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Unselfish Sanchez changes position again

Chris Federico | Thursday, April 8, 2004

Javi Sanchez should never get too comfortable with his position.

Following the devastating injury to second baseman Steve Sollmann in Notre Dame’s first game against Villanova last Saturday, the Irish found themselves searching for someone to fill Sollmann’s enormous shoes.

The senior Sanchez – who has proved to be a real baseball renaissance man with his ability to play almost any position on the field for the Irish – is just the player for the job.

“He’s a natural. He’s a natural at any position,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said of his tri-captain Sanchez. “He’s just a ball player, that kid. He can play so many different positions, whether you play him at short, third, second or catcher. I could put him in the outfield, and he’d do a good job out there.”

In 2002, Sanchez came off the bench to play shortstop for the Irish during their run to the College World Series after Matt Macri and Matt Edwards suffered season-ending injuries.

Last year, when Notre Dame needed a catcher to replace Paul O’Toole, who had graduated the year before, Sanchez was more than willing to take the job, even though he had never before played the position. Sanchez worked tirelessly with assistant coach David Grewe to learn from scratch how to be a catcher.

Now with Sollmann injured, Sanchez has moved back out from behind the plate to second base – at least part of the time – as freshman Sean Gaston takes over as the Irish catcher.

Sanchez had already started one game at third base this season in an 8-2 win over Penn State March 8. On Tuesday, in his first game at second base in nearly two years against Chicago State, Sanchez looked like he had never missed a beat.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Miami native credits Mainieri for never letting him get too far away from his roots as an infielder.

“I felt good [Tuesday]. Coach [Mainieri] anticipates things like this happening in the off-season,” Sanchez said. “When we were working indoors, he actually had me take some groundballs in the infield, usually at shortstop, just to get a feel for the infield. If anything happens, he could adjust me from there.”

Sanchez – who was recruited as a second baseman out of Christopher Columbus High School in Miami – says he feels comfortable moving back to his old position in the infield. He feels he just needs more time and more practice with fielding ground balls and getting back to playing the position to return to the level of play he reached two years ago as a regular shortstop.

“I actually feel pretty comfortable,” Sanchez said. “I just think I need to get more ground balls outdoors on our field out here.”

As for Mainieri, he says he just feels fortunate to have a player as flexible as Sanchez, who doesn’t mind being switched form position to position.

“[Sanchez] is the kind of kid that you just thank God you have on your ball club,” Mainieri said. “Everybody loves him because he is so unselfish, and he plays hard. … He’d go raise the flag in the outfield if I told him to do that. He’d do anything for this team.”