After mother's visit, Peralta was never better
First trip to U.S. to see son play was turning point in Crew righty's career
MILWAUKEE -- Logic says that Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta found success last season when he started consistently commanding his slider, controlling an offspeed pitch and harnessing opposing hitters.
But here's a more quixotic notion: Maybe Peralta just needed some of mom's home cooking.
Either way, the Brewers right-hander was just starting his second-half surge last July 9, when his mother, Miledy, saw him pitch as a professional for the first time. Wily responded with his first career shutout, a two-hitter against the Reds at Miller Park.
"Oh, man," Peralta said, remembering the moment. "It was amazing, man. The first time my mom saw me play? That's amazing."
Miledy Peralta is deathly afraid of flying and had long resisted her son's invitation to visit the United States. He'd signed with the Brewers in 2005 during a period when Milwaukee did not operate a Dominican academy, so he went directly to Arizona to begin his professional career in 2006.
Tommy John surgery sidelined Peralta in 2007, but he began to advance from rookie ball in 2008 to two Class A levels in 2009, then to Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville over ensuing seasons.
Still, mom never made it for a visit.
"She doesn't like baseball," Peralta deadpanned. "She told me when I signed, 'The only time I'm going to put baseball on my TV is when you're in the big leagues and you're the starting pitcher.'"
That is not to say Miledy was not supportive of her son's baseball dreams.
To the contrary, she "always supported me, since I started when I was 11 years old," Wily said. "We had to move to the capital, because where I come from is so small. I had more chances to play in the capital, and she always supported that. I left when I was 11 years old with my uncle.
"She knew that was the only way I could do this. We wanted to do it the right way. I loved baseball and she let me go."
The uncle was named Marcio, Peralta's mother's brother. Wily attended a school with a strong baseball program and drew the attention of scouts, including those of the Brewers.
He signed for $515,000, a record at the time for a Brewers international signee, and began a long road that brought him to Milwaukee at the end of 2012. He began 2013 in the Brewers' starting rotation, but struggled for most of the first half, going 4-8 with a 6.08 ERA over his first 15 starts.
On July 9, Peralta was coming off a start against the Nationals cut short by a tight hamstring. But he had no such trouble against the Reds, teaming with catcher Martin Maldonado on the Brewers' first complete-game effort in two and a half years.
It was only the third complete game of Peralta's pro career, which, at the time, spanned 128 starts in the Majors and Minors. The Brewers had played 407 regular season games -- and 11 more in the 2011 postseason -- without a pitcher finishing what he started, until Peralta took the mound against a Reds team that ranked fourth in the National League in runs scored.
Encouraged by Maldonado, Peralta worked at a snappier-than-usual pace while scattering four walks, two singles and a triple in the best start of his budding big league career. He threw 113 pitches.
Mom was waiting outside the clubhouse after the victory.
"After the game, she was crying," Peralta said. "After that, I just got it going."
Miledy stayed at her son's apartment for the next two months, and he enjoyed a solid finish to his first full season. He posted a 3.35 ERA in 14 starts from the shutout through the end of the year.
"I just think I pitched better," Peralta said with a shrug. "I was more confident, but at the same time I wasn't there by myself anymore. When I got back to my place after the game, I had somebody there I could talk to."
They were together all offseason, too, at the family's home in Banao, Dominican Republic, about 45 minutes from the capital of Santo Domingo. Peralta also spent time in his hometown of Samana, a beach town in the northeast of the country, where he is trying to expand leagues for children interested in baseball.
"Whenever I go back there, I'm doing everything I can," Peralta said. "If you want to play baseball, you should have the opportunity."
Back with the Brewers for his second full season, Peralta expects another midsummer visit from mom. He is working to obtain a travel visa for his father, too.
With her son's success, Miledy has softened her stance on baseball.
"Now, she likes it," Peralta said. "She learned. Now, she asks me all kinds of questions."