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David O'BrienDavid O'Brien

Braves’ Perez could be managerial candidate; Andruw on Turner Field

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When a team managed by Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez won the Venezuela Winter League title and advanced to the Feb. 7 Caribbean Series championship game against Mexico, a whole lot of people were pulling for Venezuela who had no connection to the country. They were pulling for Perez.

Eddie Perez talks to Greg Maddux, the future Hall of Famer who preferred that Perez catch his games with the Braves. (AJC file photo/ Dave Tulis)

Eddie Perez talks to Greg Maddux, the future Hall of Famer who preferred that Perez catch his games with the Braves. (AJC file photo/ Dave Tulis)

He has that effect on people. Seems like everyone who meets Perez, 47, comes away feeling better about things. He’s very smart, funny, loyal, candid, upbeat, and always smiling – at least away from games.

In games or workouts when the situation calls for it, Perez can be deadly serious. Anyone who’s been around the fun-loving guy knows not to screw around near him when it’s time for work.

“I’m not surprised at all of Eddie’s success as a manager,” said Chipper Jones, former teammate and legendary Braves third baseman. “It is just a matter of time before he is experiencing success as a big league manager. He’s learned a ton, as have many coaches, from the great Bobby Cox. Some of the same traits that made him an all-time favorite teammate for countless players, are also what makes him a great manager now, and in the future.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Perez as a managerial candidate:  “I hope so. This guy’s done everything in the game. He’s managed in winter ball two or three years, he got experience that way; he’s bilingual, he’s well-liked, respected. It’s just a matter of somebody giving him an opportunity.”

Commanding respect is crucial for a good coach or manager, and Perez does that while being genuinely liked.

“Absolutely,” said Braves reliever David Carpenter. “And you couldn’t be happier for a better guy.”

Perez already displayed his managerial skills in previous winter-ball seasons, and some believe he might benefit from the increased exposure of in Venezuela’s run to the Carribbean Series final – broadcast live on ESPN News – to start showing up on lists of potential candidates for major league managerial openings.

“Eddie may be one of those who is better as a manager than a coach,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “He’s extremely smart and has a feel not only for the game, but also a sense of timing. Eddie’s sense of humor is legendary, but he can be tough when it’s needed and he has great respect throughout our organization.”

Astros slugger and former Braves catcher Evan Gattis said, “Other than his obvious people skills and baseball knowledge, he has a good balance between being no-nonsense, and being a guy you look forward to playing for.”

Eddie Perez (left) and former Braves manager Bobby Cox (center) listen to Marcus Giles go on during Braves alumni weekend in 2015. (AJC/Phil Skinner photo)

Eddie Perez (left) and former Braves manager Bobby Cox (center) listen to Marcus Giles go on during Braves alumni weekend in 2015. (AJC/Phil Skinner photo)

“Everyone likes him,” Braves pitcher Matt Wisler said. “He can speak Spanish, speaks good English, he’s a funny guy. Good guy to have a conversation with, to sit there and talk with. He definitely cares for his players. I’ve sat in the bullpen and talked with him a couple of times. It’s nice to have a guy like that around.”

The catcher’s baseball acumen was why Hall of Famer Greg Maddux famously preferred that Perez catch his games in the late ‘90s, even though Perez was backup to a far superior hitter, Javy Lopez.

Current Braves pitchers who’ve had a chance to spend time with Perez in the bullpen or elsewhere come away feeling enriched by the experience.

“He’s got a good baseball mind,” said Wisler, a starter who also worked briefly as a reliever as a rookie in 2015. “He’s a catcher; most catchers are guys who can turn into coaches. He caught the great pitchers they had here, so he knows pitching. And he knows catching. He’s just a good baseball mind to have.”

 • Andruw on Turner Field: Speaking of Perez, one of his former teammates, legendary Braves center fielder Andruw Jones, was back for FanFest a couple of weeks ago and was asked for his fondest memories of Turner Field, which will no longer be the home of the Braves after the 2016 season.

He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as a Brave through 2007 and had a 51-homer, 128-RBI season as MVP runner-up in 2005, but the Braves’ greatest accomplishments came while the team was at old Fulton County Stadium through 1996 — the year Andruw reached the majors and hit two homers at Yankee Stadium in his first World Series game at age 19.

So perhaps it was fitting that Jones pointed not to a game or games when asked for his greatest memories of Turner Field. Instead, he fondly recalled “kangaroo court” sessions in the clubhouse, an old baseball tradition that’s become a bit less common with some teams in recent years.

“Wow, so many (memories),” Jones said of Turner Field. “Nowadays they don’t play with the kangaroo court. We used to have a lot of fun with the kangaroo court.”

In kangaroo court, teammates impose fines on players for any number of offenses, some of which could be printed here – baserunning blunders, social faux pas, etc. — and others that probably couldn’t.

“I was the security, Smoltzy (John Smoltz) was the judge,” Jones said, beaming as the memories came to him. “I always was in the kangaroo court box; the security always had to go in…. But those were the fun things that we had in the clubhouse. Just a bunch of other stuff, but I think that things in the clubhouse just stay in the clubhouse.  That’s the fun part.”

Let’s close with one of the many great Springsteen tunes that never made it on a proper album by Bruce, but would’ve been a career high point for most other artists. Here’s “Loose Ends.”

“LOOSE ENDS” by Bruce Springsteen

The Boss.

The Boss.

We met out on open streets when we had no place to go
I remember how my heart beat when you said “I love you so”
Then little by little we choked out all the life that our love could hold
No no

It’s like we had a noose and baby without check
We pulled ’til it grew tighter around our necks
Each one waiting for the other, darling to say when
Well baby you can meet me tonight on the loose end

We didn’t count tomorrows, we took what we could and baby we ran
There was no time for sorrow, every place we went I held your hand
And when the night closed in I was sure your kisses told me all I had to know
But oh no

It’s like we had a noose and baby without check
We pulled until it grew tighter around our necks
Each one waiting for the other, darling to say when
Well baby you can meet me tonight on the loose end

Whoa

Our love has fallen around us like we said it never could
We saw it happen to all the others but to us it never would
Well how could something so bad, darling, come from something that was so good
I don’t know

It’s like we had a noose and baby without check
We pulled ’til it grew tighter around our necks
Each one waiting for the other, darling to say when
Well baby you can meet me tonight on the loose end
On the loose end
On the loose end
On the loose end (on the loose end)
On the loose end
On the loose end
On the loose end (on the loose end)
On the loose end
On the loose end

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