Changing for good: Telecom star’s position switch shaped career

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She’s found a home on the other side of the plate.

High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology softball standout Thalia Santiago first started playing when she was just 8-years-old, but the senior pitching star wasn’t always an ace on the mound. She had started her career as a catcher, but it didn’t take long for her to realize she needed to switch things up.

It’s a decision she’s never regretted.

“Me and my dad worked day and night trying to get me to pitch,” Santiago said. “I just kept developing myself. I’d watch YouTube videos, I’d go out to the park and throw against the wall. Even in the winter, I’d work really hard.”

Santiago hit her stride at the high-school level — playing varsity at Telecom as a freshman — and she’s been nothing short of dominant since first suiting up for the Yellowjackets.

This year, however, things have been different. Santiago has performed at a completely different level, and sometimes has had to pinch herself to make sure the numbers she’s putting up are real.

“I like to be humble, but I’m very proud of myself,” Santiago said. “I worked hard and that’s what it’s about — working hard to get myself to this point. So I’m proud of everything I’ve been doing and that I can pitch the way I pitch.”

Santiago has given up just 21 hits in 53 innings pitched this spring, while striking out an eye-popping 132 batters. She boasts an earned run average of just 2.91. But it might be her stats in the batters box that are the most impressive.

In the Yellowjack­ets’ first 15 games, Santiago has knocked out 30 hits, including five home runs, and struck out just twice in 46 at-bats. She has hit .652 over the same stretch — the best mark in the league — and credits her success as a pitcher for her dominance as a hitter.

“I see the ball come right out of the other pitcher’s hands,” Santiago said. “I know what they’re throwing and I’m just like ‘Okay, let me try to read the ball out of them.’ I usually go for the high ones and I know those are my pitches.”

Santiago has spent so much time in a Telecom softball uniform, it’s difficult for her to consider a future that doesn’t include the Yellowjackets. But that hardly means she doesn’t have a plan. She committed to St. Rose, a Division II school, earlier this year and has her sights set on pursuing a career in law enforcement once things wrap up on the ballfield.

“They got me up to a clinic and I fell in love with the school,” Santiago said. “[The St. Rose softball coach] told me I was the top recruit. I really didn’t think I was going to get seen, but it was a perfect fit.”

She’s anxious to take the next step in her life, but Santiago isn’t getting too far ahead of herself. She’s established herself as one of the top pitchers in the city and before she hands in her uniform for good, she wants to make a deep playoff run this spring.

Santiago has taken on an even bigger leadership role this year and is determined to leave a legacy at Telecom for future standouts.

“I feel a lot of these girls do look up to me and I like the fact that they tell me that,” Santiago said. “I take that as a compliment. If these girls are looking up to me, it means I’m doing something right.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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