Pittsburgh Pirates Tony Sanchez Becomes Fan Favorite After Long Ride


So what is it about a baseball player that makes fans become more interested in one player than another?  What is it that makes them a fan favoite?  Humility, ability, personality, or something else?  Whatever it might be, we know one thing. Tony Sanchez has it.

The 25-year-old Sanchez worked his way into becoming the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft.  He’s been in the right place at the right time and unfortunately the wrong place at the wrong time, but through it all, the kid from Killian High School in Miami has finally made it.

Sanchez made his Major League debut against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, June 23.  Like the player, it was pretty unique. You probably heard about him gangsta hackin’ a double into the wall in Anaheim.  If not, here’s a GIF:

So after blasting a double in his first big league at-bat, what was his response later on his always entertaining twitter page?  Well, we think it has to be Exibit 26,000 in the case for fans to cheer a bit harder for him.

We aren’t really sure how or why fans start following one player a bit more than another player.  When looking at Sanchez specifically it seems like he’s a player who understands what life is about. We all remember when he was taken in the 2009 draft, but we thought a bit of a timeline–a look back at some of our posts as Sanchez climbed through the minors would allow everyone to ponder the career of the self described college dropout.

It was a surprise to us when Sanchez was snatched in the 2009 draft, but not to Sanchez’s Boston College Coach.  This is what we wrote back in June of 2009:

In Case You Didn’t Notice-Pirates Don’t Care What You Think; BC Baseball Coach Challenges ‘Draft Gurus’

“There are tens of thousands of draft gurus in Pittsburgh. I never knew. Boston College baseball coach Mik Aoki was interviewed on 104.7 tonight with Rocco. He said this on his former player, Mr. Tony Sanchez.”

"”The people in Pittsburgh better be careful when they say the Pirates overdrafted with Sanchez, if you are saying that, you are going to be eating your words in three or four years.”"

Balls. The Pirates front office has really big ones and because they are such big balls, they need a large place to hold their big balls. Currently, they hold them in large ball rooms known as draft war rooms. In these ball rooms, the Pirates wear fancy suits. And these suits could really care less what you think. They are going to dance with who they want to dance with. This isn’t a made to order arrangement. I LOVE IT.

Aoki, the BC coach, said Sanchez worked his ass off to work himself into the first round. The kid will be fine. Is he a reach at the fourth pick overall? Hell, I don’t know. I just enjoy watching the show. Time will tell.

The kid was bubbling with enthusiasm during his interview with PG’s Chuck Finder:

"“I just felt that they were attracted to my work ethic and how much I invest in my team, the fact that I’m going to work harder for my teammates than for myself,” said Sanchez, an admittedly former round kid who shed 25 pounds in the past year and a half through conditioning, working out and dieting — mostly subsisting on Subway turkey-and-tuna on wheat. “At BC, we were a losing program. Me and my teammates took a mentality that we wanted to turn that around. I hope to do the same thing getting into the system with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I want to help turn that franchise into a winning franchise.”"

Sanchez was hit with a pitch and had his jaw broken.  In 2011 as he arrived at spring training in Bradenton, he was still his witty self mentioning that the ability to eat is always a good thing. He spoke about being hungry in this video from February 2011.

But then he had a roller coaster of a season, causing the Pirates GM Neal Huntington to say this about him.

"“Tony got himself in trouble a little bit earlier this year because his home-run numbers were down. It’s bad when a young hitter tries to hit home runs. That’s a lesson we try to teach every one of the young hitters.  Be a good hitter first…….when you sit in the box and sit and rip, you become an out, you become a much easier out, you open up a lot of holes.”"

The jaw was broken again, this time in an off-the-field, wrong place, wrong time situation for Sanchez.  It didn’t sound real promising when the news came out.

After getting promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis, Sanchez showed extra-base power and the ability to hit the long ball.  But as so often happened in his career, struggles ensued.  But, heh, it happens.  Especially for Sanchez.

Everyone struggles, but professional baseball players rarely talk about them.  Not Tony Sanchez.  Not only does he say he couldn’t hit a beach ball with a tennis racket, but Sanchez finds a way to attempt to fix the problem.  And then tweets about it.  Yeh, the slumpbuster t-shirt tweet is still my favorite.

Whatever it is that has clicked for Sanchez this season, it was rather easy to see when we were at Bradenton for spring training.  We had always believed in his ability as we watched him over the years, but what he did when we wrote Tony Sanchez Put On A Show Today,  did it for us.  It was all on display.

The humility and honesty are there, and always will be.  The ability is what started to show.

It wasn’t an easy path for Tony Sanchez to get to the point where the Angels had a ladder on the field to retrieve the baseball from the fence, but we’d have to guess Sanchez doesn’t  wouldn’t want it any other way.

The guy that worked his ass off to soar up the draft boards when he was in Boston College, hasn’t stopped working since.  In talking to Tony Sanchez, you get the feeling that he’s out to accomplish something, and he isn’t going to sit still and wait for that something to come to him. He speaks all in a rush – unhesitatingly, as if he’s grabbing the words out of the air and throwing them out with the ease that he grabs a Bryan Morris fastball and fires it to second to snare an attempting base stealer.

Congratulations.  You earned it Tony Sanchez.  It’s ok that you’re excited about being in the big leagues,  all the hard work has paid off and we just have a hunch that you aren’t going to change.

We have another hunch, you’re going to be a fan favorite for a long, long time.


More Sanchez posts over the years:

Two years later, the crack RumBunter Executive Producer CocktailsforTwo got an interview with Sanchez. This is one of my favorite quotes.

January 2012:  Why We Have Faith In Tony Sanchez

September 2012:  Sanchez Joins RumBunter Podcast

May 2013:  Sanchez Back on the RumBunter Podcast