Rancho Cucamonga Quakes pitcher Angel Sanchez
is one of many young Dominicans who've come to the United States with the dream of playing Major League Baseball.
Sanchez's path, however, is a departure from the typical Dominican experience.
Dominican prospects often drop out of school to focus on baseball, sometimes as early as elementary school age. They sign professional contracts as teenagers and have to learn to navigate life and the sport in a brand-new country with little perspective and experience to guide them.
Sanchez put school before baseball and attended the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the only public university in the Dominican Republic. There he studied accounting and put school ahead of baseball, even as he dreamed of playing in the big leagues.
"I had to go to school first because baseball is not forever," Sanchez said.
Sanchez worked to make it both as a student and as an athlete, balancing his schoolwork with his training and a job.
"In the morning I went to [class]," he said. "After that I went to work. After that I practiced baseball. After that, I came home to do my homework. It's hard to do."
Sanchez's commitment to school put him behind the curve. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 20, much later than the average age of a Dominican prospect. The right-hander hit the ground running in his first year of professional baseball in Class A Great Lakes a year ago, amassing 84 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA in 99 innings.
Lately Sanchez has been roughed up for the Quakes, with 25 runs allowed over his last four starts, but the improvements that began last season have stuck with him. Sanchez's velocity is a key weapon for him, something that Loons pitching coach Kremlin Martinez helped him develop.
"We're not going to be perfect, but everyday we learn more and more," Sanchez said of the constant learning experience he has with pitching.
Sanchez made it this far thanks to the tutelage of his uncle, former pitcher Geraldo Guzman. Guzman made it to the Majors with Arizona in 2000 and 2001 and trained with his nephew to prepare the lad for a career in baseball.
Sanchez counts Guzman among his heroes for the baseball knowledge and experience he passed on. Another important figure for Sanchez is Pedro Martinez, who influenced Sanchez through videos from Guzman's library. Guzman had lots of tape of Martinez from his days in the Majors.
"I learned from them -- my heroes -- how to pitch," Sanchez said.
The greatest lesson for Sanchez is how his education and baseball work together. His accounting background helped him handle his own finances after he signed with the Dodgers. He picked up English quickly thanks to his understanding of how to study and learn.
"School has always been the first thing in my life," he said.
Robles on fire: Bakersfield starting pitcher Tanner Robles came up from Class A Dayton on July 5 and has posted two straight scoreless outings for the Blaze. His latest start, a July 11 win over Stockton, was a five-inning, seven-strikeout gem. So far, Robles has faced the Ports twice and has scattered eight hits over 11 innings. The left-hander had 16 starts for the Dragons before his call-up and went 5-5 with a 4.45 ERA.
Cowart at the corner: Inland Empire third baseman Kaleb Cowart is batting .298 since being promoted from Cedar Rapids in June. He hit safely in six of his last seven games and had two doubles and six RBIs last week. He also belted a pair of home runs on July 11 against Rancho Cucamonga.
Many good returns: Lancaster outfielder Domingo Santana has seven RBIs, two home runs and two doubles in his last four games with five runs scored. The right fielder is hitting .308 on the year and sports a .408 mark in July. Santana came to the Houston organization in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia last summer.