New York Yankees fans supporting the Houston Astros? Unheard of.
Courtesy of one of baseball's most contentious rivalries in recent history, there's reason to believe New Yorkers watching the MLB Draft this week scoffed when it came time for Houston's first selection.
That is, except for lifelong Yankees fan and Bronx native Alex Santos, the very player the Astros picked.
Cheers erupted in Santos' home on Thursday night – a short drive away from Yankee Stadium – when the pitching prospect's name was called with the 72nd overall selection.
“I’ve been a Yankees fan my whole life, but I’m going to have to deal with it now," the Mount St. Michael High School standout told Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “They went with some other guy. Everything works out for a reason, and I’m happy I’m in the position I am in now.”
Santos, 18, was ranked 45th by Baseball American and 56th by MLB Pipeline among the top prospects of the 2020 MLB Draft class. Long before the right-hander grew into his lanky frame, influencing big-league scouts to refer to him as a "high-ceiling prep arm," he was playing catch with his father in the park where the old Yankee Stadium used to stand.
“Sometimes in the summer, I’ll go over to the park to do my running,” Santos told The Athletic's Lindsey Adler. “It’s unique to have a view like that, the new Yankee Stadium, while I do my training.”
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound high school senior is committed to play collegiate ball at the University of Maryland next fall. Santos and his father, Alex Santos Sr., disclosed to the Post, however, that he will likely sign and forgo his scholarship.
The pick the Astros used to nab Santos – during the compensation section of the second round – was the organization's first overall selection in the draft and first player selected by new general manager James Click.
Houston forfeited its first- and second-round picks as part of the discipline handed down from Major League Baseball after the investigation regarding the Astros' sign-stealing scandal in 2017. The No. 72 pick, subsequently used to take Santos off the board, was compensation for Gerrit Cole's departure in free agency this offseason.
Factor that in with a new wrinkle to the sign-stealing investigation just days after drat day, alleging the Yankees stole signs as well, and this week has been a back and forth affair for both fanbases.
Even if he was drafted by the team that has eliminated his favorite ball club in the ALCS in two of the last three postseasons, Santos called his draft-day experience something he'll never forget.
"I was really excited, super emotional,” he told the Post. “I got to spend it with family, coaches, friends. Best time ever. It’s something I will never forget.”
As for those family members, they're not completely ready to change their allegiances just yet. That said, even if they remain fans of the Bronx Bombers, they'll be in Santos' corner no matter what.
“A couple of them are Astros fans. A couple of them said it’s hard to get away from the Yankees, but they’re Alex Santos fans,” Santos explained to Braziller.
Santos, not lacking any confidence, told the Post he believes he'll be a big-league hurler. For a budding right-handed flamethrower, joining an organization with the likes of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke isn't the worst place to be.
When that big-league debut does come in a few years, Santos' father is preparing for an interesting predicament when the Astros visit the Bronx.
“It’s going to be tough when he comes to Yankee Stadium three years from now and he’s got to pitch against my team, you know,” Santos Sr. joked. “But I guess I’ll be wearing a Houston Astros jersey.”
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