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Castillo trying to live up to legacy


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Nice article on Castillo from MLB.com

 

Marlin continues San Pedro de Macoris success

By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com

 

Like most players who grew up in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo knows all about his local baseball history.

Alfredo Griffin, arguably the best defensive shortstop to come from San Pedro de Macoris -- known to many as "the land of shortstops" -- is treated like a god. Fellow infielders Tony Fernandez and Mariano Duncan are legends and homegrown talent like Juan Samuel, Sammy Sosa and Alfonso Soriano are valued as national treasures.

 

The list of players from San Pedro de Macoris reads like a "Who's who" of Dominican-born Major Leaguers.

 

Castillo's spot in San Pedro de Macoris folklore remains a work in progress, but he is determined to live up to the standards set by his predecessors. One day, he hopes his name will be mentioned among the great players to come from the Dominican Republic, but more specifically his own town.

 

"We come from an area that has a lot of good baseball players," Castillo said. "Of course I am proud to be from there. When you look at the names that are from there and who might be coming up in the future, it makes you proud to be Dominican. There is a lot of competition and some of the best players in the world waiting to be discovered."

 

San Pedro de Macoris, located east of the capital city of Santo Domingo, is the fourth-largest city in the country with a population just under 100,000 people. It sits at the mouth of Rio Iguamo.

 

Castillo was born there on Sept. 12, 1975.

 

He said there is not much else to do in most of San Pedro de Macoris if you are a child but play baseball. Times are tough, money is scarce and the next meal is not always guaranteed in a city known primarily for sugarcane fields and the nearby sugar mills. So the underprivileged are inspired by the low standard of living and a long tradition of baseball to achieve great things as a means of making a better life.

 

"We played in the streets and on fields with rocks," Castillo said. "Our bats and balls were whatever we could find. Sometimes, it was the bottle cap wrapped up or anything else we could use as a ball. Our bats were whatever we could find and that's how we played. We did not know any better, we just played and had fun.

 

"When you learn like that and then you start playing with good baseballs, new bats and all the equipment, it is so much easier. A ball or bottle cap? Which one do you think is easier to hit?"

 

Apparently for Castillo, it was a baseball. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Florida scout Julian Camilo in 1992 and made his professional debut in 1994 with the Gulf Coast Marlins after a season in the Dominican Summer League.

 

After two successful seasons in the minors, Castillo made his Major League debut with Florida in August 1996 and started the 1997 season as the club's second baseman at the age of 21, pairing with Edgar Renteria to form the youngest everyday middle infield combination in National League history.

 

When he didn not fare well offensively, Castillo had to return to Triple-A for most of the 1998 season, but was named the Marlins MVP by the South Florida baseball writers in 1999 and was honored again with the award in 2002. He's been named to the National League All-Star team each of the last two seasons and hit .211 with four doubles and four RBIs during the Marlins' World Series championship run in 2003. He drove in the game-winning run in Florida's title-clinching 2-0 victory against the Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series.

 

This season, Castillo was hitting .259 with 23 RBIs, one home run and seven stolen bases in his first 44 games. A two-time Lou Brock Award winner for leading the league in steals, he entered the 2004 season with 250 stolen bases. "The kid can play," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "He has speed, range, and he knows the game. It's a real joy to watch him."

 

Joy is something with which Castillo has become very familiar.

 

These days, he resides in a nice area of Santo Domingo with his wife Angie and son Luis Jr. His lifestyle has changed from his disadvantaged days in San Pedro de Macoris and it's extremely unlikely that Luis Jr. will ever play baseball with a bottle cap unless his father is giving him a history lesson.

 

But if Castillo stays true to form, he will share tales of the glorious baseball past of San Pedro de Macoris with his son. It's an unspoken rite of passage for people in love with the game of baseball.

 

"I am very proud to be from the Dominican Republic," Castillo said. "We have so many players in the Major Leagues and every year we get more. Maybe one day the people in San Pedro will look at me and be proud the way they are of Alfredo or Tony Fernandez. I know they are proud, but I still have a lot to do."

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