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Brendon Sanger hopes return to York County will just be detour on road to major leagues

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
Brendon Sanger is shown here during his time at Florida Atlantic University. Sanger, a York County native, recently joined the York Revolution after the Los Angeles Angeles released him after five seasons in the team's minor league system.
  • Brendon Sanger signed with the York Revolution for the 2020 season.
  • Sanger was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the fourth round in 2015.
  • The York County native is excited to restart his career in the area where he grew up.

From the time he was young, Brendon Sanger knew what path in life he wanted to follow.

He spent many days on the baseball field as his father, Jim, enjoyed a Central League Hall of Fame career. Sanger dreamed that one day he would get to play in the major leagues.

“As a little kid, going there every weekend, watching the games and going after foul balls, I wanted to be like him,” Sanger said. “I wanted to be better than him, but I wanted to be like him.”

After the family moved from York County to Florida when he was 14, Sanger showed he had the talent to reach the sport’s highest level. After a dominant career at Florida Atlantic University, the Los Angeles Angels selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft and his lifelong goal was there for him to grab. 

“It was the happiest day of my life so far,” Sanger said. “You have to bide your time, but in the next five years I thought I would either be (in the majors) or knocking on the door.” 

Instead, almost five years since his phone rang with the call that the Angels had drafted him, the team slammed the door to his dream in his face. 

The Angels called Sanger to inform him that he had been released after five seasons with the club. In his professional career, Sanger had a .241 batting average with 40 home runs and 202 RBIs. 

The phone call shocked and devastated Sanger. The days after he found out he no longer had a spot in the organization were rough and took him to some dark places.

“I wasn’t in a very good mental state,” Sanger said. “You think you failed on your dream. You think everything is over.” 

The perfect opportunity: With the support of his family and his fiancee, Sanger’s outlook improved. Then his phone rang again, this time with good news. 

On the other end of the line was York Revolution manager Mark Mason with an offer to come back to his hometown and have a spot on the Revs’ roster this season. The combination of the chance to play in front of family members he still has in the York area and competing for an organization that has a strong history of putting players back into affiliated baseball was exactly what Sanger was looking for.

“It was such a relief to get that phone call,” Sanger said. “To have it be from Mark Mason and the York Revolution, I just can’t think of a better opportunity.” 

The 26-year-old Sanger played outfield for the Angels, but Mason said in a news release announcing Sanger’s signing that he'll also play second base and third base for the Revs. 

Back to basics: With the Revs, Sanger hopes to get back to his old batting stance and swing and produce the numbers that made him a fourth-round pick in 2015. He spent the offseason training with Seattle Mariners first baseman Dan Vogelbach and Toronto Blue Jays infielder Travis Shaw in Florida and also worked with his father, who he said knows his swing better than anyone, himself included. 

The 6-foot, 195-pound outfielder hit .370 in his final season at FAU and .300 in his first pro season. After years of trying to adjust his swing to match what the Angels’ organization wanted, Sanger is excited to get back to the approach and production he showed earlier in his career.

“If you look at the way I hit in college and look at my stance last year, it’s completely different,” Sanger said. “That wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to swing, but I put a lot of trust in the organization and it didn’t work out. It worked out for a lot of guys, it just didn’t work out for me.” 

Sanger admitted that making adjustments to his swing was needed, but that trying to find the balance between what got him to pro baseball and what the team wanted was difficult. He made tweak after tweak until he found himself in long hitless stretches. He also found himself stepping to the plate without the mentality needed to perform at a high level.

With another chance to prove himself in front of friends and family, Sanger is eager to get back on the field. He never got a chance to attend a Revs game. The stadium was still under construction when he moved to Florida, but the York native is excited for the opportunity to restart his career in the place his passion for the game was born. 

The little kid who grew up chasing down foul balls during Central League games is returning to his hometown at the prime of his athletic life, motivated to prove his major league dream isn’t dead, just delayed.

“I’m going back to who I used to be and do what got me drafted,” Sanger said. “Hopefully I can show who I am as a hitter again. I think I lost sight of that. I think people lost sight of what my best tool is, I could always hit. That kind of got away from me for a little bit so I’m going back to the drawing board, correcting some things and I think big things will come.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.