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Talent's Freddy Sandoval pens book on mental strength

Being challenged to take stock of how he was handling his life’s journey during a thoughtful exchange in 2006 with longtime friend Adrian Gonzalez changed Freddy Sandoval for the better.

After more than a decade of seeking a means to a better path, the Talent resident and former Major League Baseball player and coach is looking to give back in a more public way with the release of his first book titled “Mentally Strong, 7 Steps to Becoming the Best Version of Yourself.”

The book was released in a $9.99 eBook version this past Tuesday and will be available in paperback beginning Jan. 1 at $14.99 or, for autographed copies, at a cost of $20 that includes a small gift.

“It’s been a dream of mine for my whole life to write a book and kind of leave something behind, like a legacy in a way,” said Sandoval, 38. “Over the last 10 years as a mental coach after my retirement from baseball, I’ve had the opportunity to work and lead around 700 people individually to change their mentality and their mindsets. Now it’s kind of a proven program that I have and I wanted to make it available to people.”

Since coming to the Rogue Valley five years ago to be closer to sons Kaleb and Micah, Sandoval has immersed himself in the community as director of player development for the Medford Rogues and as a special education teacher in the Phoenix-Talent and Medford school districts.

Through those years, he also developed his personal business, Choice to Believe, to offer professional coaching and consulting services that specialize in mental skills and developing a better mind-body connection.

“This book talks about decisions more than anything,” said Sandoval. “We live in a world in which we always say life is about choices. A lot of times people misunderstand the word choices and the true meaning of the word choice. Life is about choices, but choices and to choose something are two different things. We have a lot of choices, but for each choice we actually make a decision.

“That’s what this book focuses more on, understanding that I make the decisions for my own life and that I can always make a better decision to put myself in a place to give myself an opportunity to succeed. I am in control of the decisions that I make.”

Sandoval’s strategies for developing strong mental habits have been a long time in the making, and likely wouldn’t have happened were it not for a frank conversation with Gonzalez two years after being drafted as a third baseman in the eighth round, No. 233 overall, by the Los Angeles Angels in 2004.

The childhood friends, who played with and against one another while growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, found themselves at a bar in Mazatlan to celebrate reaching the Mexican Pacific League Championships and to await news of their next opponent.

Gonzalez, who made his MLB debut in 2004 and went on to a 14-year career as an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, was a leading figure on the team, while Sandoval played sparingly. At the table discussing key moments of their semifinal win, Gonzalez registered a few clueless looks on his friend’s face and later pulled Sandoval aside and had a heart-to-heart with him that eventually got back around to baseball but, more importantly, provided eye-opening questions on how his friend was living his life.

Despite being physically at the semifinal game, Sandoval admittedly wasn’t there mentally. As only a good friend can, Gonzalez challenged Sandoval on his habits, both on and off the field, and that led to an emotional breakdown that forced Sandoval to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

“Literally that’s what it took for me,” said Sandoval, “someone who was a friend to call me out in obviously a professional way and a good way that made me understand, you know what, you are right, I am screwing my own life up and I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Partying and no solid approach toward training his mind and body had slowed Sandoval’s progress of reaching the major leagues, but a quick turnabout allowed him to make his MLB debut in 2008 after posting a stellar 2007 campaign in the Angels’ farm system that included midseason and postseason All-Star honors and a spot in the minor league’s Futures Game.

“It happened fast,” said Sandoval. “I had to change my routines, meal plans and workout plans; I had to switch friends and my ways of thinking. I had to make a lot of changes in my life to put myself in the best possible way to succeed. It didn’t necessarily mean I was going to be successful just by making those decisions, but you’re giving yourself a real chance and a real opportunity if you do.”

Sandoval’s MLB career spanned two seasons from 2008-09 with 11 games and 17 at-bats as an Angel — his forte was as an accomplished fielder — and he ultimately used his experiences to do something he never considered during his earlier days of baseball by serving as the mental coach for the Kansas City Royals as they won the 2015 World Series and the 2014 American League Championship Series.

