SIR DIDI GREGORIUS: THE LIVELY VOICE OF THE NEW YANKEES

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A report by César Augusto Márquez for La Vida Baseball.

Brought to New York by the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter, Didi Gregorius has finally forged his own legacy at shortstop.

Born in Amsterdam and raised in Curaҫao, he boasts a broad smile, speaks four languages and is joyfully conversant in Twitter (146,000 followers) and Instagram (156,000) — sending out emoji-laden postings lauding his teammates after every victory.

Dubbed by the September issue of Yankees Magazine as “The Great Communicator,” not only is Gregorius a lively voice inside the clubhouse and on social media, he wields a loud bat.

In his third season in pinstripes, he broke Jeter’s team record for shortstops with 25 home runs, and then hit a timely three-run dinger against Ervin Santana to help beat Minnesota in the Yankees’ wild-card game before blasting two more home runs against Corey Kluber in Game 5 to vanquish highly favored Cleveland in the American League Divisional Series.

Granted, “The Captain” won five World Series — a standard that Gregorius and every current Bronx Bomber will be held to as they try to overcome a 2-1 deficit against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

‘ME SIENTO HISPANO’

But on a diverse and talented team that features many rising stars — including two from the Dominican Republic, righty Luis Severino and catcher Gary Sánchez — Gregorius, 27, is one of its most important figures, arguably the player best suited to bridge the different generations, languages and cultures present in the clubhouse.

Me siento hispano,” said Gregorius in a recent interview with La Vida Baseball. “I’m the type of person who is proud of all his roots, and Curaҫao is part of the Caribbean. We share a lot of traditions with the Hispanic culture, I have great friends from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and I feel like I’m part of that culture.”

Since el primero, Hensley Meulens, debuted with the Yankees in 1989, players from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaҫao — formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles — are frequently overlooked in discussions about Latinos and Latin Americans in baseball. While Andruw Jones, born in Willemstad, the capital of Curaҫao, won 10 Gold Gloves playing centerfield for the Atlanta Braves, he frequently was mistaken for being African-American.

But know that the distance from Cape San Román — Venezuela’s northernmost point — to Aruba is only 23 miles. And to Curaҫao, 68 miles. Players from the so-called ABC Islands, despite representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, are raised in a Caribbean potpourri, very similar to their Creole language of Papiamento, which contains elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French as well as of Arawakan (South American indigenous) and African languages.

“My habits are very Caribbean. My favorite food is Creole — a lot of rice and beans, chicken, fish and meat,” Gregorius said. “I listen to all kinds of music, and I think that’s why I feel like I’m a little bit of everything. It doesn’t matter — I can listen to hip-hop or bachata. When it comes to artists or songs, I don’t play favorites.”

Well, with one exception: Gregorius’ walkup song is Notorious B.I.G. by the deceased rapper of the same name. He likes it because it rhymes with his last name.

Along with Dutch, English and Papiamento, Gregorius speaks perfect Spanish. He grew up listening and watching the Venezuelan winter league on radio and TV.

“I didn’t have a favorite player or team. But I loved an announcer whose home run call went like this, ‘Atrás, atrás, atrás. ¡Enorme!’ [‘Back. Back. Back. Enormous!’] It was always fun to hear and is one of the things I most remember of my childhood,” said Gregorius, referring to the legendary Venezuelan play-by-play broadcaster Fernando Arreaza.

BASEBALL KNIGHT

Gregorius is part of baseball royalty back home for more reasons than one. His grandfather, father and older brother all pitched professionally. His mother played for the Dutch national softball team.

His full name is Mariekson Julius Gregorius. While his father and brother also go by “Didi,” only the younger Gregorius gets to use the Twitter handle “Sir Didi.” In the last ever edition of the Baseball World Cup in 2011, the Netherlands defeated Cuba, 2-1, to win the title, and Didi — along with Xander Bogaerts, who today plays shortstop for the Red Sox, and their teammates — was knighted into the Order of Orange-Nassau.

After an eight-game debut with Cincinnati in 2012 and two seasons in Arizona, Gregorius arrived in New York with the reputation of being a gifted infielder and free swinger with little power. While general manager Brian Cashman thought Gregorius was a late bloomer willing to improve his game, others in the organization thought he was just a transitional player while the Yankees searched for the next Jeter.

The Yankees taught the left-handed hitting Gregorius, powerfully built at 6-foot-3, to use his legs and drive the ball. It took a year for the lessons to sink in, but now the Bronx Bombers know that they have a keeper.

In 2016, Gregorius hit .276 with 20 dingers and 70 RBI. This year, besides improving Jeter’s team record for shortstops by one home run, he averaged .278 with 87 RBI, good enough for a 3.7 WAR.

Not only did Gregorius become the first Yankees shortstop to hit 20-or-more home runs in consecutive seasons, he was promoted to cleanup batter during the stretch drive to the playoffs. Pretty good for someone who replaced one of the most popular players in franchise history.

If Jeter is taciturn by nature in public, Gregorius is openly gregarious. During Players Weekend, he hand-painted his spikes himself with the Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian. According to Forbes.com, he’s also become quite a pitchman, inking deals this season with a half-dozen new sponsors, including Delta, Banana Republic and Planters.

Another of his passions is photography, especially landscapes, beaches and clouds. Gregorius has taken pictures for Yankees Magazine, going by the artistic name Mariekson.

“I like to travel and discover new places,” Gregorius said. “I like to take pictures of things that inspire me.”

Gregorius, who once dreamed of being a doctor before he decided to focus on baseball, is clearly a child of the 21st century. Baseball’s global village now connects the dots from Amsterdam to Curaҫao to the Bronx. If the Yankees once feared that they would never find an heir to Jeter, they have firmly placed their trust in the “Great Communicator.”

