Juan Castro (Cuba)
Juan Castro García
Juan Castro was the catcher for Pinar del Rio and the Cuban national team for several years, the same roles Ariel Pestano would hold a couple decades later. He was the first of two players named Castro to appear for the national team during the Fidel Castro era, preceding Danel Castro. Castro only hit .228/.296/.347 in 16 seasons in Cuba, but he was excellent on defense, throwing out 330 runners in 705 steal attempts. Through 2003-2004, he was 10th all-time in the Cuban Serie Nacional in runners thrown out while only ranking 15th in steals allowed. His Vegueros clubs won at least four titles.
Castro began his international tourney career by only going 2 for 16 in the 1982 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the 1983 Pan American Games, he was much better, going 7 for 10 and he would have led in average had he qualified. He helped Cuba rally from a 1-0 deficit against Team USA in the 7th inning with a solo homer; Cuba went on to win. In the 1984 Amateur World Series, he hit .452/.469/.677 with 11 runs in 11 games and threw out 5 of 8 attempted base-stealers. He easily outhit future major leaguers Barry Bonds, Pete Stanicek and Hector Villanueva. Had he qualified, he would have ranked third in the Series in average behind Roberto Bianchi and Victor Mesa.
In the 1985 Intercontinental Cup, Castro hit .294 at age 31. During the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games, he was 3 for 9. He hit .304 in the 1986 Amateur World Series. He struggled in 1987, going 1 for 20 in the 1987 Intercontinental Cup and 4 for 22 in the 1987 Pan American Games. In the 1988 Baseball World Cup, he concluded his 7-year national team stint by going 3 for 13 with 3 walks and a homer; he also threw out 3 of 4 would-be base thieves.
Castro managed Sancti Spíritus later in his career after having worked for several year as an assistant coach for Pinar del Rio alongside Julio Romero, Juan Carlos Oliva (brother of Major leaguer Tony Oliva), Primitivo Diaz and Charles Diaz. He also managed Modena in Italy's Serie A1, going 26-28 in 1996, 34-19 in 1997, 22-26 in 1998, 19-35 in 2001 and 27-27 in 2002.
Castro's nephew Lazaro Castro became an the alternate catcher for Pinar del Rio sharing time behind the plate with Pedro Luis Dueñas and later on with Yosvany Madera. He was also rewarded with a very impressive set of defensive skills similar to the one displayed by his uncle in previous years.
Juan Castro had the honor to be the catcher for a very talented group of pitchers while playing for Vegueros (name of the main team of Pinar del Rio at the time) in the decade of the 1970s and 1980s. Among this group of pitchers are Rogelio Garcia (known for his fastball and later for developing a nasty forkball or splitfinger), Julio Romero (known for his glasses and his intelligence on the mound, he graduated from civil engineering while being an active player in the Cuban national league), Juan Carlos Oliva, Omar Ajete, Jesús Guerra and some others.
Juan Castro has given a lot of credit to his wife for having helped him along his career and has always been outspoken in regard of how great was to have shared many great moments with a group of very talented players in an era in which Cuban baseball produced many fine players.