Not even a cold, rainy day could hinder Carlos Santana’s joyful smile.
The Indians first baseman was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on Friday, taking the oath with 83 others while his two young daughters fought for his attention. Afterward, Santana beamed with pride.
“Thanks, Cleveland, for giving me an opportunity,” said Santana, who was born in the Dominican Republic. “This is my residence, my city, and I’m proud and happy for that. Thank God I’m an American.”
Santana left Cleveland as a free agent to sign with Philadelphia after the 2017 season, then returned in a trade last December. He had hoped to celebrate his memorable day by hitting a home run Friday night, but the Indians’ series opener against the Atlanta Braves was postponed by rain. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at 4:10 p.m.
Corey Kluber, who was slated to start Friday’s game, will pitch the opener for Cleveland and Trevor Bauer will make his scheduled start in Game 2. Touki Toussaint and Julio Teheran will start for Atlanta, but their order hasn’t been decided.
Santana and teammate Hanley Ramirez recently passed the required test to become citizens. Before Santana took the oath, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker asked the new citizens to observe others in the room.
“Look around,” Parker said. “Look how different this group of people is. This is a beautiful picture.”
Santana, who has had a strong start this season with Indians, admitted some nervousness when he first arrived in the U.S. after he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004.
“I was really scared when I came here,” he said. “But now everything is positive and I’m happy and excited.”
The rainout delayed All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor’s expected return to the Indians, who have played their first 18 games without their best player. Lindor has been sidelined since December, first with a calf strain suffered during an offseason workout in Florida and then a sprained ankle sustained in the closing days of training camp in Arizona.
Lindor met with the team’s medical staff again on Friday, and he likely will be activated to play against the Braves this weekend. He spent three games with Triple-A Columbus this week, and his swing looked fine as he homered twice and batted .417 (5 of 12).
The 25-year-old posted a reflective story entitled “Back To Baseball” about his career on The Players’ Tribune. In the piece, Lindor described his love affair with the game and his excitement to being back on the field.
“Back. Ready to roll,” Lindor wrote. “Ready to help this team win it all. And after having missed this game so much for the past several weeks, and spending some time thinking about the ups and downs I’ve experienced to get here, I am going to cherish every single second I am able to play this game. I will not take anything for granted — not any pitch, ground ball, hit . nothing.”