Competing for a roster spot, Santiago’s positive personality shines

Ramon Santiago is in camp on a minor league contract but the Reds are taking a serious look due to injury concerns with other players.

Paul Sancya/AP

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ramon Santiago looks around the room each morning and he can almost see the Olde English ‘D’ of the Detroit Tigers instead of the block ‘C’ of the Cincinnati Reds.

And that, he says, is a good thing.

Santiago, 34, played 10 years for the Detroit Tigers, one of baseball’s best and most consistent teams over the past few seasons. And while he didn’t play much, it says tons about his citizenship and character and team-oriented personality that he was as much a part of Detroit as the Ford Motor Company.

"This team reminds me of the Tigers," he said. "It has been in the playoffs (two of the three of the last four years). It has a lot of talent. It has good starting pitching, good relief pitching, good hitting, good defense — we have everything."

Santiago is a shortstop, but he can also play second base and third base. And even though he was a role player in Detroit he always was one of the most popular players because of his off-the-field givebacks to the community.

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He was mostly involved with kids programs — Dreams Come True, Play Baseball Detroit and Keeping Kids in the Game.

"I try to motivate kids because they are our future," he said. "I have two kids (Raymond, 4, Andres, 2) and I want them to see me helping people and one day be proud of me. When they grow up, I want them to say, ‘Daddy gave everything in his power to get him where he was.’"

Santiago is in camp on a minor league contract but the Reds are taking a strong look because utility infielder Jack Hannahan is having shoulder issues after off-season surgery. Hannahan has not played in an exhibition game yet.

Manager Bryan Price is a Ramon Santiago fan and likes what he sees on the field and in the clubhouse.

"He can defend and is an excellent situational player," said Price. "Offensively, he puts the ball in play, a hit-and-run guy, is an outstanding bunter, smart on the bases and an outstanding defender at second, third and short.

"We felt we needed some support at those spots, a veteran guy like we’ve had in the past — Wilson Valdez, Miguel Cabrera, Cesar Izturis. He fills that role. And he is a great kid. If need be, he could play as an every day shortstop."

Santiago did that at Detroit in 2011 when the Tigers won the American League Central, only it was at second base. He played 101 games and batted .260. He hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning against Kansas City for a 2-1 win and a walk-off triple to beat Tampa Bay. But when the Tigers acquired Omar Infante in July of 2012 Santiago was relegated back to the bench.

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His attitude and demeanor remained the same whether he played a lot or played a little.

"My main focus when I’m not playing is to encourage my teammates," he said. "I try to give out a lot of energy. Whenever I wasn’t playing I felt like I was playing because I was part of the team. I try to motivate guys in different ways. That’s me, my personality, how I am. I’m an unselfish guy, a team guy."

Santiago likes to keep it light and upbeat, "You have a better chance to win when you have fun and everybody is happy. I try to come to the park every day with a smile on my face.

"When you wake up every day and you are still alive then it should be a beautiful day. God is giving you another chance to be successful and to do something special for you or for some other people."

Santiago says that’s the way it was in Detroit and it is the way he believes it will be in Cincinnati.