‘I want to win’: Former Diamondbacks star David Peralta eyes World Series ring with rival Dodgers

David Peralta has returned to Arizona donning new colors after signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The Diamondbacks’ first playoff run since 2011 came to a close after being swept in the National League Division Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017.

David Peralta stood and watched in the dugout as the eventual National League champions celebrated on the field, ending a magical 93-win season that earned first-year manager Torey Lovullo the Manager of the Year award.

Now, on the horizon of a new season, Peralta has signed with the rival Dodgers on a one-year, $6.5 million deal and projects as the starting left fielder on Opening Day. His decision to join the Dodgers, despite signing late in the offseason due to surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, is because he wanted to win a World Series ring.

Every year with the Diamondbacks, Peralta watched as the Dodgers became a staple in the postseason and eventually his preferred destination after recovery from surgery.

“The decision was pretty easy, I want to win. I want to get my ring and be a champion,” Peralta said. “I’ve been facing these guys for a long time and they have a great culture. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Fans may remember Peralta as the player whose power surge won him a Silver Slugger award in 2018, or how his defensive wizardry earned him a Gold Glove in 2019. Some may know him just from his iconic nickname, the “Freight Train.”

But his journey started as a pitcher in 2004, when the St. Louis Cardinals signed the 17-year-old fireballer from Venezuela for a $35,000 bonus. However, injuries derailed his career, and he was released from the organization in 2009.

David Peralta spent eight-plus seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him last July to the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

David Peralta spent eight-plus seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him last July to the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

From 2009 to 2013, Peralta pursued his dream of playing major league baseball by saving money while working at McDonald’s and playing independent baseball to learn how to compete in the outfield.

“He’s a tireless worker. He beat me to the cage after practice, and he was still in there when I left,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Facing him for so long, knowing his story of how he was a pitcher and he switched … to do that, you have to be a pretty special person.”

In 2013, the Diamondbacks gave Peralta the opportunity of a lifetime by extending his dream with a contract.

Peralta was called up to the majors on June 1, 2014, he made his debut later that same day and never turned back. For the next eight-plus seasons, Peralta was a lock in the lineup and quickly became a fan favorite. He helped the team earn a wild-card spot in 2017 while hitting .293 with 154 hits. J.D. Martinez, his teammate on the 2017 Diamondbacks club, still has a sour taste from how the season ended.

“We wish we would’ve done a little bit better, I wish we would’ve beat (the Dodgers),” said Martinez, who also signed with the Dodgers in the offseason. “David is a great guy and he works hard. He’s a really good baseball player and a great guy in the clubhouse.”

Last July, Peralta received the news that he had been dreading for a long time. The organization that gave him a chance and allowed him to prove himself traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“They took (in) my family and myself … and I can’t thank the D-backs organization enough for what they did for me and my family,” Peralta said. “The fans, ever since day one, have treated me like family so they’re the best.”

Peralta loved his time in Arizona and wanted to stay a Diamondback for the entirety of his career. However, observing as the team opted to give younger outfield prospects more playing time, he quickly realized that a trade was inevitable.

“It was a hard moment for me, especially because I (had) spent my whole career with the D-backs, but at the same time, you have to move on,” Peralta said. “You’re never prepared for this kind of news, it still hit me hard. … At the same time I have to be ready, another team needed me.”

David Peralta said making the decision to join the Los Angeles Dodgers was "pretty easy." He added: "I want to get my ring and be a champion." (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

David Peralta said making the decision to join the Los Angeles Dodgers was “pretty easy.” He added: “I want to get my ring and be a champion.” (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Peralta racked up 960 hits and smashed 110 home runs during his tenure with Arizona, good for third and sixth, respectively, on the franchise’s all-time hits and home runs list. His Rays tenure, however, fell short of expectations.

Peralta hit .255 with no home runs in 47 games with the Rays, who reached the postseason before being swept by the Cleveland Guardians in the AL wild-card round.

“It was different for sure. I had always been in (the West) … I had to make an adjustment (to the East) and I did it,” Peralta said. “Obviously it didn’t work the way we wanted with Tampa Bay, but it’s baseball. Baseball’s hard.”

Despite his surprising decision to sign with a division foe, Peralta acknowledges how often he will play against his former club. The clubs will meet in eight of its first 10 games. The Dodgers’ home opener will be against the D-backs, while the D-backs’ home opener will be against the Dodgers.

It’s unknown what kind of reaction Peralta will receive from fans when he steps into the batter’s box in Chase Field for the first time since July 27, but good or bad, it’ll be an emotional moment for the fan favorite who brought spirit and leadership to the Diamondbacks clubhouse for nearly nine seasons.

“I don’t even want to think about it, it’s going to be a lot of emotion for sure,” Peralta said. “The D-backs will always have a special place in my heart, it’s going to be a special moment. I’m not going to say I’m not going to cry, but who knows.”

Aaron Schmidt EH-run shmit
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aaron Schmidt expects to graduate in spring 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production. In addition to the Phoenix Sports Bureau, Schmidt reports for The Arizona Republic and The State Press. He has also interned with Arizona’s Family and Arizona Sports 98.7.

John Cascella jahn kuh-SELL-uh (he/him)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

John Cascella expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Cascella has done photography for The State Press and freelance work covering the Arizona Complex League and Arizona Fall League.