Alvarez following in some famous footsteps
At El Nuevo Caridad restaurant in Washington Heights, $12.95 can get you a special of ox tail, rice, pinto beans and lemonade, otherwise known as "the Pedro Alvarez." And though the dish is not quite as renowned as a "Manny Ramirez" (goat stew) or a "Pedro Martinez" (chicken stew with avocado) -- at least not yet -- it's special nonetheless to the baseball-loving owner who serves it."Pedro [Alvarez] is the heart of this community," says Miguel Montas, owner of Caridad. "If I've dedicated plates to people that I've met after they were in the big leagues, then why wouldn't I dedicate a plate to somebody I see as a son?" In just a few days, Montas and the entire Washington Heights community anticipate that their native son, Pedro Alvarez, a star third baseman for Vanderbilt University, will be the highest player ever drafted from the upper Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez have both called the Heights home -- though A-Rod spent most of his childhood in Miami -- but Alvarez has lived here since he was 1.
Pedro Alvarez Sr.'s eyes are round and filled with intensity. He speaks passionately and seriously about his first-born and only son, Pedrito. When Pedro Sr. and his wife, Luz, decided to quit college in the Dominican Republic and try to make it in the United States, they promised themselves that education would always be a priority for their children. When Pedro was 1, he and his mother moved to the United States and joined Pedro Sr., who was living with a cousin and working at a mattress store. Soon thereafter, sister Yolayna was born. Pedro Sr. quit his 9-to-5 job and became a taxi driver, allowing him the freedom of his own shifts and more time with his children. The family moved to a two-bedroom apartment near Inwood Park, home to Manhattan's oldest Little League. Alex Martinez, the president of Inwood Little League, says Pedro's power was already developing at a young age when he hit a homer, as an 11-year-old, estimated at 300 feet. "The greatest thing you see from Pedro," Martinez says, "is his discipline. He's one of our rising stars and we're so happy for him. He's one of the success stories." Pedro Sr. saw his son's determination when Pedro, just 18 months old, struggled to reach a light switch in their apartment. Instead of falling down or crawling away, little Pedro surveyed the room and spotted a stick within reach. He grabbed it and flipped the switch with it. When Pedro's focus turned to baseball, Pedro Sr. made it clear to his son that if he truly wanted to become a baseball player, he'd have to set goals for himself and make sacrifices. There was very little rollerblading, biking or playing in the street. Pedro Jr.'s life became baseball. By age 8, Pedro was playing with the 9-12-year-olds in Little League. A year later, his father was driving him an hour each way to Stamford, Conn., for after-school hitting lessons. He'd come back and do homework for three hours, and then start the routine again. Weekends were spent playing Little League games. "He matured at a young age," says Pedro Sr., whose interview was translated by Pedro's longtime friends Franly Burgos and Cesar Garrido. "He already knew what he wanted, and he tried to reach his goal." When Pedro was in seventh grade, he impressed the owner of the Giants -- a traveling summer league team in New York City -- in a tryout and made the team. The owner, Barbara Tischler, also happened to be the dean at Horace Mann, an expensive, ultra-private school in the Bronx known for its academics.
When Alvarez chose Boras as his agent, he heard it from all corners, some supportive, others not so much. He says that in the end, he was impressed with how well Boras knew all of the rules, and that Boras' track record of success is far better than his setbacks. "When I was choosing [whether] to go play baseball or come to college, I just had this gut instinct I needed to come to college," Alvarez says. "It's one of those instincts you can't point out what it is. When I choose Boras as my adviser, it just felt right and I went with my instinct again. Hopefully it won't backfire on me. I've had pretty good judgment on people in my life, so we'll see."