, Photography By Darren Calabrese
Once a promising prospect in the Yankees’ system, Jake Sanford lost his big-league dreams to addiction. Now, the Canadian outfielder is working to earn another shot at the Show.
Darren Calabrese

J ake Sanford is lying on a table getting stretched out by an athletic trainer and his mind is racing. It’s been a whirlwind day already and, at this moment, the 21-year-old is thinking to himself, Am I in the right spot or am I lost?

On the table to his left is Aaron Judge, while fellow New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is receiving treatment on the table to his right. It’s June 2019 and the sluggers are both rehabbing injuries at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Once the team trainer finishes with Judge, the six-foot-seven star hops off the table and approaches Sanford, extends his hand and introduces himself. “Hey, I’m Aaron,” he says. “Congrats on being drafted.”

Sanford flashes a nervous smile: “Thanks,” he says. “I think I know who you are.”

Earlier this same day, the lefty-hitting outfielder from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, learned he’d been selected by the Yankees in the third round of the MLB Draft (105th overall), with a signing bonus of $597,500. He enjoyed a quick, surprise champagne celebration with his college teammates at Western Kentucky University before being whisked away to Tampa by the Yankees to sort out paperwork for his visa and undergo a physical.

Being greeted by Judge and Stanton on his first day in the organization is about as grand a welcome-to-the-Yankees moment as the Canadian can imagine. You couldn’t blame him for dreaming about a day when he won’t only share a training room with Judge and Stanton but also a dugout. After all, the world feels as if it’s opening up in front of him.

Three and a half years later, though, that introduction to life in pinstripes remains the peak of Sanford’s time in professional baseball. Addiction issues sent the young outfielder’s career — and life — into a tailspin. Now, at 25, he’s starting over in baseball, desperately clinging to the hope of one day getting back on a clear track to the bigs.

“When Jake got drafted that day in June, that was the best day of his life,” says his father, Tim. “And the worst day of his life. All in one. Because we did not see what was coming from that.”

Greeted by superstars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, Sanford’s first afternoon as a Yankee was, says his dad, “the best day of his life”

S anford, who grew up three streets over from Sidney Crosby’s family home and about five minutes from Nathan MacKinnon’s, played hockey from a young age but also loved baseball, soccer, tennis and volleyball. Outgoing and athletic, he excelled at everything he tried. “It didn’t matter who he was playing,” says his dad. “If there was a game going on, he’d find himself in it somehow.”

As he grew older, Sanford felt a pull toward baseball and by the time he was 16, he’d decided to tailor his training to the sport. “He was so focused on what he wanted and what he needed to achieve,” says his mother, Karina. “He started going to the gym every day and eating good stuff. His whole body changed. It was very visible to me that he was really dedicated to becoming a baseball player.”

One obstacle in Sanford’s way was Nova Scotia’s short high-school baseball season, which meant his development lagged behind top North American players. Nonetheless, his talent shone through, a fact that was underlined just before his 18th birthday with an invite to Rogers Centre in Toronto for the Tournament 12 (T12), a showcase for amateur Canadian players.

Sanford received a volleyball scholarship offer from Dalhousie University as he approached graduation but there were no baseball offers. He figured he’d have a better chance to further his career in the U.S. and reached out to hundreds of schools, sending videos of himself on the field. Of the few responses he received, the most enticing was from McCook, a junior college in Nebraska. There was an open spot on its baseball team, but Sanford would have to try out as a walk-on. That was enough for him.

Without even visiting McCook, he enrolled as a student in the fall of 2016. “It was more of a risk than I thought,” says Sanford. “It was my first time leaving home and I was going to the middle of nowhere, knowing nobody.” He made the cut, though, and after one semester on the team, McCook’s staff was so impressed it handed him a full scholarship for the rest of his time in the two-year program.

John Pawlowski, then head baseball coach of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, an NCAA Division 1 team, first heard about Sanford in 2018 from a member of his staff. There wasn’t much data available on Sanford at the time, but watching video of the 20-year-old, the eye test showed potential. Sure, he hadn’t faced high-level pitching, but Sanford’s ability to make contact was undeniable and the ball seemed to explode off his bat. Pawlowski figured his skills could be honed and decided to take a chance on him, offering a scholarship.

