March 13, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
The San Diego State Aztecs Baseball Team gained a much needed credibility boost and local bragging rights last week by defeating the highly touted University of San Diego Toreros in their four-game series three games to one. Had not the Aztecs gift wrapped the five-error finale of that series, they might have enjoyed a clean sweep over the nation’s 11th ranked team. Sweep or not, the Aztecs hope that the confidence gained in taking a series off of one of the nation’s elite teams will help propel them to a Mountain West Conference championship and earn them a spot in the NCAA postseason tournament.
Local product Erik Castro (Fallbrook High) played well behind the plate in the series finale throwing out two would-be stealers at second base. He also broke out of his recent hitting slump with a single that contributed to the Aztecs attempted comeback and demonstrated his versatility by playing flawless first base.
“I didn’t begin here as a catcher, but last year we lost two guys back there to injury so they need somebody behind the plate. I just tried to do my best and the position kind of grew on me. It was rough at the beginning, but after a few games I began to get used to it more and more. Now I like it,” Castro said.
Amazingly, prior to last season Castro’s last stint as a catcher dated all the way back to a couple of opportunities while still in Little League. To step into what is considered the toughest position in baseball on a collegiate level and play it well demonstrates just how versatile this sophomore can be.
“I can play third, first or catcher, so wherever the team needs me I am more than willing to play. I am more relaxed and comfortable now behind the plate, so it is just a question of where they have a spot in the lineup.”
While Sunday’s game was a bad outing for the Aztecs it was a good day for their local products. Brandon Meredith (Montgomery High) joined Castro as a primary contributor when he clouted the first pitch of the Aztecs second inning over the centerfield wall. He later ripped a two-run double that scored Castro as the Aztecs tried to claw their way back into the game after spotting the Toreros a 10-1 lead. Despite scoring seven runs they ended up three runs short.
Castro believes that his presence here on the Aztecs ball club is due in part to the coaching he received at Fallbrook under Matt Parker.
“He really prepared us for the next level. He was a stickler at times and a tough guy that had the reputation as a hard guy to play for, but he got us mentally ready to play college baseball. My freshman and sophomore year there were a struggle, but once I got to know him I found him to be a good guy. We have a great relationship.”
Always looking to improve, Castro played on a team last summer that had the opportunity to travel to Cuba.
“One of my summer coaches has a relationship with the president of baseball down there. We got to play against their Olympic team in their big stadium before they left. We played in front of thousands of people. That was great,” Castro said.
Castro thinks it would also be great if he eventually gets to realize a long-held dream.
“I would love to someday play professional baseball. That is my number one goal, but whatever God has planned for me whether it is baseball or something else really doesn’t matter.”