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Santangelo was drafted in 1989 by the Montreal Expos organization and rose through the minor leagues, reaching the AAA with the Indianapolis Indians in 1992. He joined the AAA Ottawa Lynx the following year when the Expos changed AAA affiliation and wound up playing three seasons for Ottawa before making his major league debut in August 1995. Santangelo became the first player in Ottawa Lynx history to have his number, 24, retired. Santangelo finished fourth in the National League in Rookie of the Year voting in 1996. He played six different positions while posting a .277 average with 7 HR and 56 RBI. He was hit by 11 pitches, starting a four year streak of being in the top 10 in the NL in that category. He played in three seasons afterwards, one with each of the Giants, Dodgers and Athletics, joining each team through free agency. In his MLB career, Santangelo played in 665 games with 415 hits, 21 home runs, and 162 RBIs. His career batting average was .245. He weighs 165 pounds (75 kg) and is five feet, 10 inches (1.78 metres) tall. Santangelo played every defensive position, plus designated hitter, except for first base, catcher, and pitcher at least once in his career. Left field and center field were his most frequent positions.