Ramon Santiago tells the young Tigers infielders under his watch to have fun playing a game, but also remember that it’s a job and they have to approach every day at the ballpark as such. For one rare occasion, the Tigers' third-base coach had a day off from work Thursday, but for a very good reason: He’s now a United States citizen.
“I've been coming to the United States since I was 18 years old, and this country has given me so much over the years,” Santiago said. “I owe my career to this country. My kids and my wife, they're already citizens before me. They were born in the United States. For me, it was a very important step.”
Santiago, who played as an infielder with the Tigers from 2002-03 and 2006-13, had been a permanent resident in the U.S. since '12. He applied for citizenship last offseason and was set to take the exam in April, but the COVID pandemic postponed it. The new date he was given fell on Thursday in Miami, where he lives in the offseason.
Santiago has one of the busiest jobs on the Tigers' staff. Not only does he direct traffic on the basepaths as the Tigers’ third-base coach, he spends the other half-innings directing Detroit’s many infield shifts from batter to batter, pitch to pitch from the dugout. That infield now includes two rookies on the left side.
Both jobs require a lot of preparation before games, from extra instruction to advanced scouting to analytics. Somehow during all this, he was able to study for the exam.
“I was well-prepared,” he said. “I studied a lot every day. After the game when we're on the bus, I was watching YouTube the citizenship questions and how they do the whole interview. I was expecting a little bit longer. It's better to be prepared and I studied. That's why I think it was a little easy for me.”
Santiago traveled to Miami after Wednesday’s game in Detroit, passed the test Thursday morning and received his certificate in a ceremony 15 minutes later.
“All the people that went to do the citizenship test, they all got the ceremony the same day,” Santiago said. “They usually don't do it like that, but they did it that day and they gave me the certificate right away. ...
“It was a very exciting day. I was able to see my family for 16 hours and I got the citizenship and I got a lot of things. So the last day has been very productive and very happy for me. They're all very happy for me.”
Cardinals doubleheader to be made up Sept. 28 if necessary
While the Tigers and Cardinals made up the St. Louis half of their originally scheduled home-and-home series with a doubleheader Thursday, the Detroit half of the series hasn’t been rescheduled, leaving the Tigers with a 58-game schedule at the moment. But if those games have an impact on the playoff race, they will be made up.
An MLB spokesperson confirmed that one or both games would be played on Sept. 28, the day after what is currently the season finale, if the games have an impact on one or both teams getting into the playoffs, or on their playoff seeding.
Both teams would have to travel back for that. The Tigers are currently scheduled to end the season in Minnesota.
Zimmermann to bullpen
Jordan Zimmermann’s three innings Thursday in St. Louis won’t be his final outing as a Tiger, but they might well have marked his final start with Detroit. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that Zimmermann, who made his season debut Thursday after working back from a right forearm strain, will work out of the bullpen for now.
“We’ll give him his time, probably three days [after Thursday’s start], and we’ll see where he’s at,” Gardenhire said. “And how we’re going to use him out of the bullpen will be dictated by how he’s feeling, because we don’t want to see him have a relapse of that elbow thing. We’re going to be careful with him, but we’ll get him in ballgames.”
Zimmermann has made one relief appearance in his Tigers tenure, finishing out a 12-9 loss at Kansas City on Sept. 25, 2016, after missing the previous two weeks.