Sanford fielded a few other offers from D1 schools as well, but settled on a sports management major at Western Kentucky after visiting its campus. He arrived at the school with a baseball IQ that surprised Pawlowski, especially given he’d probably had 1,000 less lifetime at bats than most D1 players his age. He reminded the coach of outfielder Brett Gardner, who walked on to the 2001 College of Charleston team led by Pawlowski before spending 14 years in the big leagues with the Yankees. “Brett had so much athleticism and just needed to refine his skills,” Pawlowski says. “And Brett was able to perform at a high level every time he was challenged — both physically and mentally — and just continued to get better. I saw that through Jake.”

“Not many opportunities out of high school. Not many opportunities out of junior college. He was out to prove people wrong.”

Sanford had some holes in his swing when he arrived and D1 pitchers exposed them, initially making him look overmatched at the plate. Pawlowski recalls nobody showing any interest in Sanford during the team’s Scout Day in the fall of 2018. “He’s a mentally tough kid,” says Pawlowski. “It was always ‘next’ with him — every time he would have a bad at-bat or a bad swing or a bad game, it was ‘next opportunity, next chance or next game.’ He could clear his mind and refresh it with, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ And he always played with a big chip on his shoulder. Not many opportunities out of high school. Not many opportunities out of junior college. He was out to prove people wrong.”

Sanford made the necessary adjustments after his first few weeks at WKU and went on a rampage at the dish. He finished the season leading Conference USA in various offensive categories, including hits (88), batting average (.398) and OPS (1.288). His 22 home runs ranked second in the conference — only exceeded by eight players in all of D1 baseball.

“He made more progress from the fall to the spring than I’ve seen in a lot of players over my years,” says Pawlowski.

Sanford was in the WKU gym on June 4, 2019, when his phone rang. It was early in Day 2 of the MLB Draft and his agent was calling to tell him he was about to be selected by either the Yankees or Colorado Rockies. He rushed over to the Hilltoppers clubhouse, where most of his teammates were gathered to watch an online stream of the draft. He had known that being selected was a possibility, but now it was actually happening and the feeling was surreal and a bit stressful.

The nerves evaporated when teammates pointed out his name on the screen: Jake Sanford, 105, New York Yankees. Before the words sunk in, he got a call from Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. Sanford had become the highest-drafted Nova Scotian in MLB history, surpassing right-hander Steve Nelson, who was selected 160th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001.

After he spoke to Oppenheimer, his teammates — who Pawlowski says gravitated toward Sanford during his year at WKU — busted out champagne and sprayed him like they were an MLB club that’d just clinched a playoff spot. “I sort of blacked out a little bit,” says Sanford. “It was pretty awesome to have those guys there. In baseball, we’re together every day.

“They become like your brothers.”

Tim says his son has always been a natural who excels at every sport he tries

S anford has spent much time sifting through memories to determine exactly when his addiction to gambling began. Looking back, he thinks the spark might have come when his WKU team was playing a tournament in Mississippi. Players were staying at the Golden Nugget Biloxi Hotel & Casino, and though Sanford didn’t have much spending money at the time, he decided one night to play the slot machines just to see what could happen. He promptly won $3,000.

Several studies have found a link between an early win and increased risk of developing gambling problems, explains Dr. Daniela Lobo, a staff psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. “Gambling where the outcome is immediate tends to cause more problems,” Lobo says. “For instance, there are people who have problems with lottery tickets, but that’s not as common as people who have problems with slot machines or sports betting. The outcome is more immediate, so you can place more bets and you get the reinforcement from it. Or, you think, ‘Okay I lost this, I have to recover my money.’”

Lobo adds that gambling addiction can function in a similar way as addictions to substances such as alcohol and cocaine. “It activates the reward system of the brain in a way that’s very intense,” she says. “And it overrides the impulse control mechanisms in the brain. That’s why people can’t stop.”

On Staten Island for 60 games with the Yankees’ short-season A-ball club in the summer of 2019, Sanford was busy acclimatizing to professional ball and didn’t have time for much else. But in Florida for the instructional league that September things changed. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is less than a 20-minute drive from the Yankees’ facility and, with his baseball activities usually wrapped up by midday, Sanford became a regular — what started as a once-a-week event with some teammates quickly accelerating into an almost daily venture. He’d received some of his signing bonus by then and with it came an air of invincibility. “I felt like I had like an infinite amount of money,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, if I lose this, whatever. I’ll go and win it back.’”

