I wrote about Yankees pitching prospect Humberto “Humbe” Sanchez not long ago (and you can read it right here!) when we were finishing up the “One More Thing …” series for our end-of-season organizational reviews, so I probably don’t have to go into too much detail right here about his career, his 2008 season and his great personality that comes shining through in his Arizona Fall League blog (which is also linked in that earlier GotMiLB item).
But I had the pleasure of getting to sit down again with Sanchez and conduct this more extended “Beyond the Boxscore” interview just as the AFL was winding down, and also got to see new pictures of his (and of course his lovely wife Jen’s) incredibly adorable son Aiden.
Sanchez is a thoughtful guy, a true gentleman, and a devoted family man, who was able to enjoy two amazing experiences within just a few months this summer as he witnessed Aiden’s birth in the spring and took the hill at Yankee Stadium, just a few blocks from where he grew up, in the fall.
I’m posting this Q&A today especially in honor of my “appearance” (do you call an online podcast an appearance? Or an appEARance?) this evening (Monday at 9:30 p.m.) on “A Show of Their Own”. Hosted by Bernadette Pasley and Brittany Morgan, it may sound at first like it’s just about women and their role in baseball but in fact the two hosts are diehard Yankee fans and this is an all-Yankees, all-the-time show … so Bern and Brit, here is my Yankee for you!!!
GotMiLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
Sanchez: I like to consider myself a pretty good karaoke singer and card player. I do “On the Road Again” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” And I like to play Montana and Casino.
GotMiLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I …
Sanchez: Love to cook.
GotMiLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Sanchez: Coming from the area I came from (he was raised between the Dominican Republic and the Bronx in New York) and being able to be successful and be an example to other kids.
GotMiLB: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Sanchez: Being at Yankee Stadium on the last day.
GotMiLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
Sanchez: I love real estate and architecture, so something in that area.
GotMiLB: What one item have you found you cannot live without on the road?
Sanchez: My phone and my Macbook because I video chat with my family every day.
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
Sanchez: Being away from my family, and the scheduling. You miss having summers off. But other than that, I thought the bus rides were fine. Nowadays with iPods and PSPs a 10-hour bus ride isn’t a big deal.
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors has surprised you the most, in comparison to what you might have imagined before you turned pro?
Sanchez: How quickly things can change. One moment you’re best friends with a guy and the next day he’s not there. Building relationships and friendships is tough in the Minors.
GotMiLB: What is the biggest misperception that people outside of baseball have about life in the minors?
Sanchez: Some guys ask ‘when are you going to go pro’? This isn’t a hobby. But they think for a 7 o’clock game, we just show up at 6:30 and play. They don’t see the work behind it.
GotMiLB: Who is the most unusual character you’ve met in your pro baseball career?
Sanchez: (Former players) Matt Parris, my teammate my first four years, one of the most different individuals to say the least, and a kid named Dayle Campbell are the two that jump out at me.
GotMiLB: Which coach/manager have you had that you think should be in the big leagues?
Sanchez: My first year I had Randy Ready (recently one of the finalists for the Seattle manager’s job) and he was great.
GotMiLB: What is the one question you hope you never hear again?
Sanchez: Anything that has to do with my past injuries is something I’d like to never have to answer again.
GotMiLB: If you were commissioner for a day, which one rule would you change?
Sanchez: I don’t like any of the modern stuff like Questex. It takes the human aspect out of the game.
GotMiLB: Where have you played in the Minors?
Sanchez: Oneonta, N.Y.; Grand Rapids, Mich. (probably the most fun summer of my life); Lakeland, Fla.; Erie, Pa.; Toledo, Ohio; Tampa, Fla.; Trenton, N.J. for about two weeks.
GotMiLB: On your current or most recent club (we’ll go with Tampa because he wasn’t at Trenton long enough to really get the feel of it), what was your favorite thing about playing there? And is there anything you would change?
Sanchez: It’s a big city so there are plenty of places to eat. It’s not like most minor league cities where all you have is a Pizza Hut and Applebees. And I love going to the beach.
GotMiLB: What was your favorite restaurant there?
Sanchez: The Rack. It’s like a pool hall/bar/sushi place. My favorite place by far.
