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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Former Silver Knights ace is first FCBL player to sign with MLB organization

Eric Perrault certainly has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.

A year ago this time, the former Nashua Silver Knights pitcher was recovering from Tommy John surgery, uncertain of his baseball future. ...

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Eric Perrault certainly has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.

A year ago this time, the former Nashua Silver Knights pitcher was recovering from Tommy John surgery, uncertain of his baseball future.

Today, he is basking in the limelight of being the first Futures Collegiate Baseball League player to sign a contract with a Major League Baseball organization.

Perrault, who pitched a redshirt season at Keene State last spring after blowing out his elbow in the fall of 2011, recently inked a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll report to spring training in Scottsdale right around March 1.

“He’s our first pro prospect,” said FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall, who was instrumental in the signing. “For him to get this opportunity was great for him and the league.”

“I’m really excited,” said Perrault, a Salem High School alum who was an ace for the Silver Knights in their first season during the summer of 2011. “I knew I could definitely play baseball after college, for sure.”

But he was hoping that would have been last year. Perrault wasn’t eligible to return to the Knights, being a senior for 2011-12, but that season at Keene never took place. Perrault said he always felt a little soreness in his arm but one pitch in the Owls’ fall season did him in.

“There was always something but it just progressively got worse,” Perrault said. “And then in the first game it just popped. It didn’t feel right. It was a long recovery, but I was back pitching 10 months later.”

Thus he pitched his senior season last spring, and his numbers on the surface (2-3, 5.76) reflected that of a pitcher trying to bounce back.

But a closer look revealed that he had enough zip on his pitches to strike out 33 batters in 25 innings, and only give up 24 hits. That was in line with some of his Nashua numbers from 2011 – 5-0, 1.57, but 48 strikeouts and 32 hits allowed in 46 regular season innings. He saved his best for the playoffs in his only postseason start, going 71⁄3 shutout innings and allowing just one hit and striking out 10.

“He’s a big, strong lefty which obviously is a huge help,” Hall said. “His velocity has really improved and he can compete. This is something he really wants.”

The former multi-FCBL team owner Chris Carminucci, who now scouts for the D-backs, worked with Hall to see if Perrault would be signable. After a tryout in September in Chicago, Carminucci offered the former Silver Knight the deal.

Perrault credits his perseverance.

“It really is a new arm,” he said. “And you have to stick with the throwing programs, really have to follow it. The thing is to just keep pushing, push through it.”

He had a trainer, Eric Cressey, who helped, and also went to a training facility in Exeter from May through September. It paid off, because other than appearing in a showcase tournament here or there, he had to overcome another layoff before the tryout in Chicago.

“I hadn’t really pitched regularly since May,” Perrault said. “I threw well out there, and they liked me enough.”

“This is great, it’s our ultimate goal,” Hall said. “This is what you want. But this is an extra special kid who pitched in Nashua, and is from the area. You want to give a kid like that an opportunity.

“When the school year is done, a lot of kids would be all done. But he was working, looking for places to pitch, and kept going. He’s been chasing it.”

Perrault knew he had a shot during his summer in Nashua. Scouts were showing interest, and his command was the best it had ever been.

“I saw it was coming together,” he said. “And that’s when I started getting attention from the scouts. But then I got disappointed (with the injury), and knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But that’s OK, I’ve never had anything handed to me.”

“We were excited,” Silver Knights VP Jon Goode said. “I remember when scouts were looking at him that summer. When I saw he got signed, I was thrilled. Let’s hope he’ll be the first of many (FCBL players). This is part of the process we’re trying to develop.”

Perrault feels he can get his command and off-speed pitches to go with his velocity and forge ahead.

He knows that at age 23 he hasn’t posted statistics that most drafted players have, so the competition will be stiff in Scottsdale. Mentally, he’s confident.

“It’s tough to explain,” he said. “Some days you think about (the injury). But my arm feels awesome. It’s the best it’s ever felt.”

And now Perrault is ready, after taking baby steps to get better, to take the giant step in professional baseball.

“It’s exciting,” Perrault said, “especially after the long road.”

A road he realizes now was well worth taking.