Slot machines gave way to card games and larger bets. Eventually, Sanford was going to the casino solely out of compulsion — he no longer felt it was a source of entertainment. When he burned through the money in his bank account, he began to borrow from teammates. Sanford asked for money and set his own interest. There was no formula, he says, but he usually promised a few hundred dollars more than he was given. If he asked to borrow $500, for example, he would promise to pay back $700. He also set repayment dates with the hopes that he could win back some of what he’d already lost. He says he was in a solid rhythm of paying the players back for a while, but once the ledgers were clean, he’d ask for larger amounts. Those he struggled to repay.

Circumstance offered him a temporary reprieve when instructional league ended and he headed back to Nova Scotia. However, just a few months later, the 22-year-old returned to Tampa for 2020 spring training and resumed his visits to the Hard Rock.

One memory still stands out to Sanford from those days: He arrived at the casino around 10 p.m. with a few teammates and they split up to play their games of choice. Around 3 a.m., entrenched at a card table having just taken more money from the bank machine, Sanford’s teammates spotted him. “How are you doing — winning or losing?” they asked. Sanford told them he was up in the game and planned to stay at the casino longer. They decided to head home. While watching them leave, something dawned on Sanford. “That’s when I knew this is not good,” he says.

The clarity didn’t change his behaviour much, though. Spring training was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic and with the Canada-U.S. border closed, Sanford decided to stay in Indiana with his then-girlfriend. She lived 10 minutes from a casino. Sanford estimates that he’d blown through his entire $597,500 signing bonus by the middle of 2020, roughly a year after being inked by the Yankees.

He called his father around that time to come clean about what had happened. Tim, who works for the Canada Border Services Agency, spent the family’s nest egg trying to help his son. “We should be in a better place financially than we are now, but we’ve paid out a lot of money trying to get some of this fixed,” Tim says. “But [Jake] was still in the same mindset at the time, so it wasn’t getting any better. It was just blowing us up.”

Tim shielded Karina from their son’s issues for as long as possible. However, one day she received a phone call from a woman who’d been Sanford’s de facto billet mom during his time at junior college in Nebraska. “She had gotten calls from Jake and he had asked for money several times and it was a big amount,” recalls Karina. “She said she wanted to see if I knew what was going on. And that’s the first time I knew of it.

“I was in shock,” adds Karina. “That was really hard for me because these people are so sweet. They were like family. They called Jake their adopted son. It killed me that he had asked them for money. I was like, ‘How could you do that, Jake?’

“But, he was just lost in the addiction.”

“I was like, ‘How could you do that, Jake?’ But, he was just lost in the addiction.”

The 2021 season brought more trouble. Sanford claims that a few teammates he hadn’t yet paid back began to “loan shark” him by demanding payments with heavier interest than what had been agreed upon. On one occasion, Sanford says a teammate threatened to tack on $500 per day if the full debt wasn’t paid back immediately. (When asked to elaborate on specific amounts owed to players, Sanford directed Sportsnet to his Idaho-based financial coach, who he asked to share a detailed spreadsheet the two use to keep track of payments. It contained a list of more than 35 lenders, some of whom are former teammates, family and friends. The Hard Rock is also listed, with the note, “Paid in full.”)

A player who was in the Yankees minor-league system at the same time as Sanford spoke to Sportsnet on condition of anonymity. He first met Sanford in 2019 and, the next year, received an Instagram message from him asking for a loan with interest. He lent Sanford $800. When it came time for repayment, he felt Sanford wasn’t being direct with him. The player needed the money back to pay for groceries and other living costs. “So, I was actually getting annoyed and I was telling him, ‘Yo, what’s going on? I thought you were my teammate,’” he says. “‘You took my money and you promised you would give it back. And I told you deadlines for it.’”

The two eventually talked through the issue. Sanford paid the debt back in instalments. The player adds that he began to feel sympathy for Sanford after speaking to him more. “I got a little better understanding of him,” he says. “Being addicted to gambling is a bad disease.”

With his life outside baseball in a dangerous spiral, Sanford entered 2021 ranked by MLB.com as the No. 29 prospect in the Yankees system. He spent the first half of that campaign with low-A Tampa, before earning a promotion to advanced-A Hudson Valley. Despite his off-field struggles, he was still able to excel on the diamond, slashing .285/.356/.467 with 16 home runs in 101 games across the two levels. Playing was his one escape, but as soon as Sanford removed his spikes, reality set in.

