He took a position as a hitting coach for the Class A San Jose Giants, a job that paid $35,000, not enough to support a wife and two kids. The long bus rides, crummy hotels and bad pay helped him realize climbing the minor league ladder wasn’t an option.
Broadcasting seemed like a good alternative.
Santangelo tapped into a couple of contacts and ended up on the telephone with Bob Agnew, the operations manager for KNBR-AM, the Giants’ flagship station in San Francisco. Agnew asked if Santangelo had any tape available.
“How soon could you mail it here?” Agnew asked.
“I’ll drive it down now. I can be there in two hours,” Santangelo told him.
That afternoon Santangelo was on the station’s afternoon show, and before long, he was a permanent fixture on KNBR’s airwaves.
“He was hungry and eager,” Agnew said. “That really impressed me right off the bat.”
Santangelo eventually landed a gig doing the TV pre- and post-game shows for the Giants. In the Bay Area, viewers remembered Santangelo from his days in a Giants’ uniform and appreciated his gritty, hard-nosed playing style.
“He was fiery, the guy that was always yelling in the dugout,” said Duane Kuiper, the Giants’ longtime broadcaster and a former ballplayer himself. “I don’t know if that’s the criteria to be a good broadcaster, but I do think the guys who had to work a little extra harder and also didn’t make a whole lot of money when they played, I think that helps when they start doing this.”
In 29 years of calling baseball games, Nationals play-by-play man Bob Carpenter can’t even begin to count the dozens of broadcast partners who’ve sat next to him in the booth. “When it comes to knowledge of the game and nuances of the game, F.P.’s easily in the upper 10th percentile,” he said. “He can identify things going on and instantly analyze it. That’s a gift.”
Passion for the game
Coming to Washington, Santangelo had no reservations about resuming the baseball lifestyle: long trips, late-night flights, time away from family and friends. Santangelo has two children in high school in California, who live with his first wife. He remarried two years ago, and his second wife, Michelle McLaughlin, a model and former Playboy playmate, lives with him during the season in Crystal City.
Though Santangelo never played in D.C., he hardly hides his rooting interests during games. And compared with other analysts, Carpenter says Santangelo is especially opinionated.
“He and I have probably had more disagreements in the booth and on the air than anyone I’ve worked with,” Carpenter said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. . . . Last year, I was taken aback by that a bit; I took it the wrong way. But it’s who he is. His passion for the game is as strong as anybody I’ve worked with.”
This season, Santangelo is more fluid and comfortable, no longer the broadcaster who just got his driver’s license. He said the network and the team have given him no constraints. He can be “as critical as I want to be.” More times than not, that means not very. He’s prone to giving the Nats — and ballplayers in general — the benefit of the doubt.
“It looks easy from up here, looks easy from the stands,” he said. “But get in the batter’s box and see what 98 mph feels like. If you always remember how hard the game is, whatever you say is going to be okay.”
The Nationals won a game against the Marlins earlier this month after trailing 6-5 in the ninth. Rain suspended play for 2½ hours and when the tarp came off the field, Jayson Werth hit a game-tying home run. On-air Santangelo just chuckled. “Unbelievable,” he said. The Nats won with a walk-off single in the 10th, and after the game, Santangelo texted Werth: “I’ve never seen [anything] like this in my life. I feel lucky to see it.”
“This is the next-best thing to playing,” he says. “By far. I’m around the guys every day, I’m at the ballpark every day. There’s no place else I’d rather be.”