How Siera Santos went from 'bad kid' boot camp to Fox 10 Phoenix sports anchor

Siera Santos, a Fox 10 sports anchor and reporter, on the set.
Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic

Do you want the long version or the short version?

That was Siera Santos’ response to what could have been a generic, boilerplate question: How did you get into sports? Santos, who grew up in Arizona, is a sports reporter and weekend anchor for Fox 10 in Phoenix, and hosts both “Sports Night” and “Props and Locks,” the station's weekly sports betting show.

Let’s go with the long version. It starts, and continues, in some unusual directions.

“I was definitely a bad kid, kind of, growing up,” Santos said. “I was always getting into trouble, especially in high school.”

Eventually her parents had enough.

“I went to a bad-girl boot camp in southern Utah,” she said. “My senior year of high school. Because my parents were really concerned that I wasn’t going to graduate from high school.”

This was in winter.

A summer watching the Arizona Diamondbacks changed Santos' life

“They considered me a run risk so they didn’t give me any shoes,” she said. “So I was walking from our different little buildings like our schoolhouse and to the barn in nothing but Mickey Mouse slippers.”

Eventually she left the program, having earned her GED.

Not exactly the typical tale of the sportscaster path. In fact, sports haven’t played into it at all — until.

“I didn’t really have a clear direction on what I wanted to do with my life,” Santos said. “But that summer that I came home after being at that facility I pretty much was grounded, for lack of a better word. So I sat there and watched Diamondbacks games every single day.”

Mind you, this was not necessarily an instant passion, a lightning bolt that struck and led her down a career path.

It was just something to do.

“Every day my dad would wake me up at 8 in the morning because he didn’t want me to sleep in, and we would read the sports page together,” she said.

Newspapers for the win.

“So I would be tracking the Diamondbacks, where they were at in the standings, how they were doing. I’d also been to Game 7 of the World Series in 2001, so I was a casual fan, but I wasn’t necessarily die-hard.”

But later that year she fell in love with the Phoenix Suns. She bugged her dad for tickets, which he didn’t get her. But the next season, 2004-05 — Santos insisted that the Suns could win the NBA championship, which was overselling things, but still — he came through with a half-season ticket package.

There’s your lightning bolt.

'Oh my god, I want to go to games for the rest of my life'

“Through that first half of the season I said to myself, ‘Oh my god, I want to go to games for the rest of my life.’”

She pretty much has.

Not immediately, though. First Santos enrolled at Scottsdale Community College, where she excelled, and then went to Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Santos started in news, in Colorado Springs. She moved on to Oklahoma City and into sports, then to Chicago and Los Angeles.

And then, in March of 2020, back to Phoenix. It’s once again a different kind of path — Chicago and LA are larger TV markets than Phoenix. But she wanted to return.

“My whole family is here,” Santos said. “I’m a local girl. I’m an Arizonan. It made sense to come back.”

Also, Fox 10 was the station typically on at home when she was growing up, she said. “I watched it because it had ‘The Simpsons.’”

But what was it about sports in particular that so captured Santos? She might have wound up that summer watching “Leave It to Beaver” reruns instead.

“I’m not sure what it was then,” she said. “I know what it is now — it’s that every day is different.”

Indeed. Asked which is her favorite sport to cover, Santos diplomatically ticks off what’s great about baseball, playoff hockey, football and, of course, “obviously my first love is the Suns.”

“I gave you the most politically correct answer I possibly could,” she said.

She did. But Santos, perhaps without meaning to or noticing, really lit up when she talked about baseball.

“One of the things I loved was being in the clubhouse every day and really getting to know guys, and getting to use my Spanish to be able to connect with all the Latino players was huge for me,” she said. “I felt like I could tell their stories that may not have ever been told, not necessarily just because of the language barrier.

“But there were opportunities there to talk about their lives and what was going on that someone else might not have gotten.”

Thanks to sports, Santos got opportunities she otherwise might not have gotten. You could say they helped save her.

Santos tries to maintain a work-life balance, with room for dogs and wine

“When I left the bad-girl boot camp, they told me I was going to be dead before I was 19 years old,” she said. “(Sports) helped me focus my life and really hone in and get on track.”

Coming back home has been different, of course.

“In Chicago, I probably had a more vibrant social life,” Santos said, laughing. “I went out a lot more.”

When she’s not working, Santos spends time with her dogs, Neil Diamond and Inkie. She used to foster dogs, as well. Wine and tequila tastings are also on her list of things she likes to do, Santos said. She also tries to exercise. “It helps with work-life balance,” she said.

“If I get a workout in through the day, if I walk my dogs and then go have a good day at work, that’s a good day for me.

“And if there’s tequila or wine at the end of the night, that’s not a bad time either.”

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movies newsletter.