MIAMI -- For the first time in his career, Gaby Sanchez is a visitor in his hometown. After a career spent playing on diamonds in Miami, the Marlins traded the former All-Star and University of Miami star to the Pirates nearly a full year ago.
As the anniversary of that deal nears, Sanchez is back in South Florida but with a different city's name on his jersey: Pittsburgh. For Sanchez, taking in a Marlins game from the visitors' dugout is an adjustment.
"It's definitely weird," Sanchez said. "Definitely weird. I'm not going to lie about it. I'm usually making the left to go to the home dugout, and now I'm making a right to go to the visitor's side. But it's something that happens. It's baseball. It's a business.
"It's nice to be able to come in and see the security guards that you've become friends with over the past four years or whatever it was that I was here. Just talking to them and seeing how they're doing and seeing some of the players on the other side when I was walking in and talking to them. Those little things are definitely fun to still have and nice to see."
With the exception of Minor League assignments, Sanchez's baseball career never took him far from home.
He played high school baseball at Brito Miami Private School, spent his college days with the Miami Hurricanes and began his career with the Marlins as the organization's fourth-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Aided by the comfort of home, Sanchez blossomed in Miami.
Sanchez won two Florida State championships in high school, served as a key cog in two College World Series runs with the Canes, and hit 19 homers in each of his first two years with the Marlins, earning an All-Star selection in 2011.
"I was very fortunate," said Sanchez, who was expected to have 25 family members in attendance Friday in a box provided by the Marlins. "Not too many guys have the opportunity to do that. I was fortunate enough where I was able to get drafted by the Marlins and play for a team that I watched growing up. Those kinds of things you can never take away.
"The Marlins, I've got nothing bad to say about them, because the opportunity they gave me when I was able to play in the big leagues and fulfill my goal of even playing with the Marlins, so that part of it was great."
However, 2012 brought Sanchez's career to a grinding halt. He struggled at the plate, batting .202 (37-for-183) with only three home runs in 55 games.
Sanchez was twice demoted to Triple-A New Orleans.
Despite his struggles last season, the Pirates liked what they saw from the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder so much that they acquired him right at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Although Sanchez has hit only .238 (72-for-302) with 11 home runs in 355 plate appearances with Pittsburgh, he is a valuable asset to the playoff contender's lineup.
Sanchez is tied with catcher Russell Martin for second among Pirates players with a .353 on-base percentage, trailing only the .372 clip sported by All-Star Andrew McCutchen.
Nearing the anniversary of his trade, Sanchez may be more than 1,000 miles away from Miami, but he has found a new home with Pittsburgh.
"It was an easy transition for me," Sanchez said. "From the first day I got here, I felt like I was part of the family already. That made it easier for me transitioning over. I already knew most of the players from the simple fact of playing against them, but really getting to know, really getting to see how they are, it's been a lot of fun."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less