Perez was a Bulldog baseball standout, graduating in 1975, and later a popular coach for Tracy’s junior varsity team. He died in 2011 at the age of 53 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The annual crosstown game is now the local baseball teams’ effort to recognize Perez’s role in local baseball and inform people about ALS.
Perez’s father, Edward Perez, who threw out the first pitch, said that an annual benefit game in his son’s name is an honor for the whole family.
“It’s a big surprise and we really appreciate what they’ve done for us,” Edward Perez said. “We hope this helps in what they’re doing for ALS.”
The Perez family watched Tracy senior pitcher John Jaeger get the win for the Bulldogs (3-4) as he struck out 10 batters over seven innings.
True to form for crosstown contests, West (0-7) nearly took the game back in the bottom of the seventh as senior Jack Kelley singled and senior Jackson Nott batted him in with a drive to right field before Jaeger struck out the final batter.
Fans made donations at the gate totaling $1,215, which all went to Eric’s Vision, a Redwood City-based ALS charity founded in 2008 by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eric Scoggins and his teammates Ronnie Lott and Keena Turner.
Scoggins died in 2009 of ALS. His wife, Shonta Scoggins, now runs the charity to raise money to help find a cure and support ALS patients and their families.
ALS is an incurable disease that attacks the central nervous system and limits strength and mobility. The disease eventually causes paralysis and is almost always fatal within three to five years.
“Our greatest goal is to try and educate the community, so when people hear ‘ALS’ they know that it is a fatal disease and a debilitating disease and something that needs attention,” said Shonta Scoggins, who was at the game.
Perez lived with the disease for two years. After he was diagnosed in early 2009, he finished his 10th year of coaching the Bulldogs junior varsity baseball team. The 2009 team went 22-2 and finished in first place in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
His mother, Carmen Perez, said that her son’s last year as a coach exemplified his commitment to players.
“There were some times when he could barely walk across the field, but he still wanted to be here,” she said.
Kevin Perez said he’s proud to see the teams honor his older brother.
“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “If there’s anything he loved as much as his family and friends, it’s baseball.”
The idea to dedicate the game to Perez came from West coach Roger Gallardo and Tracy coach Vic Alkire.
Chico Juarez, an assistant coach at West and a 1981 graduate of Tracy High, then organized Tuesday’s event.
Juarez said he watched Perez lead the Bulldog team and then go off to play at Fresno State on an athletic scholarship. Perez then came back to coach Juarez and other younger players.
“He was a great friend and a great baseball player,” Juarez said. “I took it upon myself to make some phone calls and get some help and the rest took care of itself.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 835-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.