At the time that I interviewed Ignacio Santamaria Escaño, a young member of the national baseball team that won gold in the recent SEA Games, he was looking forward to baking cinnamon rolls for his girlfriend, Claudia H. Joson, on the occasion of their anniversary as a pair. It was going to be a new experience for him, but with his sister Rocio assisting him, he was hoping to bake a masterpiece of a gift.
I am sharing this story because this wonder boy, for all his excellence in baseball — he is the captain of the UAAP champion DLSU (De La Salle University) team that recently won two gold championships — is a very typical young man in many ways.
He loves hip hop and electronic dance music and collects branded rubber shoes, among other pursuits of the young. Interestingly, he found out that the shoes that he had kept in his closet because they were no longer in, now fetch high prices, having become vintage and unique. Now, he sells them to the right buyers, but that’s another story.
When it comes to the passion of his life, baseball, which Ignacio began playing at age four, he aimed early for excellence and has not stopped aiming to do better even as he has already achieved an early dream, to join the ranks of the country’s best, the Philippine team, no less.
At this time of the pandemic, one is heartened by how Ignacio has not stopped preparing for the next tournament; this, even as he had to do his work out at home and take coaching via Zoom. As a varsity player, he excels in school, a requirement that UAAP demands of its players. His added responsibility is being team captain, which is more than just doing his part to ensure victory.
Knowing of Ignacio’s persistence, his girlfriend must have enjoyed the cinnamon rolls and cheesecake.
Daily Tribune recently received Ignacio, who came with his mom, Pitoy Moreno model Cathy Santamaria, and his sister Rocio. The superman, as his mom and I fondly call him, shared with us how he achieved his dream, and how he makes sure he is ready all the time to play his sport and win.
Playing at four years old
Daily Tribune (DT): Let’s go back to when you first fell in love with baseball.
Ignacio Santamaria Escaño (ISE): I started playing when I was four years old. My cousins, the Laurels, sons of my Tita Crispy, all played baseball. They are all my older cousins so when I was a kid,
I wanted to follow them even before I went to school in La Salle Greenhills. The summer before my first year of kindergarten, I already started practicing because my cousins were all there already.
DT: Was your mother, Cathy, very supportive right from the start?
ISE: Yes, they always brought me to practice, picked me up from practice, watched me play games… everything.
DT: Who was your coach, your mentor?
ISE: I started with coach Ed Oliver. I think. He headed the baseball program in La Salle Greenhills. He recently retired, but before my time he had always been there. Then, during my time, he would always ask the kids during recess or lunch if they wanted to join the baseball team to give it a chance, give it a try. And he was the one who taught us all the basics, all we needed to know. I think that’s why my batch was so good. A lot of my teammates in DLSU, those who came from La Salle Greenhills, went through him.
Too much energy
DT: What did you do during the community quarantine?
ISE: I used the first part as a time for recovering. But after one week, I couldn’t sleep anymore, because I had too much energy in my body. What I did was, I bought weights and gym equipment. I kept busy working out, and after a few weeks we started to have training online. And just two weeks ago, our online classes in La Salle started.
I also began learning how to play golf three weeks ago, when golf was allowed to be played. My dad had always wanted me to learn this sport, and I finally started.
DT: What did you learn from the community quarantine?
ISE: Never take anything for granted. Because during the lockdown, you’re just at home, you realize how much you missed doing so many simple things. Like, during those times before the pandemic, when I had to practice twice a day, I would sometimes feel that it was like a chore. Here I am now not being able to go to a baseball field and it is killing me alive. I can’t see my friends and it’s killing me. So, don’t take anything for granted. Instead make the most out of it. That’s it.
DT: So, are you enrolled?
ISE: Yes, I am enrolled in 15 units for this trimester. I chose to be delayed. I could have been done already but I just wanna make the most of what I have left in baseball. Because after college, maybe I’ll start working (already), have a real job. So I don’t know how much longer I’ll be playing in the national team, or how much longer I have with baseball. I just wanted to take the time to cherish it, make the most out of it and leave with no regrets.
DT: How are you in your studies?
ISE: What I like about being an athlete is you learn so many things. You need discipline. And I bring that winning mentality to my studies. Like if I have an important test, I understand what steps I need to do for me to do well in the test and I just do it. I compare it to like having a big game where I can’t fail. I put it in my head. I have to succeed. Naturally, my mind and my body work together for me to succeed. It’s how I’m programmed, you know. I see a problem; I know what I want to achieve and I take the steps towards achieving that. That’s how I approach my studies.
DT: So, how is it like being a team captain?
ISE: Being team captain is like having an extra class because you’re in charge of all the paperwork. It’s not just leading the team on the field. You also have paperwork to submit, make sure your team is passing their classes, make sure they are eligible to play. You aren’t allowed to play in UAAP at all if you don’t get good grades. And engineering, which is what I am taking, is tough, so that takes a lot of hard work.
Mama Ing’s music
DT: What do you love to eat?
ISE: I love to eat healthy food, but if you ask me what I really love to eat if I have no restrictions, then I’d eat all the sweets and all the steak; but I control my diet.
DT: What is your kind of music?
ISE: Rock, EDM (electronic dance music) and hip hop. Besides my favorite, which is Mama Ing’s music. (Mama Ing is his maternal grandmother, pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria) I think everyone, young and old, should watch Dr. Ingrid Santamaria on YouTube.
SEA Games gold
DT: So, what makes a successful baseball player? Could you share with us how you have made it this far? What goes into becoming a team captain?
ISE: It’s really the dedication that sets me apart. Not the talent, because talent only gets you so far. As a kid, I wasn’t good enough to make it until I decided to give it everything I had. You know, put in all the work that was needed for me to get good until I could make it to the national team. That’s like the pinnacle of every Filipino baseball player, that’s the team you want to reach.
DT: Which medal are you proudest of?
ISE: Oh, definitely the SEA Games gold that we got. That was very special.
It is my first national team medal. The SEA games was really special, being able to play here. For the first time I played in front of that many people. We won and the crowd was like… after that you were just beaming with pride. They lifted the flag and played the national anthem.
DT: What’s your advice to young people who would like to get serious in baseball?
B: First, you have to enjoy it because if you don’t enjoy it you won’t be motivated to wake up every morning to go to practice to get better. Once you start enjoying it, you have to realize what things you can do to get better and then you have to do it. You have to have the discipline, the dedication to do it, and try to get better every day.
I play to win. Losing is my pet peeve. That’s why I work so hard. When I walk the field, I want to know that I’m the best. I want to know that I work harder than anyone here so I have to win. Not because I’m being boastful, not because I’m better than you, but because I know I work the hardest. I know I put in all the work to be able to win.