Castilla still contributing to Rockies

Castilla still contributing to Rockies

PHOENIX -- Vinny Castilla's playing days in the Major Leagues have been over for more than a year now. He says he will never play in another Mexican League game or represent his country as a player in any international competitions.

He's done. He's just not completely retired yet.

Castilla is still working the game on both sides of the border, now as a special assistant to Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd. Castilla's duties include scouting, especially in Mexico, working with infielders on the big league level and being a roving instructor in the Minor Leagues.

"I do miss the game, but I enjoy this side of it," Castilla said. "I'm enjoying being around this ballclub. I am enjoying my life, especially seeing [the players] coming up from the Minor Leagues, their progress and what they are doing."

Castilla is traveling with the club during the playoffs, hitting groundballs during batting practice and advising any player who needs a tip or two. With his experience, he is a mentor-like figure. With his ability to speak English and Spanish, he is a bridge.

He is also enjoying the Rockies' playoff ride. He played in the postseason four times in his career, the last coming in 2003 with the Braves, but never advanced past the Division Series.

"He really is doing well," O'Dowd said. "We wanted the first year for him to adjust to the role and he has. He's gone to our Minor League clubs, he's gone to Mexico and been with our Major League club. We have not overloaded him, but we will try to add a little more each year."

One of Castilla's primary goals with Colorado is to establish ties with teams in the Mexican League in order to provide a pipeline of potential players for the Rockies. O'Dowd added that Castilla's responsibilities as a scout in Latin America will increase next season.

In his 16-year big league career, Castilla hit .276 with 320 home runs and 1,105 RBIs. He played 1,656 of his 1,854 games at third base. He played the final game of his career last February, representing Mexico in the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico and called his final at-bat "one of the most emotional of my career." He openly wept in the press conference that followed his final contest and admitted he was brought to tears when his Hermosillo club won the Mexican League championship last winter.

"I have so many great memories of Mexico," Castilla said. "I remember my first at-bat in the Summer League, winning the championship in the Winter Leagues. All those Caribbean Series games. I had a wonderful career in Mexico."

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Castilla will likely be remembered as the country's most popular position player in history. Only former Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is as popular in Mexico as "Vinicio." There were reports in Mexico stating Castilla was returning this winter to play for the Hermosillo club in his home country. He downplayed the notion.

"No, I'm not coming back," he said. "I'm very happy in retirement. I have a very good life."

Castilla still openly talks about his desire to work with a team as a manager or coach, either in Mexico or in the Rockies' Minor League system, but he is unsure what the timetable for landing such a job will be.

"I'll go year-by-year, but I would love to manage in Mexico," Castilla said. "We will see what happens. I am not sure what I am going to do in Mexico yet."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.