White Sox Pitcher Hector Santiago Donates $7,500 to The North Ward Center Baseball Program

White Sox Pitcher Hector Santiago returned to his roots and donated $7,500 to The North Ward Center’s baseball program that he received as the Sox nominee for Major League Baseball’s prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.

The award pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing players who truly understand the value of helping others.

The North Ward Center will use the donation to build a batting cage in the Stephen N. Adubato Recreational Complex at Branch Brook Park, where the league plays. It will be ready in time for the opening of baseball season in the spring, said Rashard Casey, the director of the Center's Youth Development and Recreation program.

“There are so many worthy programs in Newark that Hector could have contributed this money to and we are honored that he chose ours,” Casey said. “Hector has never forgotten his roots.”

As a youth, Santiago played baseball in several of Newark’s Little League programs, including The North Ward Center’s RBI baseball team. The North Ward Center is one of the largest privately run youth recreational programs in the state, offering baseball, softball, flag football and basketball to more than 3,200 children annually. In addition, it offers after school tutoring for students struggling academically.

Santiago said it was an easy decision for him to donate the money to The North Ward Center.

“I’m honored and lucky to come out of Newark and The North Ward Center recreation program,” Santiago said before signing t-shirts for more than a dozen children who came to a lunch at The North Ward Center in honor of him.

Santiago was drafted by the White Sox in the 30th round in 2006 while attending Okaloosa-Walton College. During his first year in professional baseball, he played for the Bristol Sox in the Appalachian League. He was playing for the Birmingham Barons, the White Sox farm team, when he received the call up to the Majors in 2011. Last season, Santiago was a starting pitcher for the Sox.

“Not everyone who participates in our Youth Development and Recreation program will be as fortunate as Hector and end up with a major league contract,” said Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center. “But that was never our goal when we established this program more than 30 years ago. Our goal was to use athletics as a way to build character in our children. We hope that everyone who participates in our programs embraces the generosity and community spirit that Hector exhibited.”

Stephen N. Adubato Sr. , the founder of the North Ward Center, said that Santiago is the pride of Newark.

“All of Newark should be proud of Hector’s accomplishments,” Adubato said. “He is proof that with a dream and a lot of hard work, you can accomplish your goal.”

Born in Newark, Santiago played in the Ironbound Little League, the Roberto Clemente Little League, and the Rick Cerone Little League as well as for The North Ward Center.

Santiago went to Essex Catholic High School as a freshman and then Bloomfield Technology High School.

In addition to giving back to Newark, Santiago supports a variety of White Sox Charities efforts, as he has volunteered for visits to Lurie Children's Hospital and the Donnelly Armory, assisted in community service days, and was on-hand for Signing Day 2012, in which White Sox Amateur City Elite members signed their letters of intent to play college baseball.

In 2012, he also developed "Santiago's Soldiers," a program that supports children and families dealing with illness by inviting them to games. In January 2013, he made a special visit to Newtown, Conn., where he spent time with children from the town after the December shooting tragedy in the town’s elementary school.

“Hector goes above and beyond with his involvement in the community,” said Christine O'Reilly, White Sox senior director of community relations. “Not only does he actively participate in White Sox community efforts, Hector has taken the initiative to create his own program and made a tremendous impact.”

Santiago was recognized September 17 in an on-field ceremony prior to the game against Minnesota. The overall winner of the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award was St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran. He was presented with it in Busch Stadium before Game 3 of the World Series.