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Unorthodox training methods pay off for Sands

Yanks' 8th-round Draft pick honed hand-eye coordination by hitting pinto beans

NEW YORK -- The pinto beans littered the concrete floor of the Arizona garage, morphing from a handy food item into a reliable and inexpensive training tool. The young athlete whipped a bat through the strike zone, barreling up each tiny legume with precision.

Donny Sands' training methods may have been a bit unorthodox, but there is no question that they worked. This daily exercise started before the shortstop's freshman year at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson with his mother, Alma, playing the part of batting practice pitcher.

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"It was my mom and me; not having a lot of stuff," Sands said on Tuesday. "It always helped my hand-eye coordination, not having baseballs or anything like that. We were just going out, working hard with that stuff. Anything that we had and could use, we used to our advantage. The little pinto beans were right there."

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The way the game worked, as the 19-year-old recalled Tuesday, was that his mother would set a clock for five minutes and begin tossing the beans. Sands would have to hit each one without missing any for the session to end; if he whiffed, the clock restarted at zero. The idea was his mother's, cribbed from her experiences living in Mexico.

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Sands thought about that exercise, and much more, when the Yankees called his name in the eighth round of the Draft, making him the 243rd overall selection.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on at noon ET.

Reached by telephone at home in Arizona, Sands said that he plans to fly to Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday and put his name on an official Yankees contract.

It will be a return trip to the George M. Steinbrenner Field complex for Sands, who recently worked out for team executives on their home turf. Sands said that he always liked the Yankees and grew up cheering for Derek Jeter.

"That was a great experience, being able to go to the complex and the Steinbrenner Field facilities. It was just awesome," Sands said. "They did a lot of strength tests when I was there in the morning, just checking my body flexibility, catch some ground balls and then face live pitchers."

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The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder starred as a prep player, playing shortstop and pitching for Salpointe Catholic, where he batted .450 while striking out 38 batters in 23 1/3 innings. Sands said he also played on a Yankees scout team last summer.

"They've been awesome through this whole process, and just really interested," Sands said. "Some of the head guys talked to me after the workout and seemed really interested and excited, and told me they would give me a call next week."

Though Sands had committed to the University of New Mexico, he instead plans to pursue a dream that sparked at age 2, when he recalls swinging a bat with his late father, Roger. Sands regularly prays to his father, who passed away in 2012, but he will have an added message of thanks and celebration before beginning the next stage of this journey.

"He had a huge impact on my life," Sands said. "He always talked about hard work and never letting anybody tell you what you can and can't do, no matter what, and just you've got to always believe in yourself. Today was a surreal moment, just being able to thank him for everything that has happened. Going forward, this is awesome."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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