Port Charlotte- When a pitcher takes the mound they must have total focus. Rays reliever Juan Sandoval's the same way except his focus is skewed, because he only has vision in one eye.
Back in 2006 as Sandoval was getting ready to leave for spring training with the Mariners. He took his family out to dinner and his life was never the same again.
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a security guard from the restaurant, it was really nice really fancy, I was eating ((There)), he got in to an argument with some drunk guy," said Sandoval. "When a 12-gauge shot popped, so the same time I went to see they hit my right side, they are little pellets that burn your skin and three little ones went into my eyeball."
Sandoval went from being a top prospect to cut by 3 different organizations. But he never gave up on his goals; bouncing around the Mexican League for two years. And it wasn't until an encounter with Rays reliever Joel Peralta in the Dominican Winter League that he popped up on Andrew Friedman's radar.
"I saw the guy was pitching really good, I said ok, this guy can probably get a chance with some team so I said ok, so I called Andrew myself," said Rays' reliever Peralta. "And I told him about Sandoval, all the stuff that he got and how he's been pitching and everything."
Peralta and Sandoval are from the same town of Bonao, and have known each other since they were children.
"He said he was going to call someone in Tampa, I said I better start praying this was an opportunity I was dreaming that I thank God I am here today," said Sandoval.
And while Sandoval considers this opportunity a blessing, batters that face him think of it as a curse. During yesterday's live batting practice, Sandoval's 94-MPH sinker snapped Rich Thompson's bat like a twig.
The right-hander is a ground ball pitcher that throws in the mid to high nineties and his sinker is his calling card.
As for what prompted Peralta to make the call was Sandoval's ability to induce ground ball outs.
"Making the team that's my goal, I'll put all my effort in on that, if not I'm going to go where the Rays think I can help the team I am going to put in a good effort to make it to the big leagues," said Sandoval.
Sandoval is likely to start the season with Triple-A Durham, but if he can keep his focus, his major league dreams could come into plain sight.