Miguel Castro vowed back in February to return home to the Dominican Republic following the 2020 season, with no fears or trepidations created from the previous month’s robbery that almost cost him more than just a couple of gold chains.
The Orioles reliever made the trip much sooner than he expected with sports shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. And he’s using the time to help people who are less fortunate, still immersed in his community rather than hiding out or keeping a lower profile.
The Dominican government may be opening back up in a few weeks, allowing businesses to restart and providing a boost to the economy. In the meantime, Castro and his family have been delivering food and other essential items to ease the burden.
“I know that there’s a lot of people who have lost jobs and unfortunately it’s communities with people with low incomes,” he said yesterday via translator Ramón Alarcón in a video call. “They’re going through tough times and it’s something we wanted to provide just to help.”
Castro is reaching out, with hands covered in rubber gloves, to citizens in Villa Hermosa and Villa Caoba. He wears a protective mask as he passes along his donations that include trays of eggs.
We hear about the charitable efforts of players in the United States, whether it’s writing checks or having lunches delivered to essential workers. Castro is further off the grid but just as active, and more so when he shows up in someone’s yard bearing gifts.
“I think the biggest thing here is we all need to be more conscious of the situation and be aware of the severity of what’s going on,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people that are going out and going about their business and not really taking care of themselves. Right now I just think the best thing for us, for everybody, is to stay home and keep social distancing as much as possible. To be conscious of the severity of the situation.
“It’s worrisome, for sure, especially for me as I’m trying to prepare for a season, if there’s going to be a season. I’m going out every day, working out, and I really don’t know, like, who has it, who doesn’t have it, what place is safer than another place. It’s definitely something to keep in your mind.”
The emphasis on safety really hits close to home for Castro, beyond a pandemic that’s halted spring training and threatened to cancel the season.
Three men robbed Castro at gunpoint on Jan. 7 as he was preparing to train at a facility in La Romana, an incident he detailed on his Instagram account. Police made two arrests later in the week and recovered the two necklaces that had been sold.
“Thank God that their gun got jammed,” Castro wrote in Spanish. “I’m alive by the mercy of God.”
Castro reported to spring training a month later, told the media that he put the terrifying incident behind him and swore that he wouldn’t change the way he lived. He wouldn’t move out of his home. He’d keep working with young kids and try to be a role model to them.
“The most important thing is that nothing bad really happened,” he said yesterday. “I’m in the house where I grew up with my family and everybody’s doing OK, everybody’s safe right now. I’m just trying to prepare for a season.”
Castro is taking some extra precautions. Players who earn a major league salary are more vulnerable. He can’t ignore it.
“After what happened, the local police assigned me security here, so every time I go out to train or something like that, there’s that person who goes along with me,” said Castro, who agreed to a $1.05 million contract to avoid arbitration after posting a 4.66 ERA and 1.418 WHIP in 65 appearances.
“I also have another person that goes with me wherever I go, so those are kind of some of the measures that I’ve been doing.”
The separation won’t come unless Castro returns to the United States for a second version of spring training. He had no idea that he’d remain in the Dominican for so long after the Orioles closed their complex.
“I really didn’t imagine something like this to ever happen,” he said. “I really just want to get back to normal, go back to baseball, to see my teammates. It’s a really strange feeling because I’ve been doing this for most of my life and being at home, it’s really an abnormal situation for me, so I’m just trying to get accustomed to this new normality.”
Note: The Orioles are hosting a blood drive on Thursday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Fans who donate blood will receive an Orioles backpack cooler, OneBlood T-shirt and wellness checkup.
Walk-in appointments will not be accepted. Anyone wishing to donate blood can make an appointment at OneBlood.org/Orioles.