With a full-house auditorium, and a room filled with a combination of athletes, students and the Manhattan College community, Gary Sanchez, the all-star catcher for the New York Yankees, walked into the Great Room of the Kelly Commons in the middle of loud cheering.
This was a big event, not only because a star of the most renowned baseball team in the world was giving a talk, but for historical reasons: it was the first lecture of this series held in Spanish.
“One of the main requirements that Gary had to speak at MC, was to keep the lecture strictly in Spanish,” said Isabel Quiñones, vice president of Fuerza Latina. “He mentioned a few times in his interview that he can speak English but he feels most comfortable in his own language.”
On behalf of the college, Sharon Ortega, coordinator of Student Engagement, was the person in charge of moderating the interview, and started by asking him about his trajectory to finally be a Major-League baseball player.
Seated next to his translator, Sanchez started by sharing that, when he was 16 years old, he left school and exited the Dominican Republic towards Tampa Bay to start playing in the minor leagues of its current team, the New York Yankees.
“In Dominican Republic there are no major leagues, nor in Puerto Rico, so I had to leave without knowing the language, to learn a different culture… the first years are always rough, but after that, when you get used to it, is much easier,” said Sanchez in a private interview with The Quadrangle.
He also described how difficult it is to play in the Minor Leagues because all the comfort and prestige associated with this sport is achieved only when players are playing in a professional league.
“Sometimes we would travel 12 or 14 hours in a bus… Now, in a plane, the flights are only four to five hours. Is much more comfortable and the players are able to focus on what really matters,” he said.
But not everything is easy in the Major Leagues. When the season ends, Sanchez takes a rest for three weeks to allow his body to rest after the tedious season, and he is then focused on going to the gym to avoid gaining weight, he keeps a balanced diet, and moreover, practice for the moment when he has to return to the diamond and step on the home base.
During this free time, Sanchez also dedicates time to his wife and daughter, either on vacations around the world or visiting Dominican Republic. Being a foreigner in the United States is not easy, and the thing that he misses the most is his family that stayed in his native country.
The lecture was a complete success, but nothing would have been possible without Student Engagement and clubs like Fuerza Latina, who sponsored the event and were in charge of the organization and safety of the athlete.
“I knew that, as a club, we needed to be involved in some way with this event,” said Anna Rosario, president of Fuerza Latina. “Personally, I think the event was a huge success! I think this opens up the door to the possibility of maybe having other lectures given in different languages.”
The life of this baseball player has not been a never-ending uphill battle, and during the time he was in Trenton on a double-A team, he realized he needed to rise up and perform better if he wanted to give a good life quality to his daughter, who was born while he was on the minor league team.
But every stumble has been worth for Sanchez. Now, he is playing in the same league as his idol, Manny Ramirez. His vision is to stay in the New York Yankees at least 10 to 15 years more and retire in the team he loves. With new changes in the administration of the team, he only sees how his team is being reinforced to achieve the so-wanted World Series and win it.
During his lecture, he expressed that whoever wants to be where he is, has to expect very good and very hard situations, but always keeps his head up.
“When you feel down, how they say in Dominican Republic, keep pushing forward,” Sanchez said. “We are humans, we make a lot of mistakes. What we have to do is to learn from those mistakes, and after we learn from them, we need to make sure we don’t make them again.”
The formal training for pitchers and catchers starts in approximately two weeks to be ready for the pre-season that starts at the end of the month, and for the regular season that starts at the end of March.