Ramon Santiago meanwhile sneaks into the cage unnoticed. From the left side, he delivers line drive after line drive to the outfield in a workmanlike manner. A few minutes later, he jumps into the cage and from the right side duplicates his previous round.
So while the Tigers mega stars draw the cameras and gargantuan paychecks, Santiago prepares himself for another season at the major league level in relative anonymity. It has been that way for much of his career. Come to the ballpark, give your team a hard day’s work and do it all over again the next day.
Yet, when you ask those around the ball club of Santiago’s worth to the team, you get a universal evaluation: great teammate who understands his role and his value.
This spring, Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn continue to battle for the starting spot at second base, but as the season progresses, it is Santiago that will be just as valuable. The Tigers understand that and rewarded him with a 2-year contract this past November.
Santiago was thankful for the security, but realizes that free agency has its perks. “It was my first time in free agency, so I had to explore it, but my desire was to stay here.”
So, he is still here.
The 2012 season will be Santiago’s ninth in a Tigers uniform. A friendly smile and warm handshake make him an absolute joy to be around in the clubhouse. His sons Raymond and Andres can be seen hanging out with dad in the locker room throughout the summer as well. He’s one of those personalities that make you feel like you are part of his family. He doesn’t need the headlines to be a good teammate.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want to play every day but I understand my role on this team,” he said. “We have a lot of talent here and I understand how important preparation is for me to stay ready.”
In the past, part of that preparation was to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Last season with the Tigers making the playoffs and the season lasting in essence an additional month, Santiago did not play for the first time in his career. “I feel stronger and fresher this spring,” he said. “When I play winter ball I have no time to work out. It was nice to have some off time.”
To go with his new deal, Santiago apparently has a new nickname. He is listed at 5’11” but has provided the Tigers with some sporadic power. “A friend of mine heard you say on the broadcast that I have sneaky power so he had some t-shirts made with “sneaky” on the front,” he said. “I like it, sneaky is a good nickname.”
A new deal, a new nickname, but still the same Ramon. That won’t ever change.