Santana dedicates HR to US Virgin Islands

Brewers outfielder's father is safe in St. Thomas, but busy dealing with property damage

Santana dedicates HR to US Virgin Islands

MILWAUKEE -- Like a vicious one-two punch, Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into the U.S. Virgin Islands this month, leaving in their wake vast damage that literally hit home for Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana.

Santana spent much of his childhood in picturesque St. Thomas, where his father, a former professional ballplayer by the same name, still resides. Before Thursday's series opener against the Cubs, Santana said he has been in near-daily contact with his dad, who weathered the storms safely but is without power and busy cleaning up significant property damage.

"Everybody in St. Thomas is missing half of their roof," Santana said. "There is flooding all around him. The airport is not working now and I don't know what is going to happen. It's hard to communicate because there is no power and they are using cars to charge their phones. I just hope there is still enough gas on the island to keep that up."

Santana said the U.S. Coast Guard was assisting his father and other residents with recovery efforts. Thousands of miles away, Santana is feeling somewhat helpless, and is doing his best to remain focused on a pennant race.

"It's hard, but every day this is my job," he said. "I have to come out here and try my best. Sometimes the game helps you from focusing on everything happening outside. This is an important series."

Santana made his presence felt in that important series when he lifted a home run to straightaway center field in the fourth inning of Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Cubs. It gave Santana a home run in each of his last three games and four of his last six, and left him two homers shy of becoming the third Brewer this season to reach 30. The Brewers have had three players hit 30-plus homers each only once in franchise history: Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas in 1982.

After being ceremonially doused with water by his teammates, Santana looked into the camera at the end of the Brewers' dugout and said, "That's for the V.I."

It's just business
The Brewers have home-field advantage for their huge four-game series against the Cubs, even if it felt like a neutral site. As usual when these teams meet, Cubs fans gobbled up a significant portion of the available tickets on Thursday.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell shrugged it off.

"I always treat it like it's Brewers fans trying to come to more Brewers games and that's why they're selling their tickets," Counsell said. "It's smart business! You sell one to a sucker so you can come to five."

According to the Brewers, tickets remained for all four games as of Thursday afternoon, including "good availability" for Friday night.

Does "Wrigley North" annoy Santana?

"No, not at all," he said. "It just makes it a lot better when we are able to shut them up. Hopefully we can get more Milwaukee Brewers fans here, but at the end of the day, you just have to go out there and compete. They are a very good team and they have a very large fan base."

Said Counsell: "I think it's a very unique baseball crowd. I'm sure the Cubs probably feel this a lot because their fans travel pretty well. But I think it's a unique crowd, and it's fun. It creates a unique atmosphere. We enjoy it, I know that. I think players on both sides thrive off great atmosphere, great crowds and great fans. It's an atmosphere players want to play in."

Last call
Thursday's game was a standard 7:10 p.m. CT start, but game times for the next two days have changed to accommodate national television broadcasts. Friday's game was moved up to 6:35 p.m. CT to accommodate ESPN, but will still air on FS Wisconsin as scheduled. Saturday's game was moved up six hours to 12:05 p.m. CT for FOX, with former Brewers broadcaster Matt Vasgersian calling the game with color analyst John Smoltz.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.