All American Game : : Story
Thursday, July 31, 2014

Opportunity knocks for Sandoval

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

In the last game on the second to last day of the 2014 Perfect Game National Showcase, a young, athletic lefthander took the mound late in the evening, the second to last pitcher to throw in the game, and rewarded the scouts that braved through the rain and lightning delays that day.

That pitcher was Patrick Sandoval, who came out firing strikes with an easy, repeatable delivery and a polished three-pitch mix.

Sandoval was expected to take the mound earlier in the showcase, and fully intended on attending the event as one of the more than 300 top prospects from around the country in the high school class of 2015.

It was awesome,” Sandoval said of his experience at the National. “Before I told [PG National Showcase Director Kirk Gardner] I would be there and I would be a sure thing; I told them that a couple of weeks in advance.

The week before my math teacher tells our class that we have to take our finals a week early because there were a bunch of seniors in my class. So we had to take our final the whole week the National was going on," Sandoval continued. "So I texted [Kirk] and told him it didn't look like I could make it. He texted me back and told me [Perfect Game] really wanted me to come out asking if I could come out later in the week. So I finished my final a day early, got on a plane and got there and pitched at midnight.”

Although the series of events leading up to the showcase didn't go as planned, Sandoval, too, was rewarded for his performance and determination to attend, flying across the country to Fort Myers, Fla. at the last minute, as we has selected as one of the 54 players to participate in this year's Perfect Game All-American Classic.

I'm totally honored to be selected to the team knowing that it's the top 50 players in America,” he said of the honor. “I'm really excited to play in San Diego, close to home, where all of my family can come to watch.

I really wanted to be in this. It was one of my top goals for the summer.”

Last summer he was named one of the top prospects at the 2013 PG Underclass All-American Games, an annual showcase held in conjunction with the Classic to give players in upcoming graduating classes an opportunity to compete with and against some of the best players in the nation.

That event serves as somewhat of a preview to the Classic itself, with notable All-Americans such as Bryce Harper, Lucas Giolito, Kris Bryant and Alex Jackson having attended the event a year prior to appearing in the nationally televised game.

Sandoval has a knack for making a big impression in limited opportunities pitching at Perfect Game events. In addition to being named one of the top prospects from the PG Underclass All-American Games, he also was named to the All-Tournament Team at the WWBA World Championship in October.

He traveled to Jupiter, Fla. with the Marlins Scout Team, and was given a tough assignment, taking the mound against another promising 2015 pitcher from Southern California, Solomon Bates, and the powerful Midland Redskins.

I make that a big goal when I go out and play the [big events],” Sandoval said of performing at a high level at national events. “Especially the Jupiter tournament, I heard a bunch of things about the talent there, and when I was told I was going to pitch against the Midland Redskins, and I was told how good they were, and how good [opposing pitch Solomon] Bates was, and I really just wanted to go out there and beat that team. I really wanted to win that game.”

Sandoval did indeed propel his team to a victory that day, working four scoreless innings, striking out three batters and allowing only two base hits. The Marlins Scout Team won the game 2-1 and that victory allowed them to claim their pool to advance to the playoffs.

In Jupiter, as he did in San Diego two months prior, Sandoval sat in the upper-80s with his fastball, peaking at 90 mph, while showing the ability to throw both a hard-breaking curveball and a changeup for strikes.

Fast-forward to this past June and Sandoval's stuff had ramped up a notch. His fastball now sat closer to 90 mph more frequently, peaking at 91, but it was the velocity of his curveball that drew the most attention.

Previously thrown in the mid- to upper-70s, his curveball is now a true power hammer in the low-80s.

I wouldn't say I tweaked it,” Sandoval said of the progression of his breaking ball. “I guess I let loose when I throw it now. Instead of getting a feel for it to get it over the plate I just let it go now. I have confidence in it now.”

What makes his secondary offerings especially effective is the fact that he works hard to maintain the same arm speed on his curveball and changeup as he does on his fastball. Given how easily the ball comes out of his hand, it's easy to envision a similar spike to his fastball in the coming months.

I've worked on that pitch with my pitching coach (Brian Keller) more than my other ones,” he said of the development of his changeup. “I'm working on getting my arm out there and letting it go again. My arm speed was way slower before we started working on it and I wasn't really reaching out.

I've been working out, getting bigger and stronger, lifting more and I run a lot now. Getting in the bullpen and working on my mechanics as much as I can. That's one of the main things I work on, working on arm speeds and keeping hitters off balance so I'm not tipping any batters off.”

Sandoval continues to play football for Mission Viejo High School, located southeast of Los Angeles and about 75 miles north of Petco Park. Since he hasn't fully committed to baseball as many of his All-Americans teammates have, he doesn't play travel ball as extensively during the summer months, but he does workout, train and plays with the BPA organization.

And while Sandoval cherishes the fact that he'll be close to home when he takes the mound at Petco Park for this year's PG All-American Classic, staying close to home wasn't a priority when he opted to commit to play for Vanderbilt in college.

In addition to Vanderbilt's reputation for success, having won this past year's College World Series, and state-of-the-art facilities, Sandoval recognizes that the school has also sent fellow lefthanders such as David Price, Mike Minor and Jeremy Sowers, as well as PG All-American righthander Sonny Gray, to the big leagues in recent years.

I was willing to go wherever I could to get better and get an education,” Sandoval said. “I really had only been talking to California schools until Arizona started talking to me. In June, whenever they could start sending emails to juniors, [Vanderbilt] sent me an email, so I looked into it, and saw they have a really good school and a really good baseball program.

I called up the pitching coach (Scott Brown) and he set up me up with a visit there. I visited and I loved every little part of that school, all the coaches were super nice. I just felt really welcome and I felt like I was at home there.”

For all of his baseball, and overall athletic talents, and excitement to play at a big-league ballpark as part of a live, nationally televised game on MLB Network, Sandoval is quick to recognize the philanthropic aspect of the event; to raise money and awareness to fight pediatric cancer.

I'm really looking forward to getting out to the hospital and visiting all of the kids,” Sandoval said looking ahead to his visit to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. “Just seeing what they're like, giving them some words of encouragement if I can and just spending time with them. I'm really excited for that.”

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