SURPRISE, AZ – For someone who has yet to manage a regular season game in the major leagues, Pedro Grifol is receiving rave reviews around the league for his ability to lead a baseball team.
One of his biggest supporters is now an AL Central rival, but despite sitting at his locker inside the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, Salvador Perez can’t help but express his belief, confidence and love for his former coach.
“One hundred percent he was ready to be a manager the last three or four years,” Perez said about Grifol on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I hope he’s going to be (a manager) in the big leagues for twenty years.”
Perez holds Grifol in such high regard that he believes that when the White Sox open the regular season in Houston on March 30, he thinks he’ll already be one of the top skippers in the game.
“The good thing about him is, he listens to the players. It’s hard to have a good relationship with 26 players when they make millions of dollars. You got to be honest,” Perez said. “He’s going to explain to a player when he makes a decision, when he makes a move. I think that’s why he’s going to be one of the best managers in the game.”
“The relationship he’s going to have with the players I think is going to be amazing. That’s the key. When people care about you as a manager, when they think that guy is giving everything for me so let me give you everything I have for him, they’re going to play hard for him. They’re going to understand that he’s protecting me. He cares about me. He asks me about my family. The way I’m going to pay him (back) is giving everything I have on the field. I think that’s a big key for a manager and he has that.”
As a Royals coach from 2013-2022, Grifol, a former minor league catcher, developed a special bond with Perez. Grifol served as the team’s catching coach from 2014-2017 when Perez became one of the best backstops in the game, and the Royals won two pennants and the 2015 World Series.
“Everybody knows that I love him like my dad. I seriously thank god that he put Pedro in my life. I’ve got five Gold Gloves. At least four I won because of him,” Perez said about Grifol who spent the last three seasons as the Royals bench coach.
How did Grifol make Perez a better catcher?
“Because he always wanted me to get better. He don’t care what the score is. If we’re winning by 10 runs or losing by 10 runs, keep doing your job behind the plate. Keep focused, keep your concentration because at the end of the year that counts. I care about you as a player and even outside baseball. It’s a family. He means a lot to me.”
So much so that when the White Sox introduced Grifol to the media back in November, Perez asked the White Sox for the link to stream the press conference so he could watch it from his home in Miami with his wife.
“I was getting emotional a little bit,” said Perez, who was hoping the Royals would hire Grifol to fill their managing vacancy this offseason. They hired Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro instead.
“I always wanted him to be the manager here, of course, but things happen for a reason,” Perez said. “I think he’s in a great organization. He’s going to be fine. All the players on the White Sox are going to love him. The kind of guy he is, the personality he has. He’s going to be fine with everybody.”
On Wednesday, Grifol and Perez be in opposite dugouts for the first time when the White Sox face the Royals in a spring training game.
“It’s still kind of weird that you don’t see him here,” Perez said about Grifol. “I don’t know how it’s going to be when we face the White Sox during the season. Spring training, you know how spring training is. But during the season, first game. Before the game starts I’m going to give him a hug and tell him that I love him and go back and do my job. But we’re going to play hard no matter what. That’s how he teached me.”