Frankford's Sanchez works both sides of the plate

Posted: April 16, 2013

NOT OFTEN does a masked man take to the mound.

We're not talking about a bank robber, a hazmat worker or even the Lone Ranger. We're talking about a catcher.

That position was almost exclusively the one and only played last season by Eduardo "Cheese" Sanchez for Frankford High's baseball team. But now the 5-10, 220-pound senior is a two-spot guy and one is 60 feet, 6 inches from the other.

Monday, in a career first, Sanchez spent his time at both as the visiting Pioneers downed George Washington, 7-3, in a Public A clash.

He played catcher in the first five innings and, batting third, went 2-for-4 with one RBI. Then he strolled to the mound - the starting and winning pitcher, Carlos Ramirez, strapped on the catcher's gear - and worked two almost-perfect innings (one harmless walk) to nail down the save.

"It's different doing it this way," Sanchez said. "The arm angles are different and you don't have the same velocity, like when you're starting, because you've been throwing the ball around for five innings.

"But I'm pretty good at pitching and keeping my focus and doing what needs to be done. Coach [Juan] Namnun said on the way up here that if the game was close near the end, I'd need to be ready to pitch. I did some throwing off to the side in the fourth-fifth inning, so I was OK."

During Sanchez' mound stint, Namnun offered a nugget of advice or three.

"I didn't hear him," Sanchez said, smiling. "I blank out on the mound. I'm completely focused on the plate. Don't see anything else. Don't hear anything else. It's just me and the catcher. All I want to do is throw strikes."

Frankford's 2012 squad was senior-heavy in the pitching department, so Sanchez almost exclusively found himself in a crouch.

As that season ended, coach pulled aside player and told him to be prepared to pitch early and often in '13.


"My mechanics were horrible," Sanchez said. "I couldn't even throw the ball over the plate."

Sanchez thus became a pupil of Frank DiMichele, a k a The Pitching Pro. DiMichele, a product ('83) of the old Neumann High, pitched briefly in the majors and now schools others.

"I would go down to South Philly to work out with him three times a week, and I did some special training sessions, too," Sanchez said. "He did a great job with me. Not just with my mechanics. He also taught me a curve, slider and forkball. I used the curve and forkball today."

At bat, Sanchez grounded out in the first, singled hard to left-center in the third, looped an RBI single to center in the fourth and sent a fly to right in the sixth.

That last visit to the dish was his favorite.

"Well, that was a pretty good shot [to right-center]," he explained. "The kid [Nick Visalli] ran it down and made a nice play. And, of course, I had the real nice shot right before that."

Ah, yes. It's 318 feet down Washington's leftfield line. Sanchez crushed a foul home run.

"I couldn't get too excited," he said, "because I knew it was foul right off the bat. I really pulled it. It felt good, though."

Tim DiGiorgio, a senior walk-on and star quarterback, aided Frankford's cause with a 3-for-5, one-RBI outing. He hit second and the guy right in front of him, shortstop Kidanny Cumba, went 2-for-3 with two walks and one RBI.

For the Eagles, Corey Sharp plated the first run with a groundout and scored the second on a triple/error combo. Scott Siley made it 3-3 in the fifth with a shot for an RBI double that scored Jake Wright (reached on error), but pinch-hitter Michael Hollinger singled to open the sixth and Frankford went on to notch a three-spot.

Sanchez, who lives near I and Bristol streets, in Juniata, has been called "Cheese" for roughly 6 years. Well, in truth, the nickname's first version was "Cheeseburger."

"I gave a funny look when I heard that the first time and someone said, 'Hey, that's you' " he said. "I did look like I ate a lot of them. Over time it just went to 'Cheese.' "

And/or "Queso," the Spanish equivalent and what he throws - yes, sometimes up in the zone - in addition to breaking pitches.

"I like pitching better now," Sanchez said. "Being a catcher, I really respect that position."

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