Cards Prospect Interview: Alex Castellanos

Cards Prospect Interview: Alex Castellanos

Dustin Mattison talks baseball and life with St. Louis Cardinals infield prospect Alex Castellanos.

The St. Louis Cardinals made infielder Alex Castellanos the first player to be drafted out of North Carolina's Belmont-Abbey in over 30 years.  In the 10th round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the team selected the Miami native with the 305th overall pick. 

 

Described as "a poetic fielder and one of the more toolsy guys in the system" by Instructional League Coordinator Mike Shildt, Castellanos would not have to travel too far for his first assignment. 

 

In his first stop as a professional with Johnson City, Castellanos hit .298/.354/.536 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 49 games.  His twenty stolen bases was the second-best mark while he ranked seventh in triples and tied for tenth in doubles in the Appalachian League. 

 

The 22-year-old was then promoted to Batavia to help the team in its playoff drive.  In 10 regular season games, he slugged .500. 

 

Before doing this interview with Alex, I found that we have something in common.  We have both had a brother pass away when he was way too young.  Both were with friends after celebrating youth but instead were taken way too soon.  When I shared our bond, this was his response: 

 

"I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your bother. I understand your pain. Nobody should have to go through something like this. It has been difficult for me because he was my only brother. He was not only a great brother but also my best friend. My brother was killed in a boating accident on July 8, 2007 when he and 11 others were on a boat spending a fun day at Elliott Key. When coming back to the marina, the driver decided to play a joke and made a quick left turn knocking him off the boat. They ran him over with the propellers and claim they didn't see him in the water. His lifeless body was found the next day. He drowned at the age of 23." 

 

Castellanos informed me that since the accident, his mother has been active in fighting for better boating laws in Florida.  Also, family and friends have created the group called "Ozzie's Angels" in memory of Osmany Castellanos. "Ozzie", as he was known to most, was a lifeguard and swimming instructor in Miami.  According to their website, the mission of Ozzie's Angels is to provide children in poverty and children with mental/physical disabilities the opportunity to learn how to swim.  

 


DM: Tell me about Alex Castellanos.


AC: I love dancing, working out, riding my jet ski, and just chilling out with my family and friends. I was a very active kid so to expend some of my energy, my parents signed me up to play T-ball at Tamiami Park at around age five. I played baseball year round, summer and winter leagues. I attended Everglades Elementary, West Miami Middle and Miami Coral Park Senior High School.

DM: You are from Miami, a baseball hotbed. How did you end up at Belmont-Abbey, located in a town with a population of 8700?


AC: After high school graduation in June 2004, I was asked to play summer ball with Miami Dade College. I enrolled in the college for the fall semester and tried out but didn't make the team. I joined a traveling team called Team USA for Coach Nicolas. Coach Nicolas invited Coach Smith from Belmont Abbey to watch us play. After the game, Coach Smith said he enjoyed watching me and wanted me to be a part of his team. He then asked me to visit Belmont-Abbey College.  At first, I didn't want to leave Miami but the opportunity was too great to pass up.

DM: You were the first player from Belmont-Abbey to be drafted in 36 years. How does that feel?


AC: I was happy, It was a great honor to be recognized for my achievements. It also lets others see that we have great players in our school.

DM: When did you first learn that professional scouts were looking at you?


AC: During my sophomore year, my coach began receiving questionnaires from numerous teams asking for personal information; i.e. height, weight, etc. Later in my junior year my coach would tell me that scouts were present at games. Some of the teams that I learned were there were the Cardinals, Mets, Braves, A's, and Yankees.

DM: When did the Cardinals come into the mix?


AC: I received a questionnaire from the Cardinals during my junior year and then they came out to watch me play. In May 2008 they invited me to a workout.

DM: Tell me about draft day 2008.


AC: I was at home in Miami on Thursday (Draft Day One) with family and friends watching the TV. It was exciting and disappointing when I didn't get selected on the first day.  On day two, I was alone at home since both my parents had to work. I was watching the draft on the Internet when my name was announced!

 

I was extremely happy and at the same time was sad because my brother, who always said I would make it to the pros, was not here to share this moment with me. The calls started coming in and within half an hour I had a full house of family and friends to share in my joy.

DM: Like I mentioned above, you are from South Florida. What team did you root for while you were growing up? I know it would be easy to assume you would root for the Marlins but looking at their attendance, there aren't many who do root for them.


AC: Growing up I always rooted for the Marlins. As a kid, my parents and their friends would take the kids from our Little League team to the Marlins games. We even attended some of the World Series games.

DM: You have played second base and third base since becoming a professional. Which do you prefer? Have the Cardinals informed you which position they see you at in the future?


AC: Honestly, I feel more comfortable at second base because I have played the position for many years. However, that doesn't mean I would mind playing another position. This was my first time ever-playing third base and I enjoyed playing there too. When you love playing baseball like I do, I would play any position. I am very grateful to the Cardinals organization for giving me the opportunity to play.

DM: How were you informed that you were being promoted to Batavia?


AC: After playing a home game at around 10 PM, I was in the locker room when the Coach called me into his office and told me congratulations and that I needed to be packed and ready to board a flight at 6 AM the next morning to Batavia.

DM: How does the New York-Penn League compare to the Appy League?


AC: The NY-Penn league has a different and more intense level of competition.

DM: What did you know about the Cardinals before they drafted you?


AC: I knew that they were a terrific organization that cared greatly for their players and their fans. I had the opportunity to experience this the day I went to the workout in May. It's like an extension of my family.

DM: What are your off season plans?


AC: Workout and train, workout and train, workout and train to stay fit.

DM: Could you please tell me about Ozzie's Angels?

AC: Ozzie's Angel's is a not-for-profit organization that was started by my brother's friends to help teach disabled children how to swim. My brother was a lifeguard for Miami Dade County, and on his days off, he loved teaching children how to swim. Kids and swimming were his passion; his friends decided to honor his memory with what he loved to do.

 

DM: You will quickly learn there are thousands of Cardinal fans that follow the organization's minor league system with great interest. What should they know about you that they probably don't know?


AC: I am a very shy and humble young man that loves to play ball. I am very low key and talk very little until I get to know you.

 

 

I appreciate Alex for taking the time to do this piece.  Also, I thank him for sharing the story of his brother, which I know, can be very difficult to do.  For those interested in learning more about Ozzie's Angels can visit their website:  http://www.myspace.com/ozziesangels

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Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.net.

 

 

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