TAMPA, Fla. – Shortstop Kevin Santa is focused on learning to walk as the Tampa Bay Spartans prepare for a playoff run.
The Puerto Rican all-round player has shied away from plaudits but is quietly leading the team towards another championship year.
The Spartans, who have won two of the last three national championships are 16-1 for the season.
Santa, who turned 21 this week, stressed the importance of maintaining focus despite the team’s large lead in the Division II Sunshine State Conference.
“We can’t think of the big picture, we have to think of the smaller picture first and take it step by step,” said the left-handed hitter. “You don’t run before you can walk. You learn how to walk and then you start running.”
Leading the team in RBIs (20), with an average of .485, Santa is reluctant to talk personal goals for the season.
“I just think about the team I don’t think about myself,” the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy graduate said. “If we get a W at the end of the game it doesn’t matter to me if I have a good game or not.”
The accounting major said that head coach Joe Urso has driven home the need to keep focus and intensity.
“Come out to the field and work on something. Don’t go through the motions,” said the five-foot-eleven junior. “Every day have a plan and work on your weaknesses. That’s why we’ve been so good.”
Urso, University of Tampa’s most successful baseball coach, describes Santa as exuding subtle leadership skills.
“He’s a quiet kid but as our shortstop he’s a natural leader,” the Tampa native said. He’s probably our best all-round hitter, best all-round player, great defensive guy and plays the game 100 per cent. He’s a guy that leads more by example.
A former Spartan All American, Urso was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 1992 and played four years in the minor-league system.
Tampa Bay had the honour of playing against a team in major-league colours recently, taking on the Philadelphia Phillies in a spring training matchup. The MLB side came out on top, after being stunned in the same game last year, when the Spartans sealed a headline grabbing 6-2 victory.
Santa said it was a big step up from Division II but he relished the opportunity.
“Playing them made me realize how much I need to do to get to that level,” the junior said. “We realize that we need to work and use it as an inspiration.”