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Growing up playing soccer on a sun-kissed Caribbean island, McZiggy Richards never imagined that his ticket to a college education would come in the form of a spandex singlet and a head lock.
A standout goalkeeper for the St. Vincent Under-17 national team, Richards knew nothing about scholastic wrestling when he moved to New York in 2009. In his mind, wrestling was all about dropkicks and body slams, scripted entertainment and pyrotechnics.
A lot has changed since then.
Tennis is a global sport, the appeal of which only continues to grow in countries once considered tennis black spots. Players like Rod Laver and Martina Navratilova paved the way for Bjorn Borg and Steffi Graf. They, in turn, opened doors down the road for the likes of Yevgeny Kafelnikov and, today, Li Na.
The last 30 years have seen the sport move into new markets. It has attracted wider audiences and encouraged young talent in a way that would have never seemed possible just a couple decades ago.
No point proves this more than the fact that the top 10 players on the women’s tour represent 10 different countries.
What might not be well known is that he also has a family-first mentality that dictates almost everything he does on and off the field.
The 180-pound Venezuelan southpaw has been influenced by family and friends his entire life. As a result, Perez is using his ability to not only make a name for himself on the mound, but to give back to the people who helped him on his way to a career in pro baseball.
Perez spoke to MiLB.com about learning a second language, overcoming a back injury and leaving his homeland to pursue his baseball dream.