Carlos Santana: Me in Real Life

Carlos Santana: Me in Real Life

CLEVELAND -- I play for the Cleveland Indians, but I am also a father, a husband and a friend. I am more than a baseball player.

I'm Carlos Santana. This is my story. Cleveland is my city.

Opening Day at home is something that every player dreams about, and every day I thank God I get to play in front of our awesome fans. There are high expectations this year, especially here in Cleveland since we are coming off a World Series, but it's something we embrace. We take on the challenge. We look forward to Opening Day. There's no other day like it in baseball, and I love it.

Listen, last year nobody thought this Cleveland team would make it that far, so it was really something wonderful to be a part of as we made the ride to the top. We can do it again. Disappointment? I don't think there was any disappointment after losing to the Cubs in the World Series, because I felt like a champion. Yes, we felt like champions, even though we didn't win it all. Crazy, right? We lost, but we still felt very grateful to God. And I think the main reason we felt like champions is because we fought until the end. We gave it everything we had. Somebody had to lose. We lost, but this town loved us the same as if we won. And we loved them right back.

Home opener a dream for Santana

That's why the Cleveland organization and the city means the world to me, and I thank God they gave me the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. They were the ones who opened the doors. Cleveland, for me, has been the best. It's a place where people are always pushing forward and working hard, just like in the Dominican Republic, where I am from. We players work hard and give the maximum effort, because that's what the city deserves and that's how the people here work, too. I come from the bottom, a humble background, and it was a difficult childhood, so I understand. We are all hungry to work hard, to take care of our families and play every day. That's who we are.

Community matters to us. As players, we are gone a lot of the time on the road, and safety for my family is very important, so that's why one of the first things I did when I moved here was meet the police in the neighborhood. I introduced myself, told them our address, we talked baseball, and it was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. They've watched us grow as a family and me as a player.

Santana gives cops warm welcome

When I say I am close to the police department, I am not exaggerating. We are so close that I remember returning from a road trip -- we sometimes get home at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. after road trips -- and at 11 a.m., the police show up to congratulate me on a good game the night before. I had hit two homers. It was a good night. I remember lying down in my bed, and the next thing you know, they are sitting on chairs in my bedroom talking baseball and life. It's funny now. Me in bed holding my child and two armed officers in full uniform just chatting like it was something normal you do all of the time. But it just shows how close we are to the police and to the communities here. We are brothers and sisters.

Another family member is Niko Lanzarotta. He is a young boy with cerebral palsy, and he is a very special person to me. I remember the day we met at Progressive Field. He called me over, and I gave him a ball. He asked me if I could sign it for him and if I could hit a home run for him. I said, "If you give me a hug," and he gave me a hug. I homered for him that game. Whenever I see him, I embrace him with so much love and respect. Niko is my best friend here in Cleveland and I'm so happy he is in my life.

Santana's bond with young fan

I know I am a very lucky man. This city, this community and this organization mean so much to me. I don't know what the future holds, and I'm not going to allow myself to think about being a free agent. What I am going to think about is going to work, being a good citizen and taking care of my loved ones. That's who I am and what we do here in Cleveland.

Carlos Santana is a designated hitter/first baseman for the Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.