Baseball Fiesta: 3 locals dream of pitching in majors

2012-10-08T00:00:00Z 2012-10-08T06:40:34Z Baseball Fiesta: 3 locals dream of pitching in majorsDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 08, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Believe it or not, Jesus Castillo's best memory from playing at Tucson High is a loss.

In 2002 as a member of the Badgers, Castillo and Tucson made it to the Class 5A state championship game against Canyon del Oro.

Now Seattle Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen started for Tucson and Castillo, who pitched in the quarterfinals and semifinals, pitched two scoreless innings in relief for the Badgers.

It wasn't enough and the Dorados won 8-6. But that's the memory the 28-year-old holds nearest to his heart.

"Even though we lost, it was an honor to get to play for the championship," Castillo said. "I will always remember pitching in that game."

Castillo took a stroll down memory lane this weekend at Kino Stadium. The right-hander was on hand for the Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta as a starting pitcher for Hermosillo.

He didn't start while the team was in Tucson, because he pitched the day before the team arrived. But he's the team's No. 3 starter and an important part of one of the better teams in the Mexican Pacific League.

"Jesus' work ethic was one of the best I've ever coached," Tucson High coach Oscar Romero said.

Castillo wasn't the only pitcher on hand from Tucson this weekend. Former Flowing Wells pitcher Gilbert De La Vara was with Mazatlan and former Tucson High starter Alan Garcia pitched Sunday for the Los Angeles Dodgers Future Stars.

Here's a closer look at all three pitchers:

Jesus Castillo, Hermosillo

• Born: Nogales, Sonora

• Years at Tucson High: 2000-2002

• Drafted: 27th round in 2003 by the Los Angeles Dodgers

• Highest level reached: Triple-A Albuquerque in 2010

• Where he is now: When he's not pitching with Hermosillo in the winter, Castillo pitches with Reynosa of the Mexican League during the summer.

• Back story: Castillo, who moved to Tucson when he was 16, was on the Dodgers' 40-man roster in 2010, but was released by the organization following the season. He turned down an opportunity to sign a minor-league contract with another club and instead opted to sign with Reynosa.

• Quotable: "The dream is to play in the big leagues. Hopefully I get that chance. I was at Triple-A and on the 40-man, but it just didn't work out." - Castillo

Gilbert de la Vara, Mazatlan

• Born: Tucson

• Years at Flowing Wells: 2000-2003

• Drafted: 15th round in 2004 by the Kansas City Royals

• Highest level reached: Triple-A Omaha in 2009 and Triple-A Toledo in 2010

• Where he is now: De La Vara spent the 2012 season in independent ball with the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish.

• Back story: The left-handed pitcher appeared in eight games for Triple-A Toledo in 2010 before being released. He played with Yuma in 2010 and '11 before joining Bridgeport this past season. He's with Mazatlan right now on a tryout, hoping to make its squad full-time.

• Quotable: "The best pitching staff I ever had was our legion team in the summer with Wilhelmsen, Castillo and De La Vara. We went to regionals one summer and they threw back-to-back-to-back one-hitters." - Romero

Alan Garcia, Los Angeles Dodgers

• Born: Hermosillo, Sonora

• Years at Tucson High: 2007-2009

• Drafted: 40th round in 2011 by the San Francisco Giants; 22nd round in 2012 by the Los Angeles Dodgers

• Highest level reached: Garcia finished the 2012 season - his first with the Dodgers - in rookie-level ball in Ogden, Utah.

• Where he is now: He's with the Dodgers Future Stars now and is hoping to join up with Hermosillo this winter.

• Back story: Like Castillo, Garcia moved to Tucson in the middle of his high school years to get better exposure and coaching. He helped lead the Badgers to the state playoffs in 2009 with his bat and his arm. He played two seasons at Eastern Arizona and one at Azusa Pacific.

• Quotable: "Moving to Tucson really helped me as a baseball player and as a person. It was a different level and more advanced. I'm very happy I came here." - Garcia

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