Friday, May 26, 2017

Herasmo Castillo: Keeping His Eye on the Ball

Herasmo Castillo carries himself like an athlete and speaks with the quiet confidence of a young man who is going places.

In the near future, that place will be Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi where he will walk on to the baseball team. And while he plans a major in Kinesiology and a career as a personal trainer in a gym he plans to own, he’s leaving his options open because the world is full of possibilities.

Herasmo has spent his entire school career in Spring Branch: The Panda Path School (where he recently stopped in to invite his PreK teacher, Mr. Villarreal, to his graduation), Hollibrook Elementary, Northbrook Middle and Northbrook High. He was introduced to English as a second language in elementary school and was proficient by fourth grade.

However, it was baseball that grabbed his attention and absorbed every moment of his spare time. Spring Spirit Baseball was his home away from home. He played first and third base for the Houston Hooks, a Select team, competing all over Houston and traveling for tournaments.

By the time he was in high school, he had switched to catcher and second base and lettered each year on the varsity team. The game was his motivator. Even though grades came easily to Herasmo, and he was almost always on the A/B Honor Roll, he felt the second semester of school was always easier – he looked forward to practice and games.

The team was his friend group. During the first semester, before baseball season was under way, the guys anticipated Friday nights. They operated the blow-up tunnel the football team ran through at the beginning of each half of play. Football games and Spring Spirit kept them together during their off-season.

“My dad was my first coach,” he says. “When I was 13, I started coaching with him. Coaching gives you a different way of thinking about the game. It made me a better player.”

It was also his way of giving back to the sport. “Some of the neighborhood kids were going in the wrong direction. Baseball turned them around. I had been exposed to drugs as a kid and walked away. I set an example for our players. My dad and I kept them busy, so they didn’t have time to get into trouble. We set extra practices. My mom and other moms threw team parties after practice. We made it fun. They didn’t know we were keeping them out of trouble.

“Now some of the kids I helped coach are freshmen on my high school team. I think of them as my younger brothers because my family mentored them to go in the right direction.”

“There’s something about the Castillo family,” says Scott Glueck, Northbrook’s social worker. “They have shaped wonderful kids. Herasmo is such a nice guy. He has the resilience, drive and ambition that will take him far.”

Scott isn’t the only one who admires Cesar and Fatima Castillo. Herasmo is clearly proud of them.

When he leaves for Corpus Christi, Herasmo will be following the family tradition of going to college. His father went to university in Mexico, and his cousin is on target to graduate next year from South Texas College in McAllen. Higher education is expected of Herasmo, his three younger brothers and baby sister.

“It was always a family goal,” he says. “My parents know opportunities will open up when I have a degree. And besides, I always wanted to play college ball.

“I’m a pretty simple guy. I feel no pressure about college. Northbrook has prepared me. Our teachers held us to a higher standard in AP classes. History was my favorite subject. I like knowing how things came to be and how the past shapes today.”

As hard as you might look, there seems to be only one flaw in Herasmo’s make-up. He was born in Missouri, and though he lived there only briefly, he insists the St. Louis Cardinals is his team. The Houston Astros remain a distant second in his loyalty. Perhaps the Corpus Christi Hooks will sway him.

“I look forward to being on my own. Corpus Christi isn’t close, but it isn’t far either. I’m pretty excited.”


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