The San Diego Padres have had only one player in franchise history born on the 4th of July: third baseman, Vinny Castilla. On Independence Day* – America’s birthday – Vinny Castilla was born into this world. In Oaxaca, Mexico.
As San Diego contended for a division title throughout the summer of 2006, Vinny Castilla struggled mightily during his 72 game stint as a Padre. On July 17th when Castilla went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts in a win against the Philadelphia Phillies he had seen his last action with the club. The Padres were 49-43 and in first place, three games ahead of the Arizona, but GM Kevin Towers knew that the team needed an offensive spark. On July 19th the Padres released Vinny Castilla hoping that Geoff Blum and Mark Bellhorn could fill the void until Towers acquired a third baseman at the trade deadline.
“It doesn’t get more difficult than that, the respect you have for Vinny. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to manage Vinny. That part of the game is always the hardest part. Vinny’s a true professional and he understood.”
Brian Giles was less diplomatic in his assessment of the transaction:
I don’t like it, obviously. I think he’s a good player, he’s good for the clubhouse. It’s kind of frustrating for the guys in here because everybody looked up to him as a leader. It’s tough. Obviously you think there’s something that’s going to happen if they’re going to let him go, but like I said, what he meant to our team and the guys in here, his personality, he brought a lot to this team.”
Vinny was a brutal hitter (.232/.260/.319) in 2006 but he got on well with his teammates and served as a mentor to Adrian Gonzalez, the first baseman acquired during the previous off-season.
Sometimes, though, players get too wrapped up in the personal feelings they have for one another and they fail to see the big picture: To win a championship you must have production from all of your players. Vinny just wasn’t cutting it.
Happy birthday Vinny!
*I feel as though I have a spiritual kinship with Vinny Castilla, odd as it may be. My birthday is on Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th. I was born in the United States.