About 5 minutes reading time.

Frontier League Career Hits Leader Chirino Retires

 Leif Skodnick  |    Sep 17th, 2023 6:57pm EDT

Santiago Chirino with the New Jersey Jackals. (Photo: Phil Hoops @Hoopsapproved)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

Former Texas Rangers prospect and Frontier League all-time hits leader Santiago Chirino retired from professional baseball last August. 

Chirino, 31, was born in Punto Fijo, Venezuela, and broke the Frontier Leauge’s career hits record on June 24, 2018, when he was with the Normal CornBelters by singling to right field for his 636th career hit in the league. 

The Frontier League all-time hit record was previously held by former Washington Wild Things outfielder Chris Sidick with 635 hits. Chirino also leads the Frontier League over its 30-year league history in games played at 745, 2,928 at-bats, and 452 runs scored. He ended his career in the Frontier League with 929 hits and also served as a player/coach with the Lake Erie Crushers coaching staff this past season. 

This season, Chirino played in 29 games with 126 plate appearances, batting .206 and recording 22 hits, three doubles, one home run, nine RBI, and 13 walks. 

 “I want to focus more on my family and my son, raise him and teach him everything I learned in my career to be a better person and player,” Chirino told World Baseball Network via WhatsApp. 

Chirino began his professional career when he signed with the Texas Rangers during the 2008 international signing period at the age of 16. He played his first professional season during 2009 at the Dominican Summer League, where he batted .270 in 56 games with 247 plate appearances, 57 hits, nine doubles, one triple, 28 RBI, swiping 18 bases, 19 walks, and 14 strikeouts with a .673 OPS. 

Where did the skill come from?

“My mentors, my parents, first and also the Punto Fijo Academy that was founded by Leonardo Rojas, father of one of my baseball teammates since I was 4 years old bringing coaches from different areas in Venezuela,” Chirino said, as well as, “Hector Gruver, the step-dad of Elvis Andrus, and my close friend Freddy Galvis also helped me a lot in my preparation for the tryouts with the Rangers.” 

He played four seasons with the Rangers organization, from 2009-12, making it to High-A Myrtle Beach, but did not get a contract to play in affiliated baseball after minor league spring training in 2013, and he was picked up by the Normal CornBelters. 

Chirno also explained to World Baseball Network about how the Rangers handled his situation of being released during the organization’s discussions with player development and the front office in the 2013 minor league camp. 

“Not many things were said, just that there was no space in the system for me with so many prospects such as Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, Rougned Odor, and Hanser Alberto many players signed for a high bonus,” Chirino said.

During his four seasons in the Rangers minor league system, Chirino played in 330 games batting .257 in 1,330 plate appearances recorded 306 hits, 44 doubles, six triples, eight home runs, 124 RBI, 29 stolen bases, 70 walks, and 121 strikeouts along with a .633 OPS. 

“For me it is a reward for so many years of sacrifice and hard work. Yes, many coaches helped me from a young age, also the coaches in the organization of the Texas Rangers to be a better hitter,” Chirino said. 

Chirino spent a total of 14 seasons playing professionally at both the minor league level and in the Frontier League, the Atlantic League and the Canadian-American Association. 

Chirino spent from 2013 to 2018 with Normal and from 2021 to 2023 with the New Jersey Jackals in the Frontier League. 

“With the Jackals, the manager was the same manager that I had with the Cornbelters from 2013 to 2017. In 2019, we were champions of the Can-Am, and I was selected as the best in my position,” Chirinos recalled of his time in the independent leagues.

During the 2019 championship season with the New Jersey Jackals and the final season of the Canadian-American Association, Chirino helped the organization win their fifth championship, beating their in-state rival, the Sussex County Miners, in four games in the best-of-five championship series. 

In the 2019 season, Chirino played in 71 games batting .308 with 313 plate appearances recording 86 hits, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 30 RBI, 20 walks, and struck out 28 times along with a .720 OPS. 

The New Jersey Jackals also won their sixth championship during the 2020 season and Chirino’s absence year when the league was named to the All-American Baseball Challenge league which formed a 28-game schedule that featured six teams from the New York City metropolitan area. The league was planned to be formed as the Frontier League merger during 2020 but was delayed for the following season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After missing the 2020 season, Chirino returned in 2021 in the first year the New Jersey Jackals were part of the Frontier League, playing in 72 games and batting .306 over 314 plate appearances with 84 hits, 12 doubles, 35 RBI, 25 walks, and 25 strikeouts. 

In 2022, Chirino played in 84 games, batting .300 across 380 plate appearances and 98 hits, 15 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 37 RBI, 35 walks, and 33 strikeouts before he was traded to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League on September 12, 2022. 

Chirino just played in five games with the Blue Crabs. In 21 plate appearances he batted .368 with seven hits, one double, and one RBI during the later part of the 2022 season. 

Chirino played 10 total seasons in the independent leagues, where in 821 games, he batted .317 with 3,609 plate appearances and 1,022 hits, 156 doubles, 16 triples, 25 home runs, 374 RBI, 64 stolen bases, 242 walks, and 248 strikeouts with a .769 OPS, and was selected to the Frontier League All-Star team four times in his career from 2015 to 2018. 

Chirino will explore his opportunities to coach at the professional level in the independent leagues in the United States, the winter leagues in the Caribbean or the lower affiliates of MLB organizations.