New York Yankees All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was signed by the Yankees as an international free agent back in 2009. He finally made his MLB debut in October 2015 and got significant time behind the plate in 2016, when he played in 53 games and hit 20 home runs.
As the Yankees face the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS, Sanchez has the support of his family, especially that of his wife, Sahaira, and the couple’s daughter, Sarah, 4.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sanchez Credits His Wife With Keeping Him ‘Grounded’
Back in 2017, Sanchez posted a photo to Instagram and used a sweet caption to honor his wife on their wedding anniversary.
“Celebrating our anniversary. This is the woman that has been with me in the good and the bad. Who keeps me grounded, watches out for me and who is a wonderful mother,” he wrote on January 7, 2017.
Sanchez has shared several photos of his wife and family on Instagram. In November 2016, he shared a photo with her in Las Vegas. “Night out with my better half,” he wrote. After the 2016 season ended, Sanchez and his wife vacationed in Costa Rica.
In a Facebook post, Sanchez wrote that he has received “no blessing greater than” his wife and daughter.
2. They Traveled to Peru in the Off-Season to Celebrate Gary’s Birthday
Gary and his wife took a pretty incredible trip during the offseason last year — to celebrate his birthday. He posted the above photo from the plane on his way to Peru with his wife.
“Taking off for a few days in Peru with the wifey and friends,” he captioned the photo. He also shared a couple of other snaps from the trip, including a few from Machu Picchu.
“A Yankee in Machu Picchu. Moment to reflect on where we came from, where we are and where we want to be,” Gary captioned the photo series.
3. They Have 1 Daughter Together
Gary and Sahaira Sanchez welcomed their only child, Sarah, in 2014. In several past interviews, Gary Sanchez has said that his wife and daughter have inspired him to become a better man, on and off the field.
Before becoming a father, Sanchez complained about not starting a minor league game and refused to warm up a reliever five years ago, reports ESPN. The Yankees responded by demoting him to their Class-A affiliate. The Yankees hoped he’d become a better player, but his disciplinary issues made them question their commitment.
That experience and becoming a father made him realize that he needed to be mature. In the 2015 season, he became serious about his development as a baseball player.
“It is a beautiful experience to become a dad,” Sanchez told ESPN through a translator back in September 2016. “It is kind of like once you become a dad, that’s your all and you want to make sure you can provide everything she needs. It was very important because, when she was born, it was kind of like a new life began for me because it is a lot of responsibility, so you want to make sure that you can give it your all so you can get to the big leagues and you can stay in the big leagues and, definitely, it is a changing experience.”
4. They Were Surprised to Find out That Sahaira Was Pregnant
Last year, Sanchez told MLB.com that he and his wife were “very surprised” when they learned that Sahaira was pregnant. However, they were “very happy” about the news.
Sanchez cut the umbilical cord when Sarah was born.
“When I first saw her, I was afraid to hold her,” Sanchez told MLB.com. “As a man, you feel like you’re going to hurt the baby. She was very tiny and fragile. I didn’t want to harm her in any way,” he added.
Sanchez said that before Sarah was born, he was trying to become a “more mature player,” but becoming a father made him realize that he couldn’t squander his opportunity to be a big league player.
5. Sanchez Was 22 Years Old When His Daughter Was Born
Gary and Sahaira are a young couple, as Sanchez was only 22 years old when Sarah was born.
Sanchez began his pro-baseball career early, too. When he was 16 years old, the Yankees signed him as an international free agent. ESPN reports that he was handed a 42 million signing bonus and arrived in the U.S. without knowing how to speak English.
In 2010, Sanchez began his minor league career with the Class-A Staten Island Yankees. In a 2010 SI Live interview, Sanchez said he knew there would be better opportunities to play baseball in the U.S. That’s why he agreed to leave the Dominican Republic at such a young age.
“There is much more opportunity to play over here,” Sanchez told SI Live. “There are games almost every day as opposed to the DR where there are limited teams and chances to play against different players. The more you play, the more experience you get, and that’s key. Regular at bats, seeing many different pitches, even being behind the plate and seeing how your own pitchers work. It’s all important.”
Sanchez was on track to fulfill the Yankees’ dreams of developing him into a great catcher, but his work ethic didn’t improve until Sarah’s birth.
“Before, you had to force him to do things,” bench coach Tony Pena told MLB.com of Sanchez. “Now he understands that he needs to keep improving. He’s doing it. Sometimes it’s the nature of human beings. Some people grow up faster than others. I think there are a lot of Latin American players that it takes a long time to grow. I love to see the way he handles himself.”