Too small to play ball? Yankees' Ronald Torreyes says Jose Altuve 'opened doors for me'

Ronald Torreyes, 5-foot-8, credits fellow Venezuelan Jose Altuve -- at 5-5, MLB's shortest active player -- for inspiring him to make it to the majors. Getty Images

As a child, Ronald Torreyes always heard that he was too small to be a professional athlete.

But there finally came a time when the Spanish nickname "enano" -- person of small stature -- did not bother him at all, when it was used by his fellow Venezuelan players in the Houston Astros organization.

"Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve, everyone always supported me," Torreyes said in a Spanish-language interview. "We always called each other 'enanos.' ... 'Hey enano, come on, get at it! You can do it! You have to work, work harder, and you will get your chance with a team. If it's not with us, your opportunity will still come.'"

That's what he held on to, particularly coming from Altuve, the shortest active MLB player at 5-foot-5. Altuve inspired Torreyes to keep persevering.

"Altuve opened doors for me, not only by his size, but by his outstanding skills; he's a phenomenon." said Torreyes, a 5-8, 150-pound New York Yankees infielder.

"I know he has single-handedly opened doors for us players of smaller stature, and I know that later I'm going to open doors for another player. The key is to work. If you continue working hard, you will get your chance."

First signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent in 2010, Torreyes went through many ups and downs this offseason. He was placed on waivers by three teams -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Yankees -- before ending up back with the Yankees in February.

Torreyes, 23, certainly proved his critics wrong when he made the Yankees' Opening Day roster. He played his first game as a starting shortstop Wednesday night, in order to put a right-handed bat in the lineup and give a rest day to Didi Gregorius.

"I put in a lot of work in spring training and also in the offseason," Torreyes said. "I prepared myself mentally and physically to give my very best. I worked a lot in the infield, training at third, shortstop and second base. That was the biggest factor that helped me earn a spot in the 25-man roster.

"It was not easy for me to get here today. I had to work hard; harder than anyone. I had a lot of encouragement from family not to give up, because, trust me, there always comes a time when you do not get an opportunity due to your size. But my dad, and all my family, was always there supporting me. As I continue to say, hard work is the key to success."

Not only did he make the team, Torreyes had the hottest start at the plate by any Yankees player. He had six hits in his first seven plate appearances, including a double Wednesday to lead off the fifth inning, after which he eventually came around to score New York's first run in a 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Torreyes is the 23rd player born in Venezuela to don the pinstripes -- replicating what was achieved by his countryman Yangervis Solarte in 2014, earning a spot for his versatility over players who were considered favorites, including Yankees prospect Rob Refsnyder and veteran Pete Kozma.

"You have to work hard to show your talent and prove size does not matter," Torreyes said. "[I am proof] that it is not about your physical attributes, it is about work and perseverance."