Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, graduate Justin Sanchez is about to learn something very important about our country:
“Everything is bigger in Texas!”
Sanchez hopes that playing professional baseball is also bigger in Texas, since the lefty pitcher was recently selected by the Texas Rangers in the July MLB Draft. The three-year Crusaders varsity baseball star was the 529th overall pick in the 18th round of the draft.
The 18-year-old from East New York only settled in as a pitcher two years ago. In his youth, he mostly played outfield. Lefties traditionally only pitch or play first base or outfield, so his options were limited. Once his coaches noticed his gifted left arm, pitching became a natural fit.
Sanchez is the first player selected out of Msgr. McClancy since 2017, when the Crusaders had two draft picks. With the 64th overall pick, the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) selected speedy outfielder Quentin Holmes, who currently is playing for Cleveland’s High-A Lake County Captains. In the third round that year, the Kansas City Royals chose McClancy right-hander Charlie Neuweiler, who is also now in High-A ball with the Quad Cities River Bandits.
“It’s every kid’s dream that plays this game,” said McClancy varsity baseball coach Tom Cloonen. “To get your name called in that draft, I could only imagine what was going through his head. All the mixed emotions, and finally being able to say, ‘I made it.’”
Last summer before his senior season, Sanchez started hearing from scouts that there was a possibility he’d be taken in this summer’s draft. He certainly didn’t disappoint this spring when he posted a stellar 1.65 ERA in the competitive Catholic League en route to being named a Tablet All-Star.
Scouts told Sanchez that he likely would be chosen on Day 3 of the draft. He gathered his family members in their living room with the thought that he would be selected anywhere from the 11th to 14th rounds.
As the mid-teen rounds passed without his name being called, he started to get a little discouraged. He went to his room and closed the door to just lie down for a bit. As Round 17 began, the Guardians called him asking if he would still be interested in playing pro ball. Of course, he said yes.
However, the Guardians chose a different player. Sanchez was then following along in Round 18 on his phone using the MLB Draft Tracker when he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw.
“I saw my name pop up next to the Texas Rangers’ logo,” he said.
Sanchez knew the livestream his family was watching in the other room was slightly delayed. Even after knowing his fate, he sat quietly among them as the Rangers were on the clock in Round 18. When they heard his name called, everyone started screaming for joy.
Before being drafted, Sanchez was all set to pitch for the University of South Florida, Tampa. Given his strong educational background at Msgr. McClancy, he made it clear that any team that selected him would cover his college costs. The Rangers agreed, and even though it was a tough decision to skip playing college baseball, everything is bigger in the pros.
“I couldn’t pass this up,” the talented lefty said. “My dream has always been to be a professional baseball player. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
“It starts at home for him,” Cloonen said. “He has a very supportive family. He’ll be able to handle the highs and lows that come with being a professional ballplayer. I’m very happy for him, and I wish him the best. He worked so hard to get to where he is today.”
Sanchez is currently stationed at the Rangers’ minor-league facility in Surprise, Ariz., honing his skills as he embarks on his professional baseball career. He’s looking to work on his mechanics and pitch sequencing, since he realizes the competition will be unlike anything he’s seen before. The work ethic that he developed pitching for the Crusaders will surely come in handy.
“Coach Cloonen always told me I have a lot of talent, but talent can only take me so far,” he said. “You have to work hard and really love baseball. Because of that, I’ll hopefully be able to make the Major Leagues.”
Sanchez was a New York Yankees fan growing up, so if he plays his cards right and continues to work extremely hard, he may one day be pitching in the Bronx as a member of the Texas Rangers. He’s still only 18 though, so right now he’s purely focused on taking in the moment and enjoying the process as much as he possibly can.
After all – like so many young ballplayers – it’s been his dream to reach the Major Leagues since the moment he first pick up a baseball. He will undoubtedly savor this whole experience.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.