The Northwoods League experienced another successful Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2009 with Tony Sanchez of the Battle Creek Bombers being the highest pick in league history (4th). In all, 136 players were taken that year including 25 players selected in the top 10 rounds.
Sanchez, from Boston College, became the highest draft pick in Northwoods League history when he was selected 4th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Former St. Cloud River Bats pitcher Thomas Diamond previously held the mark as the 10th overall pick by the Texas Rangers out of the University of New Orleans in 2004. Outfielders Brett Jackson and Tim Wheeler joined Sanchez as first round picks marking the first draft where multiple NWL alumni were selected in the first round. The Chicago Cubs drafted former La Crosse Logger Brett Jackson (California-Berkeley) with the 31st pick of the first round. The Colorado Rockies followed by taking former St. Cloud River Bat Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State) with the 32nd pick to close out the first round. All three players were in the Northwoods League during the 2007 season. This marked the sixth consecutive draft that a Northwoods League alumnus had been selected in either the first round or the compensation round that followed.
Sanchez was a breakout star for the Bombers and one of the top prospects ever to come through the Northwoods League. The Miami native arrived in Battle Creek after starting 48 of 50 games during his freshman season at Boston College, where he hit .318 with 28 RBIs while also throwing out 38 percent of would be base stealers. Sanchez was named to the League’s postseason All-Star Team after hitting .269 with three home runs, 17 doubles (second-most in the NWL) and 30 RBI.
Sanchez eventually became the second Bombers alum to reach the majors after he was called up by the Pirates on June 23, 2013. Facing then-L.A. Angels starting pitcher Joe Blanton in his first major league at bat, Sanchez hit a ground rule double — with the ball getting stuck between padding and a protective grating for the scoreboard at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Sanchez went 1-for-3 in the Pirates 10-9 victory.
In three seasons with Pittsburgh, Sanchez batted .259 with four home runs in 155 plate appearances. Sanchez is currently with the Texas Rangers at AAA with the Round Rock Express. He also spent time with the Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, Angels and Reds organizations.
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