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    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.

    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.

    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.

    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.

    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.

    Rivier baseball head coach Anthony Perry.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Rivier coach ready for challenge

NASHUA – It was a special day recently in Florida when Anthony Perry would be reunited with a couple of old friends from his days as the Nashua Pride’s bullpen catcher.

His Raiders were to play a game against Gallaudet University, a college for the hearing impaired coached by former major leaguer and Pride outfielder Curtis Pride, who had former Pride pitching coach Andre Rabouin as his pitching coach as well.

“It was awesome,” said Perry, now in his first year as the Rivier College head baseball coach. “I got a call from Andre and we figured if we were both down there, why not?”

Perry says he feels like he’s home. The Andover, Mass. native has an aunt and uncle in town, would visit often but he also spent seven summers with the Pride, mainly under manager Butch Hobson, and then Hobson inked him to a pro contract, as he spent two seasons with Hobson’s former Atlantic League club, the South Maryland Blue Crabs.

And now? After honing his skills as an assistant coach at Fisher College in Boston, he’s trying to turn around a seemingly forever struggling program (nine wins in its last 75 games) at Rivier.

“When I came in, I knew it would have to be a complete overhaul with how things were done the last few years,” Perry said. “I knew there had to be a knew philosophy installed. From the first workout to now, the players have gotten exponentially better. But it will still take time to get to where we want to be.”

A period of time which will have to include a couple of solid recruiting classes. Perry, 27, feels he can give the program a sense of winning, as he came from a successful Fisher program (NAIA) that won three straight Sunrise Conference Championships while he was coaching, and four conference titles when he was hitting .355 and stealing a school record 69 bases as a player. As he said, “The biggest thing I bring from Fisher is a winning attitude.”

Perry feels Fisher head coach Scott Dulin prepared him for this, knowing he was head coaching material and would move on.

Perry’s experience is extensive – just think who he’s been able to learn from, including Hobson, Rabouin, Rick Wise, etc.

“I’ve taken different things from everybody,” he said. “For example, ways to steal bases from (former Pride outfielder) David Francia. How to track fly balls from Rich Giannotti (another former Pride outfielder). You get to pick up little things.

“Butch also had a huge impact on my hitting. I tell the kids, there’s a lot of different ways to teach hitting, but only one way to hit – the way you’re comfortable with.”

The highlight of Perry’s baseball career, though, came in 2008 when Hobson called and asked if he’d be interested in playing. He was the bullpen catcher/coach on the Pride’s 2007 Can-Am League title team under Hobson and then the manager moved back to the Atlantic League. Perry couldn’t say yes fast enough.

“I tell you, the day Butch called me and offered me a contract, my baseball career from middle school to high school to college came together in one phone call,” Perry said. “I remember my first game, it was at Somerset. You hear your name on the loudspeaker and you’re thinking, ‘I never could’ve imagined this.’ I just kind of zoned out.”

Unfortunately, Perry struggled in the pro game, hitting just .133 in 37 games as a utility player, but he did manage to steal 18 bases. His Raiders are also struggling, off to a 1-10 start. But he’s not concerned about a record this year, as he’s looking ahead. He has 16 players on the roster, more than what the Raiders finished with last year. He’s hoping to beef things up through recruiting, getting to a roster of 30 players.

“I look at it as I’d like 12 position players, then 10 pitchers, and then eight guys who can do both,” he said. “That’s the model.”

Someday perhaps that model will have a home field on campus, but that factor, which has handicapped the Raider program since its inception, doesn’t deter Perry. While at Fisher, a city school, he and the players always would drive to North Andover to get a field on a daily basis. He knows that at times Holman Stadium, which he can’t wait to return to, will be available, but usually not until April 1. “So now I know that next year I won’t schedule any home games until April 1,” he said. “And I know a few people in the area, so I can call people and usually get a field.”

It will take patience, like all the other things that come with the Raider baseball job. It’s the biggest thing Perry has learned he needs to have since becoming a head coach.

“You just have to have tremendous patience,” he said. “Plus, I’m still learning.”

He’s certainly had plenty of good teachers, and the Raider baseball program hopes to reap the benefits of those lessons.