Bronx native and Yankees shortstop Andrew Velazquez takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What has enabled you to overcome the odds and get to the New York Yankees?
A: Persistence, hands down. It’s not always easy, and I had a lot of bumps along the road. But to get to this moment, I had to be very persistent and bet on myself a lot. So just believing in myself … that goes for anything in life. I think that was a good lesson: Just be persistent, especially if you really want to do something.
Q: What was the biggest bump in the road emotionally for you?
A: Getting hurt. I got like shoulder surgery 2015, ’16. You really can’t do anything, you’re kind of immobile, just watching guys play around you, it kind of sucks, so going through that mental hurdle, I think that kind of established fortitude moving forward, like, hey, if you can get through that, you can get through anything else the game throws at you. Coming up here, doing well, that’s another thing that kind of helped me in a way … made me less timid to fail.
Q: What drives you?
A: Family, and being able to provide, and be somebody that can be an inspiration, not only to my family, but other people, and just being competitive in general.
Q: Why is that important to you to be an inspiration?
A: Because I looked up to people when I was younger — especially guys that wore a uniform. Seeing that, seeing my father be able to provide for us as a family and work hard to do so, he put me in a spot where I can be better off. Just trying to do that for the future generations, you know, for my kids.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: Like coming up to the big leagues and not doing well, it’ll humble you. If you can handle that, go back down and come back up and do all right. It’s a mental hurdle and it’s like a life lesson, you know? Getting somewhere you want to get and not doing well is very humbling.
Q: What would you ask your idol, Derek Jeter, when you meet him one day?
A: I’d probably be star-struck. I don’t think I’ve ever been star-struck in my life, but I imagine he’d be a guy (laugh). I’d have a million questions beforehand and not remember one of ’em.
Q: What is the worst minor league bus ride you recall?
A: Ah man, every single one. They’re all bad.
Q: No one stands out?
A: No one in particular stands out. They’re all bad. Especially if they’re over two hours. … Anything over a nap is terrible.
Q: When you leave your parents’ house in Morris Park to go to the Stadium, what do you see on the ride there?
A: A lot of different types of bikes which is kind of new for me. I think that’s been like a big trend as of late (laugh) … mopeds, dirt bikes, all kind of stuff. It’s a beautiful time of the year in New York, the weather’s cooling down, seeing the train, and different people, like the diversity that is in The Bronx is always beautiful. It’s local, very familiar streets, so being able to drive around like that and go to the Stadium is very, very cool.
Q: What do you think about on your way to the Stadium?
A: Just kind of preparing for the game, just thinking about that, what I’m gonna get into. But really just appreciating what I’m doing on a daily basis, I’m trying to just be grounded in these moments.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: Aggressive, not afraid to make mistakes. That’s a part of playing baseball, you’re gonna mess up a lot, you’re not gonna be good all the time, so just being aggressive and not timid, and you know, just trying to be myself.
Q: Why the eye black?
A: I’ve been doing that since probably A-ball, like 2013. Night game, day game, it doesn’t matter — that’s probably like a little superstition I have. The lights are pretty bright up here, too (laugh).
Q: What’s it like playing behind Gerrit Cole?
A: Very impressive to watch. What’s more impressive is how educated he is before he goes into the game. He has such an impressive game plan that just to hear him talk about it is impressive. To know he has the talent to go out and do what he did, but then see the game plan and see it come to fruition on the field is impressive. But it’s not surprising because he’s so good and so well-educated before his start that he just goes out there and handles his business.
Q: What have you learned about Aaron Judge as a teammate?
A: Unbelievable teammate. Like, when I look around, I see him as a captain, not only off the field and in the locker room, but what he goes out and does on a daily basis — and in big situations. He’s very down-to-earth too.
Q: DJ LeMahieu?
A: A little more mild-mannered, but also a leader in the way he goes about his business, and he shows up every day to put the barrel on the ball.
