SURPRISE, Ariz.—Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals has won this year’s Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, sponsored by the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity. Phi Delta Theta presents the award annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the giving character of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, who was a member of the Fraternity’s Columbia University chapter. The award was first presented in 1955 and is permanently maintained at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“Salvy is what all of us want baseball and baseball players to be,” said Dayton Moore, Royals President of Baseball Operations. “We often say there isn’t anyone who loves playing baseball more than him, and we’re proud that this award recognizes that nobody enjoys helping people more, too.”
Perez is the second member of the Royals to win the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award following George Brett in 1986. Perez will receive the award on Friday, June 3, prior to the Royals game against the Houston Astros.
Past recipients of the award include Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter and many more.
In his native Venezuela, Perez annually sponsors more than 200 kids for participation in a baseball academy, funds dozens of free baseball clinics throughout the country, donates over 1,500 toys to children’s hospitals, sponsors and pays for 30 surgeries for children with cleft lip, distributes over 1,500 meals to families in need, donates $50,000 to sponsor families of police officers in Venezuela, and, in the last year, coached a clinic for kids through the Carlos Fortuna Organization in Bogota, Columbia.
In the United States, Perez’s $1 million donation was a significant charter sponsor in developing the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy, and he continues to make appearances at the facility to speak and work with underserved youth. The academy opened in 2018 and serves as the epicenter of youth baseball and softball throughout the Midwest, focusing on educating youth on what it means to be a Major League citizen and empowering them to be leaders in the community through character development and education. Salvador has worked tirelessly to help education efforts in Kansas City through Teach for America Kansas City so teachers can continue to further the education of their students. He held a teachers’ appreciation night where he sponsored a suite for local teachers, gave them each an autographed baseball, and donated $10,000 to Teach for America. His passion for education continues as he develops a dual language children’s book through the ESL (English as a second language) program.
Perez donates used game and autographed uniforms and equipment to various charity events throughout the Kansas City area, raising tens of thousands of dollars annually. He takes an active role in mentoring and financially supporting international minor league players trying to adjust to playing and living in the United States. He has used his status as a perennial All-Star by bringing young minor league players into his home, teaching them what it means to be a leader on the field, in the clubhouse, and the community.
Perez has continued his work with Sarah’s Soldiers by supporting local police officer Sarah Olsen through her battle and assisting those battling ALS. He also partnered with Brayden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer, creating memories for local pediatric cancer patients. To give back during the pandemic lockdowns, Perez filmed surprise and delight messages for Royals fans on social media and participated in Zoom and FaceTime calls for sick children.
Salvy played a career-high 161 games in 2021, including a major league-best 120 starts at catcher and matched Hall of Famer Ted Simmons’ 1973 mark for most games by a primary catcher. He won the Royals Player of the Year Award for the second straight season and was named All-MLB First Team Catcher for a second consecutive year. Perez earned his fourth career Silver Slugger Award, breaking the franchise record of three held by Hall of Famer George Brett. He was named a finalist for the Hank Aaron Award and was the Royals nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Perez hit 48 home runs last season, which matched Jorge Soler’s franchise record for home runs in a single season. The 48 home runs tied him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Major League lead, becoming the first Royals player ever to lead the league in HR. He led all of MLB with 122 RBI and became the sixth player in the last 30 years to lead the Majors in HR and RBI in the same season. Perez is only the second primary catcher (after Hall of Famer Johnny Bench) to lead the league in both categories. His 48 home runs were the most in a season by a primary catcher, eclipsing the mark set by Bench in 1970. Of his 48 home runs, 18 of them gave the Royals a lead, tying with Nolan Arenado for most in MLB. Perez led the Majors with 34 multi-RBI games. He finished last season with exactly 200 career homers, becoming only the second player in Royals history with 200 career homers. Perez finished the 2021 season ranking in the top 10 in Royals history in hits, doubles, HR, RBI, slugging percentage, total bases, extra base hits, and hit by pitches.