Southport’s Perkins takes out the complication in rise through minors

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INDIANAPOLIS – As the bottom of the ninth inning approached, a video was played as a way to try to fire up the home team.

Anything helps when your down by three runs.

On Victory Field’s scoreboard jumbotron in right field were a collection of motivational clips from movies of the past-scenes that are familiar to those who paid attention to sporting cinema the past 30 years.

But trotting out to his position under the board in right field on Wednesday afternoon, only one statement might have caught the eye of the outfielder wearing the maroon. It comes from the film “The Sandlot”-a cult favorite which features the baseball-filled summer of just under a dozen California pre-teens.

The clip featured in the motivational video features the hero, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez speaking with an uneasy newcomer to baseball named Scott Smalls. It came hours after he missed an easy pop fly in one of his first times entering “The Sandlot” to try to play for the first time.

“Man, this is baseball,” said Rodriguez to Smalls. “You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun.”

It’s at this moment under a bright sun at Victory Field where fantasy met reality for Cameron Perkins. The right fielder for Lehigh Valley-who faced the Indians on Wednesday afternoon-may very well have risen from high school baseball at Southport in five years college baseball at Purdue in two because of this simple philosophy.

“This is a hard game. It’s a game of failure. You’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed,” said Perkins. “So the more you can make it simple and try to do small accomplishments the better it is.”

It might not be a philosophy that some also preach considering the game’s lean toward more technical analysis over the past decade in light of the “Moneyball” strategy of building teams, but it’s working quite well for Perkins. After being drafted in the sixth round of the MLB Draft by the Phillies in 2012, Perkins has quickly shot through the organization and in now with the Triple-A Iron Pigs-one step away from the major leagues.

He’s gone from rookie ball in early 2013 to the Phillies’ top farm team in just around a year-a quick rise for Perkins that he credits to his attitude moving forward.

“I just try to simplify the game as much as possible. Baseball is a complex game,” said Perkins-who was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles in Ironpigs’ 7-4 win over the Indians on Wednesday.  “The more you can simplify it, the easier it is on a player because I have been playing this game for as long as I can remember and I’m still learning things.

“So just the more you try to keep it as simple as possible, the easier it can be on the athlete.”

That’s made for an easy rise through the Phillies organization for Perkins, who made a name for himself when he batted over .700 his senior season at Southport. Drafted in the 43rd round by the Mariners in 2009, Perkins decided instead to attend Purdue University where he was a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2012 while helping the Boilermakers to their first Big Ten title since 1909.

Perkins would play 72 games after being drafted by the Phillies with their rookie and Low-A squads, hitting .304 with 38 RBIs in 67 games with Williamsport of the New York Penn League. Perkins spent most of his second season in High-A Clearwater, batting .295 with six homers and 53 RBIs.

That earned Perkins an immediate shot this season in Double-A Reading where his .342 batting average and 34 RBIs in 52 games earned him a call up to Lehigh Valley.

“All I can do is control all I can control,” said Perkins of his quick move through the Phillies’ system. “Moving up and down was nothing that’s my call or anything I can control. The only thing I can do is go out there everyday and help whatever team I’m on that particular day, try to win that particular game and that’s what I try to focus on.”

For four days, however, Perkins did try to bask in the moment as much as he could. Playing in his hometown with family and friends in the audience took on special meaning for the outfielder.

“It was one of those things where this is where I started and it’s been a long trip for me so far through my baseball career. So it was nice to play back at home in front of the home fans,” said Perkins of playing at Victory Field. “I knew when I was drafted by the Phillies, I knew their Triple A was in the same league as the Indians so obviously was a thought of mine.

“It crossed my mind. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Maybe having fun is what made that moment a reality quickly-just as the motivational video said.


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