Born on March 9, 1965, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Benito Santiago is the best all around catcher to play the game of Major League Baseball since Carlton Fisk or Tony Pena. Santiago attended John F. Kennedy high school in his home town. Santiago played some excellent baseball in high school and was noticed by the San Diego Padres organization. The Padres signed Benito as an undrafted free agent, and sent him to Miami in 1983 so he could hone and focus his skills. Benito would slowly work his way through the minor leagues, heading to Reno, then Beaumont and finally Triple A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League.
Benny's first season was a short one in 1986. The Pads called him up from Vegas for some late season work. He would return the following year as the teams starting catcher. Santiago made an impact right off the bat, so to speak. During his rookie season, besides throwing out 1 out of every 3 base runners who tried to steal on him, he also had a 34 game hitting streak. This streak tied the record for a hit streak by a Rookie. He would unanimously win the Rookie of the Year award as well as the Silver Slugger award. In the following season he had upped his throw out percentage up to 45% and repeated as the Silver Slugger. He also won a Golden Glove award, even though he had 12 errors, tops among catchers. Benito would repeat as the Silver Slugger in 90 and 91, and as a gold glover for the next two seasons. He also start the All-Star game in 88 and 89. He would be the backup in 91, 92 and 2002.
Benito had a flashy style behind the plate and was able to throw out thieving batters from his knees. In the batter's box, Benito was known to swing early, at the first or second pitch, trying to get a quick hit.
Benny has had an interesting trip over the 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. He started with the Padres and was later left to the free agent market, where he was picked up by the Florida Marlins for the 93 and 94 seasons. Over the next five seasons he would bounce around the league from club to club. He spent a year in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, two in Toronto before hopping to the Cubbies and back to the Reds. He's been in San Francisco since the 2001 season, where he's enjoyed hitting 5th, right behind Barry Bonds. While jumping from team to team, Santiago's bat slumped compared to his early seasons. Recently he's been hitting well in Pac Bell, and excelling in the post season. With Barry's high on-base percentage, Benito had no problem hitting strong in the NLCS. He hit 2 home runs and knocked in a total of 11 RBI against the St. Louis Cardinals, earning him the series' MVP trophy in 2002.
However, Benny's playing career was almost cut real short on January 4, 1998. On that day, Benito lost control of the car he was driving down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and crashed into a tree. This caused Benny to miss most of the 1998 season rehabbing and in the minor leagues.
Throughout his career, Benito Santiago has been clutch behind the plate. He has a quick jump to throw out a base stealer and can provide a hit when necessary. Currently the Giants lead 2-0 in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, and might go all the way to the World Series. Benito, like Bonds, has never won a championship.