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ANDY SONNANSTINE
IS NOT YOUR AVERAGE
BALLPLAYER.
More than just baseball, he is a man of many tal-
ents. He has shot, edited and produced short lms.
He co-authored a book (Tampa Bay Rays IQ: e
Ultimate Test of True Fandom with Tucker Elliot). He
incorporates Yoga and kickboxing into his offseason
training regimen. And he is, by his own proclama-
tion, a professional gentleman of leisure sports.
From archery to darts, foosball to sporting clays,
and especially golf and ping-pongSonnanstine has
become a master of the alternative sport. His reper-
toire includes more than a dozen games normally
associated with rec halls, bars and parks and played
by competitors not known for superior athleticism.
But it is not enough to simply participate in
these activities. To be a true professional gentle-
man, Sonnanstine says one must have skill and
competitive desire.
I strive to be good at everything I do, Son-
nanstine said. Its not just baseballits the com-
petition. Whether its ping-pong, badminton or
anything else, I just like to compete.
e righty has always been open to trying to new
GENTLEMAN
ANDY SONNANST I NE
STORY BY JONATHAN GANTT t PHOTOS BY STEVEN KOVI CH
PROFESSIONAL
LEISURE SPORTS
of
IP_Issue3_Jun14-Jul17_v1.indd 44 10/12/11 10:37 AM
Basketball
Darts
Foosball
Volleyball
Soccer
Bocce Ball
Golf
Ping-
Pong
IP_Issue3_Jun14-Jul17_v1.indd 45 10/12/11 10:37 AM
46
things. When he was years old and saw a person
juggling for the rst time, he immediately went back
to his room and practiced for four hours until he
could juggle himself. His competitiveness and work
ethic stretch far beyond the baseball diamond.
He takes every game he plays seriously, but his
most noteworthy non-baseball sport is the rened
game of table tennis, or ping-pong. He learned to
play during the heavy winters growing up in Ohio,
dueling against his dad for hours on end in the fam-
ilys basement.
He would never let me win, Sonnanstine re-
membered. I think that fed the thirst for competi-
tion and the need to win. Once I got over that hump
and beat him at age , it sure felt like he never beat
me again.
Sonnanstine continued playing for fun in college
at Kent State University and easily dispatched op-
ponents in minor league clubhouses as he climbed
levels in the Rays minor league system and eventu-
ally made the big leagues in . During this past
offseason, Sonnanstine decided to test his skill and
joined the Sunrise Table Tennis League, a competi-
tive league in St. Pete Beach that gathers three nights
a week. On his rst night of league play, things didnt
go exactly as he expected.
I think I won two games that night, but I prob-
ably lost , Sonnanstine said. ese were -year-
old men beating me at will. It didnt make sense,
and it frustrated me. But that didnt scare me from
going back.
Ego check behind him, Sonnanstine returned to
the Sunrise League several times, between his off-
season workout routines and throwing programs,
and enjoyed better results. He even invited some of
his opponents to spring training in Port Charlotte,
Fla. Rays players including David Price and Elliot
Johnson matched up against Sunrise League play-
ers on ping-pong tables set up in the batting cages,
and like Sonnanstine, struggled to keep up. But it
was a fun opportunity to share his off-the-eld
hobby with teammates and coaches.
Luckily for Sonnanstine, he does not have to
search long to nd worthy leisure sport opponents
in the Rays clubhouse. He has played epic ping-
pong matches against Price, Evan Longoria, James
Shields and Jeff Niemann. And he gets lots of op-
portunities to show off his golf game, even winning
the long drive competition in the Rays Charity
Golf Classic with a PGA-worthy -yard blast.
All of this, of course, takes a back seat to his
biggest passion, which is pitching. e starter/long
reliever has pitched in more than games for
the Rays since including a - record in three
postseason starts in . And he sees his leisure
sport habit as a training tool for his performance on
the mound, whether its improving hand-eye coor-
dination with ping-pong or aim with darts.
If it is something with motor skills or muscle
movement, it just clicks with me. Its fun, Son-
nanstine explained. Try to hit spots. Work on form,
technique. eres strategy to it, and that appeals
to me.
So when the pitcher known as Sonny takes the
mound for the Rays, be sure to watch closely and re-
member the faceyou never know if you might nd
yourself around St. Petersburg in a heated match of
foosball with the professional gentleman.
PROFESSIONAL GENTLEMAN of LEISURE SPORTS
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