Updated: 05/31/2012 8:28 PM KSTP.com By: Chris Long
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Beloit, Wisconsin offers Twins prospects their first taste of full-season professional baseball.
It can feel like a long way from the Low-Class A Beloit Snappers to the Major Leagues, but it's nothing compared to how far Miguel Sano has come since the Twins began following him as a 15-year-old in the Dominican Republic.
"At the beginning," Sano recalls through an interpreter. "It was pretty cold and I had to get used to being able to deal with that and warm up my bats before at-bats."
Weather aside, it's hard to imagine being the franchise's top prospect, playing thousands of miles from home and barely speaking the language... and just 19 years of age.
"It was hard coming here when I was young and being that far from (my) mom and family," Sano says. "Sometimes my mom cries because I'm not there but she understands it's my job and I'm following my dream and I hope to be able to play major league baseball."
But his commitment to the game of baseball is unwavering.
"I love everything about it," he says.
Die hard Twins fans know Sano's name. Everybody's curious about the 19-year-old phenom in the system. Funny thing is - he doesn't know that's going on.
"I didn't really know that," Sano replies when asked if he's aware the Twins fanbase is eagerly following his minor league progress. "I knew it a little bit but didn't know it was so many people out there. I'm just trying to focus on getting myself up there so I can play at a higher level and be able to help the team win."
Advancing through the Twins minor league system is preparing Sano for the on-field trials that lie ahead, he has also been getting a taste of what might lie ahead off the field.
His size, potential and the relatively young age which he was signed have already resulted in one documentary film, with another crew having tailed him in Beloit earlier this season for another.
"It is a little different (with the cameras) following me," he says. "But I got used to it at a young age and got to know the guys making the movie so I got used to it."
Rated by Baseball America as the 18th-best prospect in all of baseball, it sounds like Sano doesn't want to wait long to make his Twins debut.
"I want to be there in 2 years," he says. "I have to come to the field every day, ready to play and work on all the small things and become a complete baseball player."
He's also working to learn English and makes a genuine effort to use his new language as much as he can. During our interview, it seemed like Sano understood the general idea behind the questions we asked but wanted to use a translator to be sure both sides clearly understood everything that was being said.
"I think it's important to learn English," he says - with teammate Tim Shibuya interpreting. "It's important to be able to play the game and not let English change it with Spanish. Being able to learn the game in English, to talk to teammates and stuff like that is important."
As his game continues to progress, there's one more thing for those eager fans to be excited about in the 6-foot-4, 200 pound teenager.
"I'm still growing," he says with a smile.
As big as he is, Sano says he wants to try to stay at third base - where the Twins slotted him after moving him from shortstop.
Through May 31st, Sano leads the Midwest League in home runs (13) and RBI (40).