Erie starting pitcher Humberto Sanchez's home is being invaded. His walls are covered with it. His girlfriend can't stand it. His clarity of mind depends on it.
"I'm a big quote guy," Sanchez said. "I've got a couple of quotes all over my apartment. My girlfriend gets mad because I've got quotes on the doors, quotes on the ceilings, quotes on the walls. They clear my mind and give me a perspective of what I want to do, what I've been through and where I want to be."
Sanchez knew where he wanted to be since he first played ball at age 5. He said the first time he fell in love with the game was the first time he played it.
"You always say that when you're a little kid – hopefully that's me [playing pro ball]," Sanchez said. "Then I played a couple of games at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium and it makes you think – damn, I could really do this in 10 years. I knew I wanted to play baseball for the rest of my life as a job or career – that's what I was born to do."
Sanchez, who was born in the Dominican Republic, moved to the Bronx at age 10 and said there was lots to adjust to – including language barriers and the culture of New York. He also had to choose – would he be a Yankee or Mets fan?
"It's funny. I literally grew up 2 or 3 blocks from Yankee Stadium, but I went to more Mets games than Yankee games. It just sort of worked out that way, Sanchez said. "I didn't really root for any of them though, I was just a baseball fan."
Sanchez, 22, continued to play ball through high school and then went to Connor State College in Oklahoma. While there, he was plagued by injury – making him a less-appealing candidate for the major leagues.
"I remember one media article that got to me," Sanchez said. "It said – poor kid from the Bronx doesn't take the money – goes to college and now his career is in danger. So I kind of took it personally."
Whoever wrote that article was not too spectacular at predicting the future. Sanchez's career is no where near danger. After missing the first two months of the season from injury, Sanchez is on track toward the top of his game with a 5.57 ERA and is grouped as one of Erie's top pitching prospects. Sanchez is working hard to get back into mid-season shape and the work shows.
"[Injuries] are kind of frustrating because there's nothing I can really do about it," Sanchez said. "I just keep telling myself to keep working and keep improving. [Pitching] puts a lot stress on your body, throwing 95 mph, especially the big guys. It's just constant stress on your body, but I'm getting use to it."
Sanchez is also getting use to working and playing hard. He says he tends to put lots of pressure on himself.
"I guess if we win, that's always a good thing," Sanchez said. "If I don't do my job though, it's just okay – I'm happy, but at the same time I didn't do what I have to do."
Sanchez knows what it takes to get to the major leagues and sees himself getting to Detroit if he puts in the work.
"It's just kind of a numbers thing," Sanchez said. "If I put up the numbers, I should get my shot. If not, we'll see what happens then."
When comparing batters in the majors to batters in the minors, Sanchez said there's not much difference.
"They probably have a lot more experience; you just don't change what you're doing down here. If you've been successful down here – just try to keep going with that instead of proving different," Sanchez said. "Just because you're in the majors doesn't mean you have to change the way you throw – just get them out. They are still batters trying to hit the ball."
Sanchez also added, "anywhere you get moved up – you kind of want to prove yourself. Not me, I don't like proving to other people."
This fastball-loving pitcher stays grounded through his family's support.
"My mom is a big fan," Sanchez said. "She's just happy that I'm up in AA already and working my way up. She doesn't really care about when I get to the majors, she just goes along."
Sanchez's mom lives in Indianapolis and drives the 6 hours nearly every weekend to see her son play ball. Sanchez said every weekend he's there – she's there.
When asked if Sanchez missed New York – he was quick to say no.
"I'm tropical, I don't like that cold weather," Sanchez said. "That's why I moved from New York as soon as I had the chance."
If given the opportunity to be anywhere else – tropical Sanchez said he'd be back home in the Dominican Republic in a small town on top of a tangerine tree eating fruits.
"When my brother and I were smaller, we'd climb up the trees and pick fruit. There were branches we'd just lay back on. We could just fall asleep and take a nap on top of the trees. It was pretty cool," Sanchez said.
In the meantime – Sanchez is busy reading up on his quotes to prepare for the final weeks of the season. The one he loves most? It's Mark Twain's quote that says, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts. It's the size of the fight in the dog."
So batters beware because the fight in Sanchez is getting stronger, and it's just the beginning.