RiverHawks reunite with ’04 veteran
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November 24, 2009 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – The RiverHawks are reuniting with a member of Rockford’s only professional baseball championship team of the last half century.

The RiverHawks announced Tuesday that they have signed veteran left fielder Rico Santana for their first season in the independent Northern League. Santana, who played for the RiverHawks’ 2004 Frontier League championship team, spent last season with the Harlingen WhiteWings of the independent United League.

Santana, who was twice a Frontier League all-star, played for the RiverHawks in 2004-06. He is the only player in team history to play in three postseasons and never miss the playoffs.

“He was a popular player and we hope he picks up where he was when he aged out of the Frontier League,” co-owner and director of baseball operations Dave Ciarrachi said.

Santana was an all-star in 2004 and 2006. In 2004, he hit .284 with five home runs and 65 RBI. He also hit a league-record 14 sacrifice flies.

Two of the RiverHawks’ first three player signings have reunited two-thirds of their 2004 starting outfield. The team signed 2004 Frontier League MVP Rich Austin in September. Santana and Austin are tied for the team’s all-time outfield assists record, with 27 each. In his final season before he reached the Frontier League’s age limit of 27, Santana led the league with 16 assists, the team’s single-season record.

“He covers more ground in left field than anyone we’ve had in Rockford,” Ciarrachi said. “Marinelli (Field, the team’s home in 2002-05) had a big outfield, and when we had him and (Doug) Schutt and Richie in the outfield there, very few balls fell in between them.”

Last season, Santana hit .290 with three homers and 41 RBI in 61 games with the WhiteWings.

Santana, who turns 30 on Dec. 6, is a seven-year veteran of professional baseball. He broke in with the Houma Hawks of the now-defunct Southeastern League, where he hit .341 and won the batting title, in 2003. After he left Rockford, Santana played in the independent Can-Am League, for Atlantic City and Worchester.

The RiverHawks are members of the Northern League, an eight-team independent professional baseball league that will play its 18th season in 2010. The RiverHawks’ ninth season begins at 7:05 p.m. May 20 against the Schaumburg Flyers at Road Ranger Stadium. Advertising and ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Games are broadcast live on ESPN 1380 (WTJK-AM) and the internet. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com.


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