Christian Santos remembers how much he wanted to make the team.
And he remembered the pressure involved to get a shot at being on the squad.
Santos, a senior at Frankford High School, has been a member of the Pioneers baseball team for four years, and he’s been one of the leaders on the team the last two. But that’s not the team he had to work so hard for.
The other team he’s a member of is the PGC, which stands for Peer Group Counseling. In order to get on the team, students have to display great leadership qualities to prove they’re good mentors to younger students. They have to go through a series of interviews, and have to practice what they’re going to preach by doing well in school.
It wasn’t a problem and Santos had a great reference for the gig, considering it’s run by Lena Namnun, the wife of Frankford coach Juan Namnun.
“I think he told her I was good, but I had to prove myself,” said Santos, who lives around the corner from the school. “It’s a great program. It’s mostly seniors, we just make sure the younger kids know what they need to do. We help them if they need it. We just try to be mentors. It’s a great program because some kids really need it. It’s important to me that I did it because I like to think of myself as a leader.”
That starts in the classroom, but it certainly applies to the diamond.
Santos is one of the top players on the Pioneers, but he’s also the most vocal. He helps players, he holds them accountable and he’s able to be a friend and a mentor all at the same time. This works because Santos truly believes in what the Pioneers are doing. And it’s why they’ve had so much success during his tenure on the team.
This year, the Pioneers would have been seeking their fourth title in as many years. It would have meant four championships for Santos during his career. But the coronavirus outbreak ended the season before it began, so he’ll have to be satisfied with going three-for-three.
“Yeah, we wanted to go for the record, but we didn’t get it,” Santos said. “It was hard because we love playing baseball. We just like being together. We still talk and everything, but we’re not playing.
“We always felt like we had an advantage over everyone because other teams are teams. When you play baseball for Frankford, you’re part of the family. We’re a family. We love being around each other. We have fun. We play for each other. We’re not a team, we’re a family.”
If that’s the case, Santos is the big brother.
He’s been one of the top hitters on the team, and a gem of a defensive player in the field. He’s been one of Frankford’s guys since he arrived, and it’s why he’ll be such a valuable player next year when he attends University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville. He plans on majoring in criminal justice.
“I’ve always wanted a job like that, where I can do things and not be bored, but make a difference and help people,” Santos said. “I always like watching those shows, it’s interesting to me. You can really help people and it’s a good job.”
Santos is looking forward to the next step, but he can’t help but think about all he’ll miss about his high school.
He realized playing for Frankford was special when he was younger. Not only did his older brother play on the team, but his middle school coach was Frankford grad Joe Farina. Farina, who is now an assistant coach on the football team, and head coach of both the Pioneers wrestling and softball teams, told Santos the importance of being a Pioneer before he even got to high school. And once he got there, he quickly learned that playing for Frankford is more than just winning championships.
“I played for him, and he told me what it means to play for Frankford,” Santos said. “And he was right. Everything about it. It does mean so much to play here. It’s special.
“It’s because Coach Nam. He expects you to do everything right. Not winning, but he wants you to represent the school the right way. He wants you to show everyone that Frankford is special. That we take this very seriously. That we are going to represent Frankford and Frankford baseball the way it should be.”
It wasn’t just Farina and Namnun who showed Santos and his teammates the right way.
It’s nothing new.
It’s a tradition.
“The seniors usually show everyone the right way to do things, and it’s been that way every year,” Santos said. “And Frankford guys come back. Guys I didn’t know come and watch. Everyone who ever played here cares. They want to see Frankford keep up the tradition.”
And next year, Santos will be one of those former players who comes back.
And he’ll hold the younger guys to the same standard. And he’ll also cheer for them just like he’s on the team.
“Once a Pioneer, always a Pioneer,” Santos said. “I’ll be back. They’ll be really good next year. And when I’m done school, I’ll be back. I want to see them win again.”