From Dreams to Reality, Interview with Santiago Espinal
"When I was younger, I used to watch Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols on T.V. and now I get to share the field with them”.
Third base, short-stop, centerfield, second base, you name it, Santiago Espinal of the Toronto Blue Jays can and will do it.
Since making his Major League Baseball debut on July 25, 2020, Espinal has arguably played in the most positions than any other current Blue Jay. From first, to second, to short, third, left, center, to right, Santiago openly accepts every challenge thrown his way.
“As a player, I feel you need to learn every position because you don’t know where you’re going to end up, and this game is an up-and-down game - it’s hard mentally,” said Espinal.
This versatile mindset and work ethic is not something new for Santiago. While he was in the minors, Espinal understood if he wanted to move on to the next level he had to work hard, learn, and challenge himself as much as he could.
“When I was given the opportunity to play center-field [in the minors], I had no clue how to play center-field, all I knew was to catch the ball, throw it,” laughed Espinal. “So, the more I learned about it, the more opportunities came and when everybody saw that I could play center, short, second, third, there were more open doors for me.”
Shortly before the 2018 trade deadline, the Blue Jays acquired Espinal from the minor leagues when the Red Sox traded him in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce and cash considerations. This deal with the Red Sox was part of the Jays rebuilding process, which included tearing the roster down to the bone.
“When I got here [Toronto], what I’ve learned is to take advantage of the opportunities and to stay consistent with my work because I want to help my team with whatever it is; like if I'm not hitting good, at least I can do in-fielding, at least I can deal with the running, you know. I want to be the best player I can be, so if I just keep working hard and keep consistent, then everything will play out,” concluded Espinal.
Here now in 2022, Espinal has emerged as a superb second baseman, a performance that earned him a trip to the MLB All-Star Game alongside teammates Vlad Guerrero Jr., Alek Manoah (Frameworth Exclusive), Jordan Romano and Alejandro Kirk.LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 19: Santiago Espinal #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays acknowledges the crowd during player introductions prior to the 92nd MLB All-Star Game alongside Frameworth Exclusive, Alek Manoah. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
For Espinal, it was a total shock and surprise when he learned that he would be replacing Jose Altuve in the 2022 MLB All-Star Game. Taken back by excitement, Santiago could barely get his words together to thank his family and fans.
“I was sitting on the couch, not knowing what was going on. But when they said my name, I couldn’t stop laughing and I didn’t know what to say. I was shaking,” shared Espinal.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 16, 2022
“When I called my dad, he actually thought something was wrong. But as soon as I said, hey pack your bags, we’re going to LA, he started crying,” shared Espinal. “It’s a moment that I’ll never ever forget in my life. You know, making an All-Star team is a huge accomplishment and ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to be one of the guys at the Home Run Derby sitting in the grass, watching it live right there.”
If competing in the 2022 MLB All-Star game wasn’t significant enough for 27-year-old Espinal, sharing the field with players he’s grown-up idolizing surely solidifies that he’s living out his best life.
“When I was younger, I used to watch Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols on TV and now I get to share the field with them. I also have the same agency as Pujols and actually got to have dinner with him in L.A., which was pretty cool. And I have a couple jerseys signed too; I have a Miguel Cabrera jersey and an Albert Pujols jersey. And you know, these are both things that when I was little, I was like, man, I want to have a jersey from Pujols or Miguel Cabrera,” said Espinal.
If sharing the field with both legends you grew up idolizing is not a complete full circle moment, then what is?LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18: Members of the 2022 American League All-Star team (Alejandro Kirk, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Gregory Soto, Santiago Espinal, Alek Manoah, Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Romano) pose for a team photo during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Dodger Stadium on Monday, July 18, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Prior to the Frameworth Sports private signing with Espinal on July 27, 2022, the first-time All-Star had actually never participated in a memorabilia agreement signing before. When asked by his team’s management, Santi would sign baseballs for fans prior to games. But the first time Espinal remembers actually being waved down for a signature from a fan in the stands was during his second year in the minors in Greenville, South Carolina.
“We were walking to the locker room after finishing a game and walked past a group of fans”, explained Espinal. “That’s when I heard someone yell out ‘Hey Santi, will you sign over here please for me?’ It felt a little bit weird because it was my first time actually being asked for my signature. But it was probably one of the coolest moments knowing that okay, I’m a professional baseball player now.”