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Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez has turned a jaw-dropping season at the plate into a historic one. The seven-time All-Star blasted his 46th homer on Monday to break Johnny Bench’s record for homers in a season by a player who primarily played catcher.
The record-setter was a no-doubter, landing deep in the left-field stands in Cleveland.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) September 20, 2021
That earned him a shout-out from a certain Royals co-owner.
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) September 20, 2021
Bench, a Hall of Famer and the heart of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, hit 45 in 1970. He won the NL MVP Award that year at age 22, starting 130 games at catcher while playing 148 in total.
Perez, 31, has been known for playing more than most modern catchers — sometimes to the detriment of his own production.
He entered this season, coming off of injury and the pandemic-shortened 2020, having played only 37 games since the end of 2018. He has moonlighted more at designated hitter in 2021, but his playing time has only grown more prodigious. He has missed a total of one (!) game.
And surprisingly, the power surge that began in his abbreviated 2020 season has carried over in full force.
Royals rewarded for faith in Perez
Perez is now battling for the MLB home run crown with Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and MVP favorite Shohei Ohtani after entering 2021 with a career best of 27 homers.
The youngest member of the Royals core that reached back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015, winning the latter, Perez signed a four-year, $82 million contract extension with the rebuilding club in the spring that raised eyebrows. With Danny Duffy since traded to the Dodgers, he’s the only remaining stalwart, and at the time a catcher seemed like an odd candidate to keep around.
But like Yadier Molina down the highway in St. Louis, Perez is viewed as the heart of the clubhouse and a positive influence on an otherwise inexperienced team. As it turns out, he might have a second act in him as a terrifying power hitter.