Posts Tagged ‘Cuban defector’

Amauri Sanit’s Pinstripe Dreams

May 29, 2009

This is Amauri Sanit’s dream…


This is Amauri Sanit’s reality…


And this is the story about the steps he took to achieve that reality, and the steps he’s taking to make his dream come true.

It’s a tale that starts in Havana, Cuba. 

As a young boy, Sanit was actually a boxer.  It wasn’t until the age of 16 that he traded the boxing gloves for a baseball glove, when he was spotted playing in the streets.  Initially, it was his bat that caught people’s eye, but that quickly changed.

“I made one of the teams over there, but I had a good arm, so they made me a pitcher,” said Sanit, through interpreter/infielder Carlos Mendoza.

“I would throw baseballs against the walls.  I only knew how to throw fastballs.”

Sanit was thrown a bit of a curveball, however, when the Cuban government gave him his own house thanks to his status on the baseball team.

“The conditions were good, I was OK,” Sanit said.

“But on the other side of town, I had my family, and they weren’t living as good as I was.  They lived far away from where I was, and the only time I got to see them was when my team would play near where they were living.”

Complicating matters even further was that Sanit was obligated to serve in the Cuban military as well.

“I didn’t have to do a lot, they just wanted me to be a policeman on the streets,” Sanit said.

“They took me out of the street and brought me to Havana, so they wanted me to focus on baseball.”

Difficult as things were off the field for Sanit, things were going pretty well on it.  He was attracting a lot of attention for his strong arm, and really started developing as a pitcher.

But Sanit wanted to try his hand in the United States, just like Livan Hernandez, Rey Ordonez and many others had done before him.  Problem was, the Cuban government became aware of those plans and started to hold Sanit back because of them.

“I was the best closer in the league in Cuba,” Sanit said.

“But they never invited me to be a part of the Cuban National Team, because they thought once I left Cuba, I was going to stay in the States.  So I decided to go ahead and leave.”

So Sanit took a boat to Mexico. 

From Mexico, he went to Costa Rica. 

And then to Guatemala. 

Then Panama.

After four years of going from place to place in Central America, he finally made it to the Dominican Republic, and that’s how the Yankees discovered him and were able to sign him.

Sanit debuted in the Dominican last year, appearing in two games for one of the Yankees Dominican Summer League affiliates.  He only allowed one hit in two innings of work, collecting one save and two strikeouts in the process.

This year, Sanit made his American debut, starting the season with the Yankees Single-A affiliate in Tampa.  Seems the ol’ United States of America made a nice first impression on the 29-year-old.

“It’s a beautiful country, I feel comfortable here,” Sanit said.

“But I love Cuba, too.  I don’t like all the political things over there, I just wanted to be a baseball player and have my dream come true; becoming a Major League baseball player.”

sanit Sanit took the next step in having that dream come true when he was called up to Double-A Trenton about a month into the season.

“I haven’t pitched that much, but I think I can perform pretty well in this league,” Sanit said.

“It’s a good league, I think I’ll be OK.  As long as I keep hitting my spots and changing my pitches up, I’ll be fine and I’ll be able to move up.”

The statistics seem to agree.  In eight games with the Thunder, Sanit is 0-1 with four saves and a 1.08 ERA.  He’s held Eastern League hitters to just a .120 batting average, and between Tampa and Trenton, has allowed just one run in 14.1 innings pitched.

Count Thunder starting catcher Kyle Anson among those impressed by Sanit’s hot start.

“He does a really good job of keeping hitters off balance,” Anson said.

“He uses a lot of offspeed stuff as opposed to his fastball, which guys are looking for later in the game. He does a really good job with command of his offspeed pitches.”

Anson, who attributes Sanit’s offspeed command to the style of game he was accustomed to in Cuba, likes Sanit’s easy-going, veteran presence on the mound and in the clubhouse.

“He definitely carries himself in a different manner,” he said.

“He knows how to prepare for the game and how to get himself ready for the later innings as opposed to some of the younger guys who come up through the system.”

This is Amauri Sanit’s reality…


This is Amauri Sanit’s dream…


Now back from a minor knee injury, if Sanit can continue to put up numbers in Trenton, it won’t be long before that big league dream becomes one step closer to reality.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT