From Seton Hall, Manhattan College to the Yankees

On November 3, 2014, Elvys Quezada, former Manhattan Jaspers pitching coach, received a phone call from the New York Yankees. They wanted to hire him as the next pitching coach of their minor league rookie-ball team the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

“I was excited for the opportunity that the Yankees came calling and were interested in what I have to offer them,” Quezada said. “They were interested enough to interview me.”

This won’t be the first time Quezada will be in pinstripes though. When he was a senior for the Seton Hall Pirates in 2003, he was drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round.  The New York Mets also drafted him in the 15th in 2002. He decided to forgo professional baseball the first time with the Mets because becoming the first person in his immediate family to achieve a bachelor’s degree was much more important to him.

At Seton Hall, he was coached by Phil Cundari, current Pirates pitching and associate head coach, and Jim Duffy, current Manhattan Jaspers head coach.

Quezada and Duffy’s relationship started when Quezada walked onto the Pirates his freshman year. It was Quezada’s sophomore year when Duffy had just finished up his pro-ball career and came on as a volunteer assistant for the Pirates – he was there to coach the hitters and pitchers. He didn’t come back to the team Quezada’s junior year but did return in his senior year to work on and finish up his own education when the Pirates invited him back as a full-time coach.

When Quezada was with the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. for spring training, he remained in touch with Duffy because the Pirates participated in the Big East Baseball Conference Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. Every other season in his few years with New York, he was injured, available and nearby, so he basically became a fan of the Pirates by being around the team.

Quezada’s Minor League Injury History

2004 An undisclosed meniscus injury ended his season.
2006 Sidelined for a few weeks with a groin injury.
2007 Same as 2006.
2009 A labrum tear, underwent surgery in September.
2010 Out for the season because of 2009 injury.
2011 Hurt groin trying out for the Detroit Tigers during spring training tryout.

Once he hurt his groin again in 2011, he started to think about ending his playing career. At the time his son was a year-and-a-half, and an injury that usually takes two weeks to recover from took a month. Being sidelined was now dragging itself deep into the season. He needed to do something because at 30 years old, having a son and having reached only as high as Double-A in the minors with the Mets, supporting his family was becoming more important than his personal dreams and aspirations.

Quezada’s Pro-Ball Career

2003-2008 New York Yankees
2008-2009 New York Mets
2009 Independent Ball
2010 Rehabbing from labrum tear surgery.

A year later, Duffy was hired at Manhattan College, and a month in he realized he needed a pitching coach. To help him make a decision, he confided in the coaches at Manhattan and Phil Cundari, his former colleague at Seton Hall.

“Elvys Quezada is living down in Tampa and he has just finished up with pro-ball,” Cundari told Duffy. “I don’t think he’s going back. It’s his eighth or ninth year in professional baseball. He’s battling through some injuries and he may be somebody who’s available and might be interested.”

Duffy knew Quezada had never coached before, but he admired how Quezada stayed in school when he was first drafted by the Mets because players usually become easily enamored with the idea of playing in the pros. That type of character coupled with his eight years and 441.2 innings pitched in pro-ball sums up to invaluable knowledge.

“His knowledge of the actual skill set of pitching is extremely high,” Duffy said. “Elvys [Quezada] is a very bright human being. He’s very sophisticated when it comes to mechanics and fundamentals. The other thing is his discipline and work ethic is an example for the kids underneath him on his staff. And he believes in what he’s doing, so he doesn’t waver.”

“I hired Elvys purely on his character, work ethic,” he added.

“It was a blessing,” Quezada said. “At the time I was really excited for the opportunity and I definitely feel blessed with everything that has been popping up. The only thing I can do, and I live by this motto, is to be present and allow for stuff to develop. You can’t force too much. That’s the way it just happened. Thank God.”

Quezada’s other coach at Seton Hall, Cundari, said he was one of those players that you really appreciate and love coaching because of his dedication, hard-work, intense focus and competitive drive. He’s a student of the game who’s always looking to improve and never allows whatever past mistakes, setbacks, adversities he has dealt with hold him back.

“Elvys was professional before he signed a signed professional contract,” Cundari said.

He isn’t surprised that Quezada is leaving behind a culture of pitching that creates an excellence in the craft. Again, Cundari reiterated what he said: it’s a reflection of Quezada’s professionalism. He has a very good and relentless instinct. He trusts it to guide his pitchers in fundamentals in order to be competitive and successful regardless of the outcome and to respond to adversity and difficult situations. His style should make them much better for it.

“Elvys [Quezada] had a lot to do with my success,” Joey Rocchietti, former player under Quezada and current Jasper power arm, said on “The WerdyNerdyShow,” “because even velocity wise and mentally he helped me out a lot, changed me as a pitcher. I completely changed my philosophy and everything.”

“He has the game in his blood, in so many ways, like many of us teachers do and those good athletes do,” Cundari said. “But he’s also a progressive coach. He always thinking outside the box – he’s not limited to the information that’s out there.”