Meet Our 2017 - 2018 Student-Athlete of the Week
Don't forget to introduce yourself to last year's student-athlete of the week winners by clicking here.
When he arrived at Salisbury as a third former in September of 2014 from the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, Dylan Sanchez struggled with many of the same academic adjustments that other first-year students face: nightly school work, structured study hours, time management, and unfamiliar surroundings, to name the principal such challenges. He would need to get two trimesters under his belt before he achieved Honors for the first time in the spring trimester of that third form year.
Likewise, while bringing a strong baseball resume with him to the Hilltop, Sanchez had little or no experience in other sports. Despite his never having played more than an occasional game of touch, he decided to try out for football that first fall. In the winter, it was a little easier to choose basketball, but only insofar as he had started playing the sport two years earlier, as a seventh grader.
Flash forward three years, and the Sanchez we encounter at the start of his sixth form year at Salisbury is a three-sport varsity athlete, while in the classroom, he has rung up four consecutive trimesters as an Honors student. He characterizes himself as “more of a ‘humanities guy’ than a ‘math-science guy,’ ” though he cites Mr. Colling’s chemistry class and environmental science with Mr. Scoville as two of his favorite courses during his Salisbury career. For the past three years, he has been an Honors English student. U.S. History has been his favorite history class, despite the rigors of Mr. Russell’s writing assignments. He has also continued into his fourth year of Chinese with Mr. Luo.
As well, Sanchez has emerged as a community leader. He serves as a prefect in Quaile. For the past three years, he has volunteered for the Big Brothers program, spending time with the same young boy – now a fifth grader – every Friday afternoon. “He has become more talkative,” Sanchez says of his young friend, who lives locally, “as we have gotten to know each other better and better. I like being a role model for him and the other boys,” Sanchez adds, “especially through sports. It’s fun for both sides.” And Sanchez has also acted as a Peer Leader for the past three years. “Helping new students who aren’t familiar with this kind of [boarding school] environment is gratifying,” states Sanchez. “[The Peer Leader Program] allows someone new to feel not so far away from home.” This year, he has become a member of the Salisbury chapter of the One Love Foundation in their work to raise consciousness about and to end relationship violence.
If the theme of “giving back” resonates clearly and strongly through his many contributions to the Salisbury community – he also tours prospective students and their families for the Key Society on behalf of the Admissions Office – it is likely because Sanchez knows for himself what it feels like to be the beneficiary of other people’s generous gifts of time and support. He would be the first to acknowledge that probably the single greatest factor in his coming to Salisbury School was the Boys’ Club of New York, an organization that identifies minority students who demonstrate a potential to benefit from and succeed in the boarding school experience and then grooms those young men for the long road ahead, from after-school enrichment programs to SSAT prep courses to mock-interviews and support for the application process to follow-up after a boy has matriculated to a prep school.
Traditionally, sports have been a significant piece of the Boys’ Club’s offerings, too, as evidenced by the impressive lineage of student-athletes who preceded Sanchez to the Hilltop, including brothers Anthony ’08 and George ’15 Hewitt, Jay Fabien ’11, Michael White ’11, and Jhonny Perez ’14. Ben Mitchell ’05 was the first such Boys’ Club member at Salisbury, arriving in the fall of 2001. Every year since, according to long-time Director of Admissions Peter Gilbert, Salisbury has had at least one student from the Boys’ Club.
Mitchell’s father, Bill Mitchell, had a lot to do with that, prior to his recent retirement as one of the organization’s directors and keenest ambassadors. In accepting a national award bestowed on Salisbury in 2007 by the Boys’ Club of New York, Gilbert acknowledged Bill Mitchell and other visionaries who pioneered the relationships with Salisbury and other leading prep schools. “We are a better school because of you and the many BC-sponsored students who have attended Salisbury,” Gilbert remarked on that august occasion. “Salisbury School holds to the principle that education is a partnership: a partnership between a young man and his teachers, a partnership between the School and a family, and a partnership between the admissions office and a venerable institution like the BCNY. We work together with the singular goal to help boys grow and mature into men.”
Clearly, the Boys’ Club knew what it was about in helping Sanchez on the path to Salisbury, and Sanchez has, in turn, shown his appreciation and aptitude in myriad ways from the classroom to his athletic teams to his community involvement. Says Sanchez of the Boys’ Club’s role in his life, “Bill Mitchell and men like him encouraged me to pursue my dreams. They helped me get to Salisbury and prepare for the experience. The Boys’ Club continues to be an important part of my life, and I appreciate the opportunity to go back there on vacations from Salisbury to share my experiences with others.”
