This past June, I attended a Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division 1 Playoff game featuring Coventry vs Central High School. As I was walking up to the field with Rachel, Coventry’s Jayden Voelker was warming up on the mound in the top of the 1st inning, ready to pitch for Coventry in this important game, and I was psyched. Voelker was one of the best pitchers in the entire state in 2021 and I was so excited to see how he would throw and handle the pressure of a playoff game (psst, he was absolutely brilliant all game). After Voekler set down Central 1-2-3 in the first inning, Central High School took the field defensively. I was sitting in the grassy area aligned with first base, just left of another cameraman who looked a lot more professional than me! This was the first time I got to see Central’s Anderson de los Santos, who was starting at shortstop, field and throw a baseball live. de los Santos scooped up the practice ground balls from his first basemen, one after one, cleanly with two hands, make a quick movement to move his glove upward towards his chest, separate the baseball from his glove, then fire an absolute laser “3 quarter” throw to first base. I had never seen him play live, just on video via his travel team, Providence Sports & Leader. As Coventry came to bat, I turned to Rachel, pointed to Central High School and Providence Sports and Leadership’s Anderson de los Santos and said, “that is a major league shortstop.”
Anderson’s play continued to impress me throughout the game. At the plate, de los Santos ripped a single to right field in his next at bat. Then, calmly broke for second and stole second kicking up a cloud of dust around the second base bag. He would later come around to score the game’s first run. Smooth, precise fielding followed by a solid base hit off an elite Pitcher finished off with speed to make people notice. As the game progressed, Anderson exhibited his maturity and leadership skills, picking up teammates, keeping everyone focused on and off the field, be a vocal leader when the game’s stress level was ratcheted up in the late innings. With the bases loaded in the last of the 9th inning, with Coventry surging towards a possible victory, Central’s pitcher was wild and ran a count 3-0 on the batter. There were 2 outs and there was nowhere to put this batter. de los Santos called “timeout” and sprinted over to his struggling pitcher, talking to him, encouraging him. Whatever Anderson said, worked. His Central pitcher worked the count back to 3-2 before the batter flew out to right field, ending the game and securing a huge Game 1 victory for Central. Speed on the base paths, smooth fielder, plus arm, hits for average, changes the game when he is in lineup, leader – those were my notes for Anderson de los Santos at that game.
I have made so many incredible connections over the years through my Rhode Island Baseball Experiences. A few stand out for their work not only on the field but off the field to develop youth players and outstanding young persons. Some of those connections are the great people associated with Providence Sports and Leadership (PSL). I had the pleasure of meeting Commander Tom Verdi of the Providence Police Department last summer at a Newport Collegiate Baseball League game and talking to him about the PSL organization and what it meant to him personally and the community he serves. Later on in the summer, I chatted with Franklin Salcedo at a Providence Slugfest Game at Central High School and got the strong sense that Franklin was an amazing mentor and trusted baseball resource. And I have connected with Ramon de los Santos via social media over the past year or so and follow his incredible basketball page (Ball_in_RI) as he chronicles the great basketball players around Rhode Island. It was through these connections that I learned that Central High School and Providence Sports and Leadership’s Anderson de los Santos would be signing with the Atlanta Braves organization. I shared the PSL Facebook post announcement to my Facebook page and watched as an astounding number of views and comments poured in to congratulate Anderson.
On Thursday afternoon, Ramon had messaged me about a ceremonial last practice on Friday morning for Anderson to be held at Davis Park. Davis Park is located off Chalkstone Ave across from Nathanial Greene Middle School in Providence, just a few minutes from the Providence Place Mall and the Rhode Island State House. I gladly accepted and headed up to Providence for the 11am practice. The sun was out as was the high humidity when I arrived at Davis Park. As I parked and started walking toward the field, I could see the Providence Sports and Leadership team starting their warmup exercises in right field. And I could see Nick Coit from ABC6 News and JP Smollins of WPRI12 News walking with cameras, so I was excited that this young man was going to get some big time press. As I was walking up the field area, Ramon pulled up with his two young children and we exchanged hellos and I congratulated him on his brother’s achievements. Ramon was all smiles and so proud of his little brother. And by the way, Ramon was sporting a new Atlanta Braves hat.
