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Bucs' Sanchez overcomes adversity



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sometimes when this old world seems to get you down, you must realize that somewhere out there someone has it a lot rougher than you. And the sooner this thought becomes a reality, the better off you're going to be.

Whenever I get down on myself, my thoughts turn to Freddy Sanchez, the utility infielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is a young man who overcame an awful lot of life's handicaps to latch onto one of the highest pinnacles in baseball, the batting championship of the National League, It was the 25th such title ever won by a Bucs player.

This is a rags to riches story of a young man who never gave up, battled adversity throughout his young life, and rose to the heights of success. His is a story that puts life in its proper perspective, one that young people all over the world should note. He just never gives up.

"Freddy's Ready" was the chant of the Pirate fans and when he stepped into the batter's box, the big question was "where is he going to hit this one?" Sanchez was a spray hitter and he delivered with the rapidity of a machine gun. He made contact and drove opposition crazy because they never knew where to play him. He was almost impossible to defense.

And Bucs manager Jim Tracy has to be credited with sticking with Freddy in his early going with the Pirates. "He's amazing," blurted out Tracy.

Obstacles

He knew that Sanchez, as a young boy, had a club foot and doctors believed he may never walk. Tracy knew also, that Freddy was not a starter at the beginning of the season, By early May, however, Sanchez had worked his way into the starting lineup and it was a star-studded climb the rest of the season.

You can imagine how valuable Sanchez would have been to another ball club outside of the Pirates, who floundered around last place most of the season. When Freddy broke into the lineup, his peers started to take notice of his ability and he won them over. His defensive capabilities at third and shortstop left little to be desired and he became the complete ball player.

Sanchez won his batting crown with a .344 average, the team's best mark since Roberto Clemente posted a .345 mark in 1969.

You can see that Freddy was in some rather elite company. Bill Madlock was the last Pirate to win the batting title back in 1983.

Sanchez's 2006 season didn't really end with the batting championship. He was most recently named the unanimous recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, a coveted prize presented by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It is an award that exemplifies the standards of excellence established by Clemente during his Pirate career from 1955-72.

What will the 2007 season bring for Sanchez? Will he repeat as NL batting champion? That's a mighty big order. Only time will tell.

But I'll tell you one thing -- he won't give up.




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