Monday, April 2, 2012 | 2:13 a.m.
Anyone who saw Benito Santiago with the Stars in 1986 could tell that he had something special.
That season, Santiago hit .286 with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases, production you rarely see at the catcher spot. He helped a stellar lineup and manager Larry Bowa win the first Pacific Coast League title in franchise history.
Santiago ended the year with the Padres and never looked back, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1987 and going on to a 20-year major-league career that included five all-star games, four Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves.
His offense bounced around through his career with his most productive year probably being 1996 with the Philadelphia Phillies: 85 RBI and a career-best 30 home runs and 71 runs scored.
But whether the bat was there or not, Santiago always excelled with his defense. He was known for throwing out runners from his knees and gained a reputation as one of the best all-around catchers in the game for several years.
In all, Santiago played for nine major-league teams, registering 1,830 hits in 1,978 career games. He made brief rehab stops in Las Vegas in 1990 and 1992.
In his later years, Santiago enjoyed a brief resurgence during a three-year stint with the San Francisco Giants. That was his longest stay with any team besides a seven-year run with the Padres, where it all began.