He says Yankees coaches became aware of his gambling problem when teammates began to seek repayments in the clubhouse. Tampa Tarpons manager Dave Adams called Sanford into his office partway through the season and confronted him, at which point Sanford says he came clean. According to Sanford, Adams then escalated the issue to the front office. Kevin Reese, the Yankees vice president of player development, became an organizational point man for Sanford and also connected him with another at the club’s employee assistance program provider. The team checked in with him periodically to gauge his progress in paying back the teammates he owed.

“Our player development staff oversees close to 300 minor-league players in total over the course of any given season,” says a Yankees spokesperson. “When issues or concerns inevitably arise, we take them seriously and endeavour to proactively utilize all available resources to offer both assistance and support.”

Reese did not respond when reached out to for comment, while Adams declined an interview request.

Sanford says his signing bonus brought an air of invincibility. “I felt like I had like an infinite amount of money,” he says.

S anford arrived in Tampa for spring training last year feeling like he’d turned a corner. He had received help, via phone sessions, from the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) during the off-season. Once he arrived in Tampa, he continued with FCCG in-person counselling. Sanford says those sessions helped him finally accept that he wasn’t just hurting himself but also people he loved —particularly his parents — which spurred him to give up gambling cold turkey. He adds that he keyed in to the fact that his drive to gamble was strongest when he was bored. He needed hobbies, so back in Florida, he took up golf and fishing.

He sent a note during spring training to Yankees players and coaches through the club’s internal messaging system in which he apologized for being “a very poor teammate over the last year and a half” and assured them he was “making big steps to being back to the guy I was before this [addiction] took over.”

The Yankees were aware of Sanford’s continued efforts to seek external help, but gave him conditions that he had to abide by in order to stay with the organization, chiefly that he be completely open and honest with the team during his recovery. The outfielder wasn’t assigned to an affiliate by the conclusion of spring training and says in mid-May he was called into the executive offices at George M. Steinbrenner Field, where he spoke to Reese by phone. The exec told Sanford he was being let go.

“When they released me, the reason they gave me is because they saw improvement [with his addiction issues], but not enough,” says Sanford. “So I was like, ‘I don’t know how you can get enough improvement on that. Obviously, it takes a little bit of time.’”

“We lost a lot of friends…. And it’s like, does anybody want to give him the benefit of the doubt?”

He says the Yankees wanted him to clear his debts to teammates and that he was not able to do so. He took out a loan with which to pay instalments, he says, “but I owed more than that.”

The Yankees’ view of the situation is different. According to a spokesperson, the club felt Sanford wasn’t forthright about his situation and communicated that to him when he was released.

Sanford was stung by being let go yet says he could sense it coming. He headed back to Nova Scotia on a Thursday and didn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity. The Ottawa Titans, an organization in the 16-team independent Frontier League, reached out with an offer. Sanford flew to Chicago to join the club that weekend.

Sanford started his first game for the Titans on May 18, 2022 and went hitless in five at-bats during the 7-1 Ottawa win. When he got to his locker after the game, he noticed his phone was blowing up. Reading the messages, he quickly learned that NJ.com, a regional news site covering the state of New Jersey, had published a story accusing him of stealing equipment from his Yankees teammates to sell online. The allegation was based on information from an anonymous source who was quoted as saying, “[Sanford] was scamming other players.” The article also said that he “victimized fans” and had been accused by some of “taking money in advance for autographed equipment he never delivered.”

Sanford categorically denies stealing from teammates. He says he sold his own gear to help make payments toward his debts. “I never stole and I never hounded anybody,” he says. “I obviously borrowed money from them, but that’s it. That’s the biggest thing.

“After that story came out, I reached out to Kevin Reese, I reached out to Dave Adams, I reached out to everybody,” he continues. “And they said, ‘We didn’t say any of that.’”

No one on the player development side of the Yankees front office had any reason to believe Sanford stole, the club says.

Sanford notes he did at one point run out of bats from his sponsor, Victus Sports, after selling them online, but that he returned the money for any undelivered product via Venmo or Cash App. He adds that his financial coach has made payment arrangements with some buyers who are in the process of being paid back. Sanford also acknowledges that he asked teammates for a few of their broken bats, which he then put up for sale. “It was just broken, stock bats,” says Sanford, referring to the Louisville Sluggers typically used in batting cages. “Obviously, if it had someone else’s name on it, I wouldn’t do that. It was broken, [it’s] not like it could be reused.”

