LA Angels choose former Team Italy infielder Jack Santora to manage Inland Empire 66ers

After playing for Team Italy in three World Baseball Classics (2006, 2009, and 2013) and having spent nearly a decade as the everyday Rimini shortstop, Jack Santora began his Minor League Baseball-affiliated coaching career in 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels Single-A affiliate Burlington Bees before taking on the managerial reins of the rookie-level Arizona League Angels in 2018. His quick ascent up the ladder landed him in Utah, where he ran the LA Angels Rookie Advanced affiliate Orem Owlz in 2019. He recently made even more forward progress when the Single A-Advanced affiliate Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino announced that Jack Santora had been named as their new manager for the 2020 season on December 19, 2019.

The Monterey, California native returns to the Golden State, where he once starred as a key player for the UCLA Bruins in the 1997 College World Series. Jack Santora, a 19th round selection in the 1999 MLB amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, reached as high as Triple-A ball and played more than seven seasons in Minor League Baseball for the likes of the D-Backs, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies. He later played four seasons with the Independent Atlantic League's Newark Bears.

At age 29, Jack Santora got an invitation to play in Rimini. His original plan was to spend a year in Italy, tour the country, and then return to California to begin his job search. Jack Santora reminisced, “I went from being in debt to saving money. I loved playing there. A summer in Italy, are you kidding me? I’d go to the beach each morning and pinch myself. What a life.” His one-year playing abroad led to a 10-year career in Italy. After playing with National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza for Team Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Jack Santora was the starting shortstop for Team Italy in the 2007 European Championship. He went on to play in the 2007 Baseball World Cup, where he hit .292 and was flawless in the infield. He made a remarkable defensive play at shortshop when he robbed Delwyn Young of a two-RBI single to help Team Italy beat USA for the first time in 21 years. It was the Americans' only loss during the international competition. 

Jack Santora not only found his love for baseball blossom in Italy, but also found the love of his life there too. He said, “I met my wife in Italy. We decided to make a life in America. I got my old job back in Carmel. But it wasn’t the life I wanted to live. It felt like I was going to work.” So when an unexpected text message from former Oakland A’s infielder and fellow UCLA graduate Mike Gallego asked if he was interested in coaching in the LA Angels organization, Jack Santora stepped up to the plate and entered the world of coaching after playing professional baseball for 18 years. Now he finds himself at the helm of the Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino in the California League, where he once appeared in 47 games as a player for the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2003. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti