Former big league pitcher Frank Castillo, 44, died Sunday, drowning at a lake near his Arizona home. Castillo pitched the final two seasons of his career in York. Drafted by the Cubs in 1987, he returned to the organization where he made his major league debut as a 22-year-old in 1991, when he became a pitching coach with Chicago’s rookie league team in Mesa (Ariz.) in 2011. He remained with Mesa until the Cubs dismissed him in Sept. 2012.
During a 13-year major league career, Castillo pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Detoit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. He went 82-104 with a 4.56 career ERA in the big leagues.
Castillo came out of retirement to sign with the Revs during their inaugural season in 2007 and instantly became one of the Revolution’s best starters.
“He was one of the first guys I saw when I walked in the clubhouse,” fellow 2007 Revolution pitcher Pete Hartmann said. “He told me, ‘Harty weclome to the Revolution’ and gave me a hug.”
Hartmann, who also lives in the Phoenix area and coaches youth travel teams, had known Castillo for years and remained friends with him after they stopped playing. He found out about Castillo’s death when he received a text from another former major leaguer after he returned to town Monday.
“I was standing in Frank’s kitchen (just the other day), and we were planning to go to a Diamondbacks game when we were both in town,” Hartmann said. “Just a travesty.”
Castillo came to York through one of Adam Gladstone‘s connections. Gladstone, who worked as the Revs director of baseball operations, signed Castillo in 2007.
“There was a player who signed with Lehigh Valley (in 1999) and then played in Aberdeen (2000), named Danny Perez,” Gladstone said. “He eventually became the third base coach in Somerset, but he and Frank were childhood friends … from El Paso. “I used to tell Danny, ‘Whenever Frank is ready, tell him we have a spot for him,’” Gladstone said. “… I was always joking with Danny.”
Back in 2007, not many teams other than Long Island managed to sign former major leaguers with the type of resume Castillo owned.
But, perhaps through Gladstone’s constant prodding, Castillo signed with the Revs in the middle of the 2007 season.
Castillo, who was 38 in 2007, had spent a year away from baseball — missing the entire 2006 season. He split the 2005 season between Triple-A Albuquerque and the Marlins. But he arrived in the Atlantic League looking like he had something to prove. He went 8-4 with a 3.75 ERA, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning in one game. Afterward, he briefly talked of missing out on a no-hitter with the Cubs. He logged 110 1/3 innings in 2007, but opted not to return to the Revs at the start of 2008. A midseason signing in 2008, he started five games and retired after going 1-0 with a 6.49 ERA at age 39.
“He was a true professional, and an absolute pleasure to be around,” Gladstone said. “Great presence in the clubhouse, great for the club, great for the fans. He wanted to see what he had left in the tank.
“I’m stunned by this news.”
That was a difficult season for the Revs. Not only was the expansion club struggling to compete. Players were forced to live without a clubhouse. Unable to shower at Sovereign Bank Stadium, because the ballpark — and the locker rooms — had not been finished, players changed in construction-style trailers located beyond the right field wall.
“Having a guy like him, a veteran guy who came here and was the ultimate professional, it was a great opportunity for the organization at that time,” Gladstone said.
Despite the circumstances in York during that first season, Gladstone remembered Castillo as the type of player who was difficult to get a rise out of.
“Just an awesome guy,” Hartmann said. “He didn’t get in anyone else’s business. He was not confrontational. … Very, very laid back. Great father. Great guy.”