Yankees Magazine: Memories and Dreams

In an exclusive in-depth Q&A, Gleyber Torres reflects on his journey from Caracas to the Bronx

May 30th, 2018
New York Yankees

Search the web for , and you will find no shortage of glowing articles about the Yankees' phenom. Since signing with the Cubs at age 16, the Venezuela native has been the darling of baseball writers who have projected big things for the multi-tooled infielder. His rise has been so steady that the media has struggled at times to keep up; Baseball America's Minor League preview issue featuring Torres on the cover was still on newsstands when the Yankees called him up to the Bigs in April.
But while the press mainly focused on Torres' supernatural abilities on the field, there has been scant coverage of the young man himself. Even the personal section of his bio in the Yankees media guide comprises fewer than 10 words: Full name is Gleyber David Torres Castro ("GLAY-burr").
Enter Yankees Magazine.

Yankees fans like to get to know the players in pinstripes, especially ones as exciting as Torres. So on a Tuesday afternoon following a well-deserved off-day in May -- Torres ended the game on Sunday with a three-run homer -- we sat down with the 21-year-old second baseman in the Yankees' dugout for an in-depth conversation about his family, his childhood, his journey to the Majors and his hopes for the future. Speaking for nearly a half-hour in his native Spanish -- the interview was later translated by Yankees manager of multicultural affairs Lina Cruz -- Torres provided an intimate look into how he became the player and, more importantly, the person he is today.
Where did your love of baseball first begin?
Well, I started playing at four years old when my parents took me to a baseball stadium. From there I started little by little. First I started playing outfield, then when I was about 10 years old I got switched to the shortstop position, and since then I just started playing baseball as a shortstop. I was always in Caracas; I practiced in Caracas. When I was 14 years old, I moved to Maracay to an academy that could help me see if I could play professionally. There they helped me, and I was able to sign as a professional.
Tell us about your background -- do you come from a large family?
My father's name is Eusebio Torres, and my mother's name is Ibelise Castro. They are from the city; they always lived in Caracas, and they met in Caracas. We are not a very big family. I don't know the exact number, but I have a lot of uncles; I have like five cousins; I have a nephew, who is like my son; and myself. We really are not a big family, but we are very close.
Looking back on your childhood, was it a happy time, or did you face hardships along the way?
I would say that my childhood was a very happy one. My family and I weren't millionaires, but we were always at a level that I had everything I needed. My house was very humble, but it was nice. I believe that I never missed anything. I always enjoyed everything; I shared time with my friends and family. My parents worked very hard to give me everything that I needed, and I always had everything I needed.
You are often smiling, and everyone we have spoken to who has met you has come away saying what a nice person you are. How much credit do your parents deserve for the man you have become?
I believe that my parents taught me everything since I was little. They always gave me all the support that I needed. They taught me how to treat a person, whether the person is older or younger. Everything that they taught me helped me very much. They are still helping me, giving me advice, teaching me how life is. The truth is that I'm very thankful to them. Everything that I am now and what I will be, I'm really grateful to them for. They helped me in everything, and I believe that everything I have done I owe to them.
Right now, much of what we see in the news about Venezuela focuses on the turmoil there. Tell us about the Venezuela we don't hear about as much.
The truth is that Venezuela has beautiful landscapes; the nature is incredible, the beaches. I believe that it is one of the prettiest places. And really, each city has its own typical dishes, its typical music; there is always something different in each city. The people are really nice. I'm from the city, I was raised in the city, and I have visited various places in Venezuela, and I was delighted. I believe that Venezuela has a lot of pretty things that people don't know about simply because people don't mention them, but the truth is that my country is very beautiful in everything that it has.
How often do you go back?
I always try to go in December to spend the holidays with my family, but the majority of the time I stay here in the United States training and doing a lot of things.
Are you able to stay in touch with your family regularly during the season?
Yes, of course. I'm always in communication with them. Every day I'm talking with my family, with my friends; we have good communication, and they are all aware of how I'm doing here.

