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An inspirational bus ride that kept Gamecocks’ Sanders in baseball

This summer, Carolina’s rising sophomore right-hander will compete for the USA Collegiate...
This summer, Carolina’s rising sophomore right-hander will compete for the USA Collegiate National Team.(Chris Gillespie)
Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 3:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gamecock pitcher Will Sanders trades in his Garnet & Black for the Red, White, and Blue. This summer, Carolina’s rising sophomore right-hander will compete for the USA Collegiate National Team.

It was on another summer team not so long ago that Sanders nearly quit the sport altogether.

“When I was 13, I was not very good,” Sanders said.

Sanders recalls a summer league all-star trip to New York City to play in a tournament. Safe to say, it did not go as expected.

“My entire life was falling,” Sanders remembered. “I didn’t want to play. That’s when I knew something was going on.”

The young Sanders was inconsolable after his team lost the championship game at the tournament in NYC.

“We’re on the bus back to the hotel, and I’m crying,” Sanders said. “I’m making it a big deal.”

Then an NYC billboard caught his eye, suddenly reversing his mindset on quitting baseball instantly.

“I look out the window, and I see Madison Bumgarner verse Clayton Kershaw on a billboard,” Sanders recalled. “They go through adversity every single day of their life. They obviously overcame it and learned how to win off and on the field. What am I going to do to put myself on that billboard?”

Throughout that summer all those years ago, Sanders embraced a new attitude and put in the work.

It led him from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, to Columbia to pitch for Carolina. And after an All-American freshman season, he’s earned a spot on Team USA.

“Being able to represent South Carolina from that university to that field is something very special,” Sanders said. “Something that will change my life forever.”

So has his significant saying, as he calls it, that he wears on his wrist. The wristband was a gift from his girlfriend that reminds him how to handle pressure-filled moments on the mound.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Sanders said as he held up his wrist to show part of the wristband. “No Limit. That’s how I approach every challenge that I face.”

Sanders adds failure provides the fuel that drives him to learn and succeed. And on days he lacks the drive to work, he thinks about his future in the sport. A game he almost left entirely.

“That’s when I think about in 30 years I’m not going to have anything to do during the days,” Sanders said. “That’s when I will relax. This is a train, every day.”

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