Sanchez wants to be remembered as one of the greats behind home plate
Tony Sanchez was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Pirates minor league system this year (No. 1 position player) and was drafted in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2009 draft out of Boston College.
Sanchez played in just 59 games with the Bradenton Mauraders (where he was batting .314) during the 2010 season before suffering a season ending surgery. Sanchez was hit in the face by a pitch and required to have his jaw wired shut.
After batting just .206 with four home runs and nine RBI in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League, Sanchez is ready for the new season and to give the Pirate faithful something to smile about again.
On who Sanchez has been learning the most from this spring training: “I wouldn’t say there is one guy I’ve learned a lot from, there’s a catching core. As a group, I’ve learned to pick things from their brains. With catching next to guys like [Chris] Snyder, [Ryan] Doumit, [Jason] Jaramillo who have big league experience and a lot of time up there. Anything you can learn from them is going to be beneficial towards my development. A lot of things they do I try and mimic, try and do thing the way they do it. Whether it be how they block or throw to the bases, even the way they carry themselves in the locker room. The opportunity to have [Manny] Sanguillen here is a wonderful opportunity as well. That guy caught, for who knows how many years in the big leagues, and he knows his stuff. Anytime he’s out there with us doing early work we’re listening and we are taking it all in.”
On if he feels added pressure from being ranked so high by Baseball America (46th overall): “The thing about pressure is the more you think about it, the more it’s going to weigh in on you. I learned how to deal with pressure after I got drafted. Of course a lot of expectations are going to be put on you but the way you deal with them carries out on the field. If you’re worried about what people think you’re going to do every game, you’re not going to succeed more than you fail. Not everyone is going to like me. I try not to worry too much about what other people think or what I’m being ranked, as far as Baseball America, or all the websites. The less I think about it, the better I play.”
On if his defense is something he prides himself on: “Oh yeah, definitely. Ever since I could remember I’ve always worked on my defense a lot more than my hitting. My defense is something that got me to Boston College and allowed me to succeed there and got me drafted. It’s something I pride very much. We put a lot of work into our defense. We put a lot of hours into it. It’s something that, when I’m done playing baseball, I want to be remembered by, as one of the greats behind the plate.”
I brought up the fact that Sanchez only threw out 15 percent of base stealers last season. He said it’s a number that “eats at me a lot” but something he has been working on a lot this spring: “When you go from catching in college and throwing everybody out to your first humbling experience of not throwing everybody out you’re kind of in shock. You kind of say, ‘Am I not as good as I was in College?’ The more you think about that, the more that it’s going to weight in on you. It was a learning experience. I learned not to do too much when guys are stealing. I can only control what I can control. And that’s putting the ball on the bag as quick as I can and not trying to be quicker than I can be.”
On if he trained differently this offseason because of injury: “When I had the broken jaw, I couldn’t really do much because I couldn’t really breathe or take in as much oxygen as I needed to. Obviously, loosing a lot of weight. I was weak and not as strong as I should have been. That’s what happens when you don’t eat anything solid for a month. I felt really good in Arizona as far as health wise. I really didn’t change anything in the offseason as far as strength training. I did the same thing as I did last year. I really watched what I ate.”
During the jaw surgery, Sanchez had to blend a lot of his foods. I asked him if there was a certain food he couldn’t fathom eating again: “Chef Boyardee. I will not be buying that from the grocery store anytime soon. I did have a soup the other night at dinner (French Onion soup) and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was the first one I’ve eaten since my month of only soups. I definitely won’t be eating chef Boyardee, probably for a long time.”
On what activities he likes to do in downtime during spring training: “I have family about 25 minutes away that live on the water and have a boat. Anytime I have time to get up there we always go fishing. My cousin is a big hunting and fisherman guy. He got me into hunting last offseason. Anytime I have a weekend, which is extremely rare. In the offseason I did a lot of hunting and fishing. During spring training, I do have golf clubs but I’m not very good yet. I want to practice and get better because that’s what the guys do here. Everyone goes golfing. It’s a lot of fun and a good relaxation period to get out there and take your mind off baseball and drive some golf balls.”
Goals for the 2011 season: “I just want to go out there and lead the team like I did in college. Control the pitching staff and have them have their trust in me and know that I’m back there working harder for them then I am for myself at the plate. I don’t really set goals as to where I want to be what month, or if I want to move up during the All-Star break. Of course I want to hit. I want to hit more than I don’t. I just want to work and make sure my body’s in shape to catch a full season because I really haven’t played a full season yet. I don’t know what it’s like to play from April to August and that’s something I need to learn and I need to experience before I can start thinking of where I want to be at what point.”
I asked Tony prior to the game if he knew the reason why Manager Clint Hurdle hadn’t used him to play in a grapefruit league game yet: “In the beginning meetings he said that I was one of the guys he’d use more for the atmosphere. It’s fine with me. I have a lot of fun here. I’m getting as much work in as I can and learning from the guys, getting as much swings and defensive work as anybody else. There’s eight of us [catchers] here. Those guys obviously have a better shot of making the team or contributing to the big league team than I do right now at this point. My feeling are is that it’s just not my time to get any time in the games. Maybe next year.”
During the sixth inning, Sanchez pinch hit for Matt Diaz and stayed in the remainder of the game to DH. He hit a double down the third baseline during his first at-bat. In the seventh, he struck out looking with the bases loaded. He later said on twitter: Struck out lookin with the bases drunk, in a 2 run ball game. Guess it too early in the season to recognize full count sliders #swingthebat
I’d really like to think I had something to do with that. Good luck? Doubtful. Weird timing though.
*Special thanks to Tony Sanchez for the interview.