Andrew Velazquez was a teenager in the Bronx, NY, when he reached a crossroads in life, with one path leading to a potential future in baseball and the other leading to a path of possible collapse.
If the child who is going to grow up becomes this year’s Angels short story, a little defensive whiz who has transformed the field with his beautiful play, then the whole situation will not be clearly seen, his father saw.
Kenneth Velazquez grew up in the South Bronx, in Moore Houses projects at 149th East Street and Jackson Avenue. He spent 20 years at the New York Police Department, working undercover on drugs during his crack cocaine experience and as a detective on the 42nd Draft near Yankee Stadium.
The summer Andrew was 14, Kenneth saw his son move away from baseball – giving up his internships with his young team, refusing to try out for Gothams, a New York-based gambling program – and moving on. the trials he saw destroyed him so much. live in.
Kenneth said: “He was not running in the streets, but he was walking with people he did not usually meet with, or children walking on the wrong road.” I was a policeman. I knew him.
So I told him, ‘Those kids are not good. You have to stay away from them. But I will give you a flower. You go and see what you want to do with your life. ‘ ”
A few weeks later, while driving in the family car, Andrew told his father that he wanted to play ball travel, “and since that day, his effort has been a hundred percent,” Kenneth said. “When he decided to do what he wanted to do with his life, he was just unstoppable.”
Velazquez’s work ethic toward high school at Fordham Prep – Hall of Fame alma mater Frankie Frisch and Vin Scully – and throughout his 11-year professional career spanning six organizations and 10 small league cities. there was also a short but forgotten stop. with his hometown of New York Yankees, and eventually acquired Anaheim.
Velazquez spent four seasons, from 2018-21, in the major leagues with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore and New York. He lived his childhood dream by playing 35 games for the Yankees last summer, 20 of which started on shorts, the position of his childhood idol, Derek Jeter.
But when Velazquez returns to the Bronx this week with the Angels, who open a three-game winning streak against the Yankees in the American League on Tuesday, he will be seen as a starter in the big league, one of the game’s best shorts, and a. the son, who is grateful to his parents, left it to him to choose his own destiny.
“I was friends with some kids who were doing drugs and things, some of whom eventually died because of it, but I was not in it,” Velazquez, 27, said of those complex teenage years. “My dad grew up on projects and was a police officer, so maybe he should see the beginning of it.
“As a scary parent to say, thank you to those who allowed me to make that decision, because maybe at one point I deserved a shout. They were saying, ‘Do you want to do that? You yourself yî. ‘ “We were close to the point where they might correct me. But I made the right decision.”
The angels will agree. The Velazquez 5-ling-9, 170 lbs may not be a force to be reckoned with, but he is a changeable player in defense since he was recalled from the top three in early April to replace the injured David Fletcher.
Velazquez entered Sunday’s game against Toronto with eight saves saved, according to Sports Info Solutions, second in the major league shortlist and a major update on last year’s short story, Jose Iglesias, who spent at least 500 500 in the back row. took place in short films.
Velazquez has built diving stops and line drivers on his left and right. He started many games twice and turned around. He threw his back to the ground in the hole and, with his speed as he pulled towards the outside field, made long throws towards the first. He leaned forward for the fields on his left side and threw hard, first across the body. He sprinted into the outside field to catch popups.
In a May 8 victory over Washington, Velazquez, who was located on the second side of the bag, threw himself into the middle to stop Juan Soto’s loaded ground, dropped to his knees and made 12 feet, back-to-back. to get to the second base Tyler Wade, save a run.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game, “If this guy starts hitting, no one will be able to afford him.” “I mean, it’s so good in a nutshell.”
Velazquez was not always that good. He grew up in a field on the grassy and chipped grasslands of the Bronx, including one in Macombs Dam Park, across the street from the old Yankee Stadium.
“He was afraid of those fields,” said Kenneth Velazquez. “A man would hit 150-200 feet on him, and I thought he would cut off his head. They were all bad hops.”
It was a refurbishment of a public park across the street from the Velazquez home in the Morris Park section of the Bronx.
Andrew said, “She had a field of soft concrete, and I would go on it as a child.” “We took it where it got out of our hands.”
Velazquez was athletic and fast as a youngster, with a strong arm and a fast bat, and he developed under the supervision of coach Luis Santos and junior league competitor Rich Almanzar, both Dominican Republic natives who worked with New York City prospects.
Still, Velazquez did not start at Fordham Prep until his younger year and did not play short until he grew up. A stunning performance at a tournament in Georgia before his senior year – Velazquez went 14-16 and played star defense – he hit the radar of sculptors and university coaches.
Velazquez refused a scholarship from Virginia Tech to sign $ 200,000 with Arizona, which it selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.
Velazquez was not a good prospect. There was so much movement in his hands and arms when he landed in the Arizona rookie league that summer that a Diamondbacks coach started calling him “Pulpo,” which is the Spanish word for eighth.
It was shortened to “Squid”, and the background stopped. However, those tent-like arms and legs have been silent for years, because his teammates on the Angels team wore a T-shirt on Sunday that read: “70% of the world is connected to water. The rest is taken over by Squid.
“He’s always calm, he’s always very comfortable, he’s in control,” first-baseman Jared Walsh said. “He never looks ugly on the field. You look at him, and he lets the ball come to him. He is very soft.”
The Velazquez who converted the shot added a bit more to go with his light field, .286 (18 for 63) with two home runs, three doubles and eight RBIs in 18 games from May 9 through Saturday to average yourself from. 131 to .210 to 0 to 5 on Sunday.
Velazquez said, “Just trying to hit more.” “Words are easier said than done.”
Maddon explained how Velazquez’s hand would play rather than play. When Velazquez hit .130 in early May, Maddon said, “I really do not care, because the impact he has had on the game there has been very significant.”
The first job security of his big league start will not change Velazquez’s approach. He has played in many small league games and has often been released and traded to relax here. He did not even make the Angel’s opening day list. He sent his car to Southern California just a few weeks ago.
“I heard Aaron Judge say something last year, that we all fight for a job every day,” Velazquez said, referring to the Yankees slugger. “My mind is this. Going up and down will humiliate you enough. I still have options. When you think, ‘I’m here’, then they say ‘OK, we’re sending you down’.”
Velazquez played similarly with the Yankees during his brief spell last season, scoring six RBIs at .224, an experience he described as “surreal, like a random dream, the pinnacle of everything I did before to reach that moment. . “
But when Gleyber Torres briefly recovered from injury, Velazquez went to the bench. Velazquez was not defended in the 40-man squad after the season, and the Angels let him down last November.
How about Kenneth Velazquez, a lifelong Yankees fan who lives in St. Louis? Ramon’s High works in the Bronx as an assistant baseball coach, and his wife, Margaret, a retired schoolteacher, was thrilled to see her son in the Yankees’ pinches. Be just as happy to see him return home this week as a regular major league.
Whether Velazquez plays a broken defensive game or gives a click kick, just his presence at Yankee Stadium is further proof that his parents’s approach during Andrew’s founding years was just as difficult as it was at the time.
Kenneth Velazquez said, “We trusted our son and he grew up to make the right choices, but you keep one eye open.” “You do not want to lose your child on the streets. It was tested. He saw it. He did not like her. That’s what he wanted, and he made up his mind about it. This has been his dream since he was a child. “