The Frontier League Homerun Derby took place at Carshield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri this week. Fans filled the stadium for a chance to see former Cardinals greats compete with Frontier League All-Stars in matchup of local favorites vs. unknown up and comers. Former Cardinals Mark Whiten, Ray Lankford, Kerry Robinson and Rick Ankiel were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance. To their surprise they were upstaged by a little known first baseman playing just across the river for the Gateway Grizzlies. His name was Trae Santos.
Trae Santos put on a show from the first pitch launching mammoth homers over the giant right field wall at Carshield Field. Santos ran through the Frontier League competitors smashing 22 homers in the first two rounds, setting up a matchup with former Cardinal P/OF Rick Ankiel. Santos dispatched of Ankiel rather quickly beating his 3 homers in just a few swings. Fans that had come to see the former Cardinals greats swing left wondering who was this power hitting machine manning first for the Grizzlies. Who was Trae Santos?
In 2005, star pitcher and first baseman Trae Santos led the Guam Little League team all the way to the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With that success, the Santos family made a momentous decision. They decided to move their family to America where Trae began to make his mark the baseball community. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres out of Troy University. Playing 4 seasons in affiliated ball Santos had trouble standing out. Hitting his peak during the 2015 season, Santos hit 14 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League. Unable to improve on those numbers the Padres released Santos after the 2016 season, leaving Trae at a crossroads in his career.
“The phones weren’t really ringing last year. I just kept working on my swing and hitting the gym everyday. Waiting for that opportunity.” said Santos when asked about taking the 2017 season off.
Manager Phil Warren gave Trae a call with an invite to tryout for the Gateway Grizzlies. With the departure of long time first baseman Craig Massoni their was an opening on the Gateway roster. Looking for pop in the middle of the order Santos seemed to fit right into the needs of the team. Beating out Kristian Brito for the starting first baseman spot, Santos jumped right into the middle of the Gateway lineup. Santos came out the gates struggling in 2018. Showing signs of rust from the year off of competitive baseball. After a few weeks into the season Santo was hitting well below .200. Phil Warren refused to give up on the young slugger.
“I sat Trae down and told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself. These guys are out here trying to get you out. Stop worrying so much and just do what you know you can do.” said Warren.
The brief conversation paid off huge for Santos as he was able to turn things around almost immediately. Hitting .288 with 11HRS, 34RBI’s, earning himself a slot in the Frontier League All-Star game his comeback was complete.
Santos has had a roller coaster career so far in baseball. Right now he is heading towards the top of the coaster in hopes that there will not be the long drop this time. At the age of 25 getting a call back to affiliated ball will be a long shot. But the statement he made during the Homerun Derby will live on in the history of the Frontier League. Maybe Santos will not be the second player ever to make it to the Majors but he will go down in the Frontier League history books along with the creation of the Baseball’s Best Burger and Brett Gray’s 25 strikeout night.
Come see Trae Santos lead the Gateway Grizzlies in the second half of the season beginning July 14th vs. the River City Rascals.