WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The son of a Washington Heights livery cab driver is now a Major League All-Star.
Although he didn't win the home run contest, he made his family and Washington Heights very proud.
“Since he was a boy, I knew he was going to play in the big leagues,” Miguel Montas, whose known Alvarez since he was 4 years old, said in Spanish. “It was his destiny.”
Montas owns a restaurant, El Nuevo Caridad, in Washington Heights. His sons grew up playing baseball with Alvarez and he has been a family friend for decades. When Alvarez was drafted, Montas named a sandwich after the young slugger.
Alvarez, 26, was born in Santo Domingo but moved to Washington Heights when he was 1 year old. His namesake dad worked long hours driving a livery cab to support his family, but always made time for his son.
The proud dad taught his son how to play baseball. The father-son duo would bring a paint bucket full of baseballs and wait until an adult softball league made up of mostly Dominican players was done using the diamond to practice, Miguel Guance, 52, a family friend, said.
Growing up, Alvarez did three things: went to school, played baseball and did his homework. He was never out partying or hanging out in the street, Guance said.
Alvarez played little league baseball in Inwood. He went on to play for Horace Mann High School, where he still holds school records in batting average, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and on base percentage, according to his player bio.
After high school, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox, where his childhood hero and fellow Washington Heights native, Manny Ramirez, played.
But he declined the $700,000 offer and decided to play baseball at Vanderbilt University — all because Pedro Sr. wanted him to focus on the bigger picture.
“His father placed a big importance on education,” Montas said.
After three years at Vanderbilt, Alvarez was again drafted, this time in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And even though he was eliminated in the first round of the derby, Alvarez will play in the All-Star Game Tuesday night.
“He and his family are an example to every kid in Washington Heights,” Montas said. "He hasn't forgotten his roots."
One of the first things he did as a big leaguer was buy his parents a house in New Jersey. Pedro Sr. still visits his old stomping grounds every day and Alvarez, like his father, hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
The big league player still calls his mother, Luz, almost every day, even when he is on the road, friends said. When he is in town, he stops by to visits his old friends.
Before the Home Run Derby, Pedro Sr. stopped by El Nuevo Caridad. He talked with Montas about how proud he is of his son and his daughter, Yolanda, who also works for Major League Baseball.
“They would all go to Pedro’s games together, the whole family,” Montas said. “They were happy to be together and see him play. Nothing has changed.”