Omir Santos may be one of the older players to play for the Battle Creek Yankees at age 23 but the more important thing is his experience. Omir was drafted all the way back in 2001in the 21st round by the Yankees and is one of the few players on the roster that has been around for that long in professional baseball. Does that have any significance? You bet it does. Omir nailed down the majority of playing time as the starting catcher this year not for his hitting but for his ability to handle a young yet talented pitching staff. And, what a job he has done with a staff that, as of now, has an average age of just over 20 years old. "Pito" has only four errors this season and has done a fantastic job in helping to create arguably the best pitching staff in the Yankee farm system.
"Pito" is not quite the hitting prospect that he once was as he has watched his season average dip to .231 but despite that, he still earns the majority of the starts at the catching position. In combination with his excellent defense, Omir Santos had some kind of year back in 2002 when he was the team MVP for the league champion Staten Island Yankees. For whatever reason, his offense is not what it once was then, but his charisma, knack for handling pitchers and defense is still there. Many would say that he has a lot to do with what this Battle Creek pitching staff has accomplished this season. It very well could be. Now, let's take a look at what "Pito" has to say about this Battle Creek team this season and about himself as well. Besides, what better of a perspective is there than from behind the mask?
PP: How did you get the nickname "Pito"?
Omir Santos: I don't know. My dad named me Pito when I was little. I don't know why. It means whistle, right?
PP: Yes, so there's no significance?
OS: No, because I don't like to whistle. I don't know.
PP: Which pitcher on the staff impresses you the most and why?
OS: I think Abel Gomez because he's a young kid and he can throw strikes. He's going to grow a lot because he's young and he can pitch.
PP: You were once teammates with Dioner Navarro. What advice would you give him as a fellow catcher for moving up in the organization?
OS: To never give up. If he's not hitting, to do well on his defense. He's a good guy. He should never give up on his defense. That's what I would tell him.
PP: Which teammate of yours has the most raw power for hitting?
OS: I think Eric Duncan because he can hit the ball to the opposite way with power.
PP: You were once teammates with Joaquin Arias and now with Hector Made. How would you compare the two?
OS: They are very much the same because they are both quiet. They can field well, hit, and run.
PP: How are they different?
OS: I think Joaquin has more range than Made.
PP: When you were catching Elvys Quezada for the no-hitter, what made him so successful that day that perhaps he hasn't been able to do since?
OS: He was throwing a lot of strikes. For that game he was more quiet. I don't know what happened with him but he was kind of quiet. He was focusing on the game and throwing strikes a lot.
PP: What has Brandon Harmsen been able to since leaving the bullpen to become a starter? Anything different?
OS: He throws a lot of strikes no matter what. If he can keep doing that, he's going to be successful.
PP: What do you see in the future of Melky Cabrera and Eric Duncan?
OS: They are going to move up quick. They can run, they can hit. They play the game right. The main thing is they can hit.
PP: Which guy on the Battle Creek roster maybe has the most potential but hasn't showed it yet?
OS: I think Enrique Cruz. He can hit. He's kind of uncomfortable right now hitting, but he's going to break out. He's a good fielder. When he's not hitting, he doesn't give up on his defense.
PP: Which pitcher do you have to work the hardest for to catch? Who do you have to focus the most for?
OS: I think (Abel) Gomez. He wants to throw pitches that you can't throw to a certain hitter. Sometimes we have to change his mind about certain things, but he's going to be good.
PP: Tell me about your performance right now, Pito. How do you feel you're developing this season?
OS: My catching, I feel good. I feel good about my defense. My hitting is not too good right now, but I feel good and that's the important thing. We'll see.
PP: When you're going through a stretch where you're not hitting, what is it that you're usually doing or not doing?
OS: I'm swinging at bad pitches. I need to be more patient. Patient is the word.
It is likely that there is not much cause for concern about "Pito" and his offense. Not because he is having a great year with the bat, but because of the leadership and presence that he brings to the team. The reason he may have remained in Battle Creek might be for that reason alone. Just ask the two 19 year olds, Tyler Clippard and Abel Gomez. Those two have been very successful this season and Santos is one of the key reasons behind it. "Pito" and the Battle Creek Yankees have gotten red hot after the Midwest League All-Star break, mostly due to their pitching. The team is starting to come together and play incredibly well. Now, we have gotten an inside look at some of the key components to their success. "Pito" Santos has taken us inside the Battle Creek Yankees from Behind the Mask.
PinstripesPlus.com would like to give out a very special thanks to Battle Creek Yankees play by play voice, Jeff Hem for his fine help to help make this interview possible. We would also like to thank Omir Santos for his time and effort in answering these questions.