By Cat Garcia
Scanning through the White Sox clubhouse, the brightest spot you’ll find on any given day is the one where Yolmer Sanchez is standing.
Light-hearted and extremely spirited despite whatever the current situation with the White Sox may be, the four-year veteran has found his place and his role in the clubhouse over the last two seasons.
“He leads by example and he’s also a person that carries a voice in the locker room,” Manager Rick Renteria said of Sanchez. “He’s an individual that, in spite of what might be happening every single day, he goes out and shows you he still has the energy, the focus, the commitment to everything he possibly can to beat you.”
For Sanchez, the persona he has created comes effortlessly. He doesn’t try to be the loveable clubhouse goof he’s been so cordially tagged as, it’s just who he is. “I was like this [growing up]. It’s just what I am,” Sanchez said. “My family has a lot of energy and I think that’s why I’m like that. I don’t try to be funny, I think people think I’m funny but that’s just who I am, I like to enjoy things.”
Sanchez’s personality could easily be misconstrued as careless when placed in the setting of the White Sox’s current situation, but that’s certainly not what it is. On the contrary, Sanchez is looking for ways to keep the team mood elevated despite the lack of success they’ve seen this season.
“I think you have to be confident that you can do what you want in the clubhouse but respect everyone,” Sanchez said. “But I feel like nobody has a problem with that and if somebody says ‘Hey, Yolmer, you have to stop doing this’, I would, but I’ve never had anyone say that,
“I think it’s good when you have a lot of energy in the clubhouse, you keep everything loose and get ready for the game. I love seeing Timmy laughing and relaxed and those things.”
Renteria is captaining a quite youthful core of young players during the White Sox’s rebuilding period, and hopes to see his players break out of their shells the same way that Sanchez has. “That’s the example that [Sanchez] shown, through his character,” Renteria said. “Ultimately you want a major league club that every single player does that, these guys are learning how to do that. They’re driving toward that personality individually and hopefully it’s something that collectively comes together.”
On the field, Sanchez has been the image of consistency and improvement — yet another way in which he is able to lead by example in a young clubhouse.
Entering Saturday, Sanchez, who has only played in 120 or more games for two seasons of his career, is batting .300/.336/.446 while maintaining the lowest strikeout rate of his career at 18.6 percent.
“I think when I try to hit too much I miss a lot of pitches so I don’t try to do too much,” Sanchez said of his recent success. “I just put the ball in play, see my videos [of] my hits when I hit a couple of pitches outside the box, I feel good when I see that result. I feel good and I try to do the same thing, I try to see my video when I get a base hit and I try to repeat that swing over and over again, that I think is what’s helped me.”
Of course that success doesn’t come without the support of the strong coaching staff which the White Sox employ. “’[Steverson] is good, anytime I have a bad day, like no hits or I strikeout, he comes to me and says ‘Let’s talk about this’, and we watch the video,” Sanchez said of hitting coach Todd Steverson. “We have a lot [of support], I always say you don’t feel pressure, even when you have a tough moment like right now, Ricky is always positive and that helps you to get confidence and go out and do your thing and I think it’s really good.”
Sanchez is likely set to be the White Sox’s starting third baseman for the foreseeable future, with Matt Davidson shifting to the DH role, and the consistency in playing time has helped Sanchez gain ground and blossom in this team’s lineup everyday. Even when Renteria shuffles the deck and plays Sanchez at second base, as he did on Friday against the Cubs, or moves his spot in the lineup, Sanchez is ready for the challenge. “I just try to do my job everytime I can to help the team,” Sanchez said.
Despite the 9-26 record on the season thus far, with the charm of Sanchez and the positive reinforcement of Renteria — things never feel quite as dreary as the record may show for the South Siders.