BOSTON -- Williams Jerez had his life changed by Hank Steinbrenner two years ago, when the Yankees' general partner provided him with a team to play on in the South Bronx after Jerez moved from the Dominican Republic.
But Tuesday, it was the Red Sox that took a turn at changing the course of Jerez's life, drafting the 19-year-old pitcher in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft, 81st overall.
"I came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with a dream," Jerez said in a statement. "Thanks to Mr. Hank Steinbrenner for making my dream come true. One year ago, nobody knew who I was. Mr. Steinbrenner provided me with a team and gave me an opportunity to show my skills. Me and my family want to thank the Steinbrenner family for showing an interest and for caring enough about the youths of New York to help provide the outlet for their dreams."
Jerez was part of Hank's Yanks, an inner city program fueled by Steinbrenner to give kids from all walks of life a chance to play baseball. This spring, Steinbrenner brought the team to Florida, where Jerez began raising eyebrows. There was speculation that the Yankees would draft him early on, but instead he went to the enemy.
"This isn't about baseball," Steinbrenner said about the Hank's Yanks program in a statement. "It's about giving a couple of kids from New York City a chance to fulfill their dreams."
The strong-armed outfielder was watching a Yankees workout when a scout asked him his favorite team. In the presence of general manager Brian Cashman and New York scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, Jerez replied, "The Red Sox. Pedro. Papi."
Jerez, originally a left-handed pitcher, went to a workout at Fenway Park last Saturday and put on quite a show with his bat.
"There's a lot there," scout Ray Fagnant told MLB.com's Peter Gammons.
Jerez's senior year at Grand Street was memorable. He hit .692 with five home runs, 32 RBIs and 26 stolen bases during the regular season, and helped the Wolves reach the PSAL Class A semifinals. With a 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, his raw athleticism could provide a lot of upside.
"He's a projectable young high school player, a guy that hopefully hits for more power," scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said, reached by phone Tuesday night. "He has a lot of ingredients to be a good hitter, and he's a good defensive outfielder."
Jerez is committed to junior college powerhouse San Jacinto College (Texas) next year, but he is expected to sign.
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.