EUGENE, Ore. — Trae Santos has always been a big star on a little island. The Emeralds’s first baseman is from Guam, a U.S. territory in the South Pacific.
Population: 160,000. The same as Eugene.
When he was 12-years-old, Santos led the Guam All-Stars to the semifinals of the Little League World Series.
The next year, he made a life-changing decision.
“I was 13-years-old when I moved to Alabama and I was going to be a freshman in high school,” Santos said.
Santos moved to the United States to pursue his baseball career seven years ago.
He hasn’t been back since.
His father, a firefighter, couldn’t give up his solid government job so he stayed in Guam. Trae’s mother moved with him to Alabama.
“They sacrificed so much for me,” Santos said. “My mom and dad live apart most of the year … I can’t thank them enough.”
“I was at junior college where I could see my family every day,” Ryan Miller, Santos’s roommate said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now. He keeps a strong front up.”
The difficult decision paid off. In addition to picking up a southern twang, he improved his swing.
He was a star in high school, played two years at a junior college and this past season at Troy University where he hit 18 home runs, third best in the nation.
When Santos was picked in the 17th round of June’s MLB Draft he became just the second player from Guam ever drafted, putting the expectations of an entire island on Trae Santos’s broad shoulders.
“There’s a lot more on the line for me,” Santos said. “The whole representing where I’m from is really big. We’re a real prideful island.”
Of the 160,000 hopeful minor league players, one stands above the rest.
When the Padres picked him, Santos was in a hospital in Baltimore. He was with his older brother, Tim, who was fighting Stage III pancreatic cancer.
“[Tim] would be pretty upset with me if I was worrying about him,” Santos said. “I try not to, but it’s always in the back of my head because me and my family are really close.”
Just like Trae, Tim, too, had dreams of playing pro ball – dreams that are kept alive here in Eugene.
“I’m living out my brother’s dream for him especially with the state that he’s been in,” Santos said. “Everything just means so much more to me. I take so much more appreciation for everything that happens in my life.”
Only one player from Guam has ever made it to the majors, John Hattig in 2006.
Santos wants to make it three: John, Trae and Tim.