Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino never experienced the age-old pastime of Little League baseball. For kids and teenagers in the Dominican Republic, the sport is far more demanding. And often burdensome.
The Yankees’ battery discussed some of the challenges they faced while pursuing a career in professional baseball on the “R2C2” podcast with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia Wednesday. Although Sanchez and Severino didn’t recount their journeys in great detail, they did shed light on why Latino players view baseball differently than Americans.
Here’s what Sanchez said, via his translator:
“In my time in DR, I was basically training to hopefully sign as a professional baseball player. So, I didn’t get to play in leagues or championships or things like that. The thing is, when you’re young like that and you tell yourself you want to become a baseball player, you struggle a little bit because you don’t have all the resources that we have here in the states. You know, there were only a couple bats. The baseballs weren’t good.
“So, it’s tough. It’s tough. It’s definitely a struggle. Earlier at my age when I finally decided that this is what I wanted to do, I had to really concentrate on that and I had to stop school at any early age, when I was around 15, 16, when I was getting ready to sign a professional contract…
“I started playing baseball when I was around 9, just having fun. In DR, baseball is the No. 1 sport. There are some other sports, but baseball is No. 1. That’s what everybody watches and plays. When I was 13, that’s when I realized that I have a chance to sign. I have some abilities, hopefully I work hard and can become a professional baseball player. So I told myself, come July 2, 2009, I’m going to sign a professional contract and I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”
Here’s what Severino said:
“For me, it was more showcases because where I grew up, it was far away. So the team didn’t want to go over there. So I moved to Punta Cana. And the scout wanted to go over there because they wanted to go to the resorts and that stuff. So I started doing tryouts with teams. I was throwing like 86-87 mph. I played some outfield a little bit. A little bit of third base, but I was afraid catching the ball, so I said [expletive] that. So I moved to pitcher. I was a good pitcher, but my best pitch was the slider, not the fastball. I worked a lot.
“In my hometown, there’s a lot of good places to build your body. Like, there’s a lot of sand, hills. So we used to do that twice a week, and then your legs got bigger and stuff. I feel like for me, it was more about trying to sign, not playing Little League and stuff like that…
“For us, we play for the money, for a better life, and to get here. That’s the mindset from the beginning… Maybe when I was 9, I was playing for fun. But after that, I thought, ‘Maybe I have a chance to be somebody.’ So I started training like crazy, trying to get better.”
Sanchez, 25, signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in July 2009, agreeing to a $3 million signing bonus. Severino, 24, signed with the Yankees as a 17-year-old international free agent in December 2011, agreeing to a $225,000 signing bonus.
The entire podcast can be accessed here.