Velasquez wants to emulate dad's mindset

Velasquez wants to emulate dad's mindset

PHILADELPHIA -- Gathered around the dinner table, family decisions are nothing new to the Velasquez household. It's the way all major choices get made.

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez grew up living with a former Marine, a UPS driver, an Energizer Bunny, a best friend and his biggest supporter. And those were just the roles his father played.

The attendance at such meetings -- ignoring the many caps that Vince's father Leonard Velasquez Sr. wears -- tallies five: Vince, his two brothers, his mother and father.

New car? Family decision. Vince's professional baseball contract? Family decision.

But before buying a car and before the MLB contract, a sidelined 18-year-old freak athlete sat at the very same dinner table in Pomona, Calif., contemplating giving up baseball for good.

Facing arm surgery at an age when most kids are preoccupied with getting their learner's permit, Velasquez was frustrated. He just wanted to be outside playing ball, shagging fly balls and climbing walls, but he couldn't.

Leonard Velasquez passed down some of his Energizer Bunny voltage to Vince.

"I get it from my dad," Vince admitted.

In an instant, Vince could no longer partake in the fun. Leonard had always stressed that Vince be thankful for what he had in front of him, because at any moment it could be taken away.

Vince was living out the very trope his father warned him about. His injury, one that required Tommy John surgery, sent him down a pathway leading away from competitive baseball.

"Being an 18-year-old dealing with a situation like that, it's very hard to do it on your own, especially when you're an athletic freak that you just want to be out there playing. ... I was always involved," Vince said.

When Vince needed a sit-down family decision the most, with his career at a crossroads, his family was there to ensure he wouldn't have to make the choice alone.

"It was one of those decisions, we sat down, we talked about [quitting] and said this isn't the right way to approach it," Velasquez remembers of the seven-year-old conversation that could have guaranteed he would not be sitting where he was Thursday, answering questions with a big league logo emblazoned on his pullover.

"My dad told me, 'You have options in life and you can choose what you want to do,'" Vince said. "It's just a matter of how you approach them. It was a big family decision, but it wasn't hard to gather them up and help me out and get me over that hump."

Vince, who has struggled in his second full season at the Major League level, still has more to glean from his father to better himself as a person and as a ballplayer.

"What I need to learn and establish is to have the mindset that he has, and I think moving on forward it could easily get better learning from him. ... He's a very optimistic type of person, and that's where I need to learn to pick his brain and apply it to my everyday life," Vince said.

Today, Leonard will be honored at Citizens Bank Park. Vince said it was typical of his father to be so involved.

"I'm very fortunate to have him as my father, as my friend," Vince said. "The relationship that we have is something that is unbreakable and is something we've established all throughout my whole life, and it just gets better as the days increase."

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.