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Santiago makes strong bid to make Sox

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McClatchy Tribune
March 14, 2012
— The autographed photographs that left-hander Hector Santiago sent to President Barack Obama, his wife and his two daughters last summer weren’t a publicity stunt.

Santiago, one of the few pitching standouts of the White Sox’s spring training, doesn’t have his sights set on buying a luxury car or palatial home if he makes the opening day roster.


Instead, Santiago would like to start a foundation in hopes of donating a baseball facility to the North Ward community of Newark, N.J., where he grew up so he can help kids can achieve their dreams despite tough odds.


“Baseball there is falling apart,” said Santiago, a 30th round draft pick of the Sox in 2006 who pitched at Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) Community College to throw in better weather against better competition. “I want show those young guys back home you can do it.”


That’s the theme Santiago’s father instilled in him, even when his son was reluctant to participate in the Puerto Rican Statewide Parade of New Jersey last fall after playing for the Sox—albeit for only 3½ weeks.


“I tell my sons, ‘Don’t forget where you came from,’“ said Hector Santiago Sr., adding his son has donated bats and balls to a Newark training team and has given free private lessons to local kids.


Santiago approached his agent, Brian McCafferty, about ways to contribute to the community and recently has discussed a year-round facility with sponsors so young baseball players can train in the winter.


“It’s so cold you can’t do anything outside,” said Santiago, who remembers running through small trails with brother Anthony, 22 (a catcher at College of Central Florida) after six inches of snow had been plowed. “And the facilities back there are closing down. There aren’t many people going into (baseball).”


Santiago, who hasn’t allowed a run in five innings this spring, will earn $480,000 if he stays in the majors for all of 2012. Thus making the team out of spring training would be more rewarding.


“All that hard work that I put in since I was a little kid and the last few years in the minor leagues, working year-round and pitching winter ball the past few years to improve on everything would make it all the worthwhile,” Santiago said.



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