EDINBURG — Every morning, when Edinburg Vela coach Jaime Perez wakes up he has a task to get started on right away, whether it’s helping out on the family farm, driving one of his three sons to a baseball game or preparing for another day of SaberCat baseball.
Perez took the Vela job in 2014 and the SaberCats haven’t missed the playoffs since.
In that time, Perez has grown the program from the little brother in ECISD to one of the most dominant baseball programs in the Rio Grande Valley.
For his work developing the program, and his work cultivating the seeds of his labor this year, Perez is The Monitor’s 2018 All-Area Coach of the Year.
“We are a baby school compared to other schools in our area,” Perez said. “Going to the third round twice in three years, going to the fourth round, going to the playoffs four years in a row, that is something special.”
Four years ago, Perez turned to his freshman Aaron Galvan to pitch the bi-district title-clinching game. Now, Galvan and the rest of Perez’s first senior class are set to graduate.
“It was a lot of fun watching them progress and grow not only as a baseball team, but as individuals as well,” Perez said. “It made the game a lot of fun.”
The seniors, Felix Ramirez, Angel Salinas, Adam Alviso, Joel Jasso, Joey Recio, Matthew de la Cruz, Andre Martinez and of course Galvan, went out with a bang. This year, Vela went 29-7 overall and 13-1 in District 31-6A, earning the baseball program’s first ever district title. And they won some big games down the stretch to ensure that they would be the lone district champs, no sharing this title.
As much as it may sound like this is the end of an era, it’s almost the opposite.
“We are only losing three starters,” Perez said. “Everybody else is coming back. Are those three seniors big? Absolutely. Are they going to be hard to replace? Absolutely. But, the experience that the young guys got … is irreplaceable. You had to make every inning, every out count. That was tough, but it is going to pay off for those young men, big time.”
Vela has a young core coming back. That starts with Perez’s son. His name is Jaime Perez Jr., but his play on the field this year earned him the right to forever be known by his nickname around the team, “Mito.”
The freshman catcher had a batting average just under .500 heading into the district season and forced the team’s hand.
“I let my staff make that decision (about who would start at catcher),” Perez Sr. said. “My staff was adamant about it, and I wanted to make sure we were making the right decision. Having a freshman hit almost .500 coming in, I tell you what, that is kudos to him, because he put in the work.”
Just like his dad.
Mito also gave a tremendous effort on defense. He had one error all year and he caught as many innings as are humanly possible (he appeared in 30 games this season). Even in Vela’s final game, on a scorching hot afternoon, Mito caught all seven frames.
The Perez family dynasty doesn’t end there. Perez’s two younger sons, Israel Izzy Perez, 13, and Julian Augie Perez, 9, also get to take cuts at dad’s pitching.
“We hit, even now, every day,” Perez Sr. said. “I am thankful and love my life with my wife and three wonderful boys.”
Soon enough the younger Perez boys will, hopefully, join the SaberCats, but until then the 2018 team led my Mito, Ramsey Amador and Nico Rodriguez are ready to defend their title.