'Cats' Perry leads Blue Team to All-Star win

Astros prospect thrives again on Staten Island with solo homer

Nathan Perry accepts his Top Star Award after the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. (Tri-City ValleyCats)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | August 21, 2019 11:59 PM

NEW YORK -- There's something about playing in New York that brings out the best out in Nathan Perry.

And the 20-year-old believes he knows what -- or who -- is behind it.

The Astros catching prospect launched a solo homer in the sixth inning in his lone at-bat to create some breathing room for the Blue Team and earn MVP honors in a 7-4 victory over the Red Team at the New York-Penn League All-Star Game before 2,651 at Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

Video: Blue All-Stars' Perry smacks solo shot

The only other time Perry played at the home of the Yankees' Class A Short Season affiliate was a three-game set from July 1-3 in which he went 6-for-10 with a triple, a double, a pair of walks and a run scored. The 2017 fifth-round Draft pick deemed it the best offensive series of his professional career.

"It's just awesome here," he said. "Just the whole backdrop of the stadium. It doesn't get any better than that.

"In Spring Training, my grandfather passed away and he was a huge Yankees fan. And we played here one series earlier this season and I hit the best I ever hit. And tonight, to do that, that was all for him. And it was just a really special moment. And I know he was up there smiling down on it."

The 20-year-old came on behind the plate in the fourth inning and caught right-handers Jesus Valles of West Virginia in the fourth and Matt Cleveland (1-0) and Mitch Ragan of Brooklyn in the fifth.


Gameday box score


"It's the first time I got to manage this guy and I liked what I saw from him," said Blue Team skipper Edgardo Alfonzo, who manages the Cyclones. "The tough part about it is you have three catchers and each guy has to go three innings, but he got his at-bat and he didn't waste any time. ... He's a strong guy. He got a pitch to hit there and he didn't waste any time.

"We just faced [Tri-City] and we tried to pitch different to [Perry], so before he went up there, I just told him, 'If you see it, you hit it.' And that was a great swing."

After Joe Genord grounded out on the first pitch of the sixth, Perry stepped in against State College southpaw Hector Villalobos and pounced on an 0-2 fastball over the heart of the plate.

"I took the first pitch that he threw me, I just wanted to see what it was like. I had no information on him coming into the at-bat," Perry said. "The guy in front of my swung at the first pitch, and I didn't want to let him have a 1-2-3 inning. I wanted to at least see a couple of pitches and see what I was working with. And he threw me a curveball second pitch and then came back with a fastball and I hit it."

Perry has .235/.348/.429 regular-season slash line with a career-best nine homers, 25 RBIs and 25 runs scored. He believes his new approach at the plate is what produced his breakout offensive campaign -- and his first All-Star nod.

"Offensively, I've made quite a few strides from last year," he said. "I've been focused on more plate discipline, swinging at better pitches, giving myself a better shot to be successful ... just being disciplined, looking for the right pitch and putting a good swing on it.

"Just to be invited to this game was a blessing and something I was really looking forward to for the past week. And just to get one chance to get an 'AB' and to put a good swing on the pitch, it was an awesome feeling."

Indians No. 6 prospect George Valera doubled and scored a run for the Blue squad, while Mahoning Valley teammate Brayan Rocchio -- the Tribe's 10th-ranked prospect -- worked a sixth-pitch walk and stole second, third and home in the seventh.

2019 MiLB include

Rays No. 9 prospect Greg Jones of Hudson Valley went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Red Team. No. 12 Orioles prospect Kyle Stowers of Aberdeen launched a solo blast to the deepest part of the park in left-center off Batavia's Brock Love with two outs in the eighth.

"Generally in the All-Star Game you get a lot of fastballs and stuff like that, but I got three off-speed pitches my first at-bat and I just told myself to stay on that approach," Stowers said. "I got something early in the count that I didn't really take advantage of, but I got another one and put good barrel on it."

The Stanford product, who has five homers for the IronBirds, added, "It's definitely cooler to get one here because you feel like a lot of people have showed out this year and are being rewarded for their performance thus far, and so to have a little success against guys who have been really successful this year is always cool, for sure."

Inductees honored

The New York-Penn League held its Hall of Fame induction ceremony before the game, with Josiah Viera, Bernie Williams, Gene Baker and Jane Rogers comprising the Class of 2019.

Viera was diagnosed with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, a fatal genetic condition characterized by accelerated aging in children, and succumbed last year at the age of 14. He was an honorary member of the State College Spikes and his grandfather accepted the award on his behalf.

Williams, who batted .297 during a 16-year career with the Yankees, won four World Series titles and has his number retired in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. He cited the New York-Penn League as an integral part of his development as a player. "[It's] where I learned to be a switch-hitter. My first year in the league was the first year I learned to bat from the left side. It made me a left-handed hitter. This league was a very pivotal stage in my development as a baseball player."

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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