SAN BENITO — Gabriel Sandoval spent his childhood watching college baseball on television, dreaming about making it to that level.
On Thursday, Sandoval made that dream come true. The San Benito third baseman/pitcher signed to play baseball for Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. He’ll be competing in the NAIA and plans to study business.
“It feels amazing. Ever since I was small I always wanted to play college ball. Especially with COVID and everything, it’s a big sigh of relief knowing that I got it done,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval was a four-year letterwinner for the Greyhounds. He notched a .347 batting average during his senior season, leading the team with five home runs and 28 RBIs. Sandoval said he took great pride in helping San Benito reach the playoffs for the first time this year.
“Senior year meant a lot to me, out of my four years it was the first making the playoffs. It’s something I’ll never forget. I wanted to lead these guys to the playoffs,” Sandoval said.
Greyhounds coach Ramiro Partida, Sandoval’s uncle, took over the team midway through the year. Partida said after watching Sandoval grow as a young man and a player, he knew he had the abilities to lead the team and he let him.
“I would see him during the games, and I knew he was a leader. So when I took over, I basically told him, ‘This is your team. Lead the way,’ and he did,” Partida said. “He’s a great kid on and off the field. A lot of our players respect him, and it shows. … I think he’s going to do good because of his heart. He’s dedicated.”
The pandemic made recruitment a little harder this year, but as soon as Sandoval got in touch with OLLU coach Bryan Aughney, he knew he’d found his next home. Sandoval will be playing with numerous Valley natives, including former Greyhounds player Nico Ybarra.
Sandoval knows making the jump to college baseball won’t be easy, but he’s ready for the challenge. He thanked his family, teammates and “every single coach” he’s ever had for making him better and getting him ready for the next step.
“Coach Aughney gave me a call, and from that call I just felt it. We had a little showcase here at the high school and he was here, and I just felt that he was the one I wanted to play for,” Sandoval said. “Baseball is definitely a sport of failure. You’re going to fail more than you succeed. I’ve worked a lot on my hitting. If you hit, you won’t sit, that’s one of the biggest things I’ve focused on.”