In 2009, Gattis decided to give baseball another try. He enrolled at Texas--Permian Basin, and the following year the Braves drafted him in the 23rd round. He hit 40 homers in 610 minor league at bats in '11 and '12, and this off-season Gattis tied for the Venezuelan Winter League lead with 16 homers and earned the nickname El Oso Blanco (the White Bear). This spring he leads the Braves with a 1.076 OPS and could make the team as a backup catcher.
On Feb. 4, 2006, Juan Sandoval, a righthander with a heavy sinker who was rising through the Mariners' farm system, went to dinner with family in his hometown of Bonao, D.R. A drunken man began arguing with the restaurant's security guard. When the guard fired a shotgun into the ground to scare the man, three pellets ricocheted into Sandoval's right eye.
A seven-hour operation saved Sandoval's eyeball, but he was blind on that side. With 20--15 vision in his left eye, he learned to field ground balls despite diminished depth perception and returned to baseball nearly a year later. He got as far as Triple A in 2007, but by '11 he was pitching in the Mexican League.
Over the winter Rays reliever Joel Peralta saw Sandoval, now 32, pitch in the Dominican Winter League; after Peralta's rave report, Tampa Bay signed Sandoval to a minor league deal. Last Saturday he was reassigned to minor league camp, but G.M. Andrew Friedman says Sandoval has "the ingredients to be a really good major league pitcher."
THE MOUND CONVERT