I found a spot in the bleachers just to the left of home plate and just took in the scene. PSL Coach Franklin Salcedo was very busy starting practice and coordinating players in various drills. It was Anderson’s last practice, but it was not the last practice for the rest of the PSL team. Players were instructed to work hard, hustle, make an effort, if they missed a play to get to the next one, move and practice in game like speed. Every drill, every throw, every catch – done at a fast pace and with accuracy and with purpose. At one station, a coach was throwing fastballs about 10 feet from a catcher working on framing pitches and blocking tough baseball in the dirt. Coach Salcedo to his coach, “I don’t want to turn around and see you flopping it in there, I want to see you firing the ball to him!!! I want to see him work!” Assertive and to the point, to which the Coach did was Coach Salcedo told him to do. It was so amazing to watch this PSL team practice with such intensity all around the infield and at home plate, I almost forgot about Anderson and his last practice ceremony.
Back to Anderson…So as I stated earlier, ABC6 and WPRI12 were in attendance along with Tom Verdi and other PSL leaders. Anderson broke from his team to hustle out to his shortstop position (well done newscasters!) to take some questions on camera from the reporters. Ramon joined him and served as his big brother and interpreter at times. The group spoke on the field for a few minutes, then had a few photos taken with Anderson and his PSL family. Then, the PSL practice took a break and Anderson grabbed his glove and headed out to field some ground balls for the two news stations. Coach Salcedo hit ground balls to Anderson, who fielded them and then slung lasers over to first base. As he was fielding, I was trying to come up with a current or former Major League player that he reminded me of. After thinking for a bit, I settled on Jose Reyes. Reyes, who played for 4 MLB clubs, primarily the New York Mets, was an elite fielder, had an incredible arm (3 quarters at times), hit for average, stole a ton of bases, and changed the game when he was in the lineup. Sound familiar? Then re-read the last sentence of Paragraph 2!!!
After taking a few groundballs, Anderson hustled off the field and his PSL teammates took their place on the field for more practice. Anderson walked over the spot I was sitting and appeared to be taking it all in from his spot next to the backstop. I walked over to Anderson and his brother and congratulated them both. I asked Anderson if he was excited about the opportunity and he replied “yes, it is all happening so fast but I am so excited.” I asked him where he would be headed and he replied “Florida, Tampa.” I could see Anderson peering out at the field, and got the sense that he would rather be out on the field then doing interviews. I told Anderson about being at the Coventry game and how impressed I was with his play on the field and at the plate. “Thank you so much,” replied the humble de los Santos. Then, I put my fist up to the fence, Anderson returned the favor and I said “good luck with Braves.” He nodded a few times thanking me and smiled and went back to watching his now former teammates take infield practice.
As I was walking out, I ran into Nick and JP and thanked them for all their amazing local coverage for Rhode Island baseball. And said good bye to Ramon and promised to stay in contact with him. As Rachel and I were leaving Davis Park, Tom Verdi stopped to chat with me about how proud he was for Providence Sports and Leadership to provide an opportunity for players like Anderson de los Santos to develop and grow as great young men and great baseball players, in that order. Verdi and Coach Franklin Salcedo are so passionate about the work they do for the youth of Rhode Island through Providence Sports and Leadership and they have my respect for their dedication and undeniable involvement in their player’s personal and athletic growth.
Best of luck Anderson de los Santos on the next leg of your baseball journey. From the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to Providence, RI and now onto the Atlanta Braves organization, I wish you and your family the very best.
For more local coverage on yesterday’s event here are a few links to check out:
Baseball Parks, Fields, and Complexes Youth Baseball News atlanta braves baseball baseball field central high school community high school leadership local providence psl tigers rhode island sports tournament youth sports
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