Andrew Florides was watching the coverage of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on his computer on Saturday, June 8. The Toronto Blue Jays were about to make the 805th selection in the 27th round of the draft.
But before the selection was announced, a lasting image popped back in Florides’ mind.
While playing shortstop as a junior for Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, on March 29, 2012 at Iona Prep, New Rochelle, N.Y., Florides called loudly for a routine pop-up in shallow left field. However, the Knights’ third baseman also called for the same ball, and the two collided hard.
Florides suffered a complete break of his left humerus, putting his baseball future in jeopardy.
“I was in the first base dugout about 200 feet away, and I could hear it (humerus) snap and heard him (Florides) immediately scream,” said Holy Cross head varsity baseball coach Steve Adams. “I knew it wasn’t good.”
Fast forward back to the Blue Jays’ selection. The MLB Network anchor announced that the Jays’ had selected the 18-year-old Florides, and instantly both he and his family began screaming for joy.
Through tireless dedication, Florides – who played Catholic Youth Organization baseball at Queen of Peace parish, Flushing – overcame his injury and returned to the field healthy. But it certainly wasn’t easy.
“There were many times during my injury where I thought I wouldn’t be able to return because I literally couldn’t pick up a piece of paper with my left arm for a while,” Florides said.
For three months after the injury, Holy Cross sent teachers to Florides’ house in Flushing for homeschooling since the family did not want to risk further injury. Rather than opt for surgery, he began an extensive rehab process by using resistance bands and getting shoulder and forearm massages three times per week. It wasn’t his throwing arm, but in order to play the game at a high level, he still needed full range of motion in his left arm.
“I stayed motivated by watching videos on YouTube of other people who had broken their humerus and came back stronger than ever,” he said.
Finally, his doctor cleared him to resume baseball activities in September of his senior year. Though he was still regaining his form, he was asked to play for the Midville Dodgers for the annual Bayside Yankees’ Columbus Day Showcase at Juniper Valley Park, Middle Village.
In his first actual game since the injury, Florides looked like his old self and had an impressive game at shortstop and at the plate. A scout from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), Old Westbury, L.I., happened to be in the stands watching the game.
Florides was offered a half-athletic and half-academic scholarship to attend NYIT. In addition to his baseball talent, he also graduated Holy Cross with a near 100 average and as a member of the National Honor Society.
But also in the stands on that fateful day was Michael Pesce, a scout for the Blue Jays. Pesce was fascinated by Florides’ build as a six-foot, three-inch shortstop with a very projectable future.
Pesce convinced the organization to take a flier on Florides in the 27th round of the draft. After working out the contract details with Pesce and his father George, Florides signed his deal to play professional baseball.
“As much as I wanted to play for New York Tech, I only have one shot, one chance,” he said.
Since he had earned a full college scholarship, the Blue Jays offered to pay for his schooling no matter where his baseball career takes him.
“Education is important, but because the Blue Jays will pay for college, I told him (Florides) that this is a great opportunity, to give it a shot,” said Dina Florides, Andrew’s mother.
Just two days after he was drafted, Florides was on a plane for the first time in his life down to Clearwater, Fla., for the Blue Jays’ general training camp with the other first-year players in the organization. His days start at 5:30 a.m., yet he’s grown accustomed to that after his family moved to Glen Cove, L.I., his senior year. He woke up each day at 5 a.m. to catch the bus to Holy Cross.
Florides is a disciplined young man who has always listened to the advice of his coaches. He seems like a quiet kid, but on the baseball diamond, he takes charge as a leader at shortstop.
“Some kids are not coachable, and some kids are coachable,” said Doug Manfredonia, Florides’ varsity baseball coach when he was a sophomore. “Some kids are off the charts coachable, and I would say Andrew is off the charts coachable.”
Manfredonia spent two seasons in Single-A ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the late 1980s, so he was sure to remind Florides that his life was going to change and that he should be a sponge when listening to the Blue Jays’ instructors.
Florides will suit up this summer for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays, Toronto’s Rookie Ball affiliate. He was a New York Yankees’ fan growing up who modeled himself after Derek Jeter, but he’s now playing for one of the Yankees’ main divisional rivals.
“Whatever team I’m playing for, that’s my favorite team,” he said with a smile.
He has the God-given abilities as a strong defensive shortstop, and while he will work to hone those skills, he said he wants to take an aggressive approach as a hitter. He said that since many of the pitchers he will face will throw upwards of 90 mph, he might only get one good pitch to hit per at-bat, so he needs to be ready for it.
In a recent conversation, Coach Adams told Florides to just stay focused on the ultimate goal and keep working as hard as he always has.
“He’s just an all-around great kid, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” Adams said.
Florides is extremely grateful to his parents for all they have given him throughout his life. “My mom is always there for me with advice, and my dad has been through baseball with me my whole life,” he said.
George Florides said that it was tough to see his son leave, but he is so proud of Andrew for earning the opportunity to pursue his baseball dreams.
“As a father, you bring him (Andrew) up, and this is the cream of the crop,” George said. “This is what all fathers dream about for their kids.”
As he begins his career, Florides said he wants to continue to get bigger, stronger and faster. That will come through practice and a strong work ethic, but Florides already possesses one of the key components of becoming a successful baseball player: staying humble.
Especially in a game that often involves failure, being humble is essential. Andrew has realized at a young age that his baseball talent is a gift from God, and he said he’s blessed just to have this opportunity.