By Steve Serby
Post columnist Steve Serby caught up with young Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez for some Q&A.
Q: Do you feel any pressure being called the Yankees’ catcher of the future?
A: I don’t feel pressure, because when I’m on the field, I try to enjoy the game. It’s a game that we play. I enjoy playing it, so that’s where my focus is.
Q: How do you feel about playing in the New York market, with all the spotlight?
A: I feel fine here. One thing is that when I go out there, I try to give my best, everything I have, to help the team win. That’s it, that’s what I focus on.
Q: What kind of career do you envision for yourself?
A: During my time here in the big leagues, I want to be one of the best ones. That’s why I work hard, because I want to be able to say that I’m an All-Star. I want to win Gold Gloves. I want to win championships. I don’t want to be a player that gets called up and gets sent down and people forget about.
Q: Why will Yankees fans enjoy watching you play?
A: I think it’s gonna be because I’m gonna go out there and give 100 percent. I’m going to respect the game and play the game the right way, play hard.
Q: How would you grade yourself as far as calling the game?
A: It’s hard to give yourself a grade. I work very hard every day to improve every day. I’ll let other people decide what kind of a grade I should have.
Q: Same question about throwing out runners. Is that the most fun part of the job?
A: I don’t want to give myself a grade on how good I am throwing. It is fun to throw out runners because it’s part of defense.
Q: Where do you feel you have to make the most improvement as a catcher?
A: Pretty much everything.
Q: What is your on-field mentality?
A: When I’m in the game, I try to focus on the game plan for that night, try to find the best way possible to help the pitcher and anybody else that I can, and focus on winning.
Q: Describe teammate Aaron Judge.
A: To me, Aaron Judge is a five-tool player. I see really good things for him in his future. Definitely a good baseball player.
Q: Tyler Austin.
A: I’ve been playing with him since 2010. And I can tell you he has everything he needs to play at this level. He can hit, he can throw, he can play third base, he can play the outfield, he can play first base. The guy’s a really good ballplayer.
Q: What advice did you get from Alex Rodriguez?
A: Alex gave me advice all the time. When we were playing in Boston, after my first at-bat, I think it was an out. Following that, I asked him about what to do when he faces a guy that’s throwing a lot of breaking balls, and he told me to keep the shoulder in, think hard up the middle, and I worked on it in the cage, came back and I had four hits after that.
Q: What did you learn when you were suspended for five games in 2014 while in Double-A?
A: You learn from your mistakes. As you mature, you look back and you can see, “You know what? I was not right, I was incorrect.” You learn not to maybe do it again.
Q: Can you say what you did to get suspended?
A: I was late for a stretch. At that time, [Francisco] Cervelli was down there doing a rehab assignment, I think, and I was talking to Cervelli, he was actually giving me some advice, and I kind of got lost tracking the time, and I was late for the stretch. It’s part of growing up and maturing.
Q: What drives you?
A: My daughter is definitely the biggest motivation for me, because I want to make sure she has a nice life. I want to make sure that she has a good education.
Q: Your daughter Sarah is almost 2. How has fatherhood changed your life?
A: It’s definitely a big change in my life because having a kid is a big responsibility. Once you become a dad, whatever actions you take before you take them, you’re thinking of your daughter, and it’s a beautiful experience.
Q: Why is your wife, Sahaira, the right girl for you?
A: We have a good relationship and a good friendship. She definitely wants the best for me. Sometimes when I’m struggling a little bit, she’ll give me advice, and she will help me get through a hard time. She’s very smart, we always talk, we have good communication, that’s why I feel that she’s the one for me.
Q: What is the best piece of advice she has given you?
A: Baseball season’s pretty long sometimes, you go through a part where you struggle, and she’s always there for me. She’s kind of like a rock for me. She helps me through those rough times.
Q: Why did your grandmother mean so much to you?
A: I basically grew up with my grandma. My mom had to work a couple of jobs, and sometimes overnight, so I always was around with my grandma, and she is kind of like another mom to me. She was always on top of me to stay straight.
Q: Did you miss not having a father growing up, and do you have a relationship with him today?
A: My father lived pretty close to where I lived with my grandma, so I used to see him maybe every other day or so. … I used to see him a lot. My mom and him separated, but I kept the relationship with my dad. You always want to have the father figure, but at the same time, the grandma is the one that kind of like gave me a good education and all that stuff.
Q: What are some childhood memories growing up in Santo Domingo?
