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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heavy schedule helped Sanchez develop

Jim Ecker        
Aaron Sanchez figures he played in approximately 130 baseball games as an eighth grader. It sounds like a lot for a 14-year-old kid, but that’s exactly what he wanted to do. Nobody forced him to play.

The games were spread out during the entire year, so it’s not like he crammed all those games into just a few months. So yes, he played about 130.

“Yeah, actually I did,” he said. “Eighth grade, I wanted to get serious with baseball. It’s something I enjoyed doing and it’s where my passion was. I played all the other sports, but it just seemed to lead me to baseball.”

Sanchez is a 6-foot-3, 170-pound right-handed pitcher, first baseman and third baseman from Barstow High School in Barstow, Calif. He hasn’t played 130 games in one year since he was an eighth grader, but figures he’s averaged 90 to 100 per year since then.

Sanchez believes in keeping busy. He’s traveled quite a bit this summer, with trips to Minnesota and California sprinkled around events in California, and this week he’s in San Diego for the Aflac All-American High School Classic at PETCO Park on Sunday. “A lot of traveling and a lot of baseball,” he said. “It’s been fun.”

Sanchez played for the ABD Bulldogs as an eighth grader and for part of the year as a ninth grader before switching to the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) Arsenal. In both cases, he was looking to play baseball against the strongest competition he could find.

Barstow is a town of approximately 21,000 people near the Mojave Desert in southern California, where it gets extremely hot. “If it’s not 105, it’s 99,” he said.

Sanchez figured he had to expand his horizons beyond Barstow.

“It’s like I was good there,” he said, “but I wanted to be good in southern California and around the nation. So I joined the ABD Bulldogs, and I started with them. My eighth grade year, that’s what I did. And it seemed to pay off for me.”

Sanchez hit .542 as a junior at Barstow High School this year with 14 homers, 34 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .972. He also struck out 74 batters in 45.1 innings with a 95 mph fastball, which is why scouts are having a hard time deciding where he’ll play at the next level.

“When I talk to colleges, a lot of them see me as a two-way player,” he said. “But when I talk to pro scouts, it’s mostly pitching, because when I go to these big showcases, that’s pretty much all I do. It depends on the eyes of the beholder.”

Sanchez opened a few eyes with a big strikeout at the Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., this summer. He fanned Bryce Harper, the prep phenom from Las Vegas who is skipping his final two years of high school so he can play at a junior college in 2010. Sanchez whiffed Harper on a fastball.

“I was extremely proud of myself,” he said. “I can compete with the best of the best. That’s something that came through my head.”

Sanchez is also an outstanding student, with a GPA in the 3.5 to 3.6 range. He said he’s making progress on picking a college, but has not made a final decision.
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