Yankees’ Andrew Velazquez is living something wilder than his dreams
Andrew Velazquez attended countless Yankees games as a child, but he couldn’t remember witnessing a clash against the team’s fiercest rivals.
“Those tickets were probably too expensive for me,” Bronx native Velazquez said Wednesday when asked if he had ever seen the Red Sox visit Yankee Stadium.
Velazquez, 27, spoke while wearing a fitted Yankees cap inside out and a gray Yankees hoodie. Clothing choices hardly unique in the hometown of Velazquez, except for the wrestling-style championship belt draped over his left shoulder.
Velazquez had one of the best seats in the house for the Yankees’ three-game sweep against Boston this week. Best of all, he was instrumental in the series of ranking changes. With family members in the Yankee Stadium crowd, Velazquez went 3 for 7 at the plate, leading in four runs and stealing a base. His two-day RBIs exceeded the number he had accumulated in his entire career prior to this week.
Although he has long given up imitating his childhood hero with Derek Jeter-style jump throws, Velazquez also displayed a dazzling shortstop defense. This included a slippery end-of-game play, paid back on Wednesday (he got Anthony Rizzo’s help on a slightly stray pitch).
Minutes after Wednesday’s victory, Velazquez found himself delivering a speech to his Yankees teammates, a ritual that accompanies the wrestling belt for the player of the match. He compared the sequence to “The Twilight Zone”.
“I would have liked to write it,” Velazquez said of his speech. “It sounded pretty good coming out of my mouth. It comes from the heart. I’m honored to be here in this locker room with these guys. I dreamed of doing what we just did. In real life, it was much better.
Velazquez’s productivity explosion against Boston came as a surprise and the streak of success continued on Thursday when he went 2 on 3 with a triple and a stolen base in a 7-5 win over the Minnesota Twins. .
Velazquez, who has made brief stints in the majors for other teams over the past three seasons, was called up by the Yankees ahead of a road trip that began on August 9. He quickly established himself as a fan favorite during a five-game streak in his backyard.
His performance against Boston caught the attention of everyone from the Bronx-born comedian Desus Nice to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. Velazquez’s father, Kenny, was a detective in Ward 42 near Yankee Stadium; Velasquez wears a replica of his father’s golden shield on a collar during matches.
Although he is the toast of the city, Velazquez has maintained himself by staying with his parents.
“It’s much closer than staying in Manhattan,” he said of his under 30-minute commute to work. “It’s cheaper too.”
Velazquez had times he could only fantasize about as a child. But he didn’t get here without “a lot of tough times in baseball,” he said.
A Fordham Prep product, Velazquez was drafted in the seventh round by the Diamondbacks in 2012. A trade with the Rays organization followed in 2014. He was called up by Tampa Bay in 2018, but another trade sent him to Cleveland in July 2019. As a utility man, he had two hits in 23 at-bat between the two clubs that year.
Baltimore claimed Velazquez on waivers in February 2020. The downtrodden and rebuilding Orioles gave him his biggest sample of major league action yet. Velazquez made 40 appearances in the 60-game season, but struggled, hitting 0.159 in 63 batting appearances. He was released in November 2020.
At this point, Velazquez had just three RBIs under his belt, but the Yankees saw clay that could be cast. Velazquez jumped at the chance to play for his hometown team, an organization that has helped hitters with similar resumes over the years.
“We have a ton of information when we acquire these guys, and that information is communicated across the board,” said Casey Dykes, Yankees AAA Class AAA Scranton / Wilkes-Barre batting coach. “So we have an idea of why a guy like Andrew is extremely interesting and sought after in this organization, and then we have a plan of action to move forward with what we’re going to tackle to try and help him. to become the best version of himself as a player.
Forward Velazquez made some mechanical adjustments to his swing after joining the Yankees, but Dykes said the organization’s plan is to refine his approach. Dykes wanted Velazquez to be more of a “tactician in the box,” someone who understood how the pitchers were going to attack him and could control the area. These skills would lead to better contact, which would allow Velazquez to be on the base. This would give him a chance to “wreak havoc” with his speed.
It was a good plan.
Velazquez immediately “hooked up” to the Yankees coaching staff in spring training, according to Aaron Boone, and he had good numbers at Scranton / Wilkes-Barre under Dykes. After reaching 0.283 with a 0.838 percentage on base plus strokes, seven homers, 43 RBIs and 26 steals in class AAA, Velazquez was called up for the Yankees when Gleyber Torres injured his thumb.
“It was obvious when he got there for the first time that this guy is going to have the opportunity to really make an impact on this roster this year,” said Dykes. “No one really knew when it was going to happen, but now he’s had this opportunity and he’s doing a great job.”
But Velazquez doesn’t think about it. How could he be when he is living his wildest dreams?
“We are here now,” Velazquez said Tuesday. “It’s a beautiful thing.”