Blind in one eye, Rays pitcher not giving up

Blind in one eye, Rays pitcher not giving up
February 24, 2013, 5:00 pm
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He’s with the Rays, but you don’t have to be a Tampa Bay fan to root for Juan Sandoval.

The pitcher is getting an opportunity with a major-league organization again after performing in Mexico when he couldn’t stick with the Mariners, Brewers or Phillies. Sandoval is a long shot, but he’s already gone beyond the expected. He’s pitching with the use of just one eye, limiting his depth perception and his peripheral vision.

Sandoval lost the sight in his right eye in 2006, when he was struck by a shotgun blast while a bystander during an altercation in a Dominican Republic restaurant. Bob Klapisch of the Bergen County, N.J., Herald told Sandoval’s story in a recent edition. What made Klapisch uniquely qualified to write about Sandoval is that the veteran baseball reporter himself had been blinded in one eye by a line drive during a semipro baseball game in 2008, a condition eventually corrected through several surgeries.

Klapisch describes the impaired vision this way: “I felt boxed in, detached from my surroundings, like I was watching my life through a miniature TV screen.”

Sandoval has trouble judging distance within five feet, saying: “Comebackers are tough for me. I have to count the bounces to know how I should field the ball. That’s a drill I’ve had to learn.”

Sandoval was recommended to the Rays by Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta, a friend. After viewing videos of Sandoval pitching in Mexico, they decided to invite him to camp.

“We always look to find talent in unorthodox places,” general manager Andrew Friedman said.

Sandoval may not make the majors, but he could find a spot in Triple-A, Klapisch writes. The reporter also leaves Sandoval with a sense of hope, telling him of Klapisch’s own experiences and the return of his sight to the injured eye.

Which gives us a couple of things to root for.