Hector Santiago is one of the most fan-friendly athletes in sports — because he’s a fan at heart.
The owner of a seemingly endless amount of sports memorabilia — signed jerseys (Justin Verlander, Michael Jordan, Joe Mauer, Miggy Cabrerra, Scottie Pippen, David Wright and Mike Trout to name a few), bats, balls, cleats, news articles and scorecards — Santiago entered his All-Star week with so many reasons to be excited.
"When it’s time to get in the game and pitch, I’ll be the pitcher," the first-time All-Star told ‘Angels Live’. "But, I’m definitely going to be 100 percent fan."
And there are few All-Star-related events more engaging for fans than the baseball All-Star Game and everything attached to it. A perfect time for Santiago to pad his collection of sports keepsakes.
"I’m definietly going to get some cool autographs," Santiago said in the days leading up to the Midsummer Classic.
Santiago told CSNChicago that he was successful in his quest to gain signatures, adding Oakland A’s pitcher Sonny Gray and Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel to a collection that includes over 150 pieces of signed memorabilia.
But being a fan wasn’t the only priority for Santiago, as he wanted to spend as much time as possible "around the guys who have been there a bunch," so he could "pick their brains and learn some stuff out there."
"I’ve talked to most of the guys here," Santiago said. "… Because you’re considered an All-Star, its kind of like, ‘OK, now you’re on our level.’ It kind of breaks just enough ice. I’ve talked to every single person so far and it’s easy."
Despite not pitching in the game, a 6-3 win for the American League, it sounds like he was able to make the most of his week off.
Santiago arguably was the Angels’ best and most consistent pitcher during the first half of the season — a 6-4 record with a 2.33 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 18 games, 17 of which were starts.
The 27-year-old left-hander has come a long way already this season, and the sky seems to be the limit during the second half. Every time you think he might come back to earth when faced with a tough matchup, he seems to get even better.