By John Philip Wyllie
Having shared last year’s South Bay League championship with Hilltop High, the Castle Park Trojans are back better than ever hoping to claim sole possession this season of a second consecutive league title. Pitcher, Mari Corona and first baseman, Crystal Armas, both seniors, are again being counted on to make major contributions for the Trojans. Their involvement in softball however, won’t end when they don their mortar boards and robes in June. Corona and Armas will extend their careers as members of the Mexican National Softball Team.
“My father and brother and all of my uncles played baseball and my mom played softball, so I guess you could say playing is a family tradition,” Armas said moments before taking the field last weekend at the Hilltop Invitational Tournament. “I played in Tijuana for many years and (eventually) went on to the junior nationals.” Both Armas and Corona had similar experiences, first being discovered on local Tijuana teams, then working their way through the ranks into regional teams before finally making their various age-level national teams. Still teenagers, they are currently members of Mexico’s full national team.
“My first national experience came when I was 11 years old,” Corona said. “We were representing Baja California in a tournament in the Yucatan. Since then, I’ve been going every year. I’ve played in two softball World Cups and the Pan-American Games.”
The experience turns softball into a more or less year round sport, but neither of them is complaining. They wouldn’t have it any other way. Softball has been their ticket to see the world.
“We have the national tournament coming up again in June in Hermosillo and then later the 22 & under nationals in Acapulco. We’ve also played in Guaymas, Mexico City and Florida,” Corona said.
“Playing with the Mexican national team has been a great experience,” Armas said. “You have the opportunity to play against a lot of great players and you get to do a lot of traveling.” Before they head off on their summer adventure there is the business of winning another league title to deal with. Both consider this to be the most talented of the four Castle Park teams on which they have played.
“We have a much stronger team than last year,” Corona said. “We picked up a strong freshman pitcher in Becky Galindo and added Erika and Nadia Rangel,” Corona said. They also have Alycia Delgado who was selected along with Galindo, to the Hilltop all-tournament team. Castle Park’s coach, Chris Martinez credits Corona and Armas with guiding the team to last year’s co-championship.
“That was the first time that Castle Park has won a softball championship at least since I’ve been around and maybe ever,” Martinez said. “Mari has been carrying the team with her pitching for the last three years, but this year, with a strong second pitcher (Galindo) she has some help. I’ll be sad to see Mari and Crystal leave, but hopefully they will move on to bigger and better things.”