Person that most influenced my career:
There have been many influences in my career. With experience in many sports, I have come into contact with several people throughout my playing days. However, there have been a few people that have really stuck out in my mind as people who have really benefited my career. Heather Caldwell, my childhood best friend’s aunt, took us to every practice, every game, every tournament, and paid for our meals and hotels. She did an amazing job of allowing me to focus on playing basketball without needing to worry about the other financial issues. Also, the coach of that team, JK Mondol, a great man, was a realtor and still had time to run every practice and get us into tournaments while he paid for most of it. Our team was runner up in the state championship for 14 and under held at Cal Berkeley. Another influence was Mike Rolls, an owner of a scaffolding company, was a huge part of my success in playing baseball. He paid for tournaments, hired great coaches, and recruited great talent from around the area to compete at AAU tournaments around the country in baseball. All of these people I appreciate from the bottom of my heart for their dedication to youth sport development and making opportunities available that otherwise would not have been available. These people spent time and money on kids’ careers that were not even their own, in hopes that they would achieve success, but also that they might learn how to be good citizens and compete in every aspect of their lives. Of that team that Mike Rolls ran, I can name at least 5 players in professional baseball at this time, and many others that went on to play college baseball at various NCAA levels. That is an accomplishment in itself.
Yet the person who had a major influence on my career was one of my assistant coaches in high school. Jim Seguin, who coached me at the JV and Varsity levels and opened me up to ideas and different aspects of the game (of baseball) that I had never known. He was different, in that he taught the game the right way. He taught me how to win with class, how to lose with dignity, and most of all, how to work hard. A great coach is one who sees your potential and knows the best way to get it out of you. He taught me to compete.
I had always been a competitor, but he taught me how to compete with passion. He taught me that when I stepped on the field, I had to want to be the best out there. And even if I knew I wasn’t the best, I had to act like it. Because if I didn’t believe I was the best, no one else would either. He taught me how to walk and play with a swagger that people would take note of.
My favorite thing he taught me was in my freshman year on JV. He was hitting ground balls, hard ground balls to me at short. I was mad because I didn’t think anyone at that level could hit them that hard and didn’t understand why he was doing it. He said, “My job is to get this ball by you. Your job is to field every single one. If I get this ball by you, I’ve done my job, and if you field it, you’ve done yours.” That fueled a fire in me that day. From then on out, I realized that if I wanted to be the best, I had to take every part of the game serious whether it be fielding ground balls or doing base running drills, I had to work hard at every single thing, because if I wasn’t, then I wasn’t getting better. He wanted me to get better every day. He would say, “If you’re not getting better today, someone else is. And you can never get today back.”
Another great thing he taught me on the field that has translated to great success on and off the field is communication. I have played on teams since then that have not had any communication, and have therefore struggled when communication would have made that team great. Communication helped win me jobs at shortstop and second base for my last two years playing at the collegiate level even when there were more physically gifted athletes on the team. However, coaches notice and love when players are vocal. It means they know what they are doing on the field. It’s a confidence thing.
Off the field it has translated into many leadership roles. I am now a graduate student at Boise State University studying exercise science with a emphasis in Behavioral Studies (sport psychology). I attribute my competitive drive to him, whether it is on the field or getting the best grade in the classroom, he always wanted his players to strive to be the best at whatever they do. So for that, I thank him.
Ray Santiago III