Blue Jays’ Sanchez: “I was like a baby giraffe, trying to walk”

Aaron Sanchez. (LM Otero/AP)

Aaron Sanchez

Age: 23 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 215 lb.
Hardware: First person from Barstow, Calif., to play in MLB

What happens on Aaron Sanchez Day?
I don’t think much. [Laughs.] They declared a day for me in Barstow in 2014 when I came home after I made my debut up here. Last year, I wasn’t actually home for Aaron Sanchez Day because we were playing. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot that goes into it. There’s no parade.

Is your name on the water tower in Barstow?
It’s funny that you ask. Growing up, we had a cross-country team that won the state finals two out of four years, just before I got to high school. And they have a water tower that recognized them. Growing up, that was always my dream: I want my name on the water tower. There’s a water tower that recognizes me now, so it’s pretty cool.

You made it.
I made it.

You arrived. Did you run cross-country as well?
No, growin’ up I played everything: Soccer, basketball, baseball, football. And then I quit football after Grade 6. I quit basketball after my freshman year of high school because I broke my wrist. And I almost wasn’t able to play baseball so I was like, alright, that’s enough of that.

And baseball was your favourite?
No, basketball was my favourite.

You’ve got the height.
I’ve got the height. But you just don’t see that many six-three white boys in the NBA. [Laughs.] I knew where my calling was. I was gifted in this sport, and couldn’t be happier with making the decision I made.

What was your childhood like in Barstow?
I was outside all the time. If it wasn’t with my friends or at the park it was me throwing a ball at the wall, trying to dive for it, trying to be like big leaguers. I didn’t watch much TV and when I did it was SportsCenter. Anything that had to do with sports.

Well-rounded.
Yeah. Well, I took school pretty serious. I wouldn’t say I was a nerd, but I made sure that my education came first. It was something that I wouldn’t say came easy, but I worked really hard at it. But I was a low-key kid. Family’s super important to me so I did a lot of family gatherings growing up. There was only a select few friends I grew up with. We usually played on the same sports teams. Super chill. Nothing too crazy.

Do you remember your big growth spurt? Did you have one?
Oh yeah.

I never went through it, but I hear it’s painful.
[Laughs.] It really was. It was my freshman year of high school. I have uncles who are all kind of short and stubby, and growing up, I thought that’s how I would turn out, too. Freshman year came, and I went from five-foot-seven to six-foot-one. I felt like it came all in my legs. I was like a baby giraffe trying to figure out how to walk. It took me about a year to grow into my body.

You transformed again in the off-season—you put on 20 lb. of muscle.
You don’t know what it takes to do a full year in the big leagues until you actually do it. After I got hurt in July, I told myself, “Just get through this year, and when the off-season comes, it’s time to work.” That’s what happened. I can definitely see the effects on the field.

Did you need to buy new clothes?
Yes, I did have to spend some money, which is OK. We got our playoff share, which is a blessing. But I definitely had a wardrobe… I wouldn’t say “malfunction,” but I had to buy some clothes to make sure they all fit now. [Laughs.]

Did your pants split open?
On winter tour, we had to do a luncheon in Buffalo for the Bisons, and I actually had a button break on my pants. [Laughs.] I sat down and I wasn’t ready for it and—pop!

Are you eating more now?
Yeah, and I feel like that’s a job in itself. I have to get up and have breakfast at [a certain] time, and I can go back to sleep, but I gotta get up and eat. The hardest part is maintaining, because we play so much. With the travelling and everything, as much as I’d like to gain, realistically, it’s more maintaining than anything.

What do you eat on a game day?
I try to eat something when I get to the field, then a PB and J right before I pitch. Then I won’t eat until after the game. Game days are really hard—I don’t really have an appetite. I don’t think it’s nerves. You don’t wanna go out there too heavy and feel sluggish. It depends where I weigh in that day. If I feel like I need to eat more, I’ll eat more.

You weigh yourself every day?
Yeah.

What do you weigh right now?
210. I’ll weigh anywhere from 210 to 215.