Thibodaux native Cam Sanders doesn’t shy away from saying it.
It’s his life-long dream to make it to the Big Leagues — just like his father did some 25 years ago.
This past week, Sanders took a small leap forward in making his dream a reality.
Sanders was named to the 2019 Midwest League All-Star Baseball Game — a high honor for the E.D. White graduate, who is in his second season pitching in the Chicago Cubs farm system.
Sanders, 22, said his time in professional baseball has been a blessing and a learning experience, adding that every day is presented with new challenges and opportunities.
Sanders said it feels good to be named an All-Star — an honor he’s earned so far this season, posting a 3-4 record with a 3.51 ERA for the South Bend Cubs.
“It’s a great honor,” Sanders said. “I feel truly blessed to be an All-Star. It drives me to keep working hard and strive to be an All-Star every year.”
For Sanders, he was born for moments like this.
The son of former MLB pitcher Scott Sanders, Cam was a dominant force at E.D. White — one of the top pitchers in the state of Louisiana in the 2015 season.
Sanders signed with Northwest Florida State College out of high school. He pitched there for two successful seasons before landing at LSU as a junior in 2018.
With the Tigers, Sanders started the season slow, but then surged — emerging as one of the Tigers’ top arms in the SEC Tournament, then NCAA Tournament.
For his efforts, Sanders was a 12th Round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He’s spent the past season and a half on the farm beginning his professional career.
Last year, Sanders was 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 16.2 innings of short-season rookie ball.
After an offseason to refine, Sanders has moved up to Single-A ball where he’s been a quality starter for the South Bend Cubs.
“My career is going great,” Sanders said. “I’m enjoying every moment of it and soaking it all in.”
Sanders said every day at the professional level is challenging, adding that the challenges of being a pitcher are escalated when working as a pro.
In JUCO ball or at LSU, Sanders said there were just 3-4 hitters he’d have to seriously worry about in a lineup.
But in the pros, every lineup is filled with all of those guys rolled out 1-to-9. He said there are no easy outs anymore, which forces him to be on his game for every, single pitch.
“The difference between college and pro ball is better competition,” Sanders said. “Every time I pitch, the other team has a lineup full of the best players from college baseball teams or from other countries around the world.”
But so far, Sanders has thrived in the pressure cooker.
His stuff is electric.
So far this season, he’s pitched 51.1 innings and has struck out 39 batters. Opponents are hitting just .232 against Sanders on the season and in 6 of his past 10 outings at press-time, he’s allowed one run or less.
If there is a bugaboo for Sanders, it’s his control — even dating back to LSU. That’s something the local said he’s working on daily.
This season, Sanders has walked 34 batters and hit three others. Without those free bases, Sanders’ ERA would likely hover in the mid-2’s, instead of at 3.51.
Sanders said the key to fixing the problem is competing — every at-bat, every pitch. The second a pitcher blinks for a second, two or three runs may leak onto the scoreboard.
“I am still working on being the best competitor I can be,” Sanders said. “I’m working on becoming more consistent and throwing quality pitches every inning that I get on the mound.”
If Sanders can do those things, he will likely not be in South Bend long.
He said his goals are to continue to rise up the ranks in the Cubs’ organization — someday making it to Chicago with the Major League team.
Sanders said being a professional baseball player and pitching for a living is a dream, adding that living out his dream has been everything he’s expected it to be … and then some.
“I don’t feel any pressure at all playing a sport for a living,” Sanders said. “I have been playing baseball my whole life and I enjoy going to the ballpark every day. I feel truly blessed to have the job I have right now and I will continue working hard to achieve my goal of making it to the Major Leagues one day.” •