When Jose Carrera failed to hear his name called in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft last month, he wasn’t sure if he still had a future in baseball.
The long-time shortstop for Manhattan College had graduated in May, and without the draft, Carrera’s only hope of continuing in the game was for his phone to ring with an interested party on the other end.
That phone call came two weeks ago, and the party on the other end was none other than the New York Yankees.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” said Carrera, who batted .299 with 11 stolen bases in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this past season. “I was in Virginia working out, and I got a call saying the Yankees had some middle infielders who got injured or got moved up (to the higher minors), and they were interested in me. So they asked me if I was still in shape and if I wanted to work out with the Yankees in Tampa, and I said, ‘Oh yes! I’ll be there as fast as I can get there.’”
When Carrera arrived in Tampa, Florida, he was one of two players vying for the middle infielder opening, and shortly thereafter, his life took a drastic turn.
“After the workout, we had individual meetings, there were two of us working out,” said Carrera, a diminutive 5-foot-2 spark plug. “Then they called me into a room and I didn’t know what to expect.
“So I went in and they offered me a contract right there. I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting it. It was a pretty amazing feeling.”
Carrera first had to pass a physical, and signed his first professional contract the next day. Being a new infielder for the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie League was more than enough to erase the pain of not being drafted.
“One hundred percent,” Carrera said laughing. “Of course I wanted to get drafted. But for me, it was never about the money. It was just opening the doors for the opportunity to play at the next level. That’s been my dream since I was a little kid.”
Because of his small stature Carrera has spent his entire life proving doubters wrong. He did so during his high school days in Miami, and again with the Jaspers the past four seasons. It’s been that doubt that always has fueled Carrera.
“People who doubted me, that has always been what motivated me,” Carrera said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that God gave me the talent to play baseball, but not the height, and he gave others the height but not the talent to play baseball. So it pretty much evens out in the end.”
Because of his recent arrival in Tampa and a rainout or two, Carrera hasn’t seen much playing time yet. But he says his first week at his new job has been beyond a fantasy.
“We get to the ballpark at 6:30 a.m., and have breakfast, and then we workout and … play a game at (noon). I haven’t had a chance to play much yet, but I did get two at-bats the other day against Detroit.”
So what did it feel like to step into the batter’s box for the first time?
“To be honest, I thought I’d be nervous. But I felt like I belonged there,” Carrera said. “I didn’t get a hit, but I squared the ball up both times with a hard ground ball to the second baseman. But I felt good. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in the big leagues and I belong here.’”
Carrera said he will always remember how it felt to put on the Yankees pinstripes for the first time, and although he didn’t get to wear his former number with the Jaspers — 1— the number the Yankees handed him was more than acceptable.
“They actually gave me No. 2, Derek Jeter’s number,” Carrera said excitedly. “I took it from them right away. No doubt.”
With his new number and new job, Carrera is living the life he always hoped would one day come to fruition: Wake up and go to the ballpark to play another game. Not a bad life for this baseball lifer.
“I still feels like a dream,” Carrera said. “It still feels like what’s happening now is unreal. Like this is the stuff you can only dream of, but I’m actually living it. It’s just unbelievable.”