Thursday, February 08, 2007
Vinny Castilla Retires
He had a TERRIFIC FIRST NIGHT. THE VERY FIRST OFFICIAL MAJOR LEAGUE GAME IN WASHINGTON, DC--In over 34 years. The Date was April 14, 2005. RFK Stadium the site. Arizona Diamonbacks, the opponet. Vinny Castilla's home run that night off Javier Vasquez began the famous jumping/moving of the stands along the 3rd base side. RFK rocked that night! And, if Arizona's Lance Cormier had not hit Vinny during his last at bat that night, he would have most likely hit for the cycle. He just NEEDED A SINGLE!! I remember, vividly, the entire stadium booing the Diamondbacks when he got hit. On that night, it looked like Vinny was going to be a GREAT PLAYER, for Our Nationals--Once Again!!
But, it was not to be. Vinny would bang up his right knee, playing on the artificial surface, in Toronto, at SkyDome on May 22nd against the Blue Jays--and was never the same the rest of the season. Limping badly--he lost his power at the plate. He could not plant his leg properly during a swing. His range at third base became poor. Although Castilla was a terrific fielder, his injury destroyed his season.
Vinny Castilla, though, had flair. Number 9 never complained, and went out on the field, each and every day for Our Inaugural Washington Nationals. That one memorable season, in Washington, I enjoyed watching him play. Vinny was part of that close knit Latino Connection (Esteban Loiaza, Carlos Baerga, Luis Ayala, Cristian Guzman, Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro, Hector Carrasco, Tony Armas, Jr. and Tony Blanco) that helped make the 2005 Inaugural Nats, so very special. Castilla was a very good fielder, but notorious first ball swinger.
During the Brewers series on May 16, 2005 at RFK, with Vinny at the plate, Rally Time Richard and myself screamed out "Take A PITCH!! VINNY!!" as the ball was delivered. Castilla promptly WHACKED IT OUT OF RFK!! The pitcher was Doug Davis and the Nats went on to win 5-2. Section 320 has laughed about that moment for a long time. In fact, I would say that Home Run, early in the season, actually set the pace for the fun that has become SECTION 320!!
Vinny also had my favorite ballplayer idiosyncracy. Whenever he would swing and miss at a pitch, a pitch he should have hit, Castilla would spit out his chewing gum and swing at it with his bat. Never got bored watching him do it. He was even quoted as saying he didn't even ever remember doing it, until his wife told him, he did that odd thing--ALL THE TIME!!. I loved hearing that comment. This, from a player that competed at the Major League Level for over 16 seasons.
Now, Castilla has officially retired, as a Colorado Rockie. Then, signing on with The Rockies as a Special Assistant to The General Manager, hoping to jump start a coaching or managing career. The same franchise where he enjoyed his greatest success of his professional baseball career. Vinny is a career .276 hitter, with 320 homers and 1,105 RBI over those 16 seasons. He also played for Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Houston. He is the all-time major league leader by a Mexican-born player in homers, RBI, hits (1,884), doubles (349) and runs scored (902).
I will miss Vinny. Castilla was a good player. He did not complain when his 2005 season went sour in Our Nation's Capital. I believe he enjoyed his season in Washington. Unfortunately, his time, as a ballplayer, was up.