Andrew Velazquez was a teenager in the Bronx, New York.
This year’s kid, who wanted to be the short door of the Angels, a small defensive passion that changed the interior with his great game, saw his father if he didn’t see the whole situation clearly then.
Kenneth Velazquez grew up in the South Bronx, East 149th Street and Moore Houses projects on Jackson Avenue. He spent 20 years at the New York Police Department, dealing in drugs during the crack cocaine epidemic, and working as a detective at the 42nd Precinct near Yankee Stadium.
In the summer, Andrew turned 14, Kenneth saw his son move away from baseball – skipped training with the youth team, refused to go on a travel ball program at Gothams in New York – and he saw that he had destroyed many. lives.
“He didn’t run on the streets, but he usually interacted with people he didn’t communicate with or children who went astray,” Kenneth said. “I was a policeman,” he said. I knew him.
“That’s why I told him that these children are not good. You should stay away from them. But I will give you the rope. Go and find out what you want to do with your life. ” ”
A few weeks later, while driving in the family car, Andrew told his father he wanted to play ball travel, “and since then his efforts have been a thousand percent,” Kenneth said. “Once I figured it was what I wanted to do with my life, it was non-stop.”
Velazquez incorporated this work ethic into a high school in Fordham Prep – Hall of Fame defender Frankie Frisch and Vin Scully’s apple business – and a short but memorable stop during his 11-year professional career wandering between six organizations and 10 small league cities. hometown with the New York Yankees and finally won the attraction in Anaheim.
Velazquez spent four seasons in the major leagues with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore and New York in 2018-21. He made his childhood dream come true last summer by playing 35 games for the Yankees, starting 20 of them on the short track, the position of childhood idol Derek Jeter.
But when Velazquez returns to the Bronx this week with the Angels, who opened a three-game series against the Yankees in the East of the American League on Tuesday, it will be the start of a big league, one of the game’s best defensive shorts and a grateful son. .
Velazquez, 27, said of his tumultuous adolescence: “I was friends with children who were addicted to drugs and things, and some of them died as a result.” My father grew up on projects and was a police officer, so maybe he could see his beginnings.
“No matter how scary it may be for my parents, I thank them for allowing me to decide, because I probably deserved a donkey kick at a time. They kind of said, ‘Do you want to do that? You are alone”. We were approaching a point where maybe they had to correct me. But I made the right decision. “
The angels will agree. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Velazquez may not be a force on the plate, but he changed the game in defense after being recalled from trio A in early April to replace the injured David Fletcher.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Velazquez has eight defensive runs saved in Sunday’s game against Toronto, the second-highest in the major leagues and the last among Jose Iglesias, last year’s short-stop with at least 500 shots.
Velazquez made underground stops and line boots to the left and right. He started and translated numerous double plays. He moved with the support in the hole and quickly took it to the field, making long shots to the first. He stretched to the left for the underground fighters and fired strong, body-long shots at the first. He ran to the edge to catch pop-ups.
In his May 8 victory over Washington, Velazquez Juan Soto, on the other side of the bag, rose to his feet to stop Juan Soto’s base-loaded earthing machine, fell to his knees, and advanced 12 feet. Move to second base player Tyler Wade to escape the run.
“If this guy starts fighting, no one will be able to pay him,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I mean, he’s so good at short stops.”
Velasquez was not always good. He grew up in the rocky, sloping grasslands of the Bronx, including Macombs Dam Park in front of the old Yankee Stadium.
“He was afraid of those areas,” Kenneth Velazquez said. “A boy would hit him 150-200 times, and I thought he would take his head. They were all bad people. “
These surfaces were an improvement of the public park in front of Velazquez’s house in the Morris Park part of the Bronx.
“It had a concrete volleyball court, and I used to play it as a kid,” Andrew said. “We got it wherever we could.”
Velazquez was athletic and fast as a teenager, with a strong arm and a fast bat, and he improved under the guidance of coach Luis Santos from the Dominican Republic and former junior league player Rich Almanzar, who worked with New York City prospects.
However, Velazquez did not start at Fordham Prep until his junior year and did not play short-term until he was older. An outstanding performance at a tournament in Georgia before reaching the age of majority – Velazquez went 16 to 14 and played perfectly defensively – put him on the radar of scouts and college coaches.
Velazquez turned down a scholarship to Virginia Tech to sign Arizona for $ 200,000 in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.
A polished perspective, Velazquez was not. Kenneth said he had so much movement in his arms and hands that summer while playing in the Arizona Junior League that Diamondbacks instructor began calling him “Pulpo,” an Spanish word for octopus.
It was shortened to “Squid” and nicknamed. Hands and arms like this tent calmed down over the years, so much so that his Angels teammates wore T-shirts that wrote on Sunday: “70% of the world is covered by water. Cover the rest with Squid. “
“He’s always calm, he’s always very comfortable, he’s under control,” said first-team player Jared Walsh. “She never seems to be in a hurry on the field. You look at him and he lets the ball come to him. He’s super smooth. “
Variable Velazquez averaged .286 (18 for 63) with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs in 18 games from May 9 to Saturday. From 131 to .210 before going to 0 on Sunday at 5 p.m.
“I’m just trying to hit more,” Velazquez said. “It’s easier said than done.”
Maddon has made it clear that he will play whatever Velasquez’s glove hits. During Velazquez’s .130 strike in early May, Maddon said: “I don’t care because his impact on the game was significant.”
The safety of his work in the first major league will not change Velazquez’s approach. He played in many small league games and was released and changed several times to be comfortable here. He was not even on the opening day of the Angels. He sent his car to Southern California a few weeks ago.
“I heard Aaron Judge say something last year that we all fight for one thing every day,” Velazquez said, referring to the Yankees slugger. “It simply came to my notice then. Going up and down enough times will degrade you. I still have options. When they think, “I’m here,” they say, “Well, we’re sending you.” ”
Velazquez played the same way with the Yankees in a short time last season, hitting .224 with six RBIs, describing the experience as “surreal, like a dream come true, the culmination of everything I’ve done beforehand to reach that mother.”
However, after goalkeeper Glaiber Torres returned from injury, Velazquez went to the bench. Velazquez was not on the 40-man list after the season, and the Angels dropped him last November.
For Kenneth Velazquez, a lifelong Yankees fan who works as an assistant baseball coach at St. Ramon High School in the Bronx, and his wife, retired schoolteacher Margaret, it’s exciting to see their sons in the Yankees’ streak, but it’s equally gratifying to see him return home regularly this week.
Whether Velazquez plays a dazzling defense or a clutch kick, his presence at the Yankee Stadium is further evidence that his parents’ hand-to-hand approach during the formative years of Andrew, though difficult at the time, was the right one.
“We believed in our son and raised him to make the right choices, but keep one eye open,” said Kenneth Velazquez. “You don’t want to lose your child on the streets. He was tested. He saw. He did not like it. That’s what he wanted, and he paid attention to it. This has been his dream since childhood. “