BRIDGEWATER — Back in Arizona, there’s something called the “Yankee Room” at the home of Somerset Patriots outfielder Blake Perkins’ mother and stepfather.
In one corner is a pile of baseballs signed by various team legends. The neatly painted white walls with the famous Yankees stripes have become almost completely covered over the years with jerseys, framed memorabilia and photos of all the big names.
“There are pictures of everyone from Yogi Berra to Roger Maris and Joe DiMaggio,” Perkins says.
“My mom was a Yankees fan for some reason. I guess she also loved watching Derek Jeter play. I’m just a fan of the game and I liked the way he handled himself on the field, the leader that he was, how he carried himself day to day, I didn’t see anything bad on the internet about him, he was just a standing guy at least from a public standpoint.
Now, there’s a chance they’ll hang up some of Perkins’ gear in this room sooner rather than later.
In his first year with the Yankees organization after signing as a minor league free agent last offseason, Perkins is the reigning Eastern League Player of the Week after a huge streak in Hartford against the Yard Goats in which he went 9 for 19 and hit four homers, including a three-game longball streak. The 25-year-old entered the series at home this weekend against the Portland Sea Dogs leading the league in total goals, slugging and field goal percentage and was in the top five of all minors in the last two categories.
Short? He has at least put himself on the radar of the team he grew up with, which has not escaped his notice.
“I don’t think anybody you talk to would say they haven’t dreamed of playing in the major leagues or playing at Yankee Stadium,” said Perkins, who has also grown up as an Angels fan since he was born. he lived in Los Angeles. “I try to do my best. I love playing and I think this is the best week I’ve ever had in baseball, so I’m trying to enjoy it while I can. Maintaining it will be the hardest part. But I look forward to trying to bring something to the table every day, whether it’s offensively or defensively.
Perkins has already played all three outfield positions for Somerset so far this season, and while he’s a fine defender, it’s unquestionably his bat that will give him the best chance of continuing to climb the ranks. A second-round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2015, the native of Litchfield Park, Arizona, took a somewhat circuitous route to finally arrive at what looks to be a breakthrough year; his previous home run record in his first six pro seasons was just eight, and he already has five on his first 51 hits with the Patriots this year.
According to batting coach Jake Hirst, it wasn’t so much about adding anything to Perkins’ game, but simply unlocking what was already there.
“I think a lot of that power has always been there,” Hirst said. “If you look back at previous seasons his career max is around 110 (mph) in speed out so a lot of our conversations were more approach based. Previously he had been a bit more passive like hitter, kind of waiting for that perfect pitch. He’s always made good swing decisions, so the ability to define the area has been there, so now that pushes him to be a little bit more aggressive rather than just sitting at the middle of the plate or looking for that perfect pitch Basically be ready to pull the trigger for more stuff I think the first weekend he felt it but the last two weeks he really settled .
There’s also the complexity of the 5-foot-11, 181-pound outfielder also being a switch hitter, with Hirst saying there’s been a bit more emphasis on Perkins hitting the ball in the air more on the right side, which has paid its first dividends as it has already scored on both sides of the plate this year.
It’s a facet of his game that has always increased his value in any organization he’s been in, but Perkins actually wanted to hit exclusively as a right-handed hitter this year before the Yankees approached him and didn’t. ask him if he would consider remaining a switch hitter. .
“You don’t see that much anymore, especially in the major leagues, so it’s always good to have that,” Perkins said. “I’ve had times in my career where I thought it was time to get back to just hitting with the right hand, and every time I tried teams said, ‘No, we want that. you kept going,’ so I told the Yankees, and they said they wanted me to keep trying. At the end of the day, when you get an opportunity from a team, I at least try to do that what she wants first.
The fact that Perkins listened to what the data told him despite some on-set struggles at times in his career and remained willing to be flexible in a new organization is perhaps a sign of maturity, something that he admits maybe he wasn’t always there when the Nationals took him 69th overall in 2015 and gave him an $800,000 signing bonus right out of high school.
He didn’t quite live up to his status as a second-round draft pick — never going over .255 in a season before Washington eventually delivered him to the Kansas City Royals organization in a trade. in mid-2018 – and doing a lot. of being unwilling to research or listen to what older players had to offer, focusing more on trying to prove himself rather than developing the mental and physical aspects of his game.
Now Perkins is a sponge – among other things, he says he speaks frequently to teammate Max Burt, another 25-year-old and highly respected member of the clubhouse who reached Triple-A level last season – and for as much as his quick start can be attributed to some changes in his approach at home plate, it’s fair to say that his off-court approach, which has grown over time, has also helped.
“You play with these guys day in and day out, you live with them, you see them a lot,” he said. “I remember reading the famous book (The Science Of Hitting) by Ted Williams, and it said something about how you can take anything from anyone. A guy hitting .100 or a guy hitting .400, they can bring different things to the table when it comes to mindset or swing. Any advice worth trying to see how it goes. We’re all here for different reasons, but it’s about trusting the situation we’re in and being ourselves. I think over the course of a season, it will show. I try to stay consistent in my approach and the results will follow.