Gleyber Torres faces fatherhood, increased responsibility

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Leaning over the hospital crib, Gleyber Torres gazed lovingly into the bright eyes of his first-born child, feeling the weight of new parenthood. He was hours away from digging into a batter’s box and staring down a big league pitcher, a task in which the Yankees infielder also senses increased responsibility.

Torres and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed their first child to the world this week, a son who they named Ethan. The proud papa laced his spikes and returned to work with two hits and an RBI in the Yankees’ 9-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday — a story he’ll probably tell a few times, sans the final score.

“Too many feelings; I feel like my life has changed,” Torres said. “It’s a lot of motivation to get better.”

Even as Torres and the Yankees agreed to a $6.25 million deal on Tuesday, avoiding arbitration, the infielder’s thoughts seemed to be elsewhere. Elizabeth gave birth Sunday following 24 hours of labor, and Torres stayed in the hospital overnight before returning home on Monday, trading places with his mother.

He stole a decent night’s sleep, whacked batting-practice fastballs into the gaps and signed autographs down the left-field line, but he discovered no automatic switch back into ballplayer mode. By the sixth inning, when Torres was tagged out at second base attempting to stretch an RBI single, he was relieved to race back to his locker for a digital check-in where it counts.

“It’s hard. During the game, I was worrying about the baby, if everything is all right,” said Torres, who swiftly learned that the eat-sleep-cry cycle was under control. “I don’t know; it’s my first child. I’m just really happy.”

It’s a season of renewal for Torres, whose hearty big league resumé prompts a double-take at a reference page advertising his age as 25. Surely, Torres has been around too long for that to be true — yet it is. He still has plenty more tomorrows in store, despite a down 2021 campaign in which he batted .259/.331/.366 with nine homers and 51 RBIs over 127 games, losing his shortstop position in September.

Like a Punxsutawney mayor rapping on a groundhog’s cage, the Yankees are eager to coax the 2019 version of Torres to emerge — the one who slugged 38 homers and single-handedly tortured Gary Thorne, the beleaguered Orioles broadcaster who wondered aloud his assigned team why continued to pitch to a modern-day Babe Ruth. Maybe the Yankees still can; maybe fatherhood unlocks that door.

“He’s a young man; hopefully we’re all maturing and growing, no matter where we are,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s a young man that’s been through a lot already at the big league level; a couple of All-Star Games, has had a ton of success, postseason success, has had his struggles and faced adversity.

“The key for putting it in the context of a ballplayer is, you’ve got to learn from those things and grow from that. If you want to be great in this game, you’ve got to handle that adversity along the way. Becoming a father, that’s a monumental time in your life. Hopefully that’s a great thing for him and Elizabeth.”

Torres recalled how his teammate Miguel Andújar used to talk about bad days at the plate during his first year of fatherhood, recalling that Andújar would refer to every hitless afternoon as some version of taking food out of his child’s mouth. It was a tongue-in-cheek quip, probably repeated a few times too many, but Torres now feels he can relate.

His on-field performance is inextricably tied to providing for a young family, especially Ethan who has a lifetime of wonder ahead, and so Torres says that he intends to be great at his job. As he put it, every player wants to hit 30 or 40 homers — of course, that would be wonderful. Right now, Torres sets his goal as being consistent, believing that the rest will fall into place.

“When I come to the ballpark, I’m trying to be focused, separate those moments and just pay attention for three hours in the game,” Torres said. “Just be aware.”

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