Softball standout Perez signs with Div. I Valparaiso
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Madera Coyotes softball player Erika Perez is all smiles with her parents, Manuel and Vicky, by her side after signing her Official Letter of Intent to play softball next year at Valparaiso University in Indiana.
When Erika Perez began her Madera High School career, there was a lot of lineage for her to look up to, especially in softball.
Perez’s mother, Vicky (Arellano) Perez, was a standout catcher for the Coyotes, and so was her aunt, Roni (Arellano) Miller, who is now the head softball coach at York University.
Then, Perez had to look no further than her older sisters. Brianna was an All-Madera Tribune Softball Most Valuable Player in 2011. Sofia was an All-Tribune Offensive Player of the Year in 2019. She was also Madera High School’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2020.
Erika Perez has lived up to those expectations and has even surpassed those. The County/Metro Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball next season at Valparaiso University in Indiana of the Missouri Valley Conference.
“I always wanted to be better than all my sisters,” she said. “My siblings were really supportive to me. Bri tells everyone I’m the best one and says it with a lot of pride. She’s the one that helped me practice and text me before games to be supportive. It’s really nice to have older sisters that support you.”
In addition, Perez was named The Madera Tribune’s Most Valuable player this year and was the Offensive Player of the Year last season. Also, like her sister Sofia, she was given The Madera Tribune’s Sportsmanship Award.
She was also named Madera’s Senior Athlete of the Year this year and her name will go on the wall in Joe Flores Gym with her sister.
“It was really cool to become an Athlete of the Year,” she said. “It made me emotional to know both of our names are going to be on the gym wall forever. We were always known as the Perez sisters because we did every sport together. Now, we are the sisters that will be on the wall forever.”
Sofia graduated in 2020 and Erika was able to play her first two years with her, but has played the last two years without her.
“It was hard to play without her,” Erika said “I would still text or call her after my games. She calmed me down after games if I played bad.”
Perez batted .581 in the CMAC this year and had more extra base hits than singles. She hit .500 her junior year for No. 2 on the Coyote all-time list. She also finished second with a .434 career batting average, third with 29 career doubles, sixth with eight career triples, tied for third with 10 career home runs, fourth with 69 career RBIs and seventh with 32 career stolen bases.
“I feel like I accomplished everything I worked for,” she said. “I missed a lot my whole life going to softball tournaments and practices. I knew what the goal was. When I signed the paper, I knew I achieved that goal. I had so many emotions.”
Perez was also named to The Madera Tribune’s volleyball and basketball teams and was the only athlete named in three sports.
“It was a balance to play three sports,” she said. “I didn’t have time to do much than go to practice or do homework. I don’t regret doing three sports. That’s how I met all my friends. My best friends are from the sports I played. The coaches I had were amazing.”
Originally, Perez was getting recruited by the University of Nebraska and then University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Perez sisters thought that would be the best route since they would both be in Nebraska with Sofia at York University with her aunt.
“I was being recruited by Nebraska,” Erika said. “That didn’t work out because of COVID. A lot of seniors were coming back so she couldn’t give me a good offer. She called the Nebraska-Omaha coach for me. We started talking. Then, I got offers from Sac State, University of Nevada, Fresno State when Linda Garza was there and Alabama State. Garza also gave me an offer when she went to Reno.”
Then, the coach at Nebraska-Omaha was hired at Valparaiso and continued contact with Perez.
“I have been in talks with the Valpo coach for more than a year,” Perez said. “Before I even committed to her, I thought I was going to commit to Omaha even though she wasn’t going to be there. I got along with the coach very well. That’s important to me. When she moved to Indiana, that was way farther than where I wanted to go. I wanted to stay in the same state as Sofia. That was the goal. I kept talking to the coach. I want to go somewhere where I’ll be the most taken care of. Even though it’s the farthest, I felt like I would be taken care of the most over there.
“Everyone there was so welcoming. I had a meeting with my counselor and he took a picture with me because I was the first softball player he had. He was the best. All the softball players I met were really nice. I went to a volleyball game with them and their gym is really big. It’s amazing. Right when I stepped on campus, I knew. All my other visits I went on, I didn’t have the same feeling as Valparaiso.”
Perez knew of Valparaiso, but knew them because of its basketball team, which has played in numerous NCAA Tournaments.
“Every other person I talked to knows them from basketball,” she said.
Perez graduated from MHS with a 3.77 grade point average. She plans to major in elementary education and eventually get her masters in administration.
Her number one goal to go to college was to not have her parents pay for her education.
“I don’t want them to pay a cent because they have paid so much over the years,” she said.
Although she wasn’t the star on the team like she was on softball, Perez played important roles with the volleyball and basketball teams.
“I hope they said I was a person that was really positive,” she said. “That was my goal as a teammate to be positive that encourages them to play good and was there to help them when they weren’t doing good. I never wanted to be anyone that was negative. I had other seniors that were negative all the time. When I am a senior, I wanted to make sure everyone was welcome and knew what their role was to work hard all the time.
“I feel like I was the one that held the team together because I tried to calm everyone down. In basketball playoffs, it was crazy. They got riled up because we were a young team. I had to step up and tell everyone to calm down.”
Erika got help through the recruiting process by watching Sofia go through it two years ago.
“It was definitely got me excited to see Sofia go through the recruiting process because that’s what I wanted,” Erika said. “That’s what I was going to be doing. When I got the first phone call from a coach, I was shaking. It was the most nerve-wracking for me.”
Perez is more excited for her parents who can just sit back and worry about watching their daughters play softball.
“They are really excited,” she said. “My dad is the most excited from anyone. He told me to go to college and get a degree. He wanted me to do get a degree so I can do what I wanted in life. He never got to get his degree. He has to do a job that he works a ridiculous amount of hours and missed out on a lot. He told us to get our degrees. When he found out I was going to Valpo, he was ecstatic. He was so happy. He always tells me how proud of me he is. He said he’ll get my mom out there plenty of times to visit me. My dad works at a glass plant and they have one in Indiana so he’s had to go there a few times. It will work out to visit me when he’s there.”
Perez isn’t ready for the Midwest winters and can’t really rely on Sofia to give her advice. However, Erika said she is very simple and will be fine.
“Even when it’s snowing, Sofia is walking around in shorts,” Erika said. “She’s not the best person to give me advice about what to wear. I’m going to be in my dorm a lot. There’s a mall just a mile a way. As long as I have SpaghettiOs and Cup O’ Noodles, I’ll be fine.”
Erika is ready to head to Indiana for college, but is a little nervous.
“I’m excited to go. Of course, I’m a little nervous,” she said. “I’ve already been talking to players out there. Once I get out there, I know I’ll be nervous because I haven’t been away from my family. But I also know I’ll be doing what I’ve worked my whole life for. I’m really excited. I know when I get out there, I’ll be fine.