EDINBURG — Edinburg Vela has had many highs and a few lows during the past four seasons. SaberCats’ four-year letterman Jaime “Mito” Perez Jr. was there to lead each time, no matter the situation.
“I just wanted to be a good role model to younger guys and show them it doesn’t matter if you’re a pinch runner, it doesn’t matter if you’re the star player, you can’t be selfish. Baseball is a team sport and things won’t get done. You won’t get wins if everybody is being selfish,” he said.
Perez, The Monitor’s 2021 All-Area Baseball Offensive Player of the Year, consistently started the fire for the SaberCats offense as their leadoff hitter. He hit .500 with 31 RBIs, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases, 11 doubles and one home run this season while leading the SaberCats to the regional quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoffs.
“You set the tempo for everybody else. And if you get a big hit, a double, single, triple, whatever it is, it sets the tone for everybody coming up,” Perez said.
He spent time at catcher, shortstop and made one start on the mound this season for Edinburg Vela.
Perez credited his teammates — the bottom half of the SaberCats lineup, in particular — for reaching base and allowing him to drive in a career-high 31 RBIs.
“They gave us a chance and got on base a lot. They put me in position to bring them in, and those guys fight; they’ll do anything,” he said.
Edinburg Vela head coach Jaime Perez, Mito’s father, is one of the people who has witnessed Perez’s growth the past four years. He knew Mito was going to give it his all everytime he stepped onto the field.
“He’s just a big-time competitor in everything he does,” coach Perez said.
One of Perez’s last moments with his father as his head coach was one of the most memorable.
Perez was named a Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star in June, earning a spot to play in the THSBCA All-Star Game in Round Rock on Sunday, June 30. The game happened to fall on Father’s Day.
Both were on hand and introduced on the field prior to the all-star game. The younger Perez then delivered a base hit during his lone at-bat for the South All-Star Team.
“It was something I’ll never forget, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I just tried to make the most of it,” the younger Perez said.
Perez’s baserunning opportunities were limited during his first three years at Vela. A courtesy runner normally took over for the catcher after he reached base. A safety and wide receiver on Vela’s football team, he finally had a chance to show off his wheels on the diamond this season and produced career-highs in runs scored and stolen bases.
“I didn’t run from my freshman to my junior year, but I think as I got older, I got faster and kind of convinced my pops to let me run,” Perez laughed.
Perez finished his four-year varsity career with a .426 batting average, 115 hits and 73 RBIs. He won a total of seven playoff series.
The next chapter of Perez’s baseball career has already begun, as he’s spent the summer in Stephenville where he’ll suit up for Tarleton State this upcoming season.
“I’ll miss him, but I know his journey starts now. He has bigger things in his life to get done and to achieve,” coach Perez said of his son. “My boy has helped establish this program along with the guys that are with him. … I think what we’ve done is unbelievable.”