Nova Scotia

New York Yankees draft Dartmouth native in 3rd round of MLB draft

Jake Sanford left Nova Scotia after high school to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball. On Tuesday, he was drafted by the New York Yankees.

Jake Sanford won the triple crown in the 2019 season at Western Kentucky University

Dartmouth, N.S., native Jake Sanford was drafted in the third round by the New York Yankees following a standout season at Western Kentucky University. (Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)

Dartmouth, N.S., native Jake Sanford celebrated being drafted by the New York Yankees in a way his college coach said was emblematic of his star outfielder.

"This afternoon he was going to lift and hit," John Pawlowski, head coach of the Western Kentucky University baseball team, said in a phone interview.

"That's what he does. I mean, he is trying to find a way to get better."

Pawlowski couldn't hide his excitement as he talked about Sanford, whom the Yankees took in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft with the 105th pick overall. It's quite a leap from where he was just a few years ago.

'The ball really carries off his bat'

After graduating from Auburn Drive High School, Sanford, 21, walked on to the team at McCook Community College in Nebraska before being recruited two years later by Western Kentucky. Originally slated to play first base, Pawlowski said Sanford's athleticism quickly moved him to the outfield.

An even more pleasant surprise came when the left-handed-hitting Sanford stepped into the batter's box for batting practice.

"We noticed, 'Man, there's a lot of strength. The ball really carries off his bat,'" said Pawlowski.

He and his coaching staff were left wondering how that would translate once Sanford started facing the stiffest competition he'd ever seen to that point. Simply put, it turned out pretty well.

"He far exceeded where we thought he was going to be," said Pawlowski. "He just continues to get better and better."

Sanford put up "video game numbers," in the words of his coach. He capped his season at Western Kentucky by winning the triple crown for Conference USA, posting the top numbers in batting average (.398), home runs (22) and RBIs (66) in the NCAA Division 1 conference.

As Sanford started racking up the numbers, his coach said it didn't take long for the Nova Scotian's confidence in his own abilities to kick into overdrive. Even as teams started pitching to him differently because of his performance, Pawlowski said Sanford made the necessary adjustments and kept hitting.

Those numbers led to Sanford being ranked 107th on the MLB.com top-200 prospect list. His now-former coach said Sanford is just as impressive a teammate.

Jake Sanford won the triple crown this season while playing outfield with the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. (Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)

"You look at guys that are that successful and, you know, there's something different about them, but Jake is — you wouldn't be able to tell. He's just as humble as he could be," said Pawlowski.

Baseball Nova Scotia executive director Brandon Guenette said the news is exciting for the sport and its promotion in Nova Scotia.

"It certainly raises the profile of the sport and shows you can make it in more than just the traditional sports we have here," he said.

"Anytime you get someone like Jake getting drafted as high as he can by a team like the Yankees, it's definitely going to create a buzz around the sport."

In an era when the conventional route to professional baseball has become for kids to travel all over North America with travel teams or attend elite schools and baseball academies, Sanford is something of a throwback.

He played multiple sports, including hockey and volleyball, before leaving the province after graduation to pursue his baseball dream. Powlawski said that speaks to the kind of athlete Sanford is, as well as his work ethic. He believes playing multiple sports growing up helped Sanford.

"It takes a special athlete to do what he has been able to accomplish," he said.

"Conventional wisdom says, 'Hey, put down all the other sports and concentrate on one,' but in this case it looks like it worked to his advantage that he worked on a lot of different skill sets.

"Now he has the opportunity to hone in on baseball only and, like I've told people, he's just getting started at this baseball deal."

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About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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