“They sent me a voice message on my Facebook: ‘I’m going to kill your son.’”

Sanford’s parents felt the blowback of the article immediately. Strangers flooded his mother’s Instagram with messages — one called her a bad mother while another wrote that she’d raised a horrible son. “There was also a voice message,” says Karina. “They sent me a voice message on my Facebook: ‘I’m going to kill your son.’”

Sanford’s younger sister, Sonya, also received “horrible messages,” according to her parents. As more news outlets picked up the story, the volume of reactions increased and the Sanford family says they were ostracized by people in their lives, including coworkers, extended family and friends.

“We lost a lot of friends,” says Tim. “Everyone assumed that what was written is exactly what happened. And it’s like, does anybody want to give him the benefit of the doubt? We’d have friends who would say, ‘Oh, you know, Jake is supposed to be a role model for our kids. What’s he doing?’ It’s like, ‘Why don’t you ask what the problem is instead of just coming after us about your kids?’ Nobody asked how we were dealing with it.”

Sanford says the journalist who wrote the story, Brendan Kuty, texted him two weeks after it came out. “After all this turmoil he was like, ‘I want your side,’” says Sanford. “I’m like, ‘Well, if you’re going to write a real story, you probably want to get my side before you release all this stuff.’ Because none of that information is right in that story.”

Kuty did not respond to a request for comment.

With his life spiralling off the field, Sanford was still able to find a little peace on it, a brief and welcome reprieve

T here was confusion among the Ottawa Titans coaching staff when they first heard the Yankees had released Sanford. Manager Bobby Brown did some quick research on the 24-year-old and was impressed by what Sanford had done in college and during his brief time in affiliated ball. “It was weird because guys his age and with the numbers that he put up with the Yankees the year before usually don’t get released,” Brown says of the outfielder who posted an .823 OPS with 16 homers in 2021. “So, it was like, ‘What am I missing here?’ I’ve been doing this a long time and you just don’t see that.”

The manager connected with Sanford by text and tried to coax an explanation out of him. Soon after, Sanford sent a five-paragraph message explaining how gambling had impacted his career. He shared that he’d lost his signing bonus and still owed people money, but was receiving help for his problem. The manager relayed that to Titans ownership, which promptly signed the Canadian to play the corner outfield positions along with some first base. The club stuck with its decision even after the NJ.com story was published.

After that first game, while Sanford’s phone was still blowing up with reaction to the article, he called Brown to ask if he could address the team. He wanted to make sure everyone understood he had a gambling problem, not a stealing problem, and that they wouldn’t have to be wary of his presence. “He wanted to be crystal clear to his new teammates, who he’s only known for two days, that, ‘Hey, I’m a baseball player and I know what you guys are thinking right now. You will have no problems with me in this clubhouse,’” says Brown.

“The team handled it good,” Brown continues. “I talked to a bunch of the players, especially players that had played for me before, and got the temperature of the room. They were all pretty much in agreement that, ‘You know what, Bobby, if you want to give this guy a chance, we’re willing to give him a clean slate and take it from there.’”

“Being on the field was the only time I got to get away from everything…. When I was on the field, I just thought about baseball.”

Sanford relished the new beginning and enjoyed a strong start at the plate with the Titans. By mid-season, opposing teams began to pitch around him. Brown says that adjustment caused Sanford to expand his strike zone too much in the second half, which might have cost him the league MVP award. “I think Jake was like a lot of younger hitters, thinking they’ve got to do damage every single at-bat and that played right into the hands of the opposition,” Brown explains.

Sanford finished the campaign with 14 doubles, 22 home runs and a .927 OPS over 91 games. More important than the numbers, though, was that he was having fun again on the baseball field. His mother travelled to watch him play and noticed Sanford had regained the bounce he displayed when he was younger. He was also smiling more.

“Being on the field was the only time I got to get away from everything,” says Sanford. “I would get text messages [about debts] all the time when I was home — I just wanted to shut my phone off. But when I was on the field, I just thought about baseball.”

