He capped his three years at Newman Park with an All-America junior season that included 24 homers, 85 RBIs, 56 walks, a .390 batting average and 15 steals.
With all those glittering numbers, his name wasn't called until the 25th round of the 2008 draft, and the Dodgers were able to sign him with an offer that included a provision that they'd pay for his final year of school.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder who hit 61 home runs in his three seasons at Catawba and carried a career .381 batting average said, "I talked things over with my parents after hearing what the Dodgers had to say and I just made the decision that I didn't want to let this opportunity pass me by. It's a chance to play professional baseball, which is what I've dreamed about for so long. If I had gone back into the draft next year, I might have been drafted lower or not drafted at all."
Sent to the Dodgers rookie team in Vero Beach, Florida, he opened his Gulf Coast League career with a grand slam. The eighth-inning drive keyed a 7-1 win. But in baseball, your performance yesterday is a good deal like yesterday's newspaper and while he was among the league-leaders in home runs (10) a solid number in the major-league sized parks they played in, walks (29) and RBI (46) over 46 games, he fanned 43 times and finished with a batting average of .205.
"It was a great experience playing in an historic place like Vero," Sands said. "I've got some power and a decent eye, and I showed that, but I wasn't consistent enough with my swing."
Because he was a college player, and thus older than many of the Gulf Coast League Dodgers and despite the miniscule average, he was promoted to Ogden in 2009. He went 3-for-4 with a homer opening night and after 15 games he was hitting .460 with six home runs and 19 runs batted in.
At Ogden, Raptors hitting coach Johnny Washington restored his the mechanics of his swing, stressing that he should hit to all fields and no longer try to hit homers.
He won Dodger Pride Awards for June and July before earning a promotion to Great Lakes and had boosted his average to .350 with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs in 41 games for the Raptors with a 1.114 OPS when he was promoted to Great Falls August 9th when an outfielder went on the disabled list.
Sands Great Lakes debut was nothing to write home about. Seeing action in only a hand full of games, he had two singles and seven strikeouts in 17 scattered at-bats for a .118 batting average. The injured player came back and Sands went on the reserve list. For the next several weeks, he could work out with the team and take batting practice, but he wasn't eligible to play in games.
"Bigger stadiums, more fans, and I believe I was a little shellshocked and star-struck. I was trying to hit a home run every at-bat, and my swing got too big. I started slow and got in a hole. Then I dug the hole a little deeper every time I went out there," he said. "I struggled."
When he was finally sent back to Ogden in June and could demonstrated his old swing again, hitting .350. He got a second chance at Great Lakes in August and finished with a .278 average (25-for-90) with seven doubles, a pair of triples and five home runs with the Loons.
Sands played some center field for the Raptors. "I'm sure I don't have the range of a major league center fielder," Sands said. "But at this level, I can hold my own in center." His strong arm also worked just fine in right.
He earned a spot on the Tops Short Season after the season ended and was selected to the Pioneer League Post-Season All-Star team as an outfielder.
Eric Stephen of truebluela.com interviewed Dodgers Assistant GM-Player Development De Jon Watson after the season and asked what position Sands would play in 2010 and Watson replied that he has the foot speed to play in the outfield but that they were not ruling out first base. Watson was complimentary of Sands, noting he was a blue collar kid and brings it every game.
Sands will likely open the season at Inland Empire and the Dodgers will be waiting to see if he can carry his power on into Class-A.
Gerald "Jerry" Sands 6-4 220 br tr Born-September 28, 1987 in Clayton, NC Obtained- Selected in 25th round of 2008 draft Year team ave obp ops gm ab h r 2b 3b hr bi sb 2008 GCL .205 .346 .784 46 146 29 30 4 0 10 33 5 2009 Ogden .350 .427 1.114 41 163 41 57 9 2 14 39 0 GLks .260 .361 .871 32 104 22 27 7 2 5 19 1 ------------------------------------------------------------------ Totals .276 .380 .934 119 413 92 114 20 4 29 91 6We would like to thank Jared Massy of ThinkBlue, Evan Chavez of NewMexicoFan.com, Nick Eustrom, Brandon Lennox and Yadja and Bob Bacher for their much-appreciated help in compiling this list. Each had a different slant on the top 40 and when I set up my list, their thoughts were extremely valuable. If there is any criticism of the LADugout Top 40, be advised that these gentlemen are not at fault, all the blame lies with me.