Ramon Castro just wanted to play. The man who recorded the first hit in Sovereign Bank History wanted to play his game. Work the count. And win some games.
But the Oaxaca Warriors in Mexico wanted more. They didn’t want to see walks. They wanted to see hits.
“I played over there and through four games I was 1-for-1 with one RBI, two runs scored, four walks,” Castro said. “And the guy’s smart because of the four walks. ‘What are you taking four walks? You’ve got to swing,’ he said.
“I don’t want to go back (to Mexico). That’s why I wanted to come here. I like this league. It has a lot of good players. I like the weather, the fans. I called into Newark and they told me they had to talk to the manager and that they would call me tomorrow. … When he told me he needed to talk to the manager, I put a call into York and (hitting coach Enohel) Polanco and (Jose Herrera) Café. Polanco talked to the manager and he was like, ‘OK, we’ll take you.'”
Castro spent the first weeks of the Atlantic League season waiting in Venezuela for the paperwork to clear on his work visa. He watched games on YorkRevsTv.com, signing in on the message board as — who else? — Ramon Castro.
“Oh yeah, I love baseball,” Castro said. “I stayed in my house watching the games staring at the screen. I’m really excited. I have a lot of energy. I want to play today. I want to play tomorrow.”
The Revs picked up Castro because of his track record in the league. All he’s done is destroy Atlantic League hitting. He hit .343 in 2007 and .352 in 2008. Major league organizations did not sign Castro during those season in large part because he had been suspended for 105 games by minor league baseball for violating the drug policy during his time with the Harrisburg Senators in 2005.
He didn’t play in 2006, but he rebuilt his reputation in the Atlantic League. And the San Francisco Giants signed him after two games with Newark last season.
“I told (the Giants) I was still on the suspended list for 34 games, and they said they didn’t care,” Castro said.
He spent a month in extended spring training, playing games where no one keeps score or watches. Castro didn’t care.
“Oh man it was a lot of fun,” Castro said. “They had a lot of young guys, and it made me feel young too because everyone was running hard. Later they sent me to Double-A. I was real happy, but I’m also really happy to be here.”
Castro, 30, hit .277 in 49 games at Double-A last season.
“I’ve never seen a guy more excited to play,” Revs director of player procurement Michael Kirk said.
Castro worked two full-count walks in his first two at-bats, scoring a run on Herrera’s first-inning grand slam. He committed an error at third base in the fourth inning on a hard-hit ball by Somerset’s Matt Hagen. Castro recorded his first hit on an infield single in the sixth inning.