Drawn by the opportunity to return to the most basic aspect of their profession – teaching – former UIW coaches Mike Santiago and Danny Heep said Tuesday that they are eager to make fresh starts at Central Catholic.
Central President Paul Garro introduced Santiago and Heep as the Buttons’ new head football and head baseball coaches, respectively, during a news conference. Central also has a new athletic director, Hector Rodriguez, who was also introduced.
“Teaching is what it’s all about,” Heep said. “I’m just getting back to what I wanted to do when I got done with professional baseball. I enjoy teaching the game and the fundamentals of the game. I’m looking forward to working with freshmen and seeing them develop each year.”
Like Heep, Santiago has never coached at the high school level.
“Football is football and coaching is coaching,” Santiago said. “At one of the camps we’re having, the freshmen are doing better than the varsity because they’re blank slates. I’ve never had that in college. You’re always trying to break bad habits.”
Heep, who turns 60 on July 6, played with five different teams during a 13-year MLB career. Drafted by the Houston Astros in the second round of the 1978 MLB June Amateur Draft, Heep won two World Series with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers.
A St. Mary’s alum, Heep started his coaching career at UIW as an assistant coach in 1992 and took over the program in 1998. He went 602-475 (.559) in 20 seasons, guiding the Cardinals to four NCAA Division II regional appearances and 13 seasons with 30 or more victories.
“Some of you are probably wondering why I would leave Incarnate Word, a Division I team, to coach high school,” Heep said during the news conference. “I think I had taken Incarnate Word as far as it could go in Division I. Division I is a different animal.
“I wanted to get back into the core of what I do, teach baseball players. In Division I, you turn yourself into an administrator. You’re traveling, you’re working 14 hours a day, 365 days a year. All of a sudden, you find yourself having nothing to do with baseball.”
Heep said that he had planned to stay at UIW, but was intrigued by the opportunity to coach at Central.
“I was interested,” he said. “The more I listened, the more I knew what I wanted to do as far as leaving Incarnate Word and move someplace that would bring back what I really like to do. The more I listened, the more I liked it. This is what I’d like to end my coaching career doing. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve already met a lot of the kids.”
Heep is replacing Mike Gomez, who has coached the Buttons’ baseball team for the past 18 seasons. Gomez also has been an assistant football coach for 18 seasons and will remain on Santiago’s staff. Gomez is on the Central faculty and will be an assistant athletic director starting this school year.
The University of the Incarnate Word hired Santiago as its first football coach in June 2007, two months after the school announced it would start playing football for the first time in 2009.
Santiago, 61, coached in the college ranks for 35 seasons at nine different schools. He went 48-45 in nearly nine seasons at Incarnate Word and Stephen F. Austin.
Santiago was 39-27 in six seasons (1999-2004) at SFA, and 9-18 at UIW before resigning with three games left in the 2011 campaign. He has worked as a sales manager for a company that sells headphones that football coaches use on the sideline during games.
“During that time I found out that there was something missing in my life,” Santiago said, reflecting on his time out of football. “I was making a lot of money. I’m not making near as much money now, but it doesn’t matter. I was looking for something in life. I needed to get away for a while and I needed to get back.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever have that opportunity. Central Catholic gave me that opportunity. I wasn’t relevant anymore. I was making a lot of money, but I wasn’t relevant. I needed to be relevant to young lives. I needed young men to be relevant in my life again. I think Central Catholic can help me build spiritually. I think it can help me build emotionally.”
A graduate of Brophy Prep in 1973, Santiago joked about his Jesuit roots.
“That was my high school,” Santiago said. “Our job is not to change Central Catholic. Central Catholic needs to change me. I have an all-boys Jesuit background, and I’m hoping the Marianists can beat some of that out of me.”
Rodriguez succeeds Carlos Enrico, who is retiring, as athletic director. Enrico has been Central’s athletic director since 1987, when he was promoted to head football coach after Marshall Fleener resigned. He held the dual position until he stepped down as head coach early in 2011.
Enrico, 62, will remain at Central for the foreseeable future to help Rodriguez with the transition. He will have the title of athletic director emeritus. A 1972 Central graduate, Enrico has worked at his alma mater for 40 years.
Rodriguez, an assistant athletic director with the Northside ISD since the spring of 2013, will start working full time at Central on July 1.
“We’re going to follow the Marianist tradition for teaching and educating the young men here at Central Catholic,” Rodriguez said. “We’re also going to provide leadership for our young men. Sometimes there are no true classes for leadership and how do you get it. We’re going to try to bring a program to Central Catholic to provide that, focusing on things like core values, trustworthiness, commitment, attitude.”