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The Rays have a reliever in camp who is blind in one eye

Feb 16, 2013, 10:03 AM EDT

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a really interesting profile yesterday on Juan Sandoval, a 32-year-old reliever who has been invited to Rays’ camp. He’s trying to keep his baseball career alive despite the fact that he’s completely blind in his right eye.

Sandoval once had some promise as a pitching prospect with the Mariners, but his life changed in February of 2006. While he was out to dinner one night in his hometown in the Dominican Republic, a restaurant security guard and a drunken old man got into a scuffle which resulted in gunfire. Sandoval turned his head to look and was hit with shotgun pellets, including three in his right eye. Doctors were able to save his eye following a seven-hour surgery, but not his vision.

Sandoval actually made it back to baseball less than a year later, but he has understandably had some trouble adjusting. He has bounced around quite bit since then, spending the past two seasons in the Mexican League, but he made it on the Rays’ radar after Joel Peralta placed a call to executive vice president Andrew Friedman over the winter.

Sandoval isn’t going to make the Rays out of spring training, but he has received some rave reviews from manager Joe Maddon and could begin the season with Triple-A Durham. While you wouldn’t blame Sandoval if he had some bitterness about his hard luck, he certainly isn’t showing it.

“Being honest with you, if I could change something that happened in my life, I would not change anything,” Sandoval said. “Everything that has happened has made me the person that I am right now. And I’m a really happy person. …

“This opportunity is something I was dreaming of. And I’m here.”

Not sure how you can’t root for this guy.

  1. buckybadgair - Feb 16, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Thats perspective right there.

  2. kirkvanhouten - Feb 16, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    • tfbuckfutter - Feb 16, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      I like to think when they initially devised this sport they planned on using a blind pitcher too and then after one pitch they were like “New plan!”

  3. Old Gator - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Yes, you can root for him – but sentimentality aside, should you really? You also have to hope that he doesn’t give up a line drive towards his head to the right of his limited visual field. I admire his determination and his spirit – but baseball remains a dangerous game, and he’s putting himself into the way of harm with which he’s no longer physically equipped to deal.

    • philliesblow - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      Excellent point OG. Aren’t 2 eyes required for depth perception? A liner at his dome could spell big trouble.

      • cur68 - Feb 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Two functional eyes do improve depth perception but you can function with one eye well enough to drive a car at speed, play most sports and basically live normally. Being a one eyed ball player might be a bit more chancy, though. A comeback shot might put an end to this pretty fast. Still, I like to think that if One Handed Jim Abbott could make it, then One Eyed Juan Sandoval can, too. I wish him luck.

    • sabatimus - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Was Brandon Phillips physically equipped to deal with putting himself in the way of harm? Having two working eyes didn’t seem to matter that much for him.

      • Old Gator - Feb 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM

        So far, perhaps. It only takes one incident. Like I said, I admire his spirit. But if there’s an accident, it’s going to be very bad.

    • pdefor - Feb 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      Any dangerous comebacker would be one with speed. One or two eyes, there wouldn’t be a difference.

      • cur68 - Feb 16, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        I think Brandon McCarthy agrees with you.

      • Old Gator - Feb 16, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Nonsense. Depth perception in that kind of situation can be the difference between a close call and a dirt nap.

    • mybrunoblog - Feb 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      It’s his body if he wants to risk his health that’s up to him not us.
      Either way an interesting story. I’m gonna keep an eye on this guy.

      • dondada10 - Feb 16, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        I see what you did there.

    • FrustratedDolFan - Feb 16, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      OG I would rather have a player who is blind in one eye than an owner who is blind in both.

      `
      ~Marlins Fan~

  4. tfbuckfutter - Feb 16, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    If pitching doesn’t pan out he can always become an umpire.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Feb 16, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      You must not have read the article, he’s still got one good eye….

  5. pdefor - Feb 16, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    About ten years ago I was in a car accident and blinded in my left eye. I can operate very normally. I was driving again a month after the accident. I’ve worked next to people for years who have no idea that only one eye functions. The doctors explained to me that because your eyes are only a few inches apart, you only have true depth perception to about 50 feet. Everything beyond that relies on shading and your memory of how perspective should be.
    With some practice, Sandoval should be just fine with normal fielding plays. I doubt he’d be more vulnerable to line drives than any other pitcher since they happen so fast. I’d think that batting would be very tough but obviously he’s in a much better position to tell if that’s the case.
    I’ll root for him!

  6. flosox - Feb 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    I for one think its awesome! There are a lot of people with disabilities that don’t even try out of fear of failure or rejection. I think it sets a good model for others to follow.

    And I’ll leave out the pirate jokes.

  7. tampajoey - Feb 16, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    Rays magic can heal the handicapped.

  8. IdahoMariner - Feb 17, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    so many awesome stories today. glad he is getting another chance.

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