Q: Joey Gallo?
A: Joey … unbelievable athlete in the box. His body can do things that not everybody’s body can do. And that’s saying a lot, because some pretty athletic guys here. When he gets ahold of ’em, it’s like a Darryl Strawberry-esque home run (chuckle).
Q: Anthony Rizzo?
A: Very cool, down-to-earth guy that’s been around. He’s won, so he knows what it takes to win. … Everybody’s very laid-back and approachable.
Q: Describe the Bleacher Creatures.
A: Incredible! I probably got some of my boys up there (chuckle). … They’re awesome.
Q: What did your father tell you about Mickey Mantle?
A: My grandfather saw him play, I think, but he would always talk about him. My father’s very well-educated on Yankee players in baseball history. He’ll watch like old games on YES Network or MLB Network, and he’ll be reminiscing about players, situations, big plays. … My father’s always been a fan of baseball and the Yankees, so he’s always like kind of instilled that in me.
Q: Who were his favorite players?
A: Ah man … you’d have to ask him, he mentioned so many at once. … I think he really liked Reggie [Jackson]. … Mick “The Quick” [Mickey Rivera]. … The list goes on.
Q: If you could face any pitcher in MLB history, who would it be?
A: Who would I want to face? … Randy Johnson — not saying I’d get a hit off him, I just want to see what that’s like (laugh).
Q: If you could pick the brain of any MLB player, who would it be?
A: Wow, that’s a good question. … Maybe Mickey Mantle, ’cause switch-hitting is definitely not easy. … I’d like to talk to like Jimmy Rollins, a guy I really looked up to.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: Michael Kay?
A: Kind of like the voice I’ve always heard watching the Yankees. I got to meet him in ’18 really quick and tell him that … but yeah, just the voice that I’m very familiar with.
Q: How about John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman?
A: I got to speak to Suzyn once. I don’t think I met John yet, but same idea, very familiar voices. … They are very good at what they do.
Q: Joel Osteen is mentioned frequently on your Twitter feed.
A: My mother loves him. I think my mom and my grandmother both love him, like those are my spiritual guys in this life. Being able to have that spirituality. He has clear cut messages and they’re always very motivational and like faith-based. He’s got some retweetable stuff.
Q: Is the power of positive thinking important to you?
A: Very. It’s not easy, especially being human, it’s very easy to be negative, I think. We see that on a daily basis, but just being able to control your thoughts and then control your reality is important.
Q: What do you remember about 9/11?
A: Getting pulled out of school, and then my father having to go down, and [help] out. He was a cop at the time, so he had to go down, and help out.
Q: What did he tell you about that day?
A: It’s ugly stuff. … That day made a huge impact on everybody in New York. Everybody knew somebody that lost somebody.
Q: Your father knew people that he lost?
A: Everybody did.
Q: He came through it OK, no problems?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s good. He went down after both buildings collapsed.
Q: Did he go down the same day or the next day?
A: I believe the same day.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Frank Sinatra, Babe Ruth, let’s keep it baseball, let’s go Mickey Mantle again.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “A Bronx Tale” [is] a good one.
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel [Washington].
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Maria Isabel.
Q: Where’s the best Morris Park pizza?
A: You got Patricia’s, they got like a margherita pizza … you got Luciano’s for a slice … then you got Emilio’s, they got this chicken vodka alive that’s incredible, next level.
Q: What is so special about your mother’s lasagna?
A: If I knew I’d probably open up a restaurant. … She could sell that lasagna.
Q: What are your favorite Bronx things?
A: I’ll say diversity. I’ll say the people. The unexpectedness of every day, you never know what you’re gonna see out there good and bad (chuckle).
Q: Your message to Yankees fans would be what?
A: Keep the positive energy coming, I think we feed off that. The Stadium’s been rocking, so I hope it’s rocking this week.
Q: Do you think this team is a World Series championship team?
A: Yes, hands down. For sure.