Peter Handrinos is a frequent
contributor to Scout.com and author of the upcoming ‘The Best New York
Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard
The child is the father of the
It’s no secret. Almost always,
baseball’s bond is formed well before a kid gets a hold of a driver’s license.
It’s about the fascination of baseball card collections, the fun in ball park
visits, the education in Little League games, the connection in schoolyard
conversations, the curiosity sparked by favorite books. Right off the bat, a
variety of experiences can lead a young person along the road to worthwhile,
Most often, youth provides the
bookend’s for a fan’s career - the boys and girls who fall in love with the game
eventually grow up to pass that romance along to the next generation, and so on
and on. Since, seemingly, forever. Until, hopefully,
John Perri is an example of the
game’s youth movement. The 13-year old resident of Stamford, Connecticut is a student at
School and an enthusiastic participant
in the local Babe Ruth League. He’s also a budding fan(atic) for the Pastime, a
young man who’s been known to practice until dinner, sleep in his favorite
jersey, talk up his favorite heroes, and use his bedroom into a small museum of
baseball pennants and pictures. Kids at heart can only envy the lifestyle.
Recently, John talked about how
he’s getting started:
Can you remember all the way back
to when you first got interested in baseball?
(chuckles) My uncle plays a lot of
softball, in leagues, and he got me interested in it. I started playing t-ball
when I was about five, but I didn't learn about how the game works in the Major
Leagues and stuff until I was about nine or ten.
Why did you start learning about
My neighbor, next door, was the
coach for a team I was on, and he gave me a baseball encyclopedia and I thought
it was cool. I read it.
Why did you like
The stats, stories, records, the
players. The Yankees. I liked the pictures. A bunch of things.
Do you like other
I like all kinds of sports. My
second favorite is football, and I watch basketball on TV, hockey games
sometimes. The Olympics, I guess.
Why do you suppose you like
I dunno. You basically just have
two kinds of stats, for hitting and pitching. You know where everybody's going
to be, in their positions, too . . . I don’t know.
Is it your favorite sport to play?
It's a lot more fun to play,
definitely, because it doesn't wear you out. That happens in football. I played
basketball for a while, but I lost interest.
I'm not the tallest person and I'm
not the fastest person . . . I scored zero points the whole
I think the two of us may have had
identical career stats.
Do you have a favorite baseball
Derek Jeter. 'Cool, calm,
collected'. He's a great athlete, a great leader.
Can you think of an example of him
being a great leader?
Hmm. For example, after he strikes
out, he never throws his helmet in the dugout. He has good sportsmanship. He has
a good knowledge of the game.
Why is that
Because he wins.
Do you think ball players are good
people and role models?
I dunno. Maybe. I’ll bet they get
arrested a lot less than football players and basketball players.
You mentioned the Yankees a second
ago. Are they your favorite team?
I was born in 1992 and, I admit
it, I started liking them because they're always winning.
Then I started researching,
though, and I saw how much history and records they have. They have Babe Ruth's
60 home runs in one season, Lou Gehrig's four home runs in one game, and Joe
DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris' home run
race. Reggie Jackson - three straight home runs in one World Series game.
You mentioned 'knowledge of the
game' a couple of seconds ago, too. What did you mean by
You have to know what you're doing
and have good baseball sense.
A couple of years ago, my mom got
me this computer program. It's called 'Where's the Play?'. It puts you in
different positions and gives you the situation and says, 'What do you do?' That
was cool, because the coach always said, 'Know where you're going before the
play'. You can't ask the coaches when you're on the field.
After [I got the program], though,
I got a lot more confident.
Can I test
You have to answer quick. Runners
at the corners, one out, and you get a grounder to short - what do you
[quickly] Quickly look home for
the runner at third, but he's probably going to score if he knows what he's
doing. You should hustle to cut off the runner at second, but if there's nothing
there, first base.
I'm proud - I think I know a lot.
Not everything, but a lot. For instance, suppose you have Jeter up with a 3-1
count with Womack on first. Jeter's a good contact hitter - should they hit and
run here? Maybe, but it depends on the score and the inning and how things have
been going on previous at-bats. And who's in the bullpen and on the bench.
Would you say you're a good
Last season, I was in All-Stars. I
was always good in the field, but I wasn't really good at hitting. I wasn't the
best in the league, but I've gotten a lot, a lot better in the last couple of
When you're playing, do you get
stressed out by strikeouts and errors?
I used to. I used to get really
upset because I wanted to be the best, but at the beginning of last season,
though, I made a goal - 'Keep my composure, stay calm, wait for another chance'.
When kids strike out or make a bad play, they have to think about another
chance. There's always another chance.
It sucks to strike out and let
your team down but our coaches say, 'Don't concentrate too much. Just go out
there and have fun, no matter the outcome'.
Does that kind of attitude help
you in school?
Yeah, you have to stay calm. Say,
another kid's making fun of me - 'Stay calm'. If you're nice to other people,
most people will be nice to you.
Sounds about right. Do you get
along with your teammates?
Yeah, you have to. The shortstop
and the second baseman, for example, have to work together. If they don't like
each other, they might try to make all the plays by themselves and that doesn't
Baseball's a great way to make
friends. Last year, if you told any one [player] on the team to hang out with
some other kid [from the team], they'd have fun. Another thing was, our team got
to play summer tournaments against teams from Connecticut,
York, the South, all over the place.
