Getting an opportunity to play in Major League Baseball doesn’t come without sacrifice and hard work. Everyone that gets there goes a different route in realizing their dreams.
If Sanchez is to go on and become the most valuable player of the World Series, it would top an already incredible career that has included three All-Star appearances and a National League batting crown.
Born with a pigeon-toed left foot and a club right foot, Sanchez’s parents were faced with the fear that he might never walk. But surgery at a young age helped correct the problem.
Sanchez grew up across the street from the baseball field at Burbank High School, about 20 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles. Having covered many of Burbank’s games during Freddy’s four years there, the Bulldogs were definitely on tough times, even though they made a brief playoff appearance during Sanchez's junior year.
In his four years, there were three varsity baseball coaches, the last of which passed away just a short time after Sanchez graduated from high school.
Success was not something Burbank was used to. It hadn’t produced a big leaguer since Ralph Botting, who briefly appeared for the California Angels in 1979 and 1980.
The talent around Sanchez was clearly the worst in the five and later six-team Foothill League, which included schools from the Santa Clarita Valley, a baseball hotbed.
But Sanchez, who played shortstop, managed to earn the Foothill League’s Most Valuable Player award his senior year. The honor was remarkable because Burbank did not finish amongst the league’s top three teams, and thus missed the playoffs.
It was even more remarkable because of the division of the six teams in the league. Four of the six were based in Santa Clarita, with Burbank and its crosstown rival, Burroughs, being the others. Some within the two programs in Burbank felt they were at a clear disadvantage when it came to voting amongst coaches in the all-league meeting since it was perceived that the schools in the two cities stuck together in the voting.
Sanchez was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 30th round out of high school, but did not sign and decided to go to nearby Glendale Community College. This way he was able to stay close to his parents and his high school sweetheart Alissa, who was a grade behind him. They would later marry.
After two years at Glendale, Sanchez transferred. But he didn’t make the jump a Division I program. Instead he ended up at Dallas Baptist University, an NAIA school for his junior year. He stayed just one year and spent his senior year at Oklahoma City University, where he was named an NAIA All-Star in 2000.
From there Sanchez was drafted in the 11th round by the Boston Red Sox, an organization that generally spends money on high-priced free agents and is generally not prospect friendly.
Sure enough, Sanchez was eventually shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates, a club that was very similar to his high school team.
But it was in Pittsburgh where Sanchez thrived, winning the 2006 batting title and earning three All-Star appearances.
However in 2009 the club had continued to struggle and with doubts over whether Sanchez wanted to sign a long-term contract, it decided to rebuild again by trading him to the Giants.
More than a year later, Sanchez became the first player in Major League history to collect doubles in his first three World Series at-bats.
Miracles are no longer linked with Freddy Sanchez, so it would not be a surprise to see him win his sport’s ultimate prize.
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