Vinny Castilla, 2016 Inductee
He began his big-league career wearing the navy and crimson of the Atlanta Braves.
In international competition, he proudly donned the red, green and white of his native Mexico.
He wore Rockies purple as an all-star third baseman, playing in Colorado for nine of his 16 major league seasons.
And Vinny Castilla always wore an infectious smile that won over his teammates and fans.
Tonight, Castilla steps into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. It’s not just his remarkable ability to turn on 99 mph fastballs that’s earned Castilla a place in Colorado sports lore. It’s his constant presence at Coors Field, his influence on scores of Latin baseball players and his presence in the Denver community that make him a Hall of Famer.
“Oh man, it’s a great honor,” Castilla told MLB.com not long after receiving a call from the Hall of Fame committee. “I love the city of Denver and the fans, and it’s special to be honored in Colorado.”
Castilla finished his career as Mexico’s all-time home-run hitter in the majors, with 320 homers in his career with Atlanta, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Houston, Washington and San Diego.
His best years were with the Rockies, after coming from the Braves in the 1992 expansion draft. He had four consecutive seasons (1996-99) with more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. His best year was 1998, with career highs of a .319 average, 46 home runs and 144 RBIs.
All told, Castilla played 1,098 games with the Rockies, compiling a .294 batting average with 239 home runs and 745 RBIs. He slugged 40 homers in the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
Castilla, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, was inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. Castilla has managed the Mexican National Team twice, in the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
In February 2007, at age 39, after playing his final game in the majors, Castilla officially retired as a baseball player. He played first base in Mexico’s 4-3 victory over Venezuela on the last day of the Caribbean Series. He went 1-for-4, with a double and a run scored.
“I knew it was my last game, but I got emotional when I came to the park and all my teammates came to congratulate me,” he said. “When the players from the other countries hugged me after the game, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt very emotional and proud for all my accomplishments.”
After retirement, Castilla was hired by the Rockies to be a special assistant to the general manager, a post he still holds.
His greatest baseball memory?
“In 1995, when we clinched our first playoff appearance,” he said. “The game was exciting, Curtis Leskanic was pitching, and there was a ground ball to Big Cat (Andres Galarraga). When he stepped on first base, it was my happiest baseball moment.”
Castilla was released by the Padres on July 19, 2006. On August 14, the Rockies signed him to a minor league contract and he was recalled from the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox on Sept. 1, 2006. On Sept. 28, in a game against the Dodgers, Castilla had a pinch-hit, RBI single in his final at-bat at Coors Field. He was the last active player from the Rockies’ inaugural season in 1993 at the time of his retirement.