When Jesse Sanborn sat down to enter his picks for MLB Opening Day Pick ’Em presented by Mastercard, he was determined to make what he saw as the most logical selections, even if it meant taking the Dodgers to defeat his beloved Giants. His methods worked, and the 32-year-old chef is $100,000 richer as a result.
“It’s amazing, it’s awesome and I never expected it whatsoever, so it’s a little unbelievable,” said Sanborn, the chef de cuisine at Sally Tomatoes, a restaurant and catering service in Rohnert Park, Calif.
Sanborn, who grew up in California’s Central Valley and now resides in Rohnert Park, won the contest's $100,000 grand prize by correctly selecting the winner in each of the 15 season openers that were played on July 23 and 24, as well as the tiebreaker question, which asked participants to guess how many home runs would be hit across the 15 games. The correct number ended up being 27, which Sanborn hit on the nose.
“That was just kind of a number I threw in the air,” he said. “I was looking through each game and was like, ‘All right, I could see a home run or two hit here, another two or three hit here.’ And even that being the reason why [I won] makes it even more unbelievable.”
While Sanborn points to 2002 -- when the Giants reached the World Series -- as the year he truly became an avid fan of the game, his baseball interest was fostered at a young age, as he attended many Giants games with his family at Candlestick Park as a kid.
Sanborn also recalls often going to watch his hometown Minor League team, the Visalia Oaks, now known as the Rawhide, and getting to see future stars such as Barry Zito, Evan Longoria and Justin Upton before they reached the Majors.
Sanborn even worked for the Rawhide, currently the Class A Advanced affiliate of the D-backs, as a banquet chef for a year while he was saving money to attend culinary school, and he appreciated that he could catch the last few innings of games after finishing up with his job.
To make his selections for MLB’s Opening Day Pick ’Em contest, Sanborn carefully analyzed each matchup and tapped into the baseball knowledge he’s garnered from his years of fandom in addition to his experience playing in a competitive fantasy baseball dynasty league for more than a decade.
“Baseball’s the one sport I really follow as far as knowing everything about the sport,” Sanborn said. “So I made educational, good picks -- assuming what the outcomes would be, logical picks -- and that was kind of it, [although] it was a little tough being a Giants fan and having to choose the Dodgers to win on Opening Day.”
Tough as it was, Sanborn made the correct call in that game as well as 14 others, plus the tiebreaker, to claim the top prize.