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Castaneda's baseball journey takes him to Mexico

By - Nov 30, 2017

By Isaac Colindres/For The Sporting Nation



Baseball is America’s pastime, not that of their neighbors to the south. But like the compound word of nationalities, Mexican-American, that forms his ethnicity, Miguel Castaneda has merged the two North American countries into himself.


His whole life he has been a Mexican, born and raised in Southern California. Now, though, when he moves to San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, he will be viewed as an American who is of Mexican descent. The irony of such a contrast of societal categories cannot go unacknowledged.


His Spanish is fluent and crisp enough that his speech goes unquestioned. Yet even so, the locals could tell he wasn’t from around town, “They looked at me like ‘this guy’s not from here,’” said Castaneda. “It’s the way I walk … they can tell by the way you walk.”


But Castaneda won’t be in San Luis to have his ethnic identity challenged. As far as he’s concerned, the only title that need apply to him is “baseball player.”


This fall Castaneda signed a contract with the Pericos de Puebla, where he will first begin to play for their minor league team, the Algodoneros de San Luis.


The road that lead Castaneda to the Liga Norte de Mexico, the league he will be playing in, was paved by his older cousin Rolando Martinez, who plays center field for the Pericos.


Castaneda played two years of ball at Harbor Community College in Wilmington, California before being offered a full scholarship to occupy third base 20 minutes down the road at California State- Dominguez Hills.


After Castaneda finished his senior season at Dominguez Hills this past May, Martinez encouraged him to send a highlight package of himself to the Pericos. It was an easy choice to make for the third baseman. The passion to return to the baseball diamond had never left him.


“I wasn’t surprised at all to hear that Miguel was blessed with the opportunity to play professional baseball, it was all he ever wanted to accomplish,” said Eduardo Villegas, who played with Castaneda at Harbor. “Miguel was not only motivated but he was determined to further his career. It’s all we ever talked about with each other so him taking this opportunity and running with it comes as no shocker.”


And so it goes that the Pericos scouts liked what they saw on tape from Castaneda. They flew him out to Celaya, Mexico, to workout with the team in what was supposed to be a month-long tryout. But Castaneda impressed after just two weeks and he was called in in mid-October to sign a contract with the organization.


“Miguel has always succeeded in baseball because it comes so natural to him,” said Mel Robles, a former teammate of Castaneda’s. “[He] is a great player and that is why he has gotten this far in the game of baseball. He doesn’t really lack mentally or physically, he just gets content at times.”


But the Pericos didn’t sensed any contentedness in the 22-year-old. They were impressed, and Castaneda was offered the chance to pursue his greatest passion. It’s an obvious marriage between the two, and one each side hopes will be fruitful for them both.


“I miss that competitiveness, competing against somebody else,” Castaneda said. “Once I got to Mexico and I got my first at bat, I missed that feeling of it’s you against me right now. Let’s go.”


For Castaneda it is not a question of if he will make the Algodoneros’ 25-man roster, but when he makes it. When he makes the roster, it will be an expected result; a stepping stool that boosts him higher so that he may reach the next level: playing for the Pericos.


“I already know how good the guys are, and I know I can play with them,” said Castaneda when describing the level of play he experienced in Mexico. “I know I could have stayed with [the Pericos] and competed for a spot.”


Castaneda says the Algodoneros should come calling for him in mid-February, when he will fly out to Mexico to report for spring ball. He stresses he needs to be ready for that time. So for now he continues to hit the gym and train in his hometown of Norwalk, California, or at his alma mater Dominguez Hills, or at any nearby field and batting cage to his liking.


Miguel Castaneda Sr. was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, but he would eventually move to the United States and find his life’s living in his second country.


Miguel Castaneda Jr. was born in Paramount, California, but he eagerly awaits his future in San Luis where he, too, might find his life’s living in his second country.


For a Mexican-American with dual citizenship, playing an American-born sport in Mexico seems like poetry in motion. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but opportunity points to the south. Either way, Castaneda is home.

 

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