Clint Frazier is expected to be the starting left fielder for the Yankees come Opening Day, but in the early days of his playing career, Gary Sanchez would have wished it was himself instead.
In the latest R2C2 episode, Sanchez talked with Ryan Ruocco and former teammate CC Sabathia about his introduction to baseball, a game Sanchez began playing around 10 or 11 years old. By 13, he was hearing from others that he was good enough to be signed. Back then, Sanchez was hoping to sign on with a team as a left fielder, a vision that would look especially unusual now.
CC Sabathia agreed.
“If he’s playing left, put me in center.” Sabathia laughed.
But in his early playing days, Sanchez was serious about rooting himself in the outfield. Why? His favorite player growing up was former Yankee tormentor Manny Ramirez, also from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
“One of the reasons, I really liked Manny back then,” Sanchez said through his interpreter. “He was my favorite player. Whenever I went to the league, I told them ‘hey, I want to play left field.’ But I played mostly third base and first base really. But for whatever reason, I guess it has to do with the strength in my arm, they always wanted me to catch. I was always quick popping up and releasing to second base.”
Sanchez has dealt with criticism for his defense for much of his career, but he has always boasted an elite arm behind the plate, which certainly led to his future as a catcher after he was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2009.
“I guess it showed a spark somehow, that although I was playing these other bases, any time I went to a program or any time someone wanted to see me, they wanted to see me throwing and playing catcher,” Sanchez said. “Eventually I signed and started my career with the Yankees and have been catching ever since.”
The Yankees likely preferred Sanchez behind the plate and catching Sabathia while they were battery mates from 2015-2019, instead of the two patrolling the outfield.
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1