Dominican-born Star sets for Taiwan

Posted by at 15 July, at 12 : 00 PM Print

Taiwan awaits local high school star

Mariner’s Santana tries out for national team

by annabelle tometich • atometich@news-press.com • July 14, 2009

Alex Santana has grown accustomed to a steady diet of rice and beans.

The Mariner High School third baseman was born in the Dominican Republic, after all, and his mother’s cooking remains his favorite.

But he’s ready to expand his palate – to the exotic cuisines of the Far East if his talent will allow him. Santana is one of 36 baseball players from around the country who will travel to Fullerton, Calif., on Aug. 1 for the 16-Under National Team Trials. Eighteen players and a handful of alternates will be chosen to compete in the World Youth Baseball Championships in Taiwan, which start Aug. 14.

The team will leave for the city of Taichung on Aug. 9.

“I might have to start eating some crickets or something, but that’s fine,” joked Santana, 15.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I have to take full advantage of it.”

Santana moved to Cape Coral with his family at the age of 4. His father is former major league shortstop Rafael Santana, who played for the New York Mets when they won the World Series in 1986.

Like his dad, Alex Santana has devoted his life to baseball.

After a jittery start – he was hit in the head by a fly ball in his first Little League game – Santana settled in and grew to love the sport.

He started playing in travel leagues when he was 10 and he has sacrificed most of his summer, spring and winter vacations to baseball – including this summer with Tampa Bay Warriors, a travel team which competes in the Amateur Athletic Union.

Not that he would call it a sacrifice, especially after an opportunity like this.

“I guess this is like the payoff for all that time I’ve put in my entire life,” Santana said.

The junior-to-be was at the 16U East Championships, a 72-team tournament in Jupiter, when he caught the eye of a national team scout. Eighteen players were selected from that event and 18 more were chosen from the 16U West Championships in Arizona. The best of those 36 will travel to Taiwan, all expenses paid.

The team USA players will spend more than three weeks overseas and will be accompanied by teachers who will keep them up to speed on any classes they miss back home with daily study halls. They will face teams from Panama, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Mexico and Korea.

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Mariner baseball coach Steve Larsen said Santana has a great chance of making the trip. According to Larsen, Santana’s athleticism is finally catching up to his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame.

“He’s just very athletic, very strong and very powerful,” Larsen said.

“It was only a matter of time before he got noticed.”

Santana hit .351 for the district-champion Tritons last season. He totaled 28 runs and 34 RBI.

“He’s a hard worker,” explained Santana’s father, who is the Dominican Republic scouting and player development supervisor for the Chicago White Sox. “He shows a lot of intensity and he’s the type of person that just likes to go out there and play the way he’s supposed to.”

Like his diet, Alex Santana’s travel has also been limited. Other than trips home to the Dominican, the furthest he’s ventured is Chicago. The flight from California to Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei is almost 15 hours long, covering more than 6,800 miles.

“Something like this doesn’t come twice,” Santana said.

“All I can do is play my best and see what happens. Hopefully I’m on a flight to Taiwan on the ninth.”

© Copyright 2009 The News-Press. All rights reserved.

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