Sanchez thankful for his father's help, guidance

Sanchez thankful for his father's help, guidance

Remberto Sanchez, the father of Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez, was an excellent baseball player himself in his younger days. He was a catcher who played junior college ball at Miami Dade South in the early 1970s. Major League scouts expressed interest in Remberto back then, and he also had an offer to continue his career at Florida State University.

"Marriage and a job changed that, though," Remberto said without a hint of regret in his voice. "But I told myself, 'If I ever have a son that wants to play baseball, I'm going to do everything possible to help him and give him the best chance to make it.'"

Nonetheless, Remberto didn't pressure Gaby to play baseball, and his reason was well thought out.

"One thing I noticed was that a lot of parents would stick a kid in one sport, the kid would get tired of it, and then by the time they were 10 or 11 years old, they didn't want to play it anymore," Remberto said. "So I felt like, 'If he likes basketball, let him play that. If he likes soccer, let him play that. If he likes baseball, let him play that.' And then later on, let him make up his own mind which sport he wants to concentrate on."

"I loved baseball, so most of the time I just wanted to do baseball stuff," said Gaby, who was acquired by Pittsburgh last July. "But my dad was adamant about that when I was kid. He would try and keep me away and say, 'No. It's not baseball season yet.' And he would find some other team for me to play on."

Remberto emigrated from Cuba at the age of 7, and his family settled in the Miami area. After his baseball career was cut short, he went on to own and operate a chain of sporting goods stores. But Remberto was drawn back to the diamond for nearly 20 years, playing competitive softball. And even as a toddler, Gaby often tagged along.

"He was like a little superstar," Remberto recalled. "Even when he was like 4 years old, he was actually able to throw with me and warm up with me."

By the age of 13 or 14, Gaby had become a terrific soccer player and a terrific baseball player. But at that point, his father felt the time was right to pick one sport or the other.

"Baseball was what I always wanted to do, so that's what I picked," said Gaby, who went on to star at Brito Miami Private High School and the University of Miami. "My dad said, 'OK, if you're going to play baseball, you're going to pursue it the right way. You're going to practice and you're become the best player you can possibly be. You're going to learn the sport. You're going to learn what's going on.'

"I feel like that got me prepared a lot better, knowing situations and what had to be done in certain situations. Now it's just kind of second nature when things are going on. It's quick. 'I need to do this and I need to do that.' He definitely helped me get to that point."

Scouts from the Marlins began looking at Gaby when he was 15 or 16. Eventually, they made him their fourth-round selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. Gaby made his Major League debut with his hometown team in '08, became their starting first baseman in '10 and a National League All-Star in '11.

Remberto kept his word and did indeed do everything in his power to help Gaby along the path to where he is today. He tirelessly hit ground balls to his son and worked with him in the batting cage for hours on end. He also had friends of his who played the game work with Gaby -- with Manny Crespo (currently the Detroit Tigers' director of Latin American player development) and Johnny Rodriguez (the father of Tampa Bay Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez) among them.

What's more, Remberto has no regrets about not getting to the Major Leagues himself. He's simply thrilled for his son.

"Gaby is such a hard worker. He's always been," Remberto said. "He lives and dies for the game. He's very true to the game. He's learned the game tremendously. He does that because I told him when he was younger, 'Those are the kind of players that coaches like. Those are the kind of players that coaches play.'

"I couldn't be any prouder of him. He's accomplished so much. He's doing what a lot of kids hope they'll be able to do. He's got a lot of years to go and he's going to prove a lot. He's a great hitter, and great hitters are hard to find. He knows what he's doing when he's up there. He learned the game the right way and plays the game the right way. He's accomplished a lot of things, and there's still more to come."

Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.