“I had an opportunity to work with a mental guy at one point in my career and I blew him off,” Sandoval admitted. “My ego and what people would say and what people would think if they saw me talking to a psychologist or a mental coach was too much for me. I know there’s a lot of people out there now that may feel this way but don’t have the courage to ask for help, so I feel like this book is a way that I can, in a sense, reach out to those types of people.”

The University of San Diego graduate continues to work as a mental skills coach for baseball teams and players, but his Rogue Valley business is also geared toward any individual, regardless of age, gender identification or athletic ability.

The seven key components detailed in the book — awareness, responsibility, communication, stress, relaxation, attitude and goals — have evolved over the years through his work with people from all walks of life.

“I have worked with therapists myself,” said Sandoval. “I have worked with psychologists, I have mentors, I have coaches, I have a lot of education so every single little piece has helped me put this program together. It’s not just my stuff, it’s a lot of research, a lot of science, a lot of personal experience. I, too, need help so I go out there and seek that help.”

After breaking down each step in the path toward strong mental habits, Sandoval also offers a 10-week sample work program that is akin to what he puts his clients through during typical 26- or 52-week regimens.

“It’s a year’s worth of work put into 230 pages pretty much,” he said.

The project of writing “Mentally Strong” began in mid-March during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lasted about seven months.

“It was an incredible challenge,” said Sandoval. “Obviously some of the stories and some of the things I talk about in the book are out of my comfort zone so I grew a lot while writing this book as well.”

“We always have to find ways to become better even when things are going bad,” he added of his pandemic-induced kickstart, “and I was like, what a great opportunity to write a book. I literally didn’t do anything else. I worked with my clients, I spent time with my kids and I devoted myself 100 percent into writing this book.”

Sandoval dedicated the book to his sons as a means of showing them they can do anything if they put their mind to it and act on that belief, which is something he said most struggle with in their journey to forming positive mental strength.

“There’s a system that we have developed inside of our heads, whether it is through repetition, through culture, through our parents or grandparents, etc., that I call the false belief system,” he said. “They’re beliefs that are not necessarily true that we have fundamentally come to accept as reality. I always do this. No, that’s a false belief. It’s not always, it’s sometimes, and it’s OK.

“I always struggle, I can never sleep right, I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to do that. All of those are false beliefs. Just because they happen one time doesn’t mean that they’re going to happen all the time, and we can change that in our own mind and in a way instill new ways of thinking in which you say, you know what, yes, I can do anything that I want to do. I really believe that when we put away our problems, our tension, our stress, our own limitations or roadblocks, anything is possible. It’s been proven through science and it’s been proven through the history of our world, everything is possible.”

Helping people transform their mindset so they can overcome the ups and downs of life, be it from work, sports or life in general, has been one of Sandoval’s greatest joys.

“For me this is the greatest gift I’ve been given,” he said. “I love helping people and I love helping kids. To me it’s fulfilling. I feel like I’m actually living what I was destined to do by influencing people in a positive way. It’s not only through the book, it’s anywhere, any day, any time.”

“Mentally Strong” is available for purchase through Sandoval’s own websites, mentallystrongthebook.com or thechoicetobelieve.com, as well as his publisher’s website, store.bookbaby.com and Amazon.com.

“For me it’s not about sales,” added Sandoval. “As an author you don’t really make any money, you’d have to sell millions of copies. I genuinely wrote the book with the intention of getting it to the right hands so that someone’s life can be transformed. I just want people to get this book in their hands and have an opportunity to look at life from a different perspective.”

“I really feel that anybody who reads the book, even if they don’t like it, they’re going to be able to take something good and positive out of it,” he added.

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Freddy Sandoval played for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008 and 2009.
Mentally Strong, 7 Steps to Becoming the Best Version of Yourself