VIDEO: From Open-Heart Surgery to Captain of the No. 16 FAU Baseball Team
Less than one year ago, Florida Atlantic University third baseman Ricky Santiago was lying in a hospital bed recovering from open-heart surgery. Today, the senior is one of the top performers on one of the top baseball teams in the nation.
Santiago has made 151 consecutive starts, dating back to his freshman season in 2012, one of the longest current streaks in the country. In his time at FAU, Ricky has hit 16 home runs, driven in more than 100 runs, and undergone a major, life-changing surgery.
In 2014, a physical exam revealed an issue with Santiago’s heart – a birth defect called Partial Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return, a condition in which the pulmonary veins are not connected properly to the heart, causing breathing issues and low blood pressure. Doctors said he could continue to play with the condition, but would eventually require surgery which is typically performed on young children when discovered early. Midway through the 2014 baseball season, Santiago began to experience chest pains, prompting him and his parents to elect to have the surgery that summer.
Fast forward to this season, where Ricky was named a team captain and helped lead the squad to a ranking as high as No. 16 in the national polls, all while recovering from his painful operation. His 13 doubles and 73 bases lead the Owls, while he individually ranks second on the squad with a .343 batting average and 31 RBI. In his first series after the surgery, Ricky hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to give FAU a 5-4 win over UConn. He had a career day against Rutgers on March 8, driving in seven runs with a home run in each of his first two at-bats of the game.
Santiago was the hero in FAU’s historic 3-2 win over North Carolina in the 2013 NCAA Regional in Chapel Hill. Down 2-0, the South Florida native hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning to lift the Owls to a win over the No. 1 team in the nation.
Ricky will lead the Owls (26-7) into a three-game series against Conference US-rival FIU this weekend at the FAU Baseball Stadium.
Poor bullpen and poor D hurts you in the tight games vs good teams.