F .P. Santangelo understands the vagabond nature of sports.
He lived it for 14 professional baseball seasons, including parts of seven major-league summers. Suitcases, rental cars and hotels were constant companions.
But that was fun and games, a childhood dream come true. The anxiety of his first full-time baseball analyst job is what nearly unnerved Santangelo, the Oak Ridge High School and Sacramento City College graduate known for his poise and confidence. Santangelo in 2011 bolted familiar surroundings of home in El Dorado Hills and broadcasting work in the Bay Area to become the Washington Nationals’ TV color analyst, in a region in which he knew no one. He didn’t even know how to get to the ballpark.
“I have to admit, it was scary,” said Santangelo, at a National League Division Series game against the Giants over the weekend. “Not one soul knew who this new analyst was. Nobody. A lot of people didn’t even know I even played the game. It was, ‘Who is this guy?’ In essence, I was trying to be the Mike Krukow for the Nationals, but it was very daunting.”
Four years into the job, Santangelo basks in his element. He’s been well-received by the viewers – no one throws beer at him, at least – players and media critics. Santangelo was never an All-Star on the field, but no one cared more or worked harder at his craft. He has the same approach with a microphone, effortlessly narrating the nuances of the game, the players, the trends.
Said Nationals play-by-play voice Bob Carpenter: “F.P. has a gift doing this.”
To best ingrain himself with the region, Santangelo lives two blocks from Nationals Park, year-round. He wants to be one of them – the people – and not just one of them – the media.
Santangelo said the rise of the Nationals, and how baseball fever engulfed the region, reminds him of the Giants’ surge in 2010, resulting in a World Series championship.
“I live with the community and see and feel it,” Santangelo said. “My life is in D.C., all about baseball, and I’m loving every bit of it. To see everyone wearing Nationals gear, talking baseball, it’s really captured the imagination of the nation’s capital. I’ve been here to see the evolution of this franchise. It’s been really cool. I’m so humbled to be a part of it.”
Santangelo embraces his role, the former everyman player now the everyman broadcaster. His personality on the air is more informative and fun than outrageous and loud. After the first hit of each game, Santangelo will crack, “there goes the no-hitter.” When Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter in the regular-season finale, Santangelo concluded, “and there is the no-hitter!”
“You can have fun, but I also have a huge responsibility to talk baseball in a way people can understand and learn,” Santangelo said. “A lot of it involves teaching the audience about the game, who the players are. I have a lot to talk about. It’s such a great game, and this is a special team, the best I’ve been around.
“I feel like I know the game, and I played a long time, all over the place and at all levels. Not a lot of analysts played six positions in this game, so I can talk about what everyone’s doing and what’s going on out there.”
Santangelo battled in baseball, scraping his way through the minors, then to the majors, and he’s done it as a broadcaster. Santangelo was part of “The Rise Guys” morning show on KHTK 1140 from 2006 to 2008, a job he loved and was floored when let go. He told us later the station would regret the move and that he felt “stabbed in the back.” Santangelo landed at KNBR 680 in San Francisco in 2010, hosting a nighttime show and working on Giants broadcasts for CSN Bay Area and KNBR.
Landing the Nationals gig was a full-circle experience for Santangelo, who spent more than half of his playing career with the franchise that drafted him in the 20th round of the 1989 draft (the Montreal Expos moved to Washington in 2005).
Returning to the Bay Area on Sunday was a homecoming of sorts for Santangelo, who had stints with the Giants and A’s. He’s been in constant contact with his daughter Summer, a senior at Oak Ridge, and son F.P. Jr., a baseball player at Sac City, and parents Gina and Frank. He bear-hugged Krukow and Duane Kuiper of the Giants’ broadcast crew.
On the field, players often look to move on to greener money pastures, but Santangelo is content in D.C.’s broadcasting booth.
“I don’t have any aspirations to be anywhere else,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy here. If I can last 10 years or more here, I’d feel very fortunate. I don’t know how many athletes like broadcasting more than playing, but I do. I run into old coaches I played for and ask them, ‘Remember when I’d keep you up until 2 in the morning to talk baseball? Well, this is why. It’s led me to this, so thank you.’ ”