When the Los Angeles Angels called up Andrew Velazquez to man the middle infield in the absence of David Fletcher, they were getting a player who has had to overcome his surroundings, reminiscent of his upbringing in the Bronx, New York.
Velazquez’s father Kenneth spent 20 years in the N.Y. Police Department during the crack-cocaine epidemic and he saw his son begin to stray away from baseball around the age of 14. “Squid”, a nickname he has carried through his big league career, was following a path that could have sent him in the wrong direction.
And that summer is what defined who Velazquez became as a baseball player, someone who has fought their way with unrelenting determination to make it, via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
“He wasn’t running in the streets, but he was hanging out with people that he didn’t normally hang out with, or kids who were turning the wrong way,” Kenneth said. “I was a cop. I knew it.
“So I told him, ‘Those kids are no good. You should steer clear of them. But I’m gonna give you the leash. You go and find out what you want to do in your life.’ ”
Squid didn’t see his path as clear as his father did, but some good advice and a little push is all it took.
A few weeks later, while driving in the family car, Andrew told his father he wanted to play travel ball, “and ever since that day, his effort has been a thousand percent,” Kenneth said. “Once he determined that this is what he wanted to do with his life, it was just nonstop.”
Andrew has parlayed that drive and turned it into a four-year big league career that has included stops in Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, N.Y. Yankees, and now the Angels. His stops in other cities weren’t statistically great, but he became memorable with how hard he played the game and his incredible defensive ability.
“I was friends with some kids who were doing drugs and stuff, some who eventually died from it, but I wasn’t into that,” Velazquez, 27, said of those turbulent teenage years. “My dad grew up in the projects and was a police officer, so maybe he could see the beginnings of it.
“As scary as it is for a parent, kudos to them for allowing me to make the decision, because I probably deserved an ass-whooping at one point. They were kind of like, ‘You want to do that? You’re on your own.’ We were getting close to the point where they maybe had to straighten me out. But I made the right decision.”
Velazquez has already played in 74 games this season, a career-high, and he’s tied for first in defensive runs saved with nine.
Velazquez quickly became a favorite in Angels clubhouse
Since joining the Angels, Velazquez has quickly become a favorite in the clubhouse. As the team prepared for their cross-country flight to New York, several players dressed like a squid in homage to Velazquez’s nickname.
Other teammates distributed T-shirts with a cartoon squid on the front and five baseball gloves on its arms.