The Bradenton Marauders will be without Tony Sanchez for the foreseeable future, and that’s a shame.
Sanchez is a talent who, for the most part, has played up to his potential since the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the fourth overall pick of the of the 2009 draft.
But what you really hope is that Sanchez will still be Sanchez after he recovers from the surgery he underwent Thursday to fix his jaw, which was fractured Tuesday against the St. Lucie Mets when he was hit by a pitch.
There’s a good chance he will be.
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Aside from his skill behind and at the plate, Sanchez has such a remarkable perspective on the game that it’s hard to believe he turned 22 in May.
We’re not just talking knowledge, and whether you should call for a curveball down and in or for a fastball that runs outside.
What makes Sanchez successful is he knows how humbling baseball can be. He knows how easy it is to smile when you’re hitting well and winning ball games, but he knows it’s just as important to stay high even when things aren’t working out the way you want.
Now that resolve is about to be tested. Prior to Tuesday’s incident, Sanchez had plenty to smile about. He impressed his coaches and teammates during a short stint in spring training that included a home run in his first at-bat.
He overcame early-season shoulder soreness and a June 3 beaning to hit .314 with 35 RBIs in 59 games for high Single-A Marauders. And Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager, said Sanchez had a chance of landing in Double-A Altoona some time this summer.
Now all those plans are put on hold, and Sanchez, who caught all 25 innings in the longest game in the history of college baseball while at Boston College, will have to overcome the greatest challenge of his career thus far — a career he was, up until this point, loving.
“This is the best life you can ask for,” he said earlier this year.
What’s most important is Sanchez’s overall health, that he heals and can live a normal life away from the baseball field as well as have a productive career on it.
But there’s no denying his potential on a diamond is boundless, and he’s on the right path to do something special.
Sanchez’s season may be in doubt, but it’s doubtful he will let it dampen a potentially solid career.
“The hard part is still trying to have fun and keep a clear mind when you aren’t (producing),” he said earlier this year. “I’ll hit those valleys, and I’ll still try to be myself.”
He is in a valley now. How long he stays there is up to Sanchez.
Chances are, he won’t be down for long.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.