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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Sanchez an NYC show-stopper

Jeff Dahn        

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Fernelys Sanchez is a powerfully built top outfield prospect from New York City, but when he fully extends his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame he could almost be described as lanky.

If he were a left-handed pitcher instead of a line-drive smacking switch-hitter with sudden power to all fields, he would be the type of player those quirky radio announcers would call “a lanky left-hander.”

But Sanchez is a right-handed throwing senior at George Washington High School in New York. And when he stepped foot on the field at the main stadium at warm and sunny Terry Park Saturday morning to get ready to take batting practice at the 2012 Perfect Game World Showcase, all he wanted to do was get that “lanky” frame of his loosened up.

“I’m a little bit tight, but there’s nothing you can do about it. When you come from cold weather down here to this …” Sanchez said, his voice trailing off as he looked up into the cloudless sky and took in the bright southwest Florida sunshine.

The PG World Showcase is the seventh major showcase event Sanchez has attended since 2009, including a stop at the prestigious 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase at City of Palms Park last June. He has also played in 12 PG WWBA tournaments and one PG BCS Finals.

“I’m just trying to have some fun here this weekend,” he said. “Just come here and put some work in and not get lazy at home. Come and take some good at-bats during the games.”

After his performance at the PG National Showcase, a PG scouting report stated Sanchez has an “Outstanding long and lean athletic build, greyhound look, has strength potential. A 6.36 runner, effortless running stride and acceleration.”

Not very much “lanky” about that.

During his BP session Saturday morning, Sanchez hit two long home runs from the left-side of the plate, a feat that caught the eyes of several Perfect Game scouts in the infield and, undoubtedly, most of the dozens of MLB scouts who had gathered in the stadium’s grandstand.

Sanchez is PG’s No. 62 nationally ranked prospect in the class of 2012 – No. 2 overall in the state of New York – so the scouts are certainly familiar with him.

“I’ve been doing this for so long, this is normal now,” Sanchez said while glancing at the scouts gathering behind home plate before batting practice. “I want to just have fun with my teammates and stuff. We’ve got a pretty good squad here this weekend.”

That squad, PG Dark Green, certainly looks formidable on paper. It’s a group that includes 12 players who have signed with NCAA Division I schools and one – right-handed pitcher Derick Capetillo – who is a free agent prospect from Venezuela.

Sanchez loves being surrounded with all the talent present here, but he’s got his own matters to mind.

“It’s nice, but at the same time you’re trying to do your own stuff,” Sanchez said. “You’re trying to put in some work so a scout can see you (or) you’re school can see you (on video). And then you also can meet with old friends from the summer.”

One of those old friends is more like a constant companion. Catcher/first baseman and Perfect Game All-American Nelson Rodriguez is a classmate and teammate of Sanchez’s at George Washington High and the two have been friends and playing ball together since they were 11 years old.

They make up one formidable mutual admiration society.

“I know him pretty good and he’s a good player and he’s a workaholic. He works hard every day and he wants to get better every day,” Rodriguez said after chatting with Sanchez and other PG Dark Green teammates Saturday morning.

“I’m very close to Nelson,” Sanchez said. “We’ve known each other since we were 11 so we’re pretty close. He likes to work hard. He’s definitely got a good approach with the bat and we always work hard together.”

Rodriguez is the nation’s 49th-ranked top prospect and the only one ranked ahead of Sanchez in the state of New York. Both could go in one of the early rounds in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, but they also have a fall-back plan in order.

While Sanchez and Rodriguez are not among the 12 members of the PG Dark Green squad here this weekend that have committed to a D-I school, they have signed with national junior college power Central Arizona College in Pinal County, Ariz.

It was a decision they made together.

“We always talked about going to the same school since we were little,” Sanchez said. “(Central Arizona) went to the (NJCAA) world series last year and it’s a good school.”

Rodriguez just didn’t see any point in breaking up a pretty productive combo.

“It’s a joy playing with him because he’s one of my closest friends,” Rodriguez said. “We know each other very well and it’s good having a teammate and a best friend right next to you.

“We made the decision where we wanted to go, so we’re probably heading over there.”

Unless, of course, the draft gets in their way. Sanchez admits to thinking about the possibility of starting a professional baseball career, but doesn’t dwell on the idea.

“You can think about it. If it comes, it comes, if it don’t there’s nothing you can do about it, but I’m looking forward to it definitely. Whatever happens with the draft, I’ll get ready for that, if not, I’ll get ready for college.”

Sounds like a plan.

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