the first inning before getting pulled from the game. The Bulls were in a 6-0 deficit from the very beginning.

“I think that was kind of an eye-opener for him,” Mohl said. “His freshman year wasn’t very good, but then over the summer, his body transformed. He put a lot of effort into lifting and everything else. If you ask anybody on our team, that guy loves to squat more than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

The summer after his freshman year, Perez played in the Northwoods League for the La Crosse Loggers. He stayed in Wisconsin with the Boland family, who housed Perez while he played. Perez said they helped him start his journey to the player he is today.

“They welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “They helped me take in the right protein and taught me not to do damage to my body whether it’s going out or drinking. I appreciate what they’ve done for me to this day.”

Perez set goals for his return to USF: to lead by example and become a better pitcher, but he found a new challenge ahead of him — both of his grandmothers, Ana Rosa and Catalina Perez, passed away about two months apart right before his sophomore season.

“I had never dealt with death,” Perez said. “But I saw how the little things people do lead to bigger things down the road.”

Perez lived with Ana Rosa for about 20 years. He used to keep to himself before she passed away, but said that she taught him to be a genuine person and to help others. He took what she taught to heart and carried that mindset with him to USF.

When he came back to USF, Perez’s work over the summer showed.

“The following year he was just a man amongst boys,” Mohl said. “He really just started taking care of himself, getting himself into shape and that’s been the biggest difference for him.”

Perez started to get out of his self-described comfort zone in terms of working out. He started listening to different workout strategies and reading different ideas on how to best train.

Some of that work ethic came from his experience on the drumline in high school. Perez said there were band practices where they were playing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summertime on concrete.

All that work paid off. Perez finished his sophomore season with a 2.72 ERA.

Paciencia y Fe.

Perez wasn’t just a dominant relief pitcher for USF, he was a leader among his teammates. Selected as the captain of the pitching squad, Perez consistently helped younger players.

“A lot of the time, I would push the younger guys in practices and workouts,” Perez said. “Sometimes, they’d even push me. When it came to making the right decisions off the field, I’d always tell them ‘If this is what you want to be, you can’t be putting bad stuff in your body, you can’t be eating like crap. If you really want to do this at a high level, you have to have the mentality to do the right things.’”

In the background, Perez was constantly getting motivation from his own family members — sometimes in the form of tough love. He pinpointed a text message his sister, Ashley, sent him after a mediocre performance.

“With 2 walks that’s like being the 40th person to make it to space and no one cares about that person,” she texted him. “No one is going to learn about that person. That’s a loser. Focus or just be another student athlete that gets a degree and that’s it. Winners write history. I need a winner.”

Perez now pitches for the Great Falls Voyagers, a team in the Chicago White Sox organization. He earned his first professional victory after being called into a bases-loaded two-out situation. He struck out the batter, then posted a 1-2-3 inning after that, sealing his team’s win.

Before he took the mound though, he drew “AR” and “CP” in the dirt for both of his grandmothers.

Mohl said that’s the same thing he would do for USF.

His newest glove will have “Paciencia y Fe” stitched into the side. Perez said he is ready for his journey to MLB. He said he sometimes thinks back to the time he was cut from his high school team as a freshman.

“At the time I was pretty disappointed in myself,” Perez said. “At that point in school, most guys either choose to quit baseball or stick with it. I chose to stick with it.”

Paciencia y Fe.