14 Dec 2021 | 01:52 | Baseball
Former USF baseball player Andres Perez was part of the 2017 Bulls’ team that nearly upset eventual national champion Florida at the NCAA Regionals in Gainesville. He’s now a second-year medical student at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and he hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Andres Perez & sister doctor BSB
Perez and his sister, Emelie.
But first and foremost, at least on social media, he will always be the guy who helped save a cat’s life.
“It’s wild,” Perez said. “Right place, right time, I guess.”
The video has gone viral and it was clearly the most eye-grabbing highlight of last weekend’s college-football action. Last Saturday night, Perez, his girlfriend Ally Citro and two other friends went to the Miami-Appalachian State game at Hard Rock Stadium.
“I was just sitting down in the corner end-zone seats and then I heard all the commotion,” Perez said.
Somehow, a cat was loose in the stadium’s upper deck and it panicked. It climbed out on the ledge, trying to escape the crowd, but it went a little too far and was perilously hanging from a wire, teetering some 40 feet above a concrete surface. The crowd was buzzing and cheering, all eyes focused on the cat’s plight.
Perez dispatched Citro to the upper deck, thinking the cat could be pulled back to safety. By then, though, the cat had gone too far and couldn’t be reached.
“I saw somebody with an American flag because it was 9/11, so I asked them if we could use that as a landing pad and we went to where we thought the cat might drop,” Perez said. “I got a few people from the student section and we had the flag all prepared, ready to catch the cat. But the cat kept hanging on. I think it was up there 10 minutes. It seemed like an eternity.”
The cat dropped, perfectly hitting the American flag target, and the crowd roared. It was a successful mission.
What many people didn’t see was Perez trying to grab the frenzied cat, mostly white with black markings, who bit down hard on his right middle finger. Someone else brought the cat to stadium security, but the game was over for Perez. Stadium medial staff washed out his injured finger with hydrogen peroxide, but he took an Uber to an urgent-care clinic.
When the doctor entered the room, he looked at Perez and said, “Are you the cat kid from the stadium?” The video already had taken off.
After being treated, Perez’s finger remained swollen and hurting. Monday morning, he went to UM’s hospital and was admitted for precautionary surgery. He spent two nights in the hospital.
“People keep asking me if I would do this again, would I still try to help that cat?” Perez said. “I think I would. That cat was going to go hard on the pavement. Somebody had to help. It was a spur-of-the-moment type of thing. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking I would get bit.”
Fortunately, Perez is no longer playing baseball or else he would be dealing with an injury to his pitching hand. He attended a magnet high-school in Miami and originally committed to UM. But he switched to Tulane — the alma mater of current USF baseball coach Billy Mohl — and those plans were scuttled after a coaching change.
Andres Perez & teammates BSB
(L-R): Dylan Buck, Joey Sanchez, Andres Perez.
He found the Bulls and it was the perfect destination. After his freshman season, though, he left the team because of academic scheduling demands. Once he felt comfortable about his testing to enter medical school, he asked Mohl if he could return for “one last ride” in the 2020 season. Mohl agreed. But that was the COVID season and it was cut short.
“I loved every second of playing baseball, but I’m on to the next phase of my life now,” Perez said. “I still follow the team avidly and I’m really excited about where things are going.”
Perez loved seeing USF win the American Athletic Conference Tournament, then the NCAA Regionals. He went to Texas for the NCAA Super Regionals when the Bulls faced the Texas Longhorns. He can’t wait to watch the first USF team to qualify for the College World Series in Omaha.
“I still talk to the players and coaches,” Perez said. “This isn’t a Cinderella thing. This is now an expectation. I think the program is in a great place.”
Perez’s dream is to keep his hand in athletics, perhaps serving as orthopedic surgeon for a professional team. Even if that happens, though, it’s unlikely he’ll receive as much notoriety as the night he saved a cat’s life.
“I like cats,” Perez said. “I’m OK with cats. At my parents’ house, we have a cat. My girlfriend is big on cats.
“Truthfully, I’m more of a dog person. But I get it. Now I’m always going to be the cat guy. Crazy, right?”