Gaby Sanchez right at home with Marlins

JUPITER -- As a child growing up in Miami, Gaby Sanchez didn’t have time to attend Opening Day Marlins games.

With his seemingly relentless, year-round schedule of basketball, soccer, baseball, football – not to mention school and homework – there just weren’t enough hours in most weekdays.

But on the weekends, whenever there was a smidge of free time, Sanchez found a way to squeeze the Marlins into his schedule.
On Friday, he will attend the Marlins’ opening-game ceremonies at home.

He’ll be playing first base.

“You’ve got all the nerves and all the blood coursing through your body,” Sanchez said, describing his opening-day experience from 2010 when Florida kicked off its season visiting the New York Mets. “That first game you’re always going to have those butterflies going through.”

For Sanchez, the butterflies are understandable. He’ll be kicking off his second full season in the majors, and he’ll be doing it for the team he grew up watching.

Sanchez played catcher at the University of Miami, and before he was playing for the Hurricanes in Coral Gables, he was winning a state championship three miles down the road at Brito Miami Private School.

The Marlins came to town when he was 10 and still playing four different sports. When Sanchez’s father made him choose between the four at age 13, the choice was a simple one.

“Every single time I would play baseball, and then all of a sudden I would be in basketball season or football, I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait until baseball season starts,’ ” Sanchez said.

He stuck with baseball and enjoyed the 1997 and 2003 World Series championship teams from afar.

Now he’s up close and personal with Marlins history, and he hopes to create some of his own history like the Bobby Bonillas and Mike Lowells of the past.

Last year, Sanchez didn’t let the pressure of playing in his home city faze him. He hit nearly 80 points better and had an on-base percentage 105 points higher at Sun Life Stadium than on the road.

And if there’s one thing batting coach John Mallee prizes in Sanchez, it’s his consistency.

Only three times during 2010 did Sanchez have three consecutive games without a hit.

“He has a plan and an approach in the box that he takes in every day,” Mallee said. “Even last year, the consistency of his approach has been great.”

Mallee also noted that Sanchez has picked up this spring right where he left off last year.

With five games left to go in spring training, Sanchez has been right at the top of the team in several categories.

Among Marlins with more than 30 at-bats, Sanchez’s on-base percentage topped the team, and his slugging percentage was second only to Greg Dobbs. His .360 batting average also placed him fourth on the team.

Sanchez says he has numbers that he wants to reach, but he’s not willing to disclose those personal goals.

On a broader team level, though, he pictures a scenario where the Marlins close out their time in Sun Life Stadium with a dogpile after Game 7 of the World Series.

“That’s the best situation possible, to end with a bang, go into the new stadium being the champs from last year,” he said. “We know that’s on everybody’s mind, and I feel like we have the team that can easily do it. We have everything, basically.”

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus