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Future is Now as Ivies Get Major League Call

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Portions Courtesy of Columbia Sports Information
and Princeton Athletic Communications

As Major League Baseball moves towards the second season, some familiar Ivy players have been called up to help teams in the stretch run. Former Columbia outfielder Fernando Perez (Elizabeth, N.J.) was activated by the Tampa Bay Rays. Former Princetonian Will Venable (San Rafael, Calif.) was named to the San Diego Padres and fellow Tiger Ross Ohlendorf (Austin, Texas) joined the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Perez, who was recalled to Tampa Bay from Triple-A Durham, heard the news late Sunday evening, and will be in a Rays uniform on September 2 when Tampa Bay hosts the N.Y. Yankees in a three-game series at Tropicana Field. Due to the timing of the move, Perez will be eligible for postseason play, should the first-place Rays maintain their standing atop the American League East.

Perez had an outstanding season with Durham, batting .288 with 86 runs scored, 43 stolen bases and 11 triples. Perez ranked second in the International League in runs, was third in steals and tied for second in triples before his promotion.

The overriding factors in Perez's promotion were his speed and defense, according to Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's executive vice president of baseball operations.

"We felt like he's got a unique skill set that if we wanted to go that way would help diversify us a little bit," Friedman said of Perez.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2004, the switch-hitting Perez has risen quickly through the ranks. In 2005 he was selected the Single-A Southwest Michigan Devil Rays Player of the Year. The following year, Perez led the minor leagues with 123 runs scored, en route to being named team MVP of the Single-A Visalia Oaks.

Perez spent the 2007 season with the Montgomery Biscuits in Double-A where he was chosen a Southern League postseason all-star after finishing the season with 121 hits, 84 runs, and a Biscuits' single-season record of 32 stolen bases.

A two-sport star at Princeton, Venable made his Major League debut for the San Diego Padres last Friday night against the Colorado Rockies. Although the team is far removed from the playoff picture, the Padres were immediately rewarded by the promotion as Venable tripled at his first plate appearance. He then scored on a wild pitch.

The outfielder, who patrolled center field for the Padres, batted .292 in 120 games at AAA Portland this season where he was finalist for the Pacific Coast League's Rookie of the Year Award. Venable has 129 hits, 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in 442 at-bats. He spent the 2007 season at AA San Antonio. He was chosen by San Diego in the seventh-round of the 2005 draft.

Venable played three baseball seasons at Princeton and graduated with a .333 career average to rank 12th in program history in the category. Venable was a member of two Ivy League Championship baseball squads and was the first-team All-Ivy centerfielder as a senior. Venable was also a first-team All-Ivy point guard in basketball and became the 26th Tiger to record 1,000 points, achieving 1,010 for his career.

Venable became the 25th Princetonian to appear in a Major League Baseball game and the first position player to appear since John Easton appeared in three games for the Phillies in 1959. Four Tigers have played in the Majors since, but all have been pitchers. Venable will join former Princeton baseball/basketball star Chris Young on the Padres roster.

Finally, the Pirates have put in motion their plan for a six-man rotation over the next three weeks by inserting Ohlendorf into the starting mix. Ohlendorf, who was among 10 Triple-A players called up when rosters expanded to 40 players on Monday, will make his first Major League start on Wednesday. He was 4-3 with a 3.47 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Ohlendorf, who has playoff experience with the N.Y. Yankees as a relief pitcher, joins a Pittsburgh program that is currently in last place in the N.L. Central. The Pirates are in a rebuilding process and the appointment of Ohlendorf is to showcase his talents for next season, when Pittsburgh brass hopes that he becomes a fixture in the Pirates' rotation.

- A.S.