The stubborn mentality that has helped Nelson Velázquez find success in his big-league career
Growing up in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Nelson Velázquez could be a sore loser.
When he lost in anything, he wouldn’t stand for it. There was always a rematch to be had.
“I would come back and say, ‘let’s play again,’ until I won,” Velázquez said.
But that mentality has helped him as he’s grown into a major league ballplayer. Velázquez had a strong weekend for the Cubs against the Phillies, hitting 3 home runs as the Cubs picked up a sweep in their first series coming out of the All-Star break.
Velázquez used the time off to refocus himself. In his first extended stay at the big-league level, he felt he was overthinking things and not being himself.
“This last week, I had set a goal for myself to simply go to the game and enjoy it and try to be better,” Velázquez said. “I just concentrated on what really matters and give priority to those little things and not too much focus on those things that at the end of the day aren’t helping me. This last week, I’ve tightened my focus which I think has helped me.”
That never-quit mentality led to success over the weekend. For Velázquez, his stubbornness has been beneficial to him, and it’s led to him finding his footing in the big leagues. He wanted to simplify his approach in the game, and he did that with good results.
“I am really competitive and when I say I want to do this, I do it,” Velázquez said. “When I propose something, I go for it. I’m not really changing my mind and thinking too much. I just go for what I want and it’s something I haven’t regretted, and it has [borne] fruit.”
His good stretch has been even more impressive, given the situation he’s been used in. Velázquez hasn’t been an everyday player and he’s been coming into games primarily as a pinch-hitter against lefty relievers.
“It’s a hard task and is usually reserved for a lot of veteran guys, but we’ve been using him more and more to come in and have some of those at-bats,” David Ross told reporters after the first game in Philadelphia.
That led to some self-belief for Velázquez — a feeling that he’s a big-leaguer, he belongs, but wants to continue to grow.
“I had that good at-bat [Friday night in the 8th inning in Philadelphia], I said, ‘Yeah, I feel like myself. Concentrating is helping me, I’m more relaxed in my at-bat,’” Velázquez said. “That’s what I did for the rest of the series. It helped me. It helped me a lot. It’s something I plan to continue to do.”
And it all stems from his mentality, his approach — all of which were formed from that little kid who needed to play again and again until he won
“I’m a guy that keeps on going and never gives up,” Velázquez said. “That helps me keep going today. It’s made me strong mentally.”