Eriel Sánchez León
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 220 lb.
Sánchez debuted with Sancti Spíritus in the 1993-1994 Serie Nacional. In 2000-2001, he hit .272/.307/.449. 2001-2002, the backstop batted .317/.380/.464. During 2002-2003, Eriel's batting line was .300/.342/.507 with 74 RBI in 87 games. In the 2003 Baseball World Cup, he was 0 for 1. He starred for Cuba in the 2003 Olympic qualifier tournament, leading all players with a .571 average.
In the 2003-2004 Serie Nacional, Sánchez hit .327/.392/.504. He was Cuba's DH for the 2004 Olympics, batting .360/.385/.520 with 9 RBI in 7 games. He tied Rodney Van Buizen and Gavin Fingleson for third in the Summer Games in RBI, behind Ariel Pestano and Kosuke Fukudome. With a 2-1 lead in the 6th inning of the Gold Medal game, he delivered a 2-run single against John Stephens, scoring Osmani Urrutia and Frederich Cepeda; he then came around on an Eduardo Paret hit as Cuba took home the Gold.
Sánchez had a big season in the 2004-2005 Serie Nacional, batting .328/.429/.627 with 25 HR and 87 RBI in 86 games. He led the league in RBI and was two shy of Joan Carlos Pedroso in circuit clouts. Eriel hit .286/.286/.679 in the 2005 Baseball World Cup with 3 home runs and 7 RBI in 9 games; he was Cuba's starting first baseman.
Sánchez hit .310/.392/.458 in the 2005-2006 Serie Nacional. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he was 1 for 3 as Pestano's backup. In the 2006 COPABE qualifier for the 2008 Olympics, he doubled once and homered once during his 5 at-bats. He was 1 for 3 in the 2006 Intercontinental Cup and was 0 for 3 with a walk in the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games.
2006-2007 was another good campaign as the veteran batted .336/.396/.493, though his eight home runs were his lowest total of the decade to that point. Through 2006-2007, his career batting line in Cuba was .301/.353/.449 with 128 HR and 628 RBI in 1,118 games. He was on Cuba's roster for the 2007 Pan American Games but did not play. In 2007-2008, Eriel batted .353/.414/.561 with 15 HR and 67 RBI in 84 games for Sancti Spíritus. He was 0 for 3 during the 2008 Haarlem Baseball Week and went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 runs for the 2008 Olympics.
Eriel started for Cuba in the 2009 World Port Tournament and hit .400/.462/.657 with 6 doubles, 8 runs and 7 RBI in 10 games. He threw out 1 of 4 attempted base-stealers. Sánchez was among the tourney leaders in slugging (1st, .010 over Ariel Borrero), OBP (3rd), average (4th), runs (tied with Raily Legito and Yorbis Borroto for second behind Borrero), RBI (tied with Borrero, Rolando Meriño and Leonys Martín for second behind MVP Yoelvis Fiss), doubles (1st), total bases (23, 2nd to Fiss) and hits (14, 4th). In the finale, his 2-run homer off of David Bergman put Cuba ahead 3-1 in the 5th; they went on to win 8-3. Backing up Pestano in the 2009 Baseball World Cup, his only at-bat was an out against South Africa's Jean Sawyer.
He had another big year in 2009-2010 at .293/.348/.512 with 20 homers and 81 RBI in 86 games. He fielded .994 and threw out 70% of would-be base-thieves. As teammates Yuli Gurriel and Cepeda also hit 20 homers, they became the first trio of Serie Nacional teammates to reach that figure in the same campaign. He won the Gold Glove (though Yosvani Alarcón beat him out for All-Star honors at catcher) and was among the leaders in RBI (5th, between Cepeda and Alexei Bell) while missing the top ten in home runs by one. He started for Cuba in the 2010 Haarlem Baseball Week but struggled at .158/.200/.211 with one run and two RBI in five games.
Now 35 years old, Sánchez hit .303/.353/.500 in 2010-2011. He was at .285/.355/.477 with 15 homers in 2011-2012, throwing out 42%. He remained steady in 2012-2013, producing at a .307/.355/.506 clip. He started for Cuba in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, going 3 for 13 and having a sacrifice fly off Leon Boyd for his lone RBI. In the 2013 World Port Tournament, his final tournament, he was 5 for 12 with a double, run and three RBI. While he did not qualify for the batting lead, he had a higher average than leader Dwayne Kemp and he tied for 3rd in RBI. Only Vince Rooi had more error-free chances than his 38.
He hit .286/.362/.330 in 29 games for Sancti Spíritus in 2013-2014; Cuba switched to a new format, where only half the teams made the second half and those who did not could be drafted by teams that did qualify. As his team did not qualify, he was picked up by Matanzas and hit .240/.329/.403 for them. In the last game of the finals, he homered and had two runs and two RBI but his team lost. He batted only .228/.280/.342 for Sancti Spíritus in the first half of 2014-2015 and went to Holguín for the second half. At age 39, he hit .311/.379/.500 in 28 games for them.
2015-2016 was again split; he hit .301/.403/.473 in the first half and .307/.397/.475 for Granma in the second half. He hit .267/.315/.466 for Sancti Spíritus in the first half of 2016-2017, though Yunior Ibarra was starting to get some of the playing time. No one picked him up for the second half despite his still hitting well at age 41. He hit .268/.342/.380 for Sancti Spíritus in 2017-2018. Reinforcing the Industriales for the second half, he was 1 for 9 with a homer and two walks. In the postseason, he had one last surge, going 3 for 7 with a double and a dinger.
Overall, he had hit .297/.353/.457 with 327 doubles and 254 home runs in 25 seasons. He fielded .986 and caught 49.9% of would-be base thieves. Through February 2021, he was tied for 4th in league history in seasons played (with Carlos Tabares), 6th in steals allowed (492, between Juan Manrique and Roberto Borrero), 1st in runners caught stealing (491, 32 ahead of Pestano), 7th in games played (1,944, between Sergio Quesada and Danel Castro), 15th in plate appearances (7,784, between Luis Ulacia and Víctor Mesa), 8th in at-bats (7,031, between Antonio Pacheco and Ulacia), tied for 45th in runs (909, with Manrique and Lázaro Madera), 12th in hits (2,086, between Javier Méndez and Eduardo Cárdenas), tied for 17th in doubles (327, even with Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Sr., Omar Linares and Fausto Álvarez), 21st in home runs and 11th in total bases (3,211, between Oscar Macias and Lazaro Junco).
- Japanese Wikipedia entry
- 2006 World Baseball Classic
- Defunct IBAF site
- Haarlem Baseball Week
- Australian Baseball Federation
- Bio prior to the 2007 Pan Am Games
- A History of Cuban Baseball by Peter Bjarkman
- 2008 Olympics
- 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games
- 2009 World Port Tournament
- 2009 Baseball World Cup
- Beisbol Cubano
- 2013 World Port Tournament