Anibal Sanchez, Washington Nationals starting pitcher, will take the mound on Friday as the franchise hosts its first ever World Series game at home in D.C. It’s a huge honor for the veteran pitcher, who almost threw a no-hitter during Game 1 in the NLCS series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and as Sanchez leads Washington into Game 3, it’s hard to believe the 35-year-old from Venezuela almost once thought about quitting the sport altogether.
When Sanchez made his MLB debut in 2006, he was married to high school sweetheart, Yeliceth, a medical student also from Venezuela. While signed as an international free agent by the Boston Red Sox in 2001, an elbow injury that required surgery forced him to miss an entire season, and at the end of 2005, he was traded to the Florida Marlins, and things started looking up. In his 13th game as a starting pitcher, he threw a no-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He finished his rookie season with an ERA of 2.83, and the Board of Commissioners in Miami officially named September 30, 2006, as Anibal Sanchez Day. However, during the following spring training, he suffered a shoulder injury, and was eventually demoted to AAA Albuquerque before requiring season-ending surgery to repair a tear in his labrum.
While Sanchez was professionally worse for wear, his life at home was a shining beacon of hope. Sanchez and Yeliceth welcomed their first child, Alan, on September 6, 2007. A year to the day he pitched his first no-hitter.
Sanchez’s Baseball Career & Personal Life Takes a Huge Hit in 2007
While becoming a father is one the most exciting and important moments in a man’s life, for Sanchez, it quickly became the most heartbreaking. When Alan was 3-months-old, he contracted dengue fever while in Venezuela, a virus transmitted though mosquito bites.
On December 23, 2007, Alan passed away. The stress put a huge strain on his marriage, and within a few months Sanchez and Yeliceth divorced.
“It changes you,” Sanchez told The Seattle Times, opening up about this rough period in his life in 2015. “It changes everything. I don’t want anybody to have to go through that. It’s very painful.”
While Sanchez remained with the Mariners for a few more rocky years, on July 23, 2012, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, where he once again, found his rhythm as a pitcher. In December 2012, he signed a 5-year $80 million contract with the Tigers. He stayed with the franchise until 2017, when signed a 1-year $2.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins, but was released after only one month.
In 2018, Sanchez signed with the Atlanta Braves, and after spending the first half of the season on the DL for a hamstring injury, returned to pitch with ERA numbers similar to his career best. On December 27, 2018, he signed a two-year $19 million contract with the Washington Nationals. In 2019, he’s gone 11-8 with a 3.5 ERA.
Sanchez Is Remarried to Ana Sanchez & Spends As Much Times With His Kids As Possible
Sanchez met his current wife, Ana Marrero Sanchez, while still playing with the Marlins, and they tied the know in Puerto Rico on November 5, 2011. She gave birth to the first child, Anabella, on October 2, 2012. Sanchez and Ana also have a son, Anibal, who is almost 2.
During every day off, in which Sanchez isn’t pitching the next day, he flies home to visit his family in Miami. It’s a routine that may sound exhausting, but for Sanchez, it’s the only choice of action.
“You have to be present for your kids,” Sánchez said, to The Washington Post. “It can be so hard with baseball, and how our schedules are, but you want them to grow up knowing who you are.”
Nationals Manager Dave Martinez supports everything Sanchez does to stay close with his family. Martinez told the Post, “I tell all my guys the same thing: Family first, baseball second.’ Aníbal came to me earlier this season saying he wanted to visit his kids and his wife on off days. I told him that was a great idea, and just be ready to pitch every fifth day.”