The season was winding down for the Pulaski Yankees, the rookie affiliate of the New York Yankees, as the team faced the Burlington Royals in the last home series. Catcher Donny Sands quickly looked up into the stands as he approached the batter’s box. Smiling back proudly was his mom Alma who knew just what it took for him to make his dream come true.
Sands started playing baseball when he was three years old and it quickly became a passion for the whole family. His dad Roger played college baseball and his mom was extremely supportive becoming Donny’s drill partner.
“When I was little, she would actually throw me pinto beans and I would try to hit them with a broomstick. We were pretty poor so we used whatever we could find,” Sands said. “She would also throw me these little balls from Mexico and would also roll them to me to focus on fielding. She did anything she could to help me out.”
The Sands continued to help Donny pursue his dream as he played travel ball throughout the southwest.
“I played on this team called 520 Elite,” Sands said. “I’m from Tucson, Arizona and that was the area code. We played in Phoenix, California, and Las Vegas.”
When Sands was in high school, his father passed away. Sands said it made him and his mom closer as they overcame many obstacles to keep the baseball dream alive.
“All we have is each other and she’s my best friend,” Sands said. “High school was hard. My mom would have to go to Mexico to work and I would live in my car. We got kicked out of a few houses and went wherever we could.”
It was at one of those houses where Sands found out all of their hard work had paid off.
“There was a news station in Arizona doing a story on me. They were doing a day in the life kind of thing,” Sands said. “I had done a pre-draft workout with the Yankees and the reporters kept asking me what I thought. The Yankees called me in the eighth round.”
Sands was excited and decided to break the news to his mom who was working at the time and didn’t know.
“I actually came to her work with the cameras following me. I told her and she didn’t even notice the cameras. She just started crying because she was so happy.”
The Yankees drafted Sands in the eighth round of the 2015 draft and his signing bonus allowed him to give back to his mom.
“I bought my mom a house. That was a big thing for us because we didn’t have one when I was in high school. Now I know my mom has a place that she can call her own.”
Sands mainly played shortstop and third base in high school but the Yankees decided to convert him into a catcher just like Pulaski teammate Manny Argomaniz.
“It’s been awesome because everybody in this organization has been here for us. It’s been a lot of fun but it’s definitely hard,” Sands said. “People like to say it’s easy but it’s been really hard especially learning a new position behind the plate. I learn something new every day and am progressing. I think the hard work will definitely be worth it.”
The Sands family has overcome many hurdles and put in long hours of hard work to make it to pro baseball and Donny said with his family’s support, he hopes to continue making them proud.
“My mom is my best friend. She has helped me a lot whether it’s traveling places for baseball or helping me with drills. We’re constantly talking. I know she’s excited and happy for me and I hope to go as far as I can for her.”