DUNEDIN -- As he prepared for his first foray into professional baseball, Cord Sandberg left one crucial element behind.
"I know that's going to come for me tomorrow," the Manatee alum said moments after making his pro debut Saturday with the Gulf Coast League Phillies.
Then again, how was Sandberg to know that his first game would go 13 innings instead of seven -- doubleheader games in the GCL go seven innings rather than nine -- and he would spend more than three hours marinating in the sun while standing in the expansive outfield of Dunedin's Bobby Mattick Training Center?
Sandberg, however, wasn't about to dish out many complaints, especially after he earned his first pro hit in six at-bats during the Phillies' 6-5 loss to the GCL Blue Jays.
"To be honest, I was more
excited than nervous," Sandberg said. "Just walking to and from the facility, I'm staying in a hotel room ... it's good stuff. You wake up bright and early, you go over there and work out.
"It's all baseball, all the time."
Sandberg batted leadoff and played left field, going 1-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts and catching both fly balls hit his way.
On the back of his red jersey was his name stitched in white lettering and running over the No. 24, the same number he wore during his days as a Hurricane football star.
"Our equipment guy, he usually Googles (the players)," Sandberg said. "He said he Googled me, and the first thing he saw was me in my football stuff wearing No. 24."
After striking out looking in his first at-bat, Sandberg collected his first hit as a pro: a line drive between third and short.
Sandberg didn't hit the ball out of the infield during his final four at-bats, which didn't seem to faze him. Getting himself acclimated to professional pitching is a big part of the process, Sandberg said.
"It's going to take a while. The speed of the game and the level of pitching is way more advanced than I've ever seen," he said. "A guy that you face every day here, I think we faced two or three guys in high school that were the caliber of these guys. Instead of two or three times a year, you're facing them every day."
Cheering Sandberg on Saturday was a contingent of about a dozen family members that included his father, Chuck, and older brother, Chase.
"I knew this day would come," Chase said. "But when we pulled up, I saw him running in from the outfield wearing a major-league uniform, and I was like, 'He's here.' It was sweet."
Chase was with his brother during the first day of the baseball draft, when Cord, considered among the country's top prospects, wasn't among the first 73 players picked. The Phillies eventually chose him the following day with 89th overall pick, and Sandberg signed with franchise, choosing pro ball over a football scholarship with Mississippi State.
"We played some basketball and just talked about things," Chase said of the draft's first day. "It ended up being a good day."
Saturday was a good day, too, even if Cord didn't taste the same sort of success he had grown accustomed to at Manatee.
"It's baseball, and especially your first time playing this level of pitching, it's a challenge," Cord said. "It's a challenge, so it's going to take same work every day, and hopefully, you find it and you get there."
Just before making his way toward the Phillies' team bus to eat lunch with his coaches and teammates, Sandberg signed baseballs for some Phillies fans down from Pennsylvania.
It was his first day of pro ball, and Sandberg, while a little tired from playing 13 innings in the field, couldn't stop grinning.
"This is it right here; this is the dream," he said. "I'm just trying to become a major-leaguer, and this is where it starts. Just trying to move on up."