GotMiLB: If family or friends were coming in to visit, where would you take them on a day off?
Sanchez: We go to the beach. I love the beach. My mom likes casinos so we go to one of the casinos on the boats.
GotMiLB: In your career, what has been your favorite road trip and why?
Sanchez: Louisville, Ky., and Harrisburg, Pa. Harrisburg I loved, just walking to the park there was a great sushi place on the way.
GotMiLB: What’s your favorite road restaurant?
Sanchez: I cannot name that sushi place in Harrisburg but I probably ate there twice a day when we were there. It’s right on the main road. (Hurray for Google … it’s called Miyako Sushi On Second Street).
GotMiLB: What is the best minor league promotion or visiting act you’ve seen?
Sanchez: Myron Noodleman is a cool dude, because I’d actually talk to him in the dugout whenever he came in. But my favorite was the Chicken.
GotMiLB: What has been your least favorite visiting act or promotion?
Sanchez: Zooperstars. I’ve never been a big fan of theirs.
I’m getting there, I’m getting there … by tonight I hope to be caught up on these “One More Things” addendums …
YANKEES: I remember the day I met Humberto Sanchez. I was sitting in the bleachers on a backfield in Kissimmee during spring training watching the A-ball Tigers and Astros play, and happened to be sitting next to him. We began chatting and found out that not only were we both from NYC but he had grown up down the block from where my mom grew up and his brother went to the same high school from where she had graduated. He was such a nice kid, I couldn’t help but keep a special eye on him over the ensuing years.
In that time, his remarkable stuff kept him very much on the radar but injury issues coupled with the difficulty of staying in peak condition at his size probably slowed his ascent. He is a very big boy, listed at 6-6 and anywhere between 230 and 270 though he definitely looked like he’d lost some weight and was in good shape when I saw him in Arizona last month.
In 2006, he was the starting pitcher for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game, a huge honor, and showed that stuff on a major stage. It was his best season ever, as he combined to go 10-6 with a 2.63 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 123 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo for the Tigers, but an elbow injury shelved him down the stretch.
That winter, “Humbe” was dealt to the Yankees, his hometown team, in the deal for Gary Sheffield but he also underwent Tommy John surgery which kept him from suiting up in pinstripes for nearly two years. Calcifications that formed required more surgery and he didn’t return to the mound until this past summer.
Once he did, it was a race to see if he’d make it up to New York in time to get to pitch at least once in the stadium down the street from his home … and in fact he made his big league debut at Yankee Stadium on September 18, another date that ties into my own family history as it was my daughter’s 18th birthday.
Still on the comeback trail, I felt it was too early to put Sanchez “on the ladder” in our Yankees review, but he is definitely one to keep an eye on in 2009. In the meantime, you can get to know his personality a little better by reading his awesome Arizona Fall League BLOG!
BLUE JAYS: At 23 years old, it’s too early to call Jays pitcher Reidier “Ray” Gonzalez a late bloomer. But with Toronto having had seven picks in the first 88 spots in the 2007 draft, that took up a lot of slots in our 2008 season review so a few “radar” guys like Gonzalez didn’t make the official cut …
A 19th-round pick in 2005 out of junior college in Florida, the Cuban-born Gonzalez is not a big guy like Sanchez … he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, generally more infielder numbers than ace pitcher numbers.
But Gonzalez was very much one of the aces of the Advanced A Dunedin staff that went to the Florida State League playoffs this year. Splitting his time between relief and the rotation, he combined to go 12-4 with a 3.14 ERA, walking just 30 in 137 2/3 innings while striking out 74. In August, he had a 1.55 ERA including his lone shutout Aug. 15. He finished fifth in the organization in ERA and tied for third in wins.
Gonzalez had posted a 3.53 ERA in 20 starts at Class A Lansing in 2007 after pitching for short-season Pulaski in 2005 and 2006. He had been dominating in his debut season with a 1.63 ERA in seven starts before a broken ankle ended his summer.
Next up … a double dip of Jasons with the White Sox … with the Rays and Phillies additions to come next week when those organization reviews go up on the main site!
So I’ll be back blogging tonight with more more more … before heading back to Arizona on Sunday …