“When you get a second chance you never look back” – Sigfredo Sanchez, the father of San Francisco Giants pitcher, Jonathan Sanchez moments after his son pitched a no hitter
…..this isn’t about a basebll no-hitter tonight. It is about a man, a pitcher, his father, and second chances. It is about taking a step back to take a giant leap forward.
We all hear of stories of second chances. Right now, for example, Lance Armstrong is coming back from his second retirement to race in the grueling Tour de France to help bring awareness to cancer. We see how adversity has made him stronger not only physcially, but mentally.
Tonight history was made for the San Francisco Giants as Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter. As any sports fan can attest when something happens for the team or teams they root for, they will always remember what they were doing. In fact tonight was the first time a Giants pitcher had pitched a no hitter in San Francisco in 34 years. On that day my father took me and some friends to a double header where I saw Ed “Ho-Ho” Halicki pitch a no-hitter against the Mets at Candlestick Park. As I watched tonight’s game, I started thinking about that day with my dad.
It was an incredible twist of fate for Sanchez. He was out of the Giants rotation and was in the doghouse. The newspapers were talking about him being traded. In fact things got so bad that no other teams were willing to trade for him. Now after this evening he is untradeable. How unpredictable was this? Only the fact that former Cy Young winner, Randy Johnson, got injured was Sanchez pitching tonight. The accomplishment was even more surprising given that the Giant’s starting pitching rotation consists of 3 Cy Young winners (Lincecum, Johnson and Zito) and a 4th pitcher who some argue has pitched better than them all (Matt Cain). Sanchez was the forgotten one. He was down on himself, kicked out of the rotation and replaced by a 28 year old rookie. So down was he that his father flew in from Puerto Rico just to give his son some support. It was the first time he had ever seen his son start a Major League Game in his 5 big league seasons. The personal story of Jonathan and his dad played out perfectly. His father fought back his tears as the embraced in the dugout and he told his son the words at the top of this entry. Fate also brought him together with his rookie catcher for the evening, Eli Whiteside, also a great story. The Giants regular catcher was at the hospital with his wife who is expecting, and was told only hours before the game that he would be catching. So it was by chance that this unlikely duo were thrust upon the scene and they will forever be linked. Jonathan Sanchez’s name will go up on a wall in Cooperstown, as the 262nd no-hitter in history.
His father is right, second chances are something we all don’t get much of, but when we do, we need to take advantage of them. Listening to the announcers, Sanchez had consulted for many days with anyone who would listen and worked countless hours on his own to fix his delivery and most of all learn to keep his head in the game. He had some good help. Randy Johnson, pitching coaches, Dave Righetti and assistant pitching coach Mark Gardner had all pitched no-hitters before and given him the mental knowledge. Not only had Sanchez never pitched a major league no hitter before, he had never pitched a complete game or a shutout, never having completed eight innings in a big league game. He got to uncharted waters and finished it.
Back in our daily lives my wife and I sat there and watched the story unfold and talked about how special this evening was for this young man and how his perseverance was something to learn from. When my mother-in-law called the other day, we thought she was calling to wish us a Happy 15th anniversary, she was calling to tell us my father in law is in the hospital fighting an infection with a 102 degree fever. Along with a couple of parents around us dying of cancer, it served a reminder that we are in our second chance right now with recovery from my wife’s cancer. In fact we need to come out better than before. Those with adversity like Jonathan Sanchez and Lance Armstrong seemed stronger because of the level of “fight” they needed in ther bodies. So this week we will be celebrating our second chance with a delayed anniversary celebration.
They say that true sports fans root for the laundry and not for the players themselves. I truly do root for the players. I root for their stories of how they came to be. I root for the human spirit within us all and the events which make that spirit in each one of us burn brighter than before. Jonathan Sanchez represents all that is right. Their individual stories are inspiring in themselves. As my wife saw the events unfold and heard the announcers provide color to the story she started rooting for “Johnny” Sanchez. She wanted his second chance to be successful and I saw she was also rooting for the human spirit. Sanchez , as you might hear Randy Johnson tell you, has just as much talent as anyone on the team which says a lot.
Congratulations to Johnny Sanchez and all the people out there who have had a second chance. They say no-hitters are great timing, great talent, and a little good luck. Well, I think sometimes you have to make your own luck and you have to put yourself in the situation to have good luck. It reminds me of the quote from one of my favorite actors, Gene Hackman, from the movie, “The Replacements” : ” I look at you and I see two men: the man you are and the man you oughtta be. Someday those two men will meet”. Tonight, they met for Jonathan Sanchez.