Fathers and sons usually have a special bond, but for right-handed pitcher, Aaron Sanchez, that bond is even greater. After all, Aaron is the stepson of Mike Shipley, a 1976 draftee of the California Angels out of Barstow Community College in California. Shipley, a left-handed pitcher for BCC, spent two seasons (1976-1977) in Barstow. Shipley was named Desert Conference All-League MVP and All State Community College Pitcher in 1977,setting six school records including lowest season ERA (1.24). Shipley would later pitch for the University of Tulsa and would finish fifth in the NCAA in strikeouts his junior season.
Unfortunately, a rotator cuff injury in his senior season at Tulsa forced Shipley to quit playing baseball. But despite ceasing to play professionally, Shipley was still able to instill confidence and the required skill sets in his son. “My dad was a left-handed pitcher, but even though he threw from the opposite side as me, he was still able to give me information of what I needed to know. Having played Division 1 baseball and being drafted by the Angels he has seen it all. Anything I need I can get it from him,” stated Sanchez.
“He’s my best friend and I couldn’t ask for anything more than what he’s given me.”
The youngest of four children, Aaron spent his entire childhood in the same city where his Dad made a name for himself as a pitcher. “I was born and raised in Barstow. That’s home for me. That’s where it all lies. I have two older brothers and an older sister,” Sanchez said, adding, “Growing up in Barstow I played baseball, basketball, and football. In middle school it was basketball and baseball. Then when I got to high school I had a freak accident in basketball and almost didn’t get a chance to try-out for baseball. I gave basketball up then and just focused on baseball and it has taken me far in my short life.”
Sanchez graduated from Barstow High School in 2010 and would be drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round (34th overall) of the June 2010 MLB draft. He started his professional career in 2010 with the GCL Blue Jays and Auburn Doubledays going 0-3 with a 2.16 ERA. He struck out 37 batters and walked 17 in ten games.
The 2011 season saw Sanchez split time between the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Vancouver Canadians, where he went 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA with 56 strikeouts and walking 26 in 54 1/3 innings pitched in 14 games, “Vancouver was an unbelievable experience being part of a championship team. The stadium sold out every night it was a great experience.”
Sanchez joined the Lansing Lugnuts in 2012 going 8-5 with a 2.49 ERA striking out 97 and walking 51 in 90 1/3 innings pitched in 25 games, “Every season has its ups and downs, but I credit Vince Horsman for getting me prepared every fourth day from April until September. I have learned a lot and can take it into spring training next year,” stated Sanchez.
In addition to finding support from his coaches, Sanchez was also appreciative of the support he received from his friends and family. “The encouragement I receive from my family throughout the season is great. It’s a long season and my family tries to come see me play whenever they can. Every night it’s a phone call to my parents asking how they’re doing if everything is okay and vice versa making sure everything is okay on my end. The family support helps being away from home so long. That family friendship that you get is huge to get through a full season.”
Aside from the family support, Sanchez indicates that he has been able to find success thanks to his pitch repertoire, “I use three pitches – a fastball, a curveball and a changeup. My fastball jumped. At the beginning of the year it was 92 to 95, in the middle it was 94 to 96, lately it has been around 95 to 99. Reportedly I hit 100, but you never know if those readings are accurate.
“I’m not sure when I started my great curveball; it was something I was messing around with in high school. I choked the pitch by changing grips and it constantly got better. It became an out pitch for me when I started professional baseball just need to throw strikes with it,” stated Sanchez.
Now that the Lugnuts’ season is over Aaron says he can now focus on his offseason, “It’ll be good to go home, but after a week I’ll be bored and want to play baseball again. The time off gives you time to relax from an eight-month grind, but I’ll get in shape and get ready for spring training next year.”
Hopefully Sanchez will spend the off-season spending time with the family that has supported him his whole life as he prepares for another exciting year ahead with the Blue Jays’ organization.