Sunshine State Spotlight: MO2 catches up with Reds’ Castellanos, India
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
MIAMI – There was a vocal gathering of Cincinnati Reds’ fans seated behind the first base dugout this past weekend at loanDepot park.
Many of those clad in Reds’ gear were family and friends of two South Florida natives who are core players for Cincinnati.
Outfielder Nick Castellanos is one of the most productive hitters in the National League, and his name will likely be on several MVP ballots. (Each BBWAA member lists 10 names). And second baseman Jonathan India is a frontrunner for N.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
Along with being staples in the batting order, the two grew up in South Florida.
Castellanos played high school ball at Archbishop McCarthy in Southwest Ranches, and India was a prep standout at American Heritage in Delray Beach before he was an star at the University of Florida.
ManOn2nd, “Where the focus is on Florida,” interviewed both players this weekend during the Reds’ visit to Miami.
They both offered their insights and thoughts on what it was like growing up playing ball in the Sunshine State. We’ll additionally discuss these two players, and much more, during the ManOn2nd podcast later in the week. (Reminder: MO2 is now a partner of Five Reasons Sports).
OF Nick Castellanos: The 44th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Castellanos signed with the Detroit Tigers after being one of the top prep players in the country. In 2019, he signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds, and he has an opt-out clause after this season. Nothing is official yet, but if Castellanos exercises that opt-out, he will became a free agent.
If he hits the open market, MO2 believes Castellanos should be the Marlins’ top free agent target. However, that’s a discussion for the offseason. For now, we asked Castellanos about his South Florida roots, and how growing up in the Sunshine State set his baseball foundation.
“It has everything to do with the player I am today,” Castellanos told MO2. “Just because of how serious youth baseball is taken in South Florida. The amount of baseball games, leagues, and travel teams, and stuff, I was always playing, my whole life, close to 100 baseball games a year. To do something for that long, and for that often, you’ve got a chance to be good at it.”
As an amateur, either at state or national-events, Castellanos faced players like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Eric Hosmer before he was drafted.
Castellanos grew up rooting for the Florida Marlins, attending games at their old stadium, which is now called Hard Rock Stadium.
“With the orange seats, and all that stuff,” he said. “I never got to play there, and by the time I got called up, this park [loanDepot] was already here.”
As a kid, Castellanos dreamed of playing for his hometown team.
“My dream, being a little kid, was being a Florida Marlin,” he said. “Wearing the black and teal, and the pinstripes. Being in that stadium. They won it ’03 and ’97. Being able to be part of that, and experience that excitement, kind of put more fuel on the fire of wanting to be a big leaguer.”
2B Jonathan India: The Reds selected India with the fifth overall pick in 2018. In 2017, the infielder was part of the Florida Gators’ national championship team.
South Florida remains his home.
“To be a Florida kid, you play baseball all year round,” India told MO2. “You played sports all year round. I feel being a kid from Florida helped me stay in that mindset. Playing all year round, making so many sacrifices to play this game. We have a lot of benefits playing here.”
Players from Florida also tend to have an edge to them.
“Florida kids are tough, man,” he said. “There’s some tough kids down here. Good competition.
“So many good players have come out of this state, especially the Miami area. At a young age, you’re playing in tournaments down here. It prepares you, very well.”
In his youth league days, India played either with or against, Bo Bichette (Toronto Blue Jays), Ryan Mountcastle (Baltimore Orioles) and Miami Marlins rookie second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr.
“Jazz, I played against him in high school,” India said. “You played against guys when you’re 16, and now you’re here. It’s pretty cool to see where we came from, and where we’re at.”
In college, India was considered one of the top players in the county. He was one of three Florida Gators selected in the first round in 2018. The Royals took pitchers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar in the first round that year.
The three former Gators stay in tough, and frequently get together during Spring Training in Arizona.
“My Gator team, I keep in touch with a lot of guys,” India said. “It’s pretty cool to see where we’re at right now. Me, Brady and Jackson always get lunch or dinner together in Spring Training. We’re always doing something together.”