No matter the language — or social media platform — Sir Didi has got game.

César Augusto Márquez

Brought to New York by the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter, Didi Gregorius has finally forged his own legacy at shortstop.

Born in Amsterdam and raised in Curaҫao, he boasts a broad smile, speaks four languages and is joyfully conversant in Twitter (146,000 followers) and Instagram (156,000) — sending out emoji-laden postings lauding his teammates after every victory.

Dubbed by the September issue of Yankees Magazine as “The Great Communicator,” not only is Gregorius a lively voice inside the clubhouse and on social media, he wields a loud bat.

In his third season in pinstripes, he broke Jeter’s team record for shortstops with 25 home runs, and then hit a timely three-run dinger against Ervin Santana to help beat Minnesota in the Yankees’ wild-card game before blasting two more home runs against Corey Kluber in Game 5 to vanquish highly favored Cleveland in the American League Divisional Series.

Granted, “The Captain” won five World Series — a standard that Gregorius and every current Bronx Bomber will be held to as they try to overcome a 2-1 deficit against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

‘ME SIENTO HISPANO’

But on a diverse and talented team that features many rising stars — including two from the Dominican Republic, righty Luis Severino and catcher Gary Sánchez — Gregorius, 27, is one of its most important figures, arguably the player best suited to bridge the different generations, languages and cultures present in the clubhouse.

Me siento hispano,” said Gregorius in a recent interview with La Vida Baseball. “I’m the type of person who is proud of all his roots, and Curaҫao is part of the Caribbean. We share a lot of traditions with the Hispanic culture, I have great friends from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and I feel like I’m part of that culture.”

Since el primero, Hensley Meulens, debuted with the Yankees in 1989, players from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaҫao — formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles — are frequently overlooked in discussions about Latinos and Latin Americans in baseball. While Andruw Jones, born in Willemstad, the capital of Curaҫao, won 10 Gold Gloves playing centerfield for the Atlanta Braves, he frequently was mistaken for being African-American.

But know that the distance from Cape San Román — Venezuela’s northernmost point — to Aruba is only 23 miles. And to Curaҫao, 68 miles. Players from the so-called ABC Islands, despite representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, are raised in a Caribbean potpourri, very similar to their Creole language of Papiamento, which contains elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French as well as of Arawakan (South American indigenous) and African languages.

“My habits are very Caribbean. My favorite food is Creole — a lot of rice and beans, chicken, fish and meat,” Gregorius said. “I listen to all kinds of music, and I think that’s why I feel like I’m a little bit of everything. It doesn’t matter — I can listen to hip-hop or bachata. When it comes to artists or songs, I don’t play favorites.”

Well, with one exception: Gregorius’ walkup song is Notorious B.I.G. by the deceased rapper of the same name. He likes it because it rhymes with his last name.

Along with Dutch, English and Papiamento, Gregorius speaks perfect Spanish. He grew up listening and watching the Venezuelan winter league on radio and TV.

“I didn’t have a favorite player or team. But I loved an announcer whose home run call went like this, ‘Atrás, atrás, atrás. ¡Enorme!’ [‘Back. Back. Back. Enormous!’] It was always fun to hear and is one of the things I most remember of my childhood,” said Gregorius, referring to the legendary Venezuelan play-by-play broadcaster Fernando Arreaza.

BASEBALL KNIGHT

Gregorius is part of baseball royalty back home for more reasons than one. His grandfather, father and older brother all pitched professionally. His mother played for the Dutch national softball team.

His full name is Mariekson Julius Gregorius. While his father and brother also go by “Didi,” only the younger Gregorius gets to use the Twitter handle “Sir Didi.” In the last ever edition of the Baseball World Cup in 2011, the Netherlands defeated Cuba, 2-1, to win the title, and Didi — along with Xander Bogaerts, who today plays shortstop for the Red Sox, and their teammates — was knighted into the Order of Orange-Nassau.

After an eight-game debut with Cincinnati in 2012 and two seasons in Arizona, Gregorius arrived in New York with the reputation of being a gifted infielder and free swinger with little power. While general manager Brian Cashman thought Gregorius was a late bloomer willing to improve his game, others in the organization thought he was just a transitional player while the Yankees searched for the next Jeter.

The Yankees taught the left-handed hitting Gregorius, powerfully built at 6-foot-3, to use his legs and drive the ball. It took a year for the lessons to sink in, but now the Bronx Bombers know that they have a keeper.

In 2016, Gregorius hit .276 with 20 dingers and 70 RBI. This year, besides improving Jeter’s team record for shortstops by one home run, he averaged .278 with 87 RBI, good enough for a 3.7 WAR.

Not only did Gregorius become the first Yankees shortstop to hit 20-or-more home runs in consecutive seasons, he was promoted to cleanup batter during the stretch drive to the playoffs. Pretty good for someone who replaced one of the most popular players in franchise history.

If Jeter is taciturn by nature in public, Gregorius is openly gregarious. During Players Weekend, he hand-painted his spikes himself with the Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian. According to Forbes.com, he’s also become quite a pitchman, inking deals this season with a half-dozen new sponsors, including Delta, Banana Republic and Planters.

Another of his passions is photography, especially landscapes, beaches and clouds. Gregorius has taken pictures for Yankees Magazine, going by the artistic name Mariekson.

“I like to travel and discover new places,” Gregorius said. “I like to take pictures of things that inspire me.”

Gregorius, who once dreamed of being a doctor before he decided to focus on baseball, is clearly a child of the 21st century. Baseball’s global village now connects the dots from Amsterdam to Curaҫao to the Bronx. If the Yankees once feared that they would never find an heir to Jeter, they have firmly placed their trust in the “Great Communicator.”

No matter the language — or social media platform — Sir Didi has got game.

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