This is already the town that raised Manny Ramirez. It gave birth to Alex Rodriquez. And on Thursday, Alvarez, who attended Vanderbilt via Washington Heights, was going to hear his name called in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Among the former coaches, teammates, family, and neighbors that crammed the small living room, one friend pointed to his Pittsburgh Pirates cap -- the logo of the team with the No. 2 pick in the first round -- and said, "Just in case." As he looked down the sofa, Alvarez offered only a quick smirk before going back to anxiously twiddling his tournament ring, his mother Luz's arm already around his shoulder.
Predictions were coming in from across the room. Alvarez's Little League coach, who claimed he thought Alvarez would be a Major League player when he was 12 years old, said he saw it in a "sueno" -- a dream -- that Pedro would be taken No. 1 overall. His prep coach with the Bayside Yankees didn't know what team it would be, but he expected Alvarez to skip ahead to Double-A in a matter of weeks.
No matter the reason, every mention of Alvarez's last name on the television caught the ear of the crowd, which would abruptly cheer before the ESPN2 panel could finish the final syllable of "rez" in his name. When the first name of the Draft was read, starting with the "T" for high school shortstop Tim Beckham, it was the only moment to prompt silence the entire afternoon.
But they wouldn't have to wait long to sing aloud, as chants of "Pedro, Pedro, Pedro" could already be heard from the Draft audience in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., when the Pirates were on the clock. And as Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the Pirates would snag Alvarez at No. 2 overall, the entire herd of 20 or so visitors swarmed onto Alvarez, who was engulfed before the joy of the moment could really hit him.
Pirates' top five selections
|2.||3B||Pedro Alvarez||Vanderbilt U|
|48.||RHP||Tanner Scheppers||Fresno St U|
|79.||SS||Jordy Mercer||Oklahoma St U|
|114.||SS||Chase D'Arnaud||Pepperdine U|
|144.||LHP||Justin Wilson||Fresno St U|
|Complete Pirates Draft results >|
Pedro Jr.'s Little League coach took the pick as an affirmation of his visions, and still put up his index finger for "No. 1" as he bounced up and down with the rest of the crowd.
"It was definitely a privilege and an honor to be drafted by the Pirates," Alvarez said after the mob simmered, as he stood in his room, where all sorts of plaques, trophies and pictures of him in his USA Baseball attire were hung on the walls. "I'm still trying to take it in. ... It's unreal."
Matt Russo, Alvarez's high school coach, has watched this before, as he let Alvarez pace in front of his house while waiting for his name to be called in the 14th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. The then-high school senior decided to turn down Boston's seven-figure bonus money to attend Vanderbilt for a scholarship. But now, as a client of super agent Scott Boras, everyone agreed that Alvarez would be making millions more over time.
Alvarez's sister, Yolayna, watched as Alvarez took hug after hug, and then phone call after phone call from one or two more people who wanted to congratulate the next member of the Washington Heights Major League Baseball family.
"It might seem like my family and friends are more excited for me than I am, but that's not the case," Alvarez said. "I am in such an unreal moment right now."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.