It didn’t take long for George Castro to realize he wanted to be a Pioneer.
In fact, it was right after he arrived from the Dominican Republic.
Two years ago, Castro had just finished his sophomore year of high school in his native country. After the season, he came to Philadelphia with his father and brother, Cesar, and a few days after they arrived, they checked out a baseball game between Frankford and Franklin Towne Charter high schools.
The game was a goodie for Frankford, but Castro and his family were more impressed with the players on the team than the win. He liked the fun they were having and after moving to Bridesburg, he enrolled at Frankford.
“I liked it because it’s a family,” said Castro, who plays center field. “They were having fun. They like baseball and they were a family. They were good, too.”
Castro didn’t have to do a whole lot to become a productive player. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound prospect came to Frankford as a five-tool player, but he had a lot of untapped potential that has since come out, making him one of the most sought-after baseball players in the area. But he did struggle with one thing. He spoke only Spanish.
“That was very hard,” said Castro, who is still learning English and gets help from Frankford coach Juan Namnun. “It’s hard to learn, but I’m doing better. Lucky that a lot of people at Frankford are willing to help.”
Namnun estimates about 80 percent of this year’s team speak Spanish, so Castro had a lot of support in learning the language. With their help, Castro has come a long way.
This year, he wasn’t able to do what he loves with the brothers on his team. But he hopes he’s able to get back on the field soon. It’s just up in the air where that will be.
Castro’s ultimate goal is to get paid to play. He’s hoping that he gets selected during the MLB draft on June 10 and 11, but that will be a lot tougher this year.
Not only has Castro, who has put on about 10 pounds of muscle since last year, not had a chance to show everyone how much his game has improved, but this year the draft will be only five rounds.
He could also catch on with a team after the draft. When the draft is complete, a lot more free agents will be able to sign with teams because squads will have fewer draft picks to worry about.
And if neither of those happen, Castro will go to college. If he goes to a junior college, he can go for a year and then enter the draft, so he’s leaning toward that.
“I want to be a professional player, that’s what I want,” Castro said. “That’s always been my goal. I want to get a chance to play pro.”
If his junior year was his audition, he did a pretty good job of showing everyone what he can do.
In helping the Pioneers win the Public League championship, Castro hit over .500 with 10 doubles, two home runs and two triples. His power was even better this year. Frankford went to Florida for a very short spring training (the Pioneers were forced to come home after two days because of coronavirus), and Castro played in two games. He had a home run in one of those games and hit another to the deepest part of the ballpark.
“They were two of the hardest-hit balls I’ve ever seen at a professional ballpark,” Namnun said. “One was a home run, the other one hit the top of the wall, it was 380 feet. He has pop. He’s got a great swing and he’s strong. Last year he hit .500, he thinks he could have done even better this year because he put in so much work during the offseason.”
Castro is a star, but with his team, he is one of the guys.
He’s a natural centerfielder, but in practice, he’ll line up anywhere that he’s needed.
“We were talking and I told him we could use him as a closer this year because he throws 90 (miles an hour), 91 with little effort,” Namnun said. “We wouldn’t use him as a pitcher because we don’t want to hurt his chances of the other things, but he’s got a great arm. In practice, he’ll catch and if he played catcher, he’d be a star. He can do anything.
“He has a great baseball IQ. He is a natural talent, but he puts in hard work. That’s what makes him so special. He’s a great kid. Everyone loves him. He’s a happy kid, and the other players love to be around him.”
Even when he’s out of tune.
Frankford has started a karaoke contest in the cafe during lunch. Castro, along with third baseman Darlyn Uceta, have become a very popular act.
“He’s better at baseball than singing,” Namnun joked.
“When I’m comfortable, I love having fun,” Castro said. “I’m so at home at Frankford. The school and with the team.”
This may not be the senior year he wanted due to the coronavirus, but he’s certainly happy he ended up at Frankford.
“I am thankful for my teammates, they’ve welcomed me,” Castro said. “And my coach has helped me so much, he’s been so helpful to all of us. And the school has been great. It’s been great. And I’m thankful I’ve been able to play with my brother.”