Just because school hasn’t started yet here in the Northeast, that doesn’t preclude Andrew Velazquez from being the talk of Fordham Prep.
“All the football guys know,” Pat Deane told The Post on Thursday afternoon. “The baseball guys know.”
Deane can speak confidently to that because he runs both programs for Velazquez’s alma mater. Because he saw Velazquez rise to a prospect worthy of being selected by the Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2012 amateur draft.
Because earlier this season, Velazquez acceded to Deane’s request and, while playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, spoke to the entire school.
“He told them a little about his story. We had it in the auditorium,” said Deane, who added, “He deserves everything he gets.”
Velazquez, promoted to the major leagues on Aug. 9, when Gleyber Torres went on the injured list with a sprained left thumb, has joined the list of unlikely contributors to this Yankees rebound. While his overall numbers hardly overwhelm — he started Thursday’s game with -0.1 win above replacement, as per Baseball-Reference.com — he helped the Yankees sweep past the Red Sox by delivering three hits with runners in scoring position and executing a game-ending defensive play. At a time when the Yankees are winning plenty, but closely, those moments stand out all the more.
That he’s a hometown kid who’s actually living with his parents while playing for the New York Yankees undoubtedly enhances his appeal to the masses.
“He made it,” Deane said. “I mean, he made it years ago when he played for Tampa Bay and everyone [Velazquez also played for the Orioles and Indians], but every kid’s dream is to play shortstop for the Yankees.” Velazquez, who bounced between shortstop and center field his junior year at Fordham Prep before becoming the full-time shortstop as a senior, signed with the Yankees as a free agent in January after the Orioles let him go. He totaled 68 major league games prior to this season.
Deane watched the remarkable play that Velazquez pulled off with first baseman Anthony Rizzo to secure the Yankees’ 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday night, retiring Kevin Plawecki on a grounder deep into the hole: “Oh, man. I was just talking to someone before and saying, not many people get to that ball. That’s number one. Even fewer throw it. He was blocked out [by Rougned Odor]. He made a nice sliding play. He hops up and throws another major league player out. It was special.
“And then the smile, It was a great smile. He’s enjoying playing the game. You make plays like that when you are enjoying it.”
Deane attended Velazquez’s Yankees home debut Monday night, the 2-1 victory over the Angels, and he brought his son Pat Jr., a freshman at Fordham Prep who is getting ready for football season. “ I just wanted to see him in his pinstripes,” said Deane, who added he didn’t want to bother Velazquez at the game, though he has been in touch with the player’s father, Kenny Velazquez. “I couldn’t be happier for that young man. He works. He’s been moving around a little bit. He grinded it out in the minors.”
And for the moment, he’s playing an integral role with his hometown team, inspiring the youngsters aiming to follow his head. This upcoming season, Fordham Prep boasts of a senior shortstop named Carmelo Musacchia who already has committed to play for Northeastern. “He reminds me of Andrew,” Deane said. “I want Andrew to meet him and talk to him.”
If the Yankees continue their surge with Velazquez’s help, the two shortstops should have plenty to discuss.
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