A: A fun memory I have when I was growing up, I have a brother a year older than me, and when I started to play baseball, I didn’t have anything, nothing at all. But me and my brother used to go out and play catch on the street. We’d cut cardboard — it would kind of be like the glove — and we’d get a lime and throw the lime back and forth. That’s how we used to spend our time in our afternoons. If we couldn’t find a lime, we’d find like a doll head and we’d play with that.
Q: What did you use for a bat?
A: We would grab a broomstick and cut it. If we couldn’t do that, we would go and find a piece of a tree or something that we could shape into a bat and play with that.
Q: Who was a boyhood idol?
A: I used to watch Manny Ramirez a lot.
Q: What did you like about Manny Ramirez?
A: I liked the way he played because he looked so relaxed on the field. Although maybe there was a lot of pressure on him, he never showed that on the field.
Q: How did you become a catcher?
A: When I was 8 years old, when I started playing baseball for the first time, they actually put me in the outfield. I was the new guy, so they sent me back there. Eventually, when the manager saw that I had some kind of ability, they put me at third base. And I was pretty good at third base. Because later on I was playing with older kids that were 17 and I was 13 at the time. There was a guy playing third base that was better than me. And because I used to practice with my brother catching and throwing and I would receive the ball, I told the manager, “Hey, let me catch.” They needed a catcher on that team, and because I had a good arm, they allowed me to catch, and whenever scouts would come by, I would catch and they would see me throw. I always had a good arm, so that kind of opened some guys.
Q: Who are catchers you’ve enjoyed watching?
A: Back then, I used to really like [Jason] Varitek for the Red Sox. I liked the way he called games and received the ball. Today, there’s so many guys that I like, like Mac [Brian McCann], Yadier Molina, Salvador [Perez], Cervelli.
Q: Jorge Posada?
A: Posada’s actually one of those guys that I grew up watching as well. I had the opportunity to talk to him a lot.
Q: Why were you homesick when you first came to the States?
A: Back in ’09 when I signed, I was 16 years old, and after I signed, I was in D.R. for maybe another two weeks, and that was because they were getting the paperwork ready. And they sent me to Tampa. When I got there, it was very tough for me because I was away from my family, I couldn’t speak the language, I didn’t know anything at all, so yeah, I was homesick. I spoke to my family almost every day on the phone. At that time, it was hard for me to eat, it was hard for me to get used to this new world. To start from zero as a professional baseball player in another country is very hard. Little by little with time, I started to get used to the way of life, and that basically was the key that helped me stay and not quit.
Q: What was the worst minor league bus ride?
A: When I was in [Class-A] Charleston, we were supposed to ride for about 12 hours to play the Phillies, and we were gonna ride through the night. The problem is that the bus throughout the whole ride, the driver had to keep stopping and fixing the bus. The air conditioning broke down, and for whatever reason, the driver kept stopping to fix something. Eventually, we had to get on another bus in the middle of the night, 2 or 4 in the morning and unpack everything, pack everything in the new bus. We were supposed to get there at 9 in the morning, we ended up getting there around 12, and got to the hotel, dropped everything off, and from there to the park to play the game.
Q: Did you sleep?
A: Slept a little bit. The bed is very thin, and you’re too close to the roof, so if the bus hits a pothole or anything like that, you’ll jump and you’ll hit your head, so every time that happened, you kind of wake up.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Kobe Bryant.
A: The only superstition I have is that if I go and I get a hit, I keep using that same bat. But if I don’t, I kind of like put it away for a while, then I would bring it back out later down the road (smile).
A: Video games, and I also like to spend time with the family, go somewhere nice so we can relax, a nice beach or something like that.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano [Rivera].
Q: Favorite movie?
A: I don’t watch many movies.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: White rice with black beans and a chicken stew.
Q: Have you found a good New York restaurant yet that has that?
A: No, but my wife is a pretty good cook, so she can make it at home (smile).
Q: Are you living in a hotel?
A: I live with my wife’s family. They have a place in Yonkers.
Q: What is it like wearing the pinstripes and representing the New York Yankees?
A: It’s definitely a nice feeling to represent this organization. It’s a well-known organization, in my opinion, probably the best.
Q: What message would Gary Sanchez want to give to Yankees fans about Gary Sanchez?
A: To keep supporting the team in the good and bad, and make no mistake, we’re gonna give our best to bring some championships to the city.