We met a lot of kids.
What's your favorite part of the
Fielding. In hitting, if you do
any little thing wrong, it messes up your whole swing. Same with pitching and
your motion. In fielding, it isn't easier, exactly, but I try to think too much
sometimes, and [fielding is] is so quick that you can't
Do you have a favorite
I play all over, but I like third
base, because you have to do a lot before the play even starts. Like, 'Who's up
to bat? Is he a power hitter? Does he bunt? How close to you have to be?' I like
[third baseman] David Wright from the Mets, too, but I don't necessarily like
how he plays.
Remember the diving bare-handed
catch he made last year?
Sure, in the
Diego game. It was all over
If you really look at it, he could have made
the play with his glove! That's like, some kids, they let the ball roll and then
pick it up to try a flashy play, but half the time they don’t get the out.
If you look at Derek Jeter and the
way he plays, he makes the flashy plays, yeah, but he concentrates on the
Do your parents get involved in
Yeah. They give me rides, they
bought my glove, they pay for hitting classes. Mom and Dad go to a lot of games
and it's cool. Dad sometimes plays catch and he talks to me, mostly, about the
mental part of the game. He doesn't play.
Do you think the game brings you
closer to them?
Me and my uncle and my parents are
really close, even without baseball, but I think it brings us closer. I can ask
them about the game and they teach me things. We talk about it all the time.
Do some other kids' parents care
too much about Little League games?
Sometimes you hear parents yelling
from the stands, trying to coach from the stands. If you ask me, that doesn't do
any good, because a kid has to be calm and concentrate. If [the parents] know so
much, they should coach.
Do you remember when you went out
to your first pro ball game?
When I was three or four,
somewhere around there, we went to Yankee Stadium. We went with my uncle and sat
near the left field foul pole. I don’t remember a lot about it, to be honest,
but going to the ball park is really cool. I look around and saying, 'There are a lot of people here. What are
they all doing here?' I couldn't believe how many people there
What do you like about the live
game on the field?
It’s real. It’s not on TV.
Everybody’s right there, even if you don’t get the best seats.
Another thing is - it’s incredible
how fast [Major Leaguers] throw and how far they hit. Even a routine pop-up! A
guy can hit it, like, (gestures) a hundred feet in the air or something and
everybody's like, 'No big deal'. In TV, it's not the same.
A lot of people say that fewer
kids are interested in baseball today because they'd rather play video games.
What do you think?
Some kids like X-Box, but maybe
it's because they don't have any kids in the neighborhood or because they don't
like to socialize. You can't do that for five hours, but maybe they'll be the
next Bill Gates or something. You never know.
To me, I spend most of the day in
school. After school, I want to get out and exercise. My friend, Jack, he's here
so often that he calls it his second house, and he's so into sports, too, so
it's easy to go over to [nearby] Rippowam [Middle School playground] for pickup
Do you think baseball's boring
compared to football and basketball?
It's what you like. Some kids like
race cars, fire engines, all kinds of different things. To me, baseball's never
boring. You have jump-and-throw plays from short. You have walk-off home runs.
You have doubles. Your pitcher can strike out the side. It's great.
I can see why baseball can be
boring to some people, though. A lot of time, you'll have 1-2-3 innings for three innings and you
have to wait for the one big inning that turns around the game.
Do you get tired of waiting around
during the game itself?
Nah. There's tons of stuff
happening, even when you're not necessarily scoring. You never know when
something's going to happen. Somebody said, 'You can't script
Have you heard the news stories
about steroids in baseball?
Yeah, it's all over.
Do you think that kids are
influenced to try steroids nowadays?
The stories don't influence me. If
you want to use steroids, what's the use? You can hit the weight room for an
hour. You have to play, anyway. What's the point? If I had to cheat, I wouldn't
feel good about myself.
Yeah, but other kids might try
If you watch the Little League
World Series, in parts of it, they had players talking about not wanting to use
steroids. I watched the Little League World Series, and kids make fun of guys
like Rafael Palmiero. The kids I know, they think, 'You get this from it, but
you lose a lot of other stuff'.
Like injuries, you
Yeah, injuries, getting suspended.
People make fun of you. You might get arrested, because it's illegal to use
steroids, I think.
The kids I know don't think it's
necessary. [Jason] Giambi used steroids - he admitted it - but then stopped
using steroids, and that was good because he came back and had a great year. He
should have never used them in the first place because he had a tumor, I think,
and a bunch of other stuff. The year before, he was a big power hitter and he
had I don't know how many home runs, but he ended up getting in
Do you have the chance to watch
prime-time World Series Games?
I have a curfew, sometimes, but I
try to get my Mom to let me stay up as late as possible, 'cause World Series
Games are different. When I have to go to bed, I wake up and say 'Who won, who
won?!' (chuckles) When I can't stay up, though, I watch highlights and read
about it on the internet.
Pretty soon, you'll be in high
school. Do you think you'll stick with baseball?
I think so. Why
Do you dream about making the
Majors when you grow up?
Oh, yeah. I keep on thinking of
this one scene - it's bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, we're down by
three runs. It's the seventh game of the World Series . .
(chuckles) Yeah. I'm up against
the best pitcher in the league, whoever that happens to be. He gives me a
fastball - boom, home run. Ball game.
John, I’d be rooting for you.
The complete Table of Contents for
the ‘Baseball Men’ interview series can be found here.