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T-Rat Talk: Castillo More Open, Having More Fun

June 1, 2021

For someone who won’t turn 22 until July, Timber Rattlers outfielder LG Castillo already has quite the collection of baseball stories to tell.

For someone who won’t turn 22 until July, Timber Rattlers outfielder LG Castillo already has quite the collection of baseball stories to tell.

A seventeenth round pick out of high school in the 2017 draft, Castillo experienced baseball at four professional levels in his first two-plus seasons, debuting with the Arizona Summer League Brewers in 2017, moving up to advanced rookie ball with the Helena Brewers in 2018 and then splitting 2019 between the then-Low-A Timber Rattlers and the High-A Carolina Mudcats.

The Brewers had targeted Castillo for big things in 2020: He was one of a handful of players invited to spend the winter of 2019 in Phoenix to work out at the Brewers’ training facility and get a jumpstart on the season ahead. Those plans took a sudden turn, however, with the abrupt suspension of spring training in mid-March. After spending the winter getting ready for a big year, Castillo instead found himself sent home indefinitely.

“As soon as COVID hit we were sent back home thinking it was only going to be two weeks, three weeks until the curve flattened,” Castillo said. “But after that, I was in Buffalo until about July, then I made my way out to where my father lives in New York City a couple of times.”

So, in addition to his exposure to four levels of professional baseball, the still-20 year old Castillo embarked upon another new experience: a 600-day layoff between regular season games. Once he found his way back onto the field, however, Castillo immediately started making up for lost time. He collected two hits in his first appearance of the season against Beloit on May 5 and accumulated eight of them across five games in that series.

“Just minimize mistakes and understand that bad things will happen, but I can’t let it affect the rest of my daily ‘go abouts.’ And that’s not just with baseball, that’s every day. Just really minimizing mistakes and understanding what my strengths are, and my weaknesses,” Castillo said of his approach to a new season.

While Castillo didn’t get much time on the field in 2020, the work he’s been putting in off the field is readily apparent. He’s noticeably stronger and faster than he was during his time with Wisconsin in 2019, another reminder that he’s still growing into his promising frame. In addition to his physical development, however, Castillo’s mental approach to the game has changed in the window between seasons.

“LG Castillo today is open. He’s like a sponge,” Castillo said when asked to identify the biggest differences between himself now and his time with Wisconsin in 2019. “He’s willing to soak up whatever information is given to him. He’s not really looking at someone critiquing his abilities as a negative. Before, I think a younger version of me would have seen someone trying to give me tips as a bad thing, or see someone giving me pointers and think ‘he’s not trying to look out for me.’ Now I look at it as, ‘ok, maybe he is trying to help me. Maybe I can take something away from this.’ So I think 2021 LG is a lot more open, and a lot more ok with failure. That’s the best way to put it.”

Along with that expanded openness for input, Castillo also has an adjusted mindset on life in baseball.

“I think that was the biggest falloff that I had once I got to pro ball, is I wasn’t really enjoying it,” Castillo said. “You just treat it like a job because everyone tells you to, you treat it very military-like. It doesn’t have to be like that. Not with the group that we have, not with Matty (Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson) as our manager, not with how we get work done. We don’t have to be militant, we don’t have to be not enjoying the game. I think that’s one thing I really want to do is just enjoy the game.”

At times this season Erickson has also commented on Castillo’s demeanor and mental approach.

“I told him the other day, his at bats and his rhythm seemed very calm. Even when he was taking pitches it seemed like he was on time and recognizing pitches early. There didn’t seem to be much stress in his body language and in his setup,” Erickson told the Rattler Radio podcast following Castillo’s multi-hit game against West Michigan on May 23.

Castillo also played a significant part in one of the most fun moments of the Timber Rattlers’ first month when he was on first base when Chad McClanahan hit a grand slam against West Michigan on May 18. Castillo’s reaction to the homer caused multiple people to remark that he may have been more excited about it than McClanahan was.

“Me and Chad, I think we’ve played together since 2017, 2018 now,” Castillo said. “So I mean, we date back so many years of putting in pain with a couple of guys. So when Chad hit that home run, it kind of gets you more excited than the guy who actually did it. Any chance someone gets to put the T-Rats chain on, I go crazy. That’s probably the best purchase someone on the team made.”

Castillo has already experienced some highs and lows in the first month of his 2021 campaign, but stressed the importance of remembering that any single game or series, positive or negative, is just part of the larger puzzle of a long season.

“You can have a good one, a good two, or even a good ten games and you’ve still got 110 more of those. So really, just keep pushing everyday,” Castillo said.

While Castillo is one of many players with the 2021 Timber Rattlers who have experience playing in the former Midwest League, he’s also done something that many of them have not: He played previously at the High-A level when he was called up to Carolina to finish the 2019 season. He said the biggest difference between the Low-A game and the Timber Rattlers’ new level is “a lot of growing up.”

“Even this year, it feels like a lot of guys have grown up even though we’re still with Wisconsin. It still feels like everyone, and I know it’s obviously self-explanatory because we’ve all aged by two years, but you can feel it. And I felt that right away when I got to Carolina: the whole atmosphere, the feel of the locker room, it wasn’t, ‘hey, these are my buddies. These are my teammates.’ It became more individualized. That was the biggest difference I realized going from Low-A to High-A,” Castillo said.

Back at the High-A level this season, the Timber Rattlers’ roster situation may force Castillo to be patient and wait for opportunities in the months ahead: When everyone is healthy he’s sharing playing time in the outfield with Garrett Mitchell, Korry Howell, Jevon Ward, Jesus Lujano and Carlos Rodriguez. Castillo has done a good job of making the most of his chances to this point, however, collecting multiple hits in five of his first 15 appearances.