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Paying It Forward: A Collector's Dream

Ask any professional baseball player, young or old, and life growing up was pretty much the same: baseball around the clock. For my younger brother Anthony and I, that rang true. We spent the majority of our childhoods on a baseball diamond. Our father helped run our local Little League teams back home in Newark, New Jersey and in the summer months we would basically spend our time at a field from sunrise to sunset.

That much baseball might wear a kid out, but not me. Those early days with my dad and my brother left me wanting even more. To fill that void, I started collecting. Even when I wasn’t out on the field, I could still be around the game.

I had thousands of baseball cards (and had three full books of Pokémon cards, too…was always pretty pumped about that). And since I was a collector growing up, when I started seeing my own professional cards I couldn’t believe it. I never expected to see my own face on one of them. It made me appreciate how fortunate I am to be in the position I am as someone that kids can look up to.

I have had the privilege to pitch for two Major League teams over the last five years and I love collecting memorabilia now because it is a great way to remember where I have been and the great athletes I have had the honor to play with or against, or just to meet, even outside of baseball. It’s fun to have a nice room in your house where your family and friends can come together and enjoy it all, too.

The first signature I got was on a baseball from Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and a few other guys. When I got the baseballs back a teammate had gotten a jersey and I thought, “That's awesome I should do that.” From there my collection took off and I made a hobby out of it.

Over the years I have collected hundreds of signed jerseys, bats, baseballs, footballs, sneakers, boxing gloves and more. You name it and I probably have it. My favorite piece by far has to be my Michael Jordan autographed game-used court that I actually got from Steiner Sports!

The other side of this experience, of course, is being able to interact with fans, especially kids that are like I was growing up who love the game and love the opportunity to share a moment with a professional athlete. One of my favorite things to do, especially on game day, is stopping to take time out for the people hanging in the outfield seats that have been waiting out in the hot sun for a few hours just for a few seconds to say hello to me or a teammate and get something signed. 

It’s awesome. Looking at a kid’s face when this happens is like watching someone win a jackpot. Sometimes they don’t even know who signed their ball, but that’s okay because no matter what they are happy and have a memory to cherish.

People often ask me what the craziest thing I have ever signed is. It has to be a baby’s forehead. I didn’t want to, but the mom made me do it. No matter what I am signing, I am happy to do it because it brings me right back to when I was a little kid growing up in Newark with a just a dream of being able to pay it all forward one day.

Hector Santiago
Pitcher, Los Angeles Angels

Leave a Comment
Jeff August 19, 2016 AT 11:35AM

I’ve never met Hector but my daughter knows him from their junior college days and says he’s always been a wonderful guy. I think it’s fantastic that he doesn’t play the “Big Leaguer Game” with fans and makes time to interact regularly. Keep up the good work Hector.

Ken Taylor July 7, 2016 AT 10:01PM

Hector, I find your story to be uplifting and great for those that want to be a part of your life. I too enjoyed the chance to get autographs as a young man. I have been a Yankee fan since 1951 and I have always had respect for those that love the game they want to make a kid smile and give him/her that moment in time that will forever be remembered. You to me fall into that category and I wish to commend you for that. I have some thousands of autos over my 70+ years and I have never sold even one. Of course my youngest may sell but I hope not. To you I salute. I have not met you but as I complete my bucket list of visiting every MLB stadium perhaps I will., I now have 16 stadiums under my belt and will soon be going out west to complete my list. Keep signing for those young kids as they will always have a place in their heart for you.


Ken Taylor
Waterloo, SC
22 year U S Army Retired Veteran.

Julie Arellanes July 3, 2016 AT 4:21AM

Definitely my favorite Angels player! When I met you, my friend saw my pic and laughed and he said I looked giddy! LOL. I was! I loved meeting your wife too! I said “hi” to her. :) They told us you were only staying until 1pm and we were so afraid we’d miss you! But being the awesome man that you are and now reading this, you stayed until you cleared the whole line! You made my day! You will forever be my favorite! Ups and downs, highs and lows, no matter what, you’re awesome to your fans and will always be my favorite lefty, player and Angel! I need a pic though! They told us No Pictures at Cox. :( Hope to meet you again for a picture next time!

Ryan Chandler June 28, 2016 AT 10:59PM

Hector has been one of our favorites since coming to the Angels. One of my favorite newer memories was driving up from Southern California to see the Angels take on the Oakland And in Oakland in 2015 on Father’s Day Weekend. Hector Santiago came over and took a picture with my son and signed a ball for him. Hector then took off his blue men’s cancer awareness wristband and gave it to my son, who turned and Gabe it to me saying “Happy Father’s Day dad.” How cool is that? Thanks Hector! We’ll always be in your corner!

Franklin Kim June 28, 2016 AT 4:44PM

Hope that my son gets chance to get an autographed ball from you one of these days. You have become our favorite player after hearing Eric Kay talk about all the community events that you are willing to participate in. Keep up the great work. You provide inspiration to many fans!!!

Donald Topar June 28, 2016 AT 2:19PM

I went to a Angels spring training practice earlier this year and Hector Santiago signed a baseball for my son and even took a picture with him. I have to say Mr. Santiago made his day and ours. Just as Mr. Santiago says in the article we have a memory to cherish. Forever thankful for that Mr. Santiago, thank you.

Liz June 28, 2016 AT 2:07PM

This is one of the reasons you are my favorite Angel!