BRADENTON -- Cord Sandberg learned how to get himself a passport.
He also learned it costs some money to have it expedited.
"I kind of procrastinated," said Sandberg, a Manatee alum now working his way through the Philadelphia Phillies' system. "They said we had to get one but I thought I had a couple of years. Then the last week of the instructional league they told me, 'You're going to the Dominican.'"
Armed with the proper documents, Sandberg headed to the Phillies' baseball academy in the Dominican Republic for a three-week stay that ended Saturday, logging extra at-bats before reporting to Clearwater in February for the start of spring training.
"It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. It was different there," he said Monday afternoon. "From the airport to our facility, you're passing through stuff you see on National Geographic and stuff you see on TV. The capitol (Santo Domingo) is very nice, but where we were at was like a Third World country.
"I was a little nervous about the driving there. The roads were pretty chaotic, there was a lot going onbut it was neat to see."
A third-round pick of the Phillies last June, Sandberg was one of four Phillies minor-leaguers sent to the team's Dominican academy, which opened in 2002. They played a week of intrasquad games with Philadelphia's Dominican Summer League and spent the next two weeks playing games on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays against DSL affiliates of the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds.
"It was good. I felt really good at the plate," Sandberg said. "I'm not sure what I hit, average-wise, but I was squaring the ball up good, putting it hard in play. Also stole a couple of bases and played pretty good defense. But just to be given the opportunity to go down there and put the extra work in was good."
When not working on his game, Sandberg was getting acclimated to being out of the country for the first time. He and his teammates enjoyed waterfront lunches in Boca Chica, which is where Sandberg stayed, while learning
that the Dominicans' idea of dinner differs from what they were used to it in the States.
"Lunch is their big meal. The dinners there aren't like they are in the U.S.," Sandberg said. "Once we learned that, we went to a store and got some peanut butter and jelly."
Sandberg flew into Tampa late Saturday night and was home by early Sunday morning. He reports to Clearwater, the Phillies' spring training headquarters, in February. Until then, he has to enter his weight every week on a team website and plans to prepare himself for his first full season of pro baseball.
"I'm going to speak with my agent on what is the best thing that I can do," Sandberg said. "I don't see throwing or hitting until late December or early January, but I'll work out a little before then."
Sandberg, who turns 19 in January, hit .207 with 14 RBIs and two home runs last summer in 48 games with the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team.
"I definitely think I'll be more prepared," said Sandberg, who also starred as Manatee's quarterback for three seasons and chose the Phillies over a football scholarship from Mississippi State. "I'm kind of excited to start my first professional baseball season not coming off playing football. Baseball is the only thing I've done, so I'm excited to see how it will help me.
"I feel I'm giving myself the best possible chance I can with baseball."