Pinch-blogging: El Iman! The Magnet!
The Brandons seemed to have a lot of fun with their pinch-bloggers, so I asked Hector Sanchez to fill in today. I asked him a few questions about things I thought you might want to know. We taped the answers, and here they are.
Why did you become a catcher?
I was a third baseman, but my agent said I wasn’t fast enough or good enough at third to make it as a professional. He said maybe I should try catching because I had a good arm. I was 15 at the time. I worked on catching for about 6 or 7 months, and I was signed by the Giants as a catcher. They sent me to the team’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic with other young guys from Latin America.
My first year there, 2006, was embarrassing. I could barely catch the ball. My glove would fly off from the impact of the pitches. The manager there nicknamed me El Iman (pronounced ee-MON). The Magnet. Every ball hit me. I’d be one big bruise at the end of the day. I’d have bags of ice on every part of my body. My glove hand hurt all the time because we used the same cheap mitt all season, and the padding got flattened to a pancake. I’d tape my hands as best I could. To this day, I tape my thumb because it still hurts from being bent back so many thousands of times I was learning the position.
The guys who know me from the Dominican academy, like Adrianza and Jose Casilla, still call me El Iman. Now Gardy (bullpen coach Mark Gardner) does, too. He’ll yell, “Hey, Iman!’’
After that first season in the Dominican, I knew I had to get better fast. Back home in Venezuela, I just worked and worked with my coaches. I did drills with my hands to learn how to catch the ball softly. I learned block positions. I threw to the bases. I just forgot about hitting and worked only on catching.
The next year, in 2007, I was a different guy when I returned to the Dominican I knew a lot more about what I was doing. And in 2008, when I was 18, I was MVP of our Dominican league.
Was the 11-inning game in Colorado the other day the longest game you’ve ever caught?
No! The longest I ever caught was 18 innings for San Jose in 2011. The manager asked me in the 12th or 13th inning if I wanted to come out. I said, “No, I feel good!’’ I was having a good game — I had four hits — so I wasn’t coming out. I ran out to my position every inning to show I was good to play. Still, when Stockton’s shortstop bobbled Jarett Parker’s grounder and the winning run scored, I dropped to my knees and looked up at the sky and said, “Thank you!’’
You hit a solo home run and a grand slam in that 11-inning game against Colorado. Were you doing something different at the plate?
Before that, I had been trying to do too much. It’s something that happens especially when you don’t play very much. You put pressure on yourself. Bam-Bam reminded me to relax and to keep my front shoulder closed. That was the big difference. I kept the shoulder closed and I told myself to think just about the pitcher and myself. Forget about the other players. Forget about the fans. Just keep it simple.
It seems funny that the less you try to do, the better you do.
Hope everyone enjoyed hearing from him!