Bronx, NY — It’s always a bittersweet moment seeing a player stand on a big league field in the city they grew up in. 24 year-old Andrew Velazquez had that moment of bliss as he stood on the Yankee Stadium field as a Tampa Bay Ray shortstop.
“I’m excited to be here, this is like my backyard.” Velazquez said in his first trip to the Bronx this season with the Rays.
The Bronx native was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, right out of Fordham Preparatory School. Velazquez grew up a fan of the team that also calls the Bronx home, growing up he idolized the shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter.
“I got my inspiration from my dad mostly, he was pretty good back in his day and he pushed me all the way up when I was coming up,” Velazquez said when asked who inspired him the most, “Without him, it’s cliche, but I wouldn’t be here.”
Both Velazquez’s mother and father are Puerto Rican. The Bronx has a high population of Puerto Ricans in its borough but a slim number of Bronxites and Nuyorican are seen in the majors. Velazquez is aware of the struggle it takes to be noticed in the inner city by scouts and members of major league baseball teams compared to prospects overseas in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. But Velazquez doesn’t want that to deflect the hopes and dreams of young athletes from pursuing the same dream he had, he hopes to be an inspiration for the young kids who aspire to play under the bright lights of a major league baseball stadium.
“The younger kids in the area, for them to see something tangible, something they can achieve and say ‘Hey if this kid can do it and he’s from the same area, it can happen for me.”’ Velazquez said, “There’s a lot of talent out here, just as much as there is any other place.”
Velazquez comes back to the Boogie Down Bronx during the offseason but when baseball season comes around there are a couple things he misses, one of those things: “If I want to get a chopped cheese at two a.m. in the morning I can do that here, I can’t do that anywhere else I’m at.”
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