AJ Pierzynski raises First Academy baseball with quarterback thinking – Reading Eagle

Success seems to follow AE Perzhinsky wherever he went.

Six years after leaving the Major League Baseball the same IQ he held for 19 years is helping another championship-level team in his hometown.

“The benches are doing their best [MLB] managers and coaches, ”said Scott Grove, head coach of the First Academy in Orlando, about bringing Perzhinsky on board. “You’re a defender on the baseball field.”

Before the 2020 season, Grove asked Perzhinsky if he could help as an assistant coach. He was stopped after eight games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but last year, in Perzinski’s first full season as an assistant, TFA (31-1) won the state championship in Class 3A.

This season the royal team has a score of 24-3 and reached the Champions League 3A District 9 champion, defeating Windermere Prep on Thursday with a score of 10-0. On Wednesday, they will host a regional quarterfinal match.

The former Dr. Phillips High School graduate had his share of great games – and moments. He was an integral part of two playoff games with the team that drafted him Minnesota Geminiin 1994.

In his first year with the Chicago White Sox after signing as a free agent in 2005, Perzinski had a huge impact on the team that won the first World Series in 88 years.

One of the key moments in the World Series series was the usually insignificant third blow in the second game of the American League Championship series against the Anaheim Angels.

The White Sox lost 1-0 in the series, and the score was 1-1 with two outs in the ninth. Perzhinsky struck, seemingly to complete the inning. But the catcher of the “Angels” Josh Paul did not think that the field hit the ground, and began to go to the dugout, and Perzhinsky ran first in the heads-up.

Home referee Doug Eddings allowed a third strike. Pablo Ozuna Pinch ran for Perzinski, stole the second and scored a goal in the double by Joe Credo to bring the Sox a 2-1 victory.

He did winning plays for the winning teams. One thing that First Academy was good at was winning, and its players can draw from an invaluable resource in Perzhinsky.

“AJ works with our strikers and shares a lot of knowledge with me,” Grove said. “AJ helped with double cuts and relays, riot defense, rebounds and rebounds, a two-stroke approach with our strikers, disassembly when the pitcher tilts the serve. … anything to get any small benefit ”.

Makes up for lost time

So why does a Premier League veteran with more than 2,000 career hits say so to be a high school assistant?

“My children went to the first academy from kindergarten, and I always tried to help with my son in the Minor League,” said Perzhinsky, referring to Austin, a freshman (of course) from the TFA. “I stay away from his baseball trips, but Scott asked me a couple of years ago if I wanted to help when Austin was a seventh grader at JV.

“I like baseball, but I really like being around this group of kids. They’re fun, they like baseball and they like being around each other ”.

After his playing career, Perzhinsky became a model “dad of football”, and baseball and volleyball replaced the football part. His daughter Ava is a sophomore at the First Academy, playing volleyball in the fall and beach volleyball in the spring.

“I help when I have time for work and travel,” he said. “Ava plays competitive tourist volleyball. We went to tournaments in Indianapolis, Omaha, Tampa, Chicago, and she trains in an hour’s drive in Melbourne. I can’t have my wife drive her all the time, so if we don’t have a game, I’ll take her there.

“I was very happy to be able to play baseball for a long time and be able to earn enough money to support my family. Now I have time to spend more time with them. I really missed playing baseball. The daughter was born in 2005 [and Austin was born in 2006] and I retired in 2016. Eight months a year for those 11 years I haven’t had much. You can never make up for it, but now that I have time and I don’t travel much for work, I want to spend so much time with my kids. I love my children and I love being a part of their lives. ”

Austin appreciates that Dad is involved in TFA baseball in different ways.

“It’s good to have a dad next to you, but it’s hard to combine being a coach and a parent,” he said. “I like that he’s here, and he’s definitely helped our pitchers and catchers with twists and turns.”

Due to the fact that the highlights of Perzhinsky’s career are easily accessible through Google and YouTube, every TFA player knows a lot about his assistant coach. To experience the veteran’s knowledge personally is another story.

“AJ was for me – and I feel like I can speak for others when I say that – a wonderful person to emulate,” he said. TFA senior Greg Pettaya UCF rookie who beats .462 with 7 home runs and 27 RBI. “He’s one of the reasons why this year has gone so well for me, because we always talk after most bats, and he always makes a good contribution.”

Perzinski’s ability to handle pitchers during his MLB career has been impressive. He was a catcher when the White Sox set a record with four full games in a row 2005 ALCS and he is one of 22 catchers in MLB history who caught the perfect game (Philip Humber in 2012).

Perzhinsky also helped with the development of TFA pitchers.

“AJ has been a huge help to the team and me personally,” he said senior Isaac Sewell, a rookie at the Virginia School of Technology which is 9-1 out of 1.38 ERA. “During our last post-season race, he sat with me and others many times about the approach and performance of the work.

“In the semi-final game against [Jacksonville] Boles, I thought too much about how to fall, but he simplified it to get only nine outs. As pitchers, we need to upset the strikers ’time, and AJ has helped us figure out how to make a serve with more intent to throw the strikers off balance and put ourselves in a better position to succeed.”

From agitator to arbitrator

Perzhinsky was considered an agitator and a sharp player. His White Sox manager Ozzy Gyllen once said, “When you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.

The most famous example is when Perzhinsky ran into the Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett and scored a goal on May 20, 2006. Perzhinsky struck hard at the home table, and before he could grab his helmet from the ground near Barrett, he was hit in the face.

Perzhinsky was similar to another Chicago athlete, Dennis Rodman, who played for the NBA’s Bulls from 1995 to 1998 after seven years with a tough rival, Detroit. Perzhinsky was disliked when he was a rival in the Twins division, but that changed when he played on the south side.

Grove was familiar with the reputation before asking him to join the coaching staff.

“I knew it, but it was great for us,” said Grove, who also played professional baseball with the nine-year-old underage after being called up to the Atlanta Braves in 1987. “He’s a good listener.” We do not agree on everything, but we sit down and unite to improve the team. The good thing about baseball is that there are different ways to win. ”

Who knew that an agitator could become an arbitrator?

“Scott is great. I trust him as a coach, ”Perzhinsky said. “You don’t agree with someone 100 percent, but when we have disagreements, we talk about it and get on the same page. I wouldn’t have helped if I didn’t believe in what the coaches do with the whole program. “

And Perzhinsky really cares about the program, the school, and the community. He was a nationwide baseball player at Dr. Phillips, but his wife Lisa enrolled in TFA through elementary school before they met at DP. His family attends the first Baptist church in Orlando, which founded TFA on its campus in 1986.

Perzhinsky misses training and some games because of him The work of Fox Sports MLB analyst and drove Ava to volleyball classes, but he stays in touch from afar.

“I will do something, but I will watch [TFA] a game on my phone, I live and die with every step, ”he said. “I did a tour and fell in love with it. People can believe in anything, but there is something in a Christ-oriented school. I believe that children need to answer something more than mom or dad.

“TFA promotes a very equal, inclusive environment where they mix all students, and that’s important to me. When you go out into the real world, you are close to people who are different from you, and you need to be able to handle all situations. ”

With Perzhinsky in the dugout, the Royals are also ready for any situation.

This report was first published in The Varsity Buddy Collings content editor can be contacted by email at


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