Manny Santos was first introduced to baseball before he and his family came to the United States, as he spent his early childhood years in the Dominican Republic.
Santos brought with him an ever-growing passion for baseball.
Now in his junior season with Amsterdam High School, the right-hander has developed into the team’s closer and starting shortstop; a true five-tool player who will never hesitate to leg out a triple or steal a bag.
While you don’t always see true closers at the high school level, it’s a role that Santos takes a great deal of pride in being able to do.
“Ever since I was little, I threw pretty hard on the mound,” Santos said. “I was always that closer who came in to sit guys down to end the game. That’s always been my job, and I had a good year last year coming in to end games. I love having that role, to come in and end the game, just like that.”
Over three relief appearances so far this season, he hasn’t allowed a run in 4.1 innings of work. Opposing batters have mustered just one hit and one walk off Santos, while he’s struck out 10.
At the plate, Santos has been showing off his ability to hit the ball in gaps, while being an even greater threat on the basepaths. Through the Rams’ first five games, he is 8 for 16 (.500) with three doubles, two triples and 10 stolen bases.
“I take a lot of pride in all the aspects of my game, especially with how hard I’ve been working,” Santos said. “I know I need to have a really good junior year, so I can play at the next level. There’s a lot of pride that goes into it, my swag and how I represent myself on the field.”
Even though his early-season stats are impressive, Santos does have some competition if he’s hoping to lead the Rams in batting average or stolen bases. Kai Brennan, Amsterdam’s leadoff hitter, has started the season 7 for 15 (.467), with 11 stolen bases.
When it comes to playing in college, Santos says he’s willing to take on any role a coach would ask, but ideally he’d like to remain a pitcher and position player.
“I’d love to go dual,” he said. “I love playing shortstop, that’s my natural position, but if they think I’m best at pitching, then that’s what I’m going to do. If they want me to play short, I’ll do that. But I would like to do both.”
Last month, Santos reconnected with his Dominican roots as he cheered on his home country playing in the World Baseball Classic, as the event took place for the first time since 2017.
“I was disappointed because I thought we had a pretty good team,” Santos said of the Dominican Republic team that was eliminated after going 2-2 in pool play. “They didn’t hit very well, but there’s always next time.”
On Wednesday, Niskayuna left-hander Parker Aikens turned some heads when he tossed a complete game no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, handing the Spartans the first loss of their season.
The performance was a complete turnaround from Aikens’ previous start during the Silver Warriors’ season-opener against Shenendehowa.
Over 2.2 innings on April 3 against the Plainsmen, Aikens was tagged for five runs on five walks and one hit, but with an impressive seven strikeouts.
“The game against Shen didn’t go as planned,” Aikens said. “When you’re not doing too well, your mind starts racing and thinking about other stuff. I wasn’t going to let that one bring me down and just wanted to come out even stronger the next time.”
The Shen game was a distant memory on Wednesday, as the left-hander turned in a dominating performance to lead his team to an important Suburban Council victory over Burnt Hills.
“As the game went on,” he said, “I grew even more confident.”
Niskayuna has a 3-2 overall record to start the season, and are 2-1 in league play. The 1-0 victory also provided Niskayuna with a win two days after being shut out by Mohonasen in a 3-0 non-league game.
“There’s a lot of talent in this area,” said Niskayuna coach Chris Bianchi. “You can easily find yourselves in a dog fight, no matter who you’re playing.”
Aside from that first game against Shenendehowa, the Silver Warriors’ pitching staff has allowed just five runs in its last four games.
“Our pitching staff has been great every game, minus the first one,” Aikens said. “We have great chemistry, and we all have the same goal of winning the last game we play this year.”