Sports

Meet Twitter's friendliest pitcher

Robin Ventura may have put Hector Santiago in the White Sox starting rotation, but there's one place the reticent manager isn't following his loquacious lefty.

Twitter.

"No," Ventura said flatly when asked if he'll ever have an account. "No. [The players] can have [Twitter]. It's all theirs."

The social media-savvy southpaw, on the other hand, is more than happy to pick up his boss's slack.

"I'm up a lot at late hours and up early so it's kind of easy for me," Santiago said, shrugging. "I kind of have a lot of downtime, too, of just sitting there and looking at my phone, so it's easier for me to get back and forth and actually talk to people."

On the field, the 25-year-old rookie has built a reputation as one of the struggling Sox's steadiest starters, compiling a first-half line of 3-5, 3.30 ERA in 23 appearances (12 starts).

Off the field, he's turned himself into one of the more engaging athletes in the Twittersphere on his feed, @hecsantiago53, which boasts nearly 5,000 followers.

His social media philosophy is simple.

"I try to follow everybody who follows me," he said.

So many people, in fact, that he said Twitter has prevented him on several occasions from following more accounts because he was following too many.

While most athletes pride themselves on keeping their distance and following only a select number of accounts, Santiago takes a different approach.

"I don't care if I have more followers than I'm following," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

Santiago says he's used the medium to bridge the gap between fan and athlete. He is a man of his people.

"For the most part everybody's really fun," he said. "You have some friendly conversations like how do you throw a screwball or what kind of tip would you give a high school player trying to make it to the big leagues. For the most part, something like that I would be like just throw strikes, attack the zone, something that got me there."

Santiago used to take the same approach to Facebook—until it became too much work.

"I used to do the same thing on Facebook and it kind of faded off. It was more of a difficult thing," he said. "[Twitter] is kind of easier. It's just like comment, go, comment, go, comment, go."

That doesn't mean it's any easier for him than it is for any other 20-something with a short attention span who is following more than 5,000 accounts to keep up with every conversation between strangers who turn into friends.

"Sometimes it gets a little out of hand just having people talk and it gets over and over and the feed just keeps coming and coming," he said. "I always go back to where my last little checkmark is wherever I liked somebody and start from there and go on up and read."

While some athletes have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse on social media, especially after struggling on the field, Santiago said most of his interactions have been positive, which is why he continues to put himself out there.

And as long as it's fun, he says he won't be giving up his habit anytime soon.

"Hopefully I can just keep it going, [and] it's not gonna be something that's gonna get boring," he said.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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