Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Eddie Collins have long been familiar names to baseball enthusiasts. In the fall of 1991, yet another former Columbia baseball player became a household name to millions of baseball fans – Gene Larkin, the former Columbia All-America whose long drive to left center drove in the run that gave the Minnesota Twins their second World Series in five years. Larkin, who came up with the Twins in 1987, earned two World Series rings.
Larkin, who left baseball after the 1994 season, is part of a proud tradition of baseball at Columbia, that continuedin the fall of 2008 with an electric Major League debut by Fernando Perez ‘04CC.
Perez was drafted in the 2004 draft and was named the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays Player of the Year and Tampa Bay’s minor league Player of the Year in 2005. The speedy outfielder, who was added to the 40-man roster following the 2007 season, set a Southwest Michigan franchise record with 57 stolen bases, the most in the Rays organization. He began the 2008 season at Triple-A Durham, where he batted .288 with 86 runs scored, 43 stolen bases and 11 triples. At the time of his promotion, Perez ranked second in the International League in runs, third in steals and was tied for second in triples.
Perez got to experience a taste of the World Series with the upstart 2008 Rays as he earned a spot on the postseason squad with his play in September. In Tampa Bay’s game-two win over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, Perez scored the winning run in the 11th inning.
As a program, the Lions have continued to put a superior product on the field and Major League teams have taken notice. In 2012, Ivy League Player of the Year Dario Pizzano and 2010 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Pat Lowery were both selected in the amatuer draft and have continued to carve their respective paths' through the minor leagues.
The 2013 season saw two additional Lions join the professional ranks. Alex Black was selected in the 29th round by the Kansas City Royals, while teammate Tim Giel was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees.