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Tournaments | Story | 6/26/2019

Sanders projects for success

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Will Sanders (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – The 2019 MLB Draft has come and gone. And as we get into the meat of the summer tournament circuit, elite members of the high school class of 2020 will now be put under heavy scrutiny by pro scouts. On Wednesday, the East Cobb Complex was buzzing as evaluators flocked to catch a glimpse at righthander Will Sanders.

It’s easy to see the draw in Sanders. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder already pumps fastballs in the low-90s, but what makes pro scouts drool is his nearly limitless projection. In his brief one-inning tuneup appearance, Sanders made quick work of the DRB Elite. Using tremendous downward plane on his pitches, he closed out the Astros 9-0 victory as they continued play in the WWBA 17u Round Robin.

With the WWBA 17u National Championship on deck, the South Carolina commit is eager to showcase the fruit of all his hard work. As with many players, it is all the weight lifting and sprints done in the dark that makes you shine in the light. Sanders is no exception.

“My mindset really changed when I was about 14,” he said. “I realized I had some talent and I knew I wanted to play in college. So I started working out before and after school. I completely changed my lifestyle to revolve around baseball and that has translated to the field.”

Ranked as the No. 2 player in the state of Georgia and 49th nationally, you might think that with all the success the 17 year old could get complacent. But Sanders is determined to be uncommon amongst uncommon people. He knows what he is up against and what it is going to take to keep rising in this game.

“The talent we will be playing against this summer is outstanding,” Sanders added. “So that is, I think, where my work ethic comes from. Someone out there is going to be better than me, but my mindset is that I’m going to outwork them.”

It’s important to note that it’s not all baseball for Sanders. He knows he’s still a kid that is enjoying the game while playing with his friends. And so he incorporates a lot of cross training into his daily routine to keep himself from burning out.

“I play golf a lot,” said Sanders. “It’s something I really enjoy, but it also helps with my pitching. It makes my body feel so much better. It keeps me loose and I feel like I’m not cramping as much. I make sure I drink a lot of water. In between starts I will get a couple flat grounds in and be ready to go by start day. Everything is connected.”

Sanders is not alone on his journey. He was quick to note that his family has pushed him to be the best he can be both in school and in baseball. A student at the rigorous Woodward Academy, Sanders certainly fits the bill as a true student athlete. He is especially close with his grandparents, who he says have been his biggest baseball influence.

“They’ve taught me how to play, and more importantly, how to play the right way,” Sanders said. “Their advice always sticks with me. I play for them and try to make them proud.”

The East Cobb Astros 17u Navy are an absolute juggernaut, and in the WWBA Round Robin they have eviscerated their competition by a combined score of 31-3. The East Cobb program has produced many major leaguers including Jason Heyward and Javier Baez. Sanders is grateful for the opportunity, and he is determined to be the next name added to the list of East Cobb alumni who have made it to the show.

“The coaches here have helped me grow up,” said Sanders. “They’ve molded me as a person and a player. I’m very fortunate to have had this opportunity. It’s given me everything.”

As appreciative as Sanders is to play for the Astros, the Astros are just as happy to have him. His on-field talent is obvious and undeniable. But he also provides tremendous value even when he is not pitching. His work ethic and positive attitude on the bench elevate those around him. Coaches always hope their best players are also their hardest working. The Astros have that in Sanders.

“He’s here every day getting his work in,” said Astros coach Sean Fream. “Whether that be long toss or a bullpen, Will is making sure he does everything he can to be prepared to pitch. That dedication has had a major impact on his success, and it rubs off on the rest of the team.”

So much is sure to happen for Sanders over this next year. He will likely have the choice to continue on to South Carolina or sign a professional contract. It’s an exciting time, but the enormity of what is at stake can be overwhelming at times. It doesn’t seem to faze Sanders. He is busy living in the here and now.

“It’s warm and I’m playing baseball,” Sanders said. “What could be better?”

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