Brock Peery is staying home.
On Nov. 13, National Signing Day, Peery signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Arizona State University. Peery, who lives in Peoria, is a standout senior at Glendale’s Mountain Ridge High School.
ASU is deep in his blood. Not only is Brock Peery the son of former ASU pitcher Noah Peery, but he was also named after the late Jim Brock, the legendary Sun Devils coach and member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
“ASU has always been my dream school,” Brock Peery said. “It’s honestly a passion and dream come true and I’m really excited to play for Coach (Tracy) Smith.” He said it is especially endearing because of the significant history his family has with the ASU baseball program.
His dad Noah echoed the same sentiments, “it was always a dream of ours and I’m just beyond proud of his hard work as his father and his high school coach to get signed at my alma mater, ASU.”
Noah Peery was drafted by the New York Mets in 1994, the year Jim Brock died of colon cancer at the age of 57. Noah coached on his son’s teams for as long as both of them can remember, he even recalled how “Daddy Santa” delivered Brock his first plastic baseball “T” for his second Christmas. Noah is currently one of the assistant baseball coaches at Mountain Ridge High School.
When asked about navigating the complexities of baseball dad and baseball coach, Noah said he is “extremely proud of our relationship on and off the field because I know it’s hard - not just on me as a coach, but on Brock as well as the coaches kid and the stigma that presents.” Still, he believes his son Brock demonstrates the level of professionalism and heart Coach Brock once instilled in him during his college years.
Brock Peery was 2-0 last year, striking out 30 and walking just eight in 22 innings pitched. He also plays both corner infield positions, batting .270 in three seasons of varsity play.
The 18-year-old dreams of pitching in a stadium full of cheering fans with one of his favorite songs — which he sang countless times alongside his father, playing on the ballpark organ, “Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd/ Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks/ I don’t care if we ever get back/ Let me root, root, root for the home team/ If they don’t win it’s a shame/ For its one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ole’ ball game.”
But for now, the Peoria native is headed to Tempe, where he will study business entrepreneurship at the ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. After his baseball career ends, he hopes to settle down in his hometown to start his own business — again, just like his father did.
Indiana native Tracy Smith was named ASU head coach prior to the start of the 2015 season opener. Smith played for the Chicago Cubs minors division after his high school and college baseball careers. Upon retiring from the franchise following the 1990 season, Smith went on to coach in Ohio before he was recruited to coach ASU’s baseball program.
“I just really respect him, you know, because he knows baseball. He knows all the ups and downs college ball and beyond will give us,” Brock answered when asked about playing for Smith.
Another coach made a deep impression on Noah Peery.
“I’m named after my dad’s ASU college coach who left a lasting impression on him and really turned his life around,” Brock said.
“I don’t think my dad would be half the man he is today if it weren’t for Coach Brock.”
Asked when he started playing, Brock said, “I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember.
“My parents say I came out swinging like I was holding a bat in my hand.”
On a more serious note, he revealed, “I was just really fortunate to play on a lot of great youth teams, with some of Arizona’s best baseball players and coaches and just really have the support through my entire baseball career.”
He was obviously thinking ahead when he chose the brand of his gear: “I prefer Wilson, which is what ASU uses because my very first ‘real’ baseball glove was a Wilson, so it’s just the brand I’ve stuck with.”
Although the future college pitcher is looking forward to hitting ASU’s bullpen and diamond, he is still working toward and hopes to lead his high school team to a state title this spring.
He went so far as to “guarantee the Lions will be taking the state title this spring. We are hungrier than before and ready to bring it back home. Many of my other teammates are also going to (Division 1) schools, so we just want to leave the program with a win - to sort of inspire future Ridge generations,” Brock said.
In the big picture, Brock Peery said he wants to live up to his namesake’s legacy on the diamond and keep his memory alive. Jim Brock is a man Brock Peery said he owes his deepest gratitude for showing what “true love and passion” for “America’s greatest pastime” looks like.
Jim Brock coached the ASU Sun Devil baseball program for 23 seasons, from 1972 until his death in 1994. In his first year alone as head coach, he cultivated a different kind of atmosphere, requiring his ballplayers to be a little more professional - on and off the field, especially in the university’s classrooms.
In 1972, Jim Brock’s first year coaching, he led the Sun Devils to a stunning 64-6 record, the NCAA’s best-ever winning percentage in a single season.
Jim Brock led the ASU baseball program to 13 College World Series appearances, winning the championship in 1977 and 1981.
He took the team to the College World Series one last time in 1994, just before he succumbed to his battle against colon cancer. In fact, coach Brock did not miss a single regular-season game in ‘94.
Noah Perry, then a senior, shared with his son Brock an inspirational pep talk Coach Brock gave the team. Sick but undefeated, Coach Brock was barely able to speak above a whisper as he rallied a team hanging on every word.
The Sun Devils fought hard to bring home a College World Series in 1994 to honor rapidly ailing coach Brock, including taking out No. 1 seat Miami, 9-5, but later were eliminated from the series by Oklahoma State. Three days later, on June 12, 1994, Coach Jim Brock passed away.
In 2007, Coach Brock was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His number, No. 33, was retired by ASU and the former ASU ballpark became Brock Ballpark in 2006. The Sun Devils baseball program moved to the Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 2013.
Evidence of his drive and passion are still visible reminders at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the Sun Devils practice and compete, on the banners seen hung up on the outfield walls.
Noah and his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Peery, an NAU alumna, moved back to their hometown of Peoria shortly after he finished his baseball career and got married in 2001. Soon after they began their family and started their cabinet making business. The Deer Valley alumni pair own and operate Space Solutions, a local business customizing cabinets in garages, washrooms, bedroom closets and small offices.
Brock Peery aims at not only honoring his namesake and the legacies both coach Brock and his former professional baseball-playing father left for him, but he also wants to strike out a name of his own in Major League Baseball after college.
Although he would love an opportunity to play on any MLB team, he still dreams of winning a pennant pitching for Arizona’s home team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Noah offers this word for Brock and the new generation of ASU baseball players, “I was lucky enough to go to Omaha twice (home of the College World Series) under Coach Brock and as an alumn, I’m rooting for the home team to go back to take the Series title once again, but you can’t do that without grit. Dig deep and work harder than ever before. Make us all proud because this fan base is hungrier than ever to see another banner hanging on the stadium home walls.” Noah added:
“A major reason Brock also chose ASU, is because he wants to lead the program back to Omaha and he really is all about his hometown team. He has dreamt of winning the College World Series playing for the Sun Devils.”
As for what advice Brock Peery wishes to give young baseball players who dream of a college scholarship, he offers this advice:
“Make sure you get better every single day — that’s just something my coaches and dad really stressed to me. You can always be better, play smarter and improve mechanics. Once you think you know it all, then your career is done. Always learn, always find new things to learn about. But most importantly, you have to make sure you work harder than anybody else and set higher expectations than your coaches will. But also remain professional and respectful at all times.”