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Turning heads

Scouts taking notice of Barstow's Sanchez

 

Summer is just 14 days old. School has been out just 17 days for Barstow High School students.

Aaron Sanchez has already racked up more baseball accolades — and frequent flyer miles — than many players ever see.

There have been stops in Minneapolis, Minn., Cary, N.C., Compton and San Diego — all for baseball purposes. He’s earned praise at the Perfect Game 2009 National Showcase and USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars. He was recently named to the AFLAC All-American team, one of just 40 high school players selected. 

“It’s fun,” Sanchez said. “I kind of got used to it because all the games we play we have to travel. It’s not really a big deal now. We’ve been doing it for a couple years.”

Summer and baseball are only just starting for the right-hander with a full travel-ball schedule and games in Chicago and Florida to attend before his season officially ends in October. But it was his performance during his junior season with Barstow High that earned him the 2009 Daily Press Baseball Player of the Year award.

Sanchez was a dominant force both at the plate and on the mound for Barstow. The pitcher/shortstop batted .542 with 34 RBIs and a staggering .972 slugging percentage. He struck out 74 batters in just 45 1-3 innings, posting a 3-3 record with a 3.29 ERA.

He hit 14 home runs, including a walk-off shot against Granite Hills on May 12 in Barstow that Sanchez calls his most memorable moment of the season. He came within one out of pitching a no-hitter against Apple Valley in March.

Sanchez has been on a steady climb for several years. He played in 130 baseball games as a 13-year-old and currently averages near 100 a year. He turned 17 on July 1 and already commands a fastball in the mid 90s, a 20 mph jump from just three years ago. 

“You could tell there was so much there,” said Mike Viera, who coaches Sanchez on the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal travel baseball team. “You could see it was going to come.”

The number of colleges currently chasing him is almost up to 20, but the call of Major League Baseball could change all of that. Sanchez has a shot to be a first-round pick during the 2010 draft. He is considered to be among the best high school pitchers in the country because of his smooth delivery and command of three pitches.

“Most people think he is in the top five consensus of the arms in the country,” said Jeff Simpson, a reporter for PGcrosschecker.com, which rates Sanchez as the country’s No. 12 high school player regardless of position.

Simpson scouted Sanchez at the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., but was aware of the name before, as Sanchez has generated some talk among scouts lately. 

It was at the Tournament of Stars that Sanchez struck out Sports Illustrated cover boy and Baseball America High School Player of the Year Bryce Harper. Harper, just a sophomore, batted .676 with a .723 on-base percentage for Las Vegas High School last season. Sanchez got him swinging to end the inning.

“Yeah, that was cool,” Sanchez said. “It was cool to know I struck (Harper) out; I can compete with the best high school kid in the nation. You go back to the dugout and all your teammates are telling you, ‘You struck out the best kid in the nation.’ ”

Even during surreal moments like that, Sanchez manages to keep the game in perspective. Viera said Sanchez considers himself just another player. Sanchez’s stepdad, Mike Shipley, said Sanchez isn’t completely comfortable talking about his recent success.

“I think he’s embarrassed a little bit to talk about it,” Shipley said. “He’s had some good outings lately.” 

While the travel can becoming tiring, meeting new players and earning new respect has been the best part of the journey, which is only just beginning, Sanchez said.

“A lot of compliments from other kids are exciting to hear because you don’t know how good you are really,” Sanchez said. “Obviously you are good enough to be at a showcase with all kinds of talent from around the world, but hearing it from people who say I’m a tough pitcher to face is a good feeling. You know you’re really meant to be here.”

Matthew Peters is the sports editor of the Desert Dispatch. He can be reached at mpeters@desertdispatch.com or at 256-4124.

 


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