This interview was conducted in Spanish and has been translated. Read it in Spanish here.
Since Miguel Sanó made his MLB debut in 2015, his career has been full of ups and downs. But his 2017 has been almost entirely on the upswing. He has a career-high batting average and slugging percentage; his 1.5 WAR so far is already almost double his 2016 total; and his Twins have been at or near the top of the AL Central all year. Now, just days after accepting an invitation to participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, Sanó describes what it would mean to bring the trophy back to his native Dominican Republic.
Tell me about accepting the invitation to the Home Run Derby.
For me it's super exciting to represent the Twins, as well as my family and all my teammates, and to represent all those Latin fans that I know will be watching that day. It's special for us. I feel super proud to have the great opportunity to be in the Home Run Derby. I am extremely excited, I worked very hard for this, and I thank God for giving me this great opportunity.
Robinson Canó was the last Dominican player to win the HR Derby. Do you think you can bring back the title to the DR?
My [home run swing] has always been natural, and, I trust in God that I will bring it back. I am sure that when I get there I am going to do a good job because I have never felt, as they say, any pressure. Hopefully we can bring back the trophy to our country and show it off all over the world.
Many people have compared your swing to some very famous Dominican sluggers. Will you feel some pressure to perform and live up to that?
I grew up under pressure, and that I don't think it affects me. I thank God for every moment that he has given me because my life has not been easy, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices in my life, and I know everything I have gone through and I know I can excel over many others.
What would it mean for you to win?
It would mean a lot, because Robinson Canó and I are from the same town. I've been seeing Robinson Canó since I was a little kid, and we played in the same winter ball team. It's extremely exciting to compete with [players like] Giancarlo Stanton and [potentially] Aaron Judge. I know that God is going to give me virtue and the wisdom of being able to bring that trophy to my people.
What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you've had to overcome in your young career?
The biggest hurdle I have had in my life were the accusations that I wasn't of the age I was [when I was signed]. The second thing was when I had to go through Tommy John surgery. Thank God I am recovered from all that. I am here today playing baseball and I have this great opportunity that God has given me, including getting that invite yesterday to take part in the Home Run Derby.
How did you stay focused through all that, like when you were recovering from surgery?
I always had faith, and faith became my shield, and I started to work very hard. I focused on working on the little things. Whenever you focus on working on big things, you won't see any results, but if you focus on the tiniest details it helps you to have a lot of success and results in your career; that's what I did.
You have garnered comparisons to many great hitters. Which one gives you the most pride?
I have been compared to many -- Sammy Sosa, because of my home run swing, also Hanley Ramírez [and] Miguel Cabrera. But the truth is that the player that I admire the most and I follow in his footsteps is only one, and that's Robinson Canó. Because of who he is. He's a friend. He's a leader. He's a brother. He's everything. He will help you with anything you need. As he is as a person, he is as a player. He is [a] tremendous human being.
Did you work with Canó in the Dominican Republic this year?
This year I did not, but I worked with him previously. This year I worked with Fernando Tatis, and God willing, I would like to bring him to the Home Run Derby so he can pitch to me. Tatis put in a lot of very hard work with me. I was struggling last year, but Tatis pulled me aside and said let's work together and we're going to see an improvement this year.
With all those comparisons, how do you make your own name?
Everything is based on the sacrifices I have made, my hard work and everything else. Because of what I have accomplished I am starting to make myself known a little bit. Thank God this year I have been putting in good numbers and all that. Big Papi, he was someone that I admired a lot, just like Manny Ramírez. I remember Manny Ramírez telling me he wanted to work with me last year too. He's a tremendous slugger. And I respect both of them very much because they are great sluggers.
Many still say the Twins are not for real, that it's pure luck. How do you prove you're for real?
People still don't believe in us, but we don't care if they believe. It's not about what people think but about what we feel, and we have our hearts full of faith, and we know that this year is ours. We always trust, that whenever we play against any opponent we will compete and we will beat them.
What does the new Twins front office alongside Paul Molitor bring to this team?
Paul Molitor is a tremendous person and a great human being. He really knows what baseball is about because he played for so many years. He knows when a player needs some rest, when a player has something going on, because he understands when players go through bad moments. He's an extremely intelligent guy. And our front office is very good, and [former] general manager Terry Ryan was very good too, but the [front office] has brought more youth in here.
It seems like a more relaxed atmosphere.
We are playing baseball relaxed, but relaxed in the sense that we are not worried. Last year we lost 103 games. We are not thinking about that or care about that. We are just going out on the field to play our game, and no matter what happens, we are playing relaxed.
Is this what you dreamed of? Your team being in or close to first place in the division, and now you'll get to represent your country in the All-Star Game and the HR Derby?
I have worked my whole career for this. My dream was to play in the major leagues, and thank God I now have the opportunity to be in a Home Run Derby for the first time and hopefully in an All-Star Game. That's incredible, and I need to continue [playing] like this. Hopefully not only this year, but until I retire.