Orioles superfan Santos a finalist for ESPN Fan Hall of Fame

Orioles superfan Romeo Santos believes that O's fans are "the most loyal and dedicated fans in all of baseball" and professional sports. And this year, he may have the chance to represent the Baltimore fanbase if he is named to the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame.

If you have ever been to an Orioles game at Camden Yards or caught a game on MASN, you may have noticed Santos, leading fans in cheers while wearing his bright orange Orioles helmet. Santos makes it to roughly 50 games each year at Camden Yards, and when the team is on the road, he catches up with the O's minor league teams.

SAM_1633.JPGSantos grew up in Baltimore, always surrounded by Orioles baseball, watching games on TV and eventually landing his first job selling lemonade behind home plate.

"I grew up in a poor family," Santos said. "We couldn't make it all the way out to 33rd Street and watch at Memorial Stadium, but when it was down the street, and I got a free ticket from my elementary school, it was one of my fondest childhood memories, going to that ballpark."

However, Orioles baseball was - and is - more than just a fun memory for Santos.

"I was raised by my grandmother, a single mother, with no real father figure," he said. "I looked to players like Cal Ripken, and it really shaped the way I became a man. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, I always tell them, always joke with them, 'I'm the Cal Ripken of breast cancer husbands because I never miss an appointment.' "

Santos and his wife were friends in high school, and they were married in 2005 after he returned from his second deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Despite battling the disease, she spearheaded a fundraising group, raising money for various charities with Orioles-related events, before passing away in 2011.

9016_1222151548589_1072962112_697206_1699911_n.jpg"She was just as big of a fan as I was," he said. "For the O's to go to the playoffs right after she passed is like, 'Wow, this is the coolest thing in the world.' I wish she was there to see it. I would like to think maybe she was up there, howling for the O's."

Keeping up his wife's hard work and passion, Santos continues to do charity work, donating various souvenirs that he has accumulated during his many visits to Camden Yards.

"Baseball is an outlet for me, dealing with her cancer," he said. "She passed away, going on three years, and I have just been taking over. I do it in her memory."

Santos hopes to pass on his fandom to his infant son, appropriately named Camden, and to potential Orioles fans.

"Orioles fans are the most dedicated fans in baseball," he said. "They're the best fans in baseball. ... That's a fact. Absolute truth, they're the best fans in baseball. They're the most loyal and dedicated fans. ...

"We love our team. There's no other team out there that has that much support, than the Orioles. We are the best fans in baseball. Period."

Santos has received significant support as he makes a run for the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame. He originally chose to enter in order to raise more awareness for his fundraising efforts. He was chosen as a top-10 finalist among thousands of entrants by a panelist of ESPN judges, and his fate is now in the hands of the public. Voting is open until Dec. 11.

If he is named to the Fan Hall of Fame, he will be the second Baltimore fan. In its inaugural year last year, Baltimore Ravens superfan Captain Dee-Fense was inducted.

"I'm so grateful to be a fan of this team, I've made so many Orioles friends along the way," Santos said. "I just enjoy it, and (have received) tremendous support from everyone."

To show your support for Santos, vote up to three times per day here.

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