The ascent to the mantle of “three-sport varsity athlete” has been a gradual one for Sanchez. He has had to “earn his stripes” by steadily developing his skills, sport by sport. As a third former, he played on the junior varsity in both football and basketball. In the spring, he made the varsity baseball team, where he spent most of that first season on the bench. “I started two games at shortstop and pitched four innings in relief over the course of the spring,” recalls Sanchez. “I had six or seven at-bats total.”
As a fourth former, Sanchez played on special teams for a varsity football team that went all the way to the New England Championship game, where Salisbury fell to Choate. In the winter, he returned to j.v. basketball and moved into the starting line-up at point guard. And in the spring, he opened the season as the starting second baseman and never looked back, holding down the ninth spot in the batting order, finishing the season at .250, and continuing to provide occasional late-inning relief on the mound.
Fifth-form year would mark Sanchez’s first playing on three varsity teams. In football, he became a two-way starter: wide receiver on offense, cornerback on defense. For the first time, and despite just three seasons of organized hoops behind him, he made varsity basketball. He began last winter as the eighth man on the team, but when starter Mason Evarts was lost for the season in December, Sanchez suddenly found himself entering games as the first or second man off the bench. In the spring, Sanchez helped bring continuity to a team that was playing for its third varsity baseball coach in three years, as Kevin Huber took over the reins from Xander Jones, who had succeeded John Toffey. Again, Sanchez started at second while providing Coach Huber with pitching experience, continuing to make relief appearances as well as one or two starts. He moved around in the batting order, occasionally leading off for the Knights, switch-hitting for the first time in his career, and finishing the year with a .275 average. “I started batting from both sides playing whiffle-ball as a kid but never in hardball,” Sanchez says of his evolution as a switch-hitter. “Playing summer ball [in 2016], I decided to give it a serious try, and the results were encouraging. Last spring,” recounts Sanchez, whose natural swing is from the right side of the plate, “Coach Huber helped me with adjustments to my left-handed swing. I’m going to keep working on it.”
This fall, Sanchez’s leadership has helped buoy a varsity football team beset by injuries and still looking for its first win, five games into the schedule. He will return for a second season of varsity basketball next winter, and Coach Huber has high expectations for Sanchez when baseball season rolls around. “As a baseball player,” the veteran coach offers, “Dylan is very talented and multifaceted. We will be relying on him heavily this spring, and I expect that he will have a great year. In my opinion, Dylan’s best baseball is ahead of him.”
Sanchez’s involvement with baseball and steady development as a player has also been fueled by summer activity. For the past two summers, he has worked at the Home Run Baseball Camp in the Parade Grounds complex of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. There, he has worked with boys and girls ages 4 to 13 – when he was not otherwise occupied playing for the Brooklyn Bulldogs in summer tournaments and college showcases. Among his many appearances at summer ’17 events were the I-95 Metro-North Showcase at the New York Yankees’ minor league ballpark in Trenton, New Jersey; the Head First Honor Roll Camp at Baseball Heaven on Long Island; and large regional events in Providence, Rhode Island, and Columbus, Ohio. The Bulldogs won a tournament in Tom’s River, New Jersey, the weekend after the Salisbury school year ended. At the Rhode Island tournament, the Bulldogs placed 4th out of 20 teams. At another event in New Jersey, Sanchez played in front of coaches from more than 30 colleges.
“I want to play ball in college,” Sanchez affirms. With prompting from an interested fan, he acknowledges that a number of schools have approached him, including Princeton, Dartmouth, and Cornell, as well as such Division III programs as Middlebury, Ursinus, Wesleyan, and three California colleges: Occidental, Redlands, and Chapman. “My mom is from California,” Sanchez observes, perhaps indicating a westward tilt, “so I’ve spent a fair amount of time out there.” He would like to pursue a sports-related field, such as writing, broadcast commentary, or sports management.
In wrapping up a recent interview, Sanchez spoke of the role Salisbury School has played in his life. “Salisbury has shaped me as a person,” Sanchez stated, humbly and sincerely. “Sports definitely helped me settle in as a third former, but I have also learned how to ask for help here. I have felt comfortable trying new things. I have developed friendships with people from all over the world. I believe it makes you smarter having a wide variety of people to talk to, and Salisbury has given me that.”
And you, Mr. Sanchez, have reciprocated in so many ways.