After reading the great piece written by Stephen Brunt, and then watching the Aaron Sanchez story Limitless, I felt the writing urge to take on the opportunity to string together and paste thoughts with commas and periods about this prodigious and inspiring young man (and to write leaving the Jays Droppings ego to the side).
I can remember watching Aaron pitch for the first time in 2014 at the Rogers Centre. I had great seats, four rows behind home plate, and the kid came out of the bullpen. The season was over for the Jays, what I mean to say is the dream of October baseball was over, and Aaron Sanchez took the hill midway through the game. I was blown away at the speed of each one of his pitches, I remember looking up and seeing that he was hitting 98 mph, and I could hear the ball cut through the air. I looked over at a scout a few seats away from me, sitting in the same row, and he just lit up with enthusiasm through each pitch. His fastball moved, it was hard, and it cut through the air with a subtle, but distinct sound.
While reading Brunt’s piece and watching Sportsnet’s Limitless, what really reached inside of me was this idea that in life there is no easy road, no easy path, and no matter what choices a person makes and where each path leads, there has to constantly be an inner ability to never quit, and to always keep driving because in this road to dream, we sometimes find ourselves at dark dead ends. And these dead ends are not times to ever give up, but to really dig in as a person, and to turn the fuck around because these are the moments that define who we are and lead us to a tomorrow that will always be there to embrace the opportunity for change.
In his introduction, Stephen Brunt writes about the long days journey that Aaron Sanchez and Mike Shipley took:
… Aaron Sanchez and his dad Mike Shipley made this trek from their home in the high Mojave desert, across the San Gabriel Mountains and then descending into the hills and coastal lowlands that cradle the Greater Los Angeles Area, three, four, five times a week. It’s a 90-mile drive each way, an hour and a half if the traffic allows. They’d head out after school and come home late.
I imagine a young Sanchez and his father Mike Shipley driving along this road, and Aaron staring out the window at the desolate landscape that a desert offers. I see a little boy whose mind wandered in and out of dreams as each mile passed him by, a boy who had miles worth of dreams heading through the Mojave desert, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the lowlands that cradle the Greater Los Angeles Area. And I think that we can all relate to staring out the window as a passenger and having the freedom to let your mind wonder and wander – they are some of the most freeing moments in this long journey we are all a part of, and I think it would be interesting to ask Aaron Sanchez what he thought about during those hours on the road. I’m sure some teenage crushes, maybe video games, some things from school, dreams of the big leagues, feelings of uncertainty, feelings of hope, and a lot of self reflection, which is one of the most important things many people forget to leave time for.
What got me about his story, was the idea that people have such a hard time leaving the small towns that seem to trap them from wandering outside the tribal lines that are marked with streets, coffee shops, and bars. And if you're the type of person that is comfortable with your small town setting, there isn't anything wrong with that too. Many Canadians like Aaron Sanchez live in a town similar to Barstow in mentality as Brunt notes in his piece:
Barstow is the kind of place where you grow up, you go to school, maybe go away for a while, but then, all but invariably, come home, get married, have kids and the cycle repeats.
But some people have to get away from it, so that better opportunities can be created. I always knew that I would have to leave St. Catharines and take the hour and a half drive north to Toronto to follow my dreams, which never ended up becoming my reality, but brought me to a place in my life where I am happy today. It are the dreams chased, which don’t happen, that can lead to achieving dreams you never knew you had, and it takes a lot of incredible people along the way to help guide us to a good place in this world.
As revealed in Aaron Sanchez’s story, it took a lot of courage shown by his mother, his will to keep on through hard times, and the right people to come in at the right moments as well. I can relate to the Aaron Sanchez story too, because I’ve seen my mother struggle, as she was a single mother doing her best to provide for me, so I get the struggle that his mother endured. And listen this isn't a world's smallest violin tune played by the 'oh! woe me', because fuck that - I was straight up lucky to have had and still have the people who surround and care for me. Never mind that, I will take it further and hurl the word (like a Randy Johnson high and inside fastball) 'blessed' onto the screen [and if you are too young to know who Randy Johnson is google him and know this - that bad ass motherfucker signed my ball (and only my ball out of the crowd of fans) when I was eleven hanging outside of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium gates - so fuck yeah, and he has one of the greatest baseball mullets ever, so there's that too].
Here's the thing, when I read and then watched Sanchez's story, I just kind of got it, and the kid had all the talent in the world (not that I have that * heyo *), and if it wasn't directed and guided who knows where he might have ended up. And his mother was strong enough to run away from a situation she knew was toxic while being pregnant with Aaron and having Andrew to raise too - her story is one that should take all of us loud, think we're smarter than we are Jays fans back a couple feet from the batters box, which is why I'm writing this. Sometimes it's okay to take a breath and not be a know it all asshole like some of the Jays fans on Reddit.
And any of us out there who grew up with a single mother that gave what they could, know the pull at the heart that Sanchez’s story has. And Aaron was and is truly blessed to have a man like Mike Shipley in his life, because it’s quite possible that Blue Jays fans and an entire nation would never have gotten the chance to see this star rise. He may have gotten lost and turned down a road where the darkness made it to hard to dream.
Life is a road to dream, a road where wrong turns are made, but it’s a road filled with tomorrows, and they are always worth driving for - as Aaron Sanchez's story teaches us.
So if you're a hockey kid, a baseball kid, a basketball kid, or even someone in your mid twenties who isn't sure what the fuck to do with your life - it's okay, keep dreaming, it will lead to something good, even if it's not what you ever expected. I think there might just be a little more to the let's rise that all of us Jays fans have been using as a hashtag.