TAMPA, FLA. — Kevin Santa is willing to overcome anything to achieve his dream of playing baseball.
The University of Tampa shortstop and unofficial team captain from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, exudes confidence on the field, despite facing the pressures of living in a new country.
Though he has seen both his dedication and ambition tested, the offensively gifted player has continued to produce for the Spartans.
“I had to adapt to the culture, the way they teach, the way they play baseball, the way they are outside the field,” he said before Wednesday’s practice at the school’s perfectly manicured field.
“It was hard at the beginning but I thought, ‘Either get used to it or go back to Puerto Rico,’ so I decided to get used to it.”
Santa apparently has done exactly that, batting .471 in 70 at-bats this year, following a season cut short by a broken hand, where he hit .441 over 26 games.
For this aspiring ballplayer, there was never really another choice.
“My mom played college ball back in Puerto Rico, and my dad always loved baseball, so it’s kind of like a religion in my house, and in my country, too,” said Santa, on the particularly warm and sunny afternoon. “I didn’t do anything else besides baseball.”
The compact player’s command of the English language now approaches his command of the gap between second and third base.
He credits teammates with his transition, who took him out looking for deer in an extracurricular outing.
“I never went hunting (before), and they said, ‘You’ll have a nice experience,’” Santa said with a wry smile.
“We went deer hunting and I couldn’t get a deer, but we went frogging and I got two frogs.”
Hunting with the baseball team is a microcosm of Santa’s successful transition to playing in Florida, and yet, it is just another step toward his ultimate dream.
“Just to play baseball until my body says it’s over,” he said.
“If it’s in minors, if it’s in MLB, if it’s back in Puerto Rico, if it’s in Japan, it doesn’t matter, I just want to keep playing ball until God says, ‘This is your time; put your cleats up and go be normal.’”