Cord Sandberg doesn’t exactly feel comfortable calling himself an All-Star. Yes, he played in the Florida State League All-Star Game last month in Fort Myers and even cranked a double in the North’s winning effort against the South.
But before the Threshers outfielder is willing to talk about any of that, he needs to point out that he was just an alternate for the game, filling in after an injury.
“I wouldn’t call myself an All-Star,” Sandberg said. “It’s kind of with an asterisk.”
The accolade, however, came during one of the toughest stretches of his young professional career. The former Manatee two-sport star earned a spot in the All-Star Game after batting nearly .300 during the opening month of the season for one of the best teams in the FSL. By the day of the All-Star Game on July 18, Sandberg’s batting average had plummeted to .237 while his slugging percentage slipped to .295.
Sandberg made his first regular-season appearance as a professional at McKechnie Field on Monday, going 0 for 4 during a 2-0 win against the Marauders in Bradenton, although the former Hurricane outfielder and quarterback does seem to be coming out of his slump at least a bit. The batting average is still hanging around .230, but since June 24 he’s collected 17 hits, four doubles and three home runs. Entering Monday’s game, Sandberg had put up a .423 slugging percentage in his previous 18 games.
“It’s kind of up and down,” Sandberg said. “You’ve just kind of got to do what you can to stay even keel.”
Before Clearwater, the Phillies’ Class A Advanced affiliate, began a four-game series at McKechnie on Sunday against the Pirates’ FSL team, Sandberg’s mother, Kelsie Sandberg, told Cord he’d need to get at least eight tickets for each game. Even while he sat on the bench Sunday, Sandberg said he could hear some old football coaches cheering for him.
On Monday, Kelsie and her husband, Chuck Sandberg, took a brief visit to the McKechnie Field press box before settling into their seats behind home plate to watch their son start in right field. They’d been able to make the trip up Bright House Field in Clearwater about half a dozen times and also went down Hammond Stadium to see Sandberg play in the All-Star Game. Chuck, a former Red Sox prospect who now coaches at Inspiration Academy, understands the up-and-down nature of the sport, although he knows Cord can lean on his athleticism and defense. Sandberg won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award last year for his play in left field with Class A Lakewood.
“He knows he has to be more consistent,” Sandberg said.
The 21-year-old is still more a developmental prospect for Philadelphia. A four-star quarterback prospect for the Canes, Sandberg originally committed to Mississippi State before the Phillies took him in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft. He was ranked as the draft’s No. 56 prospect by MLB.com partly because of the room he had to develop once he was able to commit fully to baseball.
Now in his third full year as a professional, Sandberg is still tinkering at the plate, trying to find the sort of consistency which can let him capitalize on his potential. The hot streaks are signs of promise and a roundabout All-Star honor is affirmation. The next step is making in a regularity.
“The goal is not to think in the box,” Sandberg said, “but when you’re working on something you still have to be conscious of what you’re doing or you’re going to be doing the thing that you’ve been doing.”