How has the transition to life in New York City been for you?
Well, the first day was a little difficult because I didn't know the streets, the traffic. And the truth is that there are a lot of people in New York. But now I am getting accustomed every day, trying to enjoy all the lovely things this city has and exploring it little by little.
In April, you celebrated your first wedding anniversary. When did you meet your wife, and when did you know that she was the one?
I met Elizabeth about four years ago. We met in Caracas, and since I was in the Minor Leagues she has been with me, supporting me. We shared a lot, and there came a time that we felt it was necessary and had a desire to get married, and it was then when I started that love story with her. I briefly consulted with her, and I saw the opportunity [to propose] because she wanted to. I went to her house and in front of her parents I proposed to her.
How important has she been to your success?
She has been there with me through the worst moments of my career. Whenever I was negative, she was positive. She helped me in everything that I needed. She was always supporting me and still continues to do so in everything. She always gives me advice. In the bad moments that I have, she believes strongly in always being positive, and being with her has helped me a lot in my career.
Our research shows that you are the first player in Major League history named Gleyber. Is there a story as to how you got your name?
A lot of people have asked me the same question, and I have asked my parents, "Where did that name come from? Is it a combination or something that you invented?" My father was the one who gave me that name, and he just says that he liked it. He heard it and gave it to me. So, there is nothing special or any specific reason as to why he gave me that name.
Was baseball the only sport you played growing up?
I also played basketball in high school. Just a little, though, because my father wanted to keep me healthy and without any injuries [in order] to play baseball. I have a lot of memories of when I used to play baseball in little leagues; those were some of the best years that I played. I always had a lot of fun with my teammates, and those moments were my first steps as a baseball player.
In what part of Caracas did you grow up, and how was the competition level there?
Gamboa is where I grew up; San Bernardino, Gamboa. I believe that from where I lived, I am the only one that signed as a professional. A lot of my teammates now work, go to school, or are in other countries. But from where I lived, I am the only one who signed as a professional.
Outside of full nine-on-nine baseball games, what other games did you play to help develop your skills?
I still remember a few games. We played a traditional game in Venezuela that's called "chapitas." We played with the cap of a bottled beverage, and one person would pitch and the other would bat with a wooden stick. Not a bat; it was a finer stick, a broomstick to be exact. We would also play a game called "pared quemada" or "quemado" (burnt wall or burnt), which consisted of throwing a cap to the floor. Each one of us would write our name on the floor, and if the cap landed on your name you had to grab a ball and try to hit one of your friends with it.
What did you enjoy doing besides baseball? Were you an outdoorsy type?
I would spend a lot of time with my friends. We would play in the area where I lived, we would ride bicycles or we would go to the amusement parks. I was never a nature lover. But in my free time, I would always spend time with my friends. We didn't play video games back then because it wasn't the trend, but we just had fun playing like kids.
Was there someone -- whether it was your dad or a coach -- who was most instrumental in your development as a young player?
Well, my dad was always with me. When I was sleeping in bed, my dad would wake me up and take me to a batting cage to hit, or he would just take ground balls with me, play catch with me. He really helped me a lot when I was little; he always had that motivation to help me. Not because he had the mentality that I was going to play professionally or anything, but just because he wanted to have fun with me. My mom would also go with us. My parents just helped me in everything to be who I am right now.
Did you mind putting in work to improve, or did you just want to play games and have fun?
When I was little, you know, I was just a kid who only played for fun. But little by little when I was growing up, my parents told me that they saw something special in me. They could see that I was not simply just going to play as a kid, but that I could do something bigger. But my goal was always to have fun and enjoy every moment with my teammates and continue to grow. Little by little, things started changing. Academies wanted me to be with them and help me become a professional. My parents and I made the decision to give myself an opportunity to see if I had something special. And that's how I was able to go to an academy, which helped me get signed.
At what point did the dream of becoming a Big Leaguer first enter your mind?
I was like every other kid watching baseball games on TV -- I wanted to be like one of those players in the Big Leagues. However, when I was little I didn't have the mentality of playing in the Big Leagues; I was playing just for fun. It was later when I had the opportunity to sign that I saw I had the chance to play professionally and continue working little by little to make my dream [of playing in the Big Leagues] come true.

Did you have a favorite Major Leaguer growing up?
The truth is that I watched Omar Vizquel when I started playing shortstop, and my dad would talk to me a lot about Vizquel. And for everything that he did, all the Gold Gloves, he is really an idol in Venezuela, and I always followed him.
When you look around the Majors today and see so many fellow Venezuelans doing well, does it inspire you to work even harder?
Yes, I believe so. I am proud to see this many Venezuelans in the Major Leagues doing such outstanding work. Since I began playing in the Minors, I got even more inspired to work hard and be like them. Also, I want to highly represent the name of my country. It always helped me and inspired me to continue working and give it my best.
In your first 15 games after being called up on April 22, the Yankees won 14. Is this the most fun you've ever had playing baseball?
Well, the truth is that everybody likes to win -- that's obvious. Now that the team gave me the opportunity to be here, and I see the tremendous job that everyone has done -- the bullpen, the starting pitchers, all of the hitters have been united, and in my case, well, being able to contribute a bit -- I believe that it has been the most fun, these 15 days that I have been here.
What do you miss the least about being a Minor Leaguer? The bus rides? The food? The hotels?
The trips, that's one of the main things. They were 12 to 14 hours, and here that is a little easier. That's one of the things I don't miss from the Minor Leagues.

During batting practice, you often hit in Group 2 with , and . What have you learned from being around those sluggers?
First of all, I am grateful for the opportunity that the team has given me to share with them. Obviously they are stars in the sport, and I try to learn a little bit from each one of them. Each one has their different things, their different routines. So talking to them, I ask them interesting things for me to also put in my game. That way we can help each other and help the team. And more than anything, I'm just gaining experience and trying to do things the right way.
You and shortstop Didi Gregorius have quickly formed a dynamic double-play combination. How would you describe Didi's impact on you as a ballplayer?
Since I met Didi, he always offered me that support, that trust. More than just a teammate, he always offered me his friendship. I have always been grateful to him for that, and I still am. And really, things that I needed in the infield that I am still learning, he has given me the support and has helped me very much. I really trust him a lot, on and off of the field. I really appreciate his help and friendship.
How has playing alongside , another young infielder looking to make his mark in the Big Leagues, benefited your development?
It has been fun and exciting to continue playing with "Migui." I have known him for about three or four years, and we have developed a great friendship. I feel really good with him; we really have a good friendship going on. I am very happy for both of us. We are here together and helping the team, which is the most amazing part.
How would you describe your comfort level so far in the Majors, and what has been the biggest challenge?
I believe that playing every day at this level helps a lot. I feel more comfortable every day; I learn every day about the game, about the sport. Being here and being able to help my team makes me really happy about being at this level. I believe that the hardest part is that all the pitchers at this level are the best in the world. The adjustments that they make -- every pitch, their mastery of every pitch -- for me, those are some of the hardest things in this sport.
What are your goals, not just for this season but beyond? What type of career do you hope to have?
My goal at the end of this year is to help the team win No. 28. That's what we are all working for right now; we want to win the World Series. I think it is too early to say what my goal is for the end of my career. What I want is to work hard every day, to help the team every time that I have the opportunity to be here, and later on I will be able to answer that question.