Florida State, then the No. 1 team in college baseball, had just defeated Louisville 14-6 on Little League Day in Tallahassee, Fla., when the swarm descended on the field. Suddenly, Eduardo Perez of the Seminoles found himself standing hip-deep in a sea of uniformed youngsters clamoring for his autograph, which he genially scrawled on dozens of T-shirts, programs and baseballs. When he was a child, Perez raced around a field called Riverfront Stadium with a bunch of Cincinnati kids, including three who were named after their dads—Pete Rose, Lee May and Ken Griffey. Now as a college junior, Eduardo, Tony Perez's second son, is the latest of the Reds' progeny to become a big league prospect.
Like his dad—known affectionately as Doggie—Eduardo is a righthanded-hitting first baseman who wears number 24, and he has been dubbed Little Doggie. At the plate, Eduardo has mechanics strikingly similar to Tony's—stance slightly closed, right elbow high, hands massaging the bat handle. He also has his pop's pop to right and right center. At week's end, Eduardo was batting .373 for the third-ranked Seminoles, with nine homers and 52 RBIs. Perhaps seasoned by years of stealing candy from Reds equipment manager Bernie Stowe, Eduardo, a converted centerfielder, also had pilfered a team-high 21 bases. Tony, in 22 seasons in the majors, stole 49.
Eduardo has got his dad's gleaming grin, too. Even when Little Doggie wears an 0-for-4 collar, he's still upbeat. "My father never took the game home, good or bad," says Eduardo. "He got along with everyone and always had fun."
Florida State coach Mike Martin believes the unflappable attitudes of Perez and junior catcher Pedro Grifol—Perez's roommate and the team's leading homer and RBI man—have lent stability to the overachieving young Seminoles, who weren't even a preseason Top 10 choice. "Eddie's leadership far outweighs what he does on the field," says Martin. "You're no phony when you go oh for 4 and your team wins, and you're in the clubhouse joking with the guys."
Perez remains a diehard Reds fan. When a Cincinnati loss is announced on the TV in his living room, he announces, "That wrecked my day." He has enjoyed watching his fellow cogs in the Little Red Machine work their way into pro ball—Rose with the White Sox's Class A team in Sarasota, May with the Double A Williamsport (Pa.) Mets and Griffey with the big league Mariners—and eagerly awaits his chance. "For me, while I was playing in the tunnels, in the waiting rooms with the other kids, becoming a baseball player was a dream," says Perez. "It was what I always wanted to be."
He will probably be a first-round pick in the June draft, but before this season he wasn't highly touted. Rangers scout Luis Rosa spied Perez in 198.8 when he played for Robinson High in Santurce, Puerto Rico, where the Perezes live during the school year. Rosa recommended him to Florida State, and Martin offered him a scholarship sight unseen.
There wasn't much for Martin to see when Perez arrived in Tallahassee: His 6'3" frame packed only 180 pounds. His first attempt at the bench press was almost his last—the 95 pounds nearly strangled him. But steady workouts and a diet that consisted of eating everything in the kitchen have lifted Perez's weight to 220 pounds, his bench press to 230 and his average from .316 in '90.
Last summer he also helped himself at the plate by gobbling up advice from his dad, the Reds' batting coach. "Sometimes to help a kid you don't have to go to a cage or use a bat," says Tony. "You just have to talk."
Their discussions continued while Eduardo watched Cincinnati dispatch the Oakland A's in the World Series, and the Perezes still talk every other day. Perhaps at the College World Series in Omaha, Little Doggie will be able to show his Doggie daddie a few new tricks.
Perez's slightly closed stance bears a striking resemblance to his father's.