Sanford hopes his successful season with the Titans can act as a springboard back to his dreams. In January, the 25-year-old re-signed with the club for the 2023 season, but he was traded the next month to the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Professional Baseball — another independent league. The trade caught him by surprise, but he says Brown explained the move as the next step for him to get back into affiliated ball. Sanford hopes playing for the Iowa-based Explorers will expose him to more scouts.

During a conversation in November, Brown said one MLB club had reached out to him so far to inquire about Sanford. “I just told them, ‘You guys got all the scouting reports in the world on him,’” the coach recalls. “‘All I can tell you is that on my team, he’s been a model citizen and his teammates love him. And I haven’t seen any indication that he would ever have a problem with what they said he did in affiliated ball.’”

Karina still believes her son can make good on a second chance with an MLB organization, should it come

T he sun is peeking through the living room windows at the Sanford family home in Cole Harbour. There’s a scrapbook resting on a side table that chronicles the day Sanford was drafted and his journey in baseball. The living room and kitchen are filled with framed posters and photographs of Sanford playing for the Hilltoppers, Yankees affiliates and Titans. Tim picks up a small picture of an eight-year-old Sanford swinging a bat and holds it up next to one of the posters on the wall. “His swing hasn’t changed,” he says, proudly.

There’s plenty of a laughter as the family swaps stories about their encounters with fans while attending Sanford’s Frontier League games. There was the time in Ottawa where Tim was sitting next to a married couple and heard the husband say, “This is the team that has the guy from the Yankees who stole a bunch of stuff.” Tim turned to him and said, “Yeah, that’s my son,” leaving the couple speechless.

The family’s ability to remain positive despite all that’s happened, to find some of it funny even, may trace to their collective belief Sanford is through the worst. Most of the money he earns today — from his independent league deals and at the Port of Halifax, where he loads and unloads cargo — goes toward paying gambling debts, but he no longer asks people for money. He’s still on calls with a therapist and attends gambling support group sessions, saying he’s found it helpful to hear the stories of others and learn about the changes they’ve enacted in their lives. Sanford says he doesn’t think about visiting casinos anymore, which is a major step, and makes sure his time is always occupied so that he doesn’t drift into boredom.

“People can do very well with gambling treatment,” says Lobo, the CAMH psychiatrist. “But the trajectory is very different from person to person. There are people who go to treatment once and they are able to stop gambling and they’re able to not have problems with it for a number of years. There are people who have a harder time with it and have several relapses before they can actually improve.”

“He’s got to move forward, pick up the pieces and try to put it back together. What is done is done.”

Karina has been attending meetings held by Gam-Anon, an international support group for friends and families of people with gambling problems. She’s also seen a counsellor for a few years with the goal of trying to better understand her son’s addiction and acquire tools to support him in the best way possible.

Meanwhile, Tim finds himself constantly looking for clues from the past, things he could’ve done differently. “I feel bad as a parent saying, ‘Why didn’t I take his signing-bonus money?’” he says. “He was 21 years old. I don’t have a legal right to take his money. [But] I feel like I didn’t do something.”

Reliving those early days of Sanford’s addiction can be tough for Tim. He says that every time his phone rang back then, he was filled with anxiety. “I don’t want to feel bad when my son calls but every time he called, it was the next tragedy of who owes money to who,” he says. “That stuff has slowed down. It hasn’t stopped altogether because there’s still people that have to be made whole. It may not be on their timeline, but this will get settled.”

As for Sanford’s baseball career, both parents are supportive and believe he can make good on a second chance, if it comes. He’s also got some believers remaining across the sport’s landscape. Brown, the Titans manager, is in his corner, as is Pawlowski, the coach from Western Kentucky, who has remained an important sounding board for Sanford since the Yankees release.

“He’s got to move forward, pick up the pieces and try to put it back together,” says Pawlowski. “What is done is done. He’s got to be a better teammate and be a better person. I know that he has worked very, very hard on that and I think he’s made tremendous progress.

“I told him, ‘My number one goal for you, Jake, is to take care of yourself off the field,’” the coach continues. “Once he does that, my hope is that he will be given another opportunity. Whether that happens remains to be seen. It’s going to take a special club, a special team, a special organization to give him a shot and give him a chance to earn their trust.”

Sanford has already overcome daunting obstacles during his time in baseball. His long, winding journey in the sport may just need to get a little longer, and a little more winding, before he reaches his destination.

Photo Credits
Darren Calabrese/Sportsnet (6)