Today, we follow Velazquez’s path to the Yankees. On January 5, 2021, the New York Yankees signed Bronx native Andrew Velazquez to a minor league contract. However, in the Morris Park section of The Bronx, the young man is determined to make it to Yankee Stadium this season. He recently said: “I’ll bust my ass to get on the Yankee roster.”
Velazquez says he was a Yankee fan ever since he was a baby. He attended Fordham Prep, where he was a star player. He was a seventh-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2012. He committed to Virginia tech but went pro right out of high school. When he was in the minor leagues, he said:
“I always made sure I got to Yankee Stadium for a game,” Velazquez said. “I was a fan since I was a baby and I also used it as motivation. I never really envisioned having the opportunity to play for the Yankees at a young age, but this is part of my journey now.”
The infielder and third baseman made the Major Leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. In 2020 he got to play in 40 games in the shortened season with the Baltimore Orioles before signing with the New York Yankees during the offseason. Being a Yankees was a childhood dream for the 26-year-old, but he never thought it would come true.
“My trainer lives right next to Yankee Stadium, so I’m picturing myself there when I drive by every day, trying to manifest it and think about what it would be like to play for them there,’’ Valazquez said.
During 2019 with the Rays, he got to play three games at Yankee Stadium; he said he had so many ticket requests from family and friends that he ended up playing those games for free. He said his favorite player with the New York Yankees was Derek Jeter, but not for the reasons you may think.
“It was by chance,” Velazquez said. “I wore No. 2 in tee-ball and I was watching a Yankee game with my Dad and saw someone wearing that number, so I decided he’d be my favorite player.”
As he approached his teen years, he saw more and more games at Yankee Stadium. Finally, when he was ten, his family had his birthday party there. Recently he was asked why he chose to play with the Yankees.
“It seemed like the right fit,” Velazquez said. “One thing that steered me to them was what happened with [Gio] Urshela. Every player is different, but he was kind of in the same position as me before he got there. He’d been designated for assignment and got an opportunity with the Yankees. I don’t know if they changed his swing, but you could see how he took off after he got there.”
Andrew Velazquez is a talented young player. He’s an outstanding defender, but he will have to improve his hitting if he hopes to play in the majors with the Yankees. Last year for the Rays, he hit only .159 for Baltimore. However, if the Yankees coaching can get him back to how he hit for the Tampa Bay Rays (.300) in 2018, he might have a chance to play for the Yankees at some point during the 2021 season.
As I said earlier, the New York Yankees signed Velazquez to a minor league contract on January 5, 2021. As the 2021 minor league season began, Velazquez did nothing less than impress, not so much for his hitting but his agility and excellent defense as a shortstop. When shortstop Gleyber Torres jammed his thumb and went on the IL, the Yankees gave the now 27 years old a short at the Major leagues.
He played his first game at short on August 9th, making a few excellent plays. The very next day, he scored his first run on a wild pitch. While being up with the team, he has been a spark in every way, with some timely hitting and excellent defense. Some say he is better than Gleyber Torres, although it may be a little early to make that determination.
As said earlier, Andrew is a Bronx native-born and brought up just a few miles from the Stadium. Now with the big team, he is staying with his parents and sleeping in his childhood bed every night. Some have called him a local hero, with broadcasters called him “The Bronx Kid,” although his real nickname is “Squid.” Whatever the case, he cemented himself as a Yankee in the 3 game series against the Red Sox.
He got three run-scoring hits in seven at-bats with 4 RBIs (one run of his own and a stolen base). After closing out the final game with a diving catch at shortstop and a difficult throw to first base from deep in the hole, his teammates awarded him the well-deserved “game belt” for his performance. Yesterday in a game against the Minnesota Twins, he scored his first Major League home run with his family in the stands.
When shortstop Gleyber Torres returns from the IL, it is unknown what will happen to Velazquez, he will probably be sent back down to Scranton, but it will not be because of his lack of trying. Whatever the case, this young man has a great baseball career ahead of him.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. You can follow him on Twitter @parleewilliam.