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Andrew Velazquez grew up in the Morris Park section of The Bronx, and after he finished each minor league season in his career, he made a point of making one trip.
“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 26-year-old infielder signed a minor league contract with the Yankees this month.
A seventh-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2012, Velazquez starred at Fordham Prep — and was named The Post’s All-Bronx Player of the Year. He committed to Virginia Tech before opting to go pro out of high school.
Velazquez reached the majors with the Rays in 2018 and played 40 games with the Orioles in 2020 before signing with the Yankees this offseason.
“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.
Velazquez has already played in three games at the Stadium and made a plate appearance in 2019 while with Tampa Bay.
He had so many ticket requests for each game, Velazquez said, he “played for free.”
Velazquez’s favorite player growing up was, naturally, Derek Jeter, although not for the usual reasons.
“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.”
Eventually, there were several trips to the Stadium per season, including a birthday party when Velazquez said he was about 10.
But he didn’t simply sign with the Yankees just because he wanted to wear pinstripes.
“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.”
Urshela was DFA’d by the Blue Jays in 2018 before being traded to the Yankees for $25,000. He emerged in 2019 as the Yankees’ starting third baseman after Miguel Andujar’s shoulder injury sidelined him for the season.
Velazquez is searching for similar success. He holds the record for reaching base in 74 consecutive minor league games, a mark he set in 2014 with the Class-A South Bend Silver Hawks in the Midwest League. He broke the old record of 71 that was held by Kevin Millar and later tied by Kevin Youkilis.
“I still don’t know how I did it,” Velazquez said. “It changed the trajectory of my career.”
Now, he hopes that trajectory gets him back to The Bronx. In the meantime, he’s working out locally, since COVID-19 protocols prohibit players from being at spring training sites.
“When I was in kindergarten [at St. Francis Xavier], I said I’d play in Yankee Stadium,’’ Velazquez said. “I’m gonna bust my ass to get there again.”
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