Royals catcher Salvador Perez is a man of many names. To his mother, Yilda, he is Salvador. To most fans, he is Salvy. To others, he is simply Sal.
But inside the Royals’ clubhouse, there is another nickname, one that was born nearly a decade ago and continues to this day.
Salvado Perez is El Niño, or simply Niño — the boy.
The nickname will be visible on Perez’s back this weekend as Major League Baseball convenes its first-ever Players Weekend, a three-day promotion of sorts to allow players to showcase their personalities on the field. In addition to special uniforms with nicknames, players will be able to use decorated bats and don specialized cleats and sweatbands that would normally be prohibited. On Friday afternoon, the Royals arrived here at Progressive Field and took stock of their new threads.
For Perez, that meant taking a first look at a nickname coined by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer in the minor leagues. The story of the name, Hosmer says, began in instructional league in 2008, just months after Hosmer had been selected by the Royals in the first round. One of his teammate was an 18-year-old catcher from Venezuela who spoke little English. They hit it off immediately.
“I think it just made sense,” Hosmer said.
Nearly three years later, Hosmer continued calling Perez “Niño” when he was called up to the major leagues in August of 2011, just months after his 21st birthday.
“He’s the Niño,” Hosmer said. “He’s the young guy that came up. I think everyone knew how good he was going to be. And Niño just kind of stuck with him."
In seven years in the major leagues, Perez has lived up to the name, winning the World Series Most Valuable Player award in 2015 and playing each game with an infectious innocence. Along the way, he started calling Hosmer “Papo,” a Spanish term of endearment. And before this season, Perez began wearing a specialized workout top in the hours before games. On the front is the Venezuelan flag. On the back is an emblem and a special phrase: El “Niño” del Oro.
The Golden Boy.