Big-Game Fish

Florida Marlin Luis Castillo's hitting streak got him to the All-Star Game; next year he's a trophy catch

Castillo, though, understands that too. "A lot depends on the city you're in," he says philosophically, before adding, "But I feel good here." Certainly South Florida, with its sunny weather and large Hispanic population, appeals to the Dominican-born Castillo. But so do fan appreciation and long-term security, something he is unlikely to receive from the Marlins. "Someday I need to have at least a two- or three-year contract," says Castillo, currently working under a one-year, $3.3 million deal that expires at the end of this season. "Otherwise, you're always under pressure." He says it matter-of-factly, with no hint of resentment. Then, just to make sure the listener understands: "I'm working hard, trying to help the team."

The problem is one of economics. The Marlins, as Casey Stengel once might have quipped, don't have any. Or, at least, appear unwilling to extend themselves financially in order to sign some of their key players into the future. The team, after all, traded away its relief pitcher and one of its best young pitchers before the season even started in what many saw strictly as a salary dump. Rumors abound that any number of established and still-developing players may soon be dealt for the same reason. At press time, the Marlins were eagerly pursuing a trade that would send slugging outfielder Cliff Floyd and starting pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Montreal Expos. Other moves are anticipated.

And Castillo? Even at his career-high salary this season, the first-time All-Star is, in baseball dollars, a steal. Which is why he'll probably want a lot more next year. And why we'll probably have to watch his future exploits from afar.

Luis Castillo is among the major-league leaders in batting average, hits, and stolen bases
Steve Satterwhite
Luis Castillo is among the major-league leaders in batting average, hits, and stolen bases

Those may just include another hitting streak. Castillo, after all, has already had two streaks of better than twenty games in his career (he shared the old club record of hitting in twenty-two consecutive games with ex-Marlin Edgar Renteria) and arguably has not yet reached his full potential. The emerging star smiles and looks up at the triptych of Virgins he keeps on the top shelf of his locker when the possibility is raised of another run at history. "It'll be hard," he says, "but you never know."

Whether or not he ever comes close to hitting in 56 in a row, Castillo might just catch up with DiMaggio anyway. Two of the past three seasons, Castillo has hit for better than a .300 average and has stolen at least 50 bases. He will almost certainly reach those numbers again this year. Slick-fielding second basemen who make a habit of accumulating stats like that don't just go to the All-Star Game. They go to the Hall of Fame.

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