Castro plans to make a name for himself
Astros' All-Star catcher not widely known, but he plans to change that
NEW YORK -- Jason Castro may have been the most anonymous man in the room. He's not quite a superstar, and he toils for the Astros, who do not get a lot of national media attention.
And because he's a catcher, his faced is covered for half of the game.
So it didn't help at Monday's All-Star Media Day that his space on the podium was the only one without a sign identifying him.
"I don't know," Castro said. "They just told me to sit here."
Castro may not be a household name, but the emerging star caught the eye of Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who is leading the American League All-Star team and selected him as a reserve.
Every team needs an All-Star, but Leyland could have gone with a number of worthy candidates from Houston. Second baseman Jose Altuve, an All-Star a year ago, is in the middle of another strong season, and pitcher Bud Norris is having a career season, but Castro set himself apart. Statistically, he's been one of the top catchers in the AL. He leads his team with an .806 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and ranks behind only Joe Mauer among everyday AL catchers in that category.
He's an up-and-coming talent, if a bit of an unknown, just two years removed from a potentially devastating injury.
Castro missed all of 2011 after tearing his right ACL in his second Spring Training game while gearing up for his first full season. Catching is already taxing on a player's knees, so this setback could have been major.
"I'd really just started to get my feet wet and understand the whole process of what I needed to do on a daily basis from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint," he said.
He had a strong 2012, batting .257 with six home runs in 87 games, before breaking out this season. He's doubled his home run total in six fewer games and raised his average by 12 points and his slugging percentage by 73.
His defense hasn't let up, either. He's by no means one of the game's best defensive catchers, but he's been above average, throwing out 23 percent of would-be basestealers.
"It's definitely kind of a milestone for me in that process of coming back," Castro said. "Obviously, not only being injured and missing that whole season is tough, but having to catch up on all those repetitions and experiences you missed playing on a daily basis."
Two years ago was the first time he can remember being away from baseball for a full season. At Citi Field he has a chance to make himself known.
"It's definitely an honor to be able to be here and represent the Astros and kind of show people where we're headed and the kind of direction that our franchise is going," he said. "In the next few years, people will start to pay more attention to the Astros and what type of baseball we're playing."
About 10 minutes into the media session, an All-Star Game staffer swooped in behind Castro to post a nameplate behind him.
It took some time, but he was finally as easily identifiable as the rest of the superstars in the room. He's not here just as Houston's mandatory representative -- at least that's what the numbers suggest. When he's introduced on Tuesday, there will be some people who don't know who he is, but one day they will. For now he just smiles and enjoys being here and the little things that come with it.
"I've got my sign now."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.