Life is funny. You never know what adversity will come your way or how you will handle it. We can only hope that when one door closes, we’re cognizant enough to recognize where another one is opening.
David Peralta’s journey to Major League Baseball has had many twists and turns. The 27-year-old Venezuelan is now having a breakout rookie campaign as an outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks and has become part of the NL Rookie of the Year discussion, but this isn’t how he planned for his career to go.
Peralta started his career with the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a pitcher back in 2006. After a number of shoulder injuries and two surgeries to repair said injuries, the Cardinals eventually cut ties with Peralta in 2009. He left the United States and went home to Venezuela where he worked on adjusting his game to other positions. The injuries to his shoulder would no longer allow him to pitch.
His dream was over. For now.
That was the point where most players in his same situation would quit, but this is where Peralta’s desire to play the game of baseball took over and caused him to persevere and alter his skill set. “As soon as I got released I was like ‘OK, I’ll give up pitching. That’s not for me. Too much hurt on my shoulder.’ So I’m just going to start to swing like I did when I was little,” Peralta told us when talking to him about his road to the MLB.
He continued to work on his game and he returned to the United States two years later in 2011. He began playing Independent League Baseball as an outfielder for a team in Rio Grande. The road through Independent baseball is not always the best conditions, but Peralta enjoyed his time there. “For me, it was fun. I had fun in Independent ball. For me, it was great. Like you said, it’s not great conditions or like the big league, but still it’s great baseball. High level too, because you can face guys playing in the big league too and still playing in Independent league. I got a lot of experience from that.”
Peralta started over from square one but worked hard to adapt to his new position and to swinging the bat harder. People began to take notice and he was approached by scouts. Workouts were conducted, more time passed, and the Diamondbacks finally signed him to a contract in July of 2013. When asked about his signing with Arizona, Peralta smiled. “I mean it was so exciting. When I got to affiliated ball, I was like ‘OK there it is’. That’s all the chance that I needed. Because that’s all I was asking (from) everyone. Just give me a chance, give me a job. I’ll do my thing. That’s it, so when I got the chance I was like ‘I’m not going to let it go’.”
|162 Game Avg.||162||646||77||178||16||72||14||5||27||113||.289||.322||.462||.783|
Soon enough Arizona found a spot for him this past Spring. He impressed Kirk Gibson and coaching staff enough during Spring Training to get people asking and talking about this prospect that seemingly came out of nowhere. Peralta was able to take advantage of opportunities and come through even in those Spring games.
It didn’t take long for David to get called up. June 1st, Peralta was called up from Double A Mobile to the big show and started the same day in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Since then he hasn’t looked back. “No, I’m not going to look back,” Peralta laughed. “For me, that was amazing. That day, I cried I was so happy when I got called up. I couldn’t believe it. It’s a dream for me. I still feel like it’s a dream. I don’t want to wake up from that dream. I’m just going to keep going and keep doing and not look back.”
He recorded two hits in the game, and he was part of a historic moment in Venezuelan history as Arizona became the first team to have five Venezuelan starters all get a hit in a game.
From the moment he debuted, he seemed ready for the major leagues. And to prove it, he went on to tie a D-backs record in his first 15 games by logging seven multi hit games while hitting .328 with a HR and 2 RBIs. Since then, he has become good enough to become a regular outfielder for Arizona, which helped the D-Backs during the trade deadline with unloading two time Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra. He also helped ease the loss of Arizona’s All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt to a hand injury.
This season, Peralta has simply been outstanding as a rookie. He has hit .290 with 7 HRs, 7 triples, and 7 doubles in 71 games. His slugging percentage is .463, his OPS is .786, and his OBP is .323. His OPS puts him in the top 30 major-league outfielders who have at least 250 plate appearances in 2014. Much like with Goldschmidt last season, this bad D-Backs team would be completely lost without his production this season.
During the trade deadline, so many names from Arizona were thrown around as possibly being moved. Obviously, Goldschmidt wasn’t in consideration, but rumors surfaced that Peralta was a lock to stay because of the organization’s focus to make him a big part of this team going forward. With good reason, too. He deserves to be a sought after commodity.
Peralta at this point is still developing as both an outfielder and a major league ballplayer. Since he has only been playing the position professionally for less than five years, there will be many mistakes made and much learning along the way. But his maturity and his focus seem to separate him from others at his level.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Peralta added. “And for me, I feel proud of myself because all of this hard work that I’ve been doing now is paying (off) right now. So I’m here right now in the big leagues, there’s nothing (more) I can ask. I just need to keep working hard to keep myself here in the big leagues for a long time.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for David Peralta, but his story should be an inspiration to all of us when roadblocks divert our course. In sports and in life, rarely does everything go as planned, but it’s how we handle those moments that shape our character and allow us to grow.