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NEW YORK — When Angels players arrived at their lockers on Saturday, shortstop Andrew Velazquez, nicknamed “Squid,” T-shirts were waiting for them.
The shirts – the brainchild of staff assistant Tim Buss – featured a squid wearing a glove on each of its arms, and the back read: “70% of the world is covered in water, the rest is covered in squid” . Angels players wore the shirts during batting practice to celebrate Velazquez, who was one of the best defensemen in the game at shortstop and a surprise contributor to the team.
Velazquez said he was honored to have his teammates wear the shirts because it shows how quickly he has earned respect in the clubhouse. He didn’t make the opening day roster, but became the club’s daily shortstop.
“It’s fun to see guys walking around wearing it,” Velazquez said. “It just gives you a boost of confidence from your peers. I can get that from my family and friends, but getting that respect from my peers is the most important thing.
Velazquez’s teammates went even further on Sunday, as it was “Squid Day” on their trip to New York. They tried to emulate Velazquez’s fashion style which often features baggy clothes and oversized singlets.
Velazquez, who described his style as streetwear, enjoyed outfits worn by Matt Duffy and Michael Lorenzen.
“Some of the guys went above and beyond, which I liked,” Velazquez said. “But Duffy killed him. Lorenzen too. Everyone participated and introduced themselves. I think it was fun and necessary too, especially after that last series. We had to do something new to get into the fresh series.
The return to New York was also a big deal for Velazquez, who grew up in the Bronx and played 28 games for the Yankees last year. The Yankees, however, decided to leave Velazquez in the offseason, and the Angels claimed him on November 5.
It’s an underrated move for the Angels. Velazquez is ranked as the second-best infielder in the Majors, according to Statcast’s above-average outs. He also ranks second in the American League in defensive points saved, behind only Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo. He entered Tuesday at bat averaging .202 in 41 games, but has averaged .262 in his last 18 games.
“He was the best shortstop in the American League [defensively]”, Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I saw him last year, but I haven’t seen enough of him. Wow. We wouldn’t be where we are without him. Just ask. to his teammates or the pitchers. He’s so good. And there’s a lot more to this bat than he’s shown so far, although he’s been on a pretty good run the last three weeks.