- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

BALTIMORE Yorkis Perez had no bigger supporter in life than his mother. Whenever the Baltimore Orioles left-hander was coming off a bad game, Rosa Perez was always there to give him words of encouragement.
As she would often tell her son: "Tomorrow's a new day."
Rosa Perez was thinking about Yorkis' well-being on the night of Nov.11, when the two spoke for the last time. A 34-year-old veteran pitcher of 19 professional seasons, Perez was contemplating retirement but had received a call that day from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The defending World Series champions were interested in signing him to a minor-league contract and wanted him to come to Phoenix to take a physical.
Yorkis and Rosa Perez were supposed to be on a plane the next morning American Airlines Flight 587 from New York's Kennedy International Airport to their native Dominican Republic for a family gathering. But Rosa Perez didn't want her son to give up on his baseball career. She wanted him to give it one last try.
"At 1:30 in the morning, my mother told me, 'Yorkis, I don't want you going to the Dominican. I want you to stay here and do your thing. I want you to get back to pitch in the big leagues,'" Perez recalls.
Like any good son, he listened to his mother. He stayed in the United States and made plans to try out with the Diamondbacks. Rather than let his plane ticket go to waste, Perez offered it to his sister, Angela.
"I called the airline and said I want to change my ticket to my sister's name," Perez said. "I went and gave the ticket to my sister. That was the last time I saw her."
The following morning, Perez awoke to horrific news: Flight 587 had crashed shortly after takeoff in Queens, N.Y. All 265 on board, including Rosa and Angela Perez, were killed.
As he tried to cope with the shock of losing both his mother and sister, Perez took on an added burden. He was supposed to be on that plane. He should have died.
And the only reason Yorkis Perez, husband and father of four, is alive today is the fact that his mother convinced him not to make the trip.
"Now I know how mothers can feel things and can keep you out of trouble," Perez said. "She kept me off that airplane. For some reason, she didn't want me to go to the Dominican."
Rosa Perez did not want her son to go to the Dominican because she wanted him to keep playing baseball. She didn't want to see Yorkis Perez give up after 19 long years in the game.
And so he kept his promise and continued to work toward his return to the major leagues.
"It's tough," he said. "But I've tried the best I can to do everything for her."
Yorkis Perez has never stopped trying to make a career out of baseball, no matter how difficult a journey it has been.
He is the epitome of the modern baseball journeyman, a player who has never had enough raw talent to make it in the big leagues but has always shown enough desire to stay in the game and give it another shot.
Signed at age 15 by the Minnesota Twins in 1983, Perez has spent his entire career on the move. The transactions section of his player bio is staggering.
He's pitched for 12 different major-league organizations: the Twins, Expos (twice), Braves (twice), Cubs, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Astros, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and now Orioles.
He's been traded four times, released six times, claimed off waivers once, spent time in Japan and Mexico and worn the uniforms of 24 different professional ballclubs over the past 19 years.
So few would have found fault with Perez had he chosen to retire last winter after a season spent pitching for the Mexico City Reds. Maybe he just wasn't meant to play baseball anymore.
Rosa Perez, however, would have none of that.
"I decided to come back last year," Perez said, "after my mother told me, 'Yorkis, I don't want you to go to Mexico again. Why don't you try again to come to the United States?'"
So even after his mother and sister perished in the plane crash, Perez went to Arizona. He signed a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks and attended spring training but was released in late March.
He could have given up again, but shortly after his release the Orioles came calling. They had no place on their major-league roster for Perez but offered him a minor-league contract, with the understanding that he would be a viable candidate for a midseason call-up.
He began the year at ClassAAA Rochester (the 15th minor-league club of his career), pitched effectively as a left-handed relief specialist and last Tuesday got the call from Baltimore.
Perez, who has made three brief appearances for the Orioles, does not know how long he will remain in Baltimore. Nineteen years spent shuttling in and out of baseball clubhouses around the world have taught him not to take anything for granted.
But he plans to remain in the game as long as he can and has dedicated this season to his biggest supporters: his mom and his sister.
"When I cross the line [onto the playing field], I'm just trying to pitch well," Perez said. "But I think of them every day.
"When they were alive, I always called them to tell them I pitched well or I didn't have a good night. They always had something to say to me: 'Yorkis, keep it going,' or 'Tomorrow's a new day.'"
In some ways, Perez's return to the major leagues is as much their triumph as it is his own.
"It's a good moment for me," he said. "And it's a good moment for them."


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