Partially blind pitcher attempting to make it in the big leagues
For those out there facing adversity, take note of Juan Sandoval’s story; he was once a highly regarded prospect and despite a tragic accident in 2006, he is back in the MLB at the age of 32 and refuses to give up.
Sandoval was once a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Seattle Mariner’s farm system. His numbers were never spectacular, but he had a good arm and showed a great deal of potential at the major league level. Things changed one tragic night in 2006.
Sandoval was dining with his family in his hometown of Bonao when he heard gunshots go off after a scuffle between a drunken man and a security guard. He instinctively looked over his shoulder and was hit with three bullet fragments in his right eye.
The doctors were able to save Sandoval’s eye but not his vision, as he has been permanently blind in his right eye since the incident. Sandoval tried to make a comeback to the Mariners, but his lack of depth perception and difficulty with balancing kept him back. Sandoval has bounced around the minor leagues and then the international leagues since then, never showing quite enough promise for a major league club to call him up to the big leagues.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Sandoval is getting one more shot at resurrecting his lost career. Sandoval found a believer in Rays manager Joe Maddon, who has high praise for the pitcher.
“It’s incredible,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s got a really good arm. And I’m so impressed with his ability; you watch his balance, his delivery, his finish. And it looks like his command is really good. I’m certain the fact that he’s 32 and has been blinded in one eye probably kept him out of pro ball for a while. … (But) I haven’t seen anything that would suggest to me he would not be able to do this. It’s interesting to observe.”
Maddon has been known as a no-nonsense kind of guy, and though Sandoval is hardly guaranteed a spot on the Rays’ 40-man roster, he does have a shot at making it in Spring Training. Many in Sandoval’s position would give up; eyesight is such a crucial aspect of playing baseball that to have any sort of deficiency spells disaster to many careers (many Sox fans look back with pain on the tragic end to Tony Conigliaro’s career).
Sandoval has a very different perspective though.
“Being honest with you, if I could change something that happened in my life, I would not change anything,” Sandoval said. “Everything that has happened has made me the person that I am right now.”
We wish the best of luck to Juan Sandoval. He’ll face an uphill battle for sure, but he has not given up on his dream of becoming an elite pitcher in the major leagues and there is no doubt he will continue fighting has he has done over the years.