Manny Banuelos was not shy this time. It took him 14 years to reach that mound, he stood there and took it inside. Jose Trevino met him in the middle of Yankee Stadium, and recognized what it meant for Lefty, in the stands with his wife and daughters, and everyone else who knew the story. Signed as a 16-year-old out of Mexico, one of the most likely in recent Yankee history, injuries got in the way of him getting to the moment years ago.
But on Friday night, he made it.
“Hey man, welcome home,” Trevino told him before jogging behind the plate. The Banuelos played two scoreless innings after Gerrit Cole flirted with a perfect game for 6.2 innings in the Yankees’ 13-0 win over the Tigers on Friday night. Those were the most innings in the stadium, but it was too big for Banuelos and most of the people who heard his story in baseball.
“To pitch with this uniform at Yankee Stadium, it’s amazing,” said an emotional Banuelos. “Trust me. I don’t know if this history belongs to anyone else, but I don’t think so. I think everyone knows about what happened 10 or 12 years ago, as I did before.” Having said that, it’s been a long journey and it’s amazing to make this goal.
Banuelos was one of the top prospects in baseball and was considered the cornerstone of a new Yankee era, along with Delrin Bettens and Andrew Brackman. He was “Killer Bee”. Instead, Banuelos was hurt and then traded in 2015. Instead of Yankee pinstripes, he started out as a Brave. He has made 23 major league appearances, 14 starts in the last decade, but being a Yankees fan he always had a goal to return here.
After a really strong winter in the Mexican League, Banuelos signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent. He was invited to spring training and pitched really well. He also spent time talking to the very open and honest, young pitcher about the story of his journey. He impressed manager Aaron Boone and the big league clubhouse with his still-joyful personality and earned their respect with his work and perseverance.
“It’s emotional up there,” Boone said of the clubhouse. “He’s just such a great friend. To see him get a feel for this, maybe hopefully later, but never give up and never lose sight of what he wants to do and where. It’s special to see, persevering through tough things.”
Banuelos dropped a hit and dismissed a batsman in two innings, but he also made a big impact.
“Stories like these go a long way, not just for boys, but for kids around the world. Like maybe you’re not where you’re supposed to be now, but later that doesn’t mean that You can’t come back home,” Trevino said. " So I think it’s huge for baseball in general.”