Meet the woman White Sox international players call 'Mom'

Erin Santana's impact transcends her role as manager of international player development

May 12th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Erin Santana is the loving mother to Alexia, her 10-year-old daughter.

But as the White Sox manager of international player development/education, the Maine native also has numerous unofficial sons throughout the organization.

“I have a bunch of them that call me their mom,” Santana told with a laugh. “With just the nature of my job, a lot of times they feel really comfortable telling me things they might not tell somebody who they know is evaluating them. So I get to know them pretty well."

“She’s a really, really special person in my life,” White Sox third baseman said of Santana.

Santana and the Birmingham Barons celebrate Ramos' high school graduation. (Photo courtesy of Erin Santana)

This White Sox job has evolved over seven years for Santana since she was hired by then-Minor League director and current general manager Chris Getz. But it’s best described by Santana as helping international players adjust, taking care of all things off the field so they can focus on what they need to do on the field.

Santana’s list of responsibilities ranges from helping players with health insurance issues to helping them with immigration issues for their families. Ramos didn’t have a car when he first came from Cuba to the United States as part of the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League White Sox, so Santana would get whatever he needed from Walmart.

There’s also Santana’s crucial assistance in players learning English, with Ramos being a terrific example of the bond formed in the process. Check out Santana’s X posts (@empiricallyerin) filled with pride since the No. 4 prospect joined the White Sox from Double-A Birmingham last Saturday in St. Louis.

“When I found out Friday night that he was getting called up, I was crying and crying,” Santana said. “It does feel like I’m watching my own child reach his dream.”

“It’s outside the baseball part -- the human part,” Ramos said. “She’s a good person.”

Of course, Santana thoroughly enjoys the 22-year-old going 7-for-18 at the plate with three runs scored, two doubles and two RBIs over his first six games. She also loves Ramos’ smooth media interviews in English -- on television and with reporters pre and postgame -- after he knew nothing about the language coming over from La Habana, Cuba.

Credit goes to Ramos for basically learning English in 2020 -- when Minor Leaguers were away from baseball due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- with the help of Santana and Grant Flick, the White Sox manager of player development/international operations, who has the same feeling of pride for Ramos. Due to Ramos’ immigration status at the time, the third baseman had to stay in the United States and had no one with him.

He lived in one of the team apartments in Arizona and took initiative by asking Santana for classes. Flick, who served as the teacher in Arizona among other things, would do a lesson every day with Ramos. At the end, they would FaceTime Santana, and Ramos would have a conversation with her about whatever they learned.

“Literally, that’s how he learned. He went from barely knowing anything to being fluent in a year,” Santana said. “But he is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met, in terms of, you tell him something once and he just knows it. You see it on the field, but you see it everywhere else, too.”

For international players who start their career at the White Sox Dominican Academy, English classes are set up with a teacher who is present full time and at the games with the players. According to Santana, the teacher will review what’s happening in the game. Then every day after the game or practice, they have English class and do Rosetta Stone.

For those players such as Ramos who don’t have that base when starting immediately in the U.S., there’s a teacher in Arizona every day, and they have classes four days per week.

“We try to integrate English into everything they do,” Santana said.

Santana with Carlos Pérez and Lenyn Sosa at Fenway Park last September. (Photo courtesy of Erin Santana)

Lenyn Sosa and Carlos Pérez were the first two White Sox players Santana worked with. Ramos is the one Santana talked about frequently when given the impossible task of picking a favorite “son.”

“He’s gone through so much to get to where he is, and he’s had to go through a lot of stuff by himself,” Santana said. “Just to be able to see him accomplish everything is so cool.

“It’s just being able to see the culture changing, too. [I] was in the Dominican Academy two weeks ago and watching the guys down there and seeing how badly they want to learn English and how badly they want to learn just everything about the game. … We are really starting to see our Latino players coming into their own and feeling comfortable using English and being able to encourage each other.”