Many people look at adversity differently, whether as a bump in the road, an excuse for falling short, or a message that may not be seen until the setback reveals itself. Players get caught up in trying to win instead of being patient and allowing when they return to be on the right terms. For Jumbo Shrimp pitcher Daniel Castano, his faith, family, and passion for sports have shaped who he is now, not only a player, but as a father.
Castano was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016 and a little over a year later, traded to the Miami Marlins. The deal sent two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis in exchange for a package that included future Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara and Castano.
After four years in the Marlins’ organization, Castano debuted in the major leagues. During that period of grinding through the minors, there were highs and lows but throughout the adversity, one thing stayed constant.
“I mean the biggest thing for me in my personal life was becoming a believer, a Christian,” said Castano. “That really changed the perspective of how I look at this game from a game and everything you could ever achieve in a worldly sense, but it was my job to do my best for my teammates, for my employer, and for my family.”
Troubles come in unexpected scenarios but for the former Baylor Bear, a crucial injury was something that taught him a career-altering lesson.
“I’ve had a lot of health issues regarding my shoulder and that’s been tough because it’s so out of my control,” Castano said. “(I) just stay in the moment and take it day by day and you know, do the best you can with the opportunity you’ve been given.”
Through his faith journey, God has moved in mysterious ways, noting that the first time he was hurt was when his first son was born, which allowed him to spend extra time with his family. Daniel referred to this verse that has stuck with him on and off the rubber, Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.”
Castano grew roots in the heart of Texas, where he moved at the age of four from the Orlando area.
Castano often visited his grandfather’s ranch in Texas and came away with several lessons learned, including one that continues to stick with him as a dad of two young sons.
“I admire him and his honesty. He resembles a lot of the good in Texans and just their honesty, shooting people straight,” Castano said. “He’s an attorney and he always prided himself on just telling people in the nicest way possible how it is in a way. Letting them decide if they wanted to go with him and just the importance of honesty. I think it really went a long way even if it wasn’t to his benefit. He was trying to be as honest as he could be.”
The 2015 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention reflected on his times on the mound with his grandfather in the stands.
“Actually, here in 2019, they (grandparents) came to a game,” said Castano. “Every time they come to a game I have felt really well thankfully.”
That 2019 game was arguably the greatest performance of Castano’s career. The left-hander struck out a career-high 13 batters in a complete game, which still marks the last nine-inning complete game performance for a Jumbo Shrimp pitcher to this day. In college, in games also with his grandfather in attendance, Castano tossed a complete game against Oklahoma and an eight-inning, one-run performance against LSU in Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Aside from his Texas upbringing, Daniel is also proud of his Argentinian heritage. He noted that some of his family members in Miami have already seen soccer legend Lionel Messi play in the MLS for Inter Miami CF.
The moment that Argentina secured its third World Cup, its first since 1986, was as emotional a time for Castano and his family in recent memory.
“It was the greatest thing in the world,” Castano said. “I love the World Cup more than anything. My favorite sport to watch is international soccer. So for them to win the World Cup, my family was together, they were crying, and it was a big deal. It was really cool to see.”
Celebrating your heritage is something awesome to reflect on but going out of your way to make a difference is something that speaks to the character of Castano. His church has its own little baseball league. It includes the likes of former and current major leaguers Steve Cishek, Cody Poteet, Cody Harris, and Trey Hearne, who each help and coach their own kids.
Castano has enjoyed trying to become a positive influence on kids learning the game of baseball as well.
“It’s been fun giving lessons and just getting involved a little,” said Castano. “It’s been really fun as my sons get a little older, seeing them play ball. Those are some of the ways that I’ve really enjoyed growing the game a little bit.”
Being a father and husband is Daniels's top priority. Baseball is his job and way of providing for his family, but it is not always an easy balance. There can be a lot of pressure to be successful, but he also wants to make a significant difference off the field and in his home.
“My measure of success is doing the best of my ability, faithfully,” Castano said. “My first season in 2020, I had a really strong year in the big leagues, I had a 3.03 ERA and got my first win at Yankee Stadium. It was a really great year on the field, but off the field, it was a little twisty and turny and just not where I wanted to be. I remember thinking, man, this is not it. Being in the big leagues is awesome, but it’s not everything. If I’m going to do this, I want to do it well, I want to do it faithfully. I want to not only work as hard as I can but for me personally, I don't want to be in sin in anything and I just want to strive to be a good teammate, a good employee, a good husband, a good dad, and keep this separate from my home life.”
His life aside from baseball is clearly a priority and he can sometimes struggle with larger career decisions like knowing when to one day hang up his cleats, hopefully after a long big-league career. However, as a player who has logged in The Show, he still tries to be a leader and mentor to the younger players in the clubhouse who might be on their way up or figuring out how to deal with the up-and-down nature of Triple-A.
“Being a good example to some of the younger guys off the field, you know, like grabbing some of those guys under your wing, said Castano.” It has been cool because that's kind of the new chapter of my career, as I'm 29. I was in the weight room and there was no one over 25 or so. It's almost a whole age gap difference; if you're in college I would be a senior (and) those guys would be freshmen or still in high school, so it's cool.”
Being a leader is a trait he strongly possesses, as the best leaders keep an open mind and continue their love to learn.
Castano trains at Cressey Sports Performance in South Florida during the offseason along with the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Daniel has not taken those times with the league’s best for granted. He noted that it’s not a four or five-hour routine, it's about putting in that work daily and being consistent about their regime day in and day out.
“It was pretty intense,” said Castano. “You know they are locked in on every pitch trying to execute and be the best they could be for that specific pitch. You put a lot of those together and that will carry over to a great season.”
The left-hander has been able to apply what he learns down south to his game on the mound with a simple and intentional routine each pitch, every inning. It involves a mantra, constantly telling himself “One pitch at a time, one batter at a time, breathe and compete,” and “Don’t fear, man.”
“I really try to slow the game down whether it’s no men on or bases loaded,” Castano said. “Don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking about you.”
Aside from his mental routine he also tries to stay in a controllable state.
“I don’t want to be that guy on the mound who is cussing up a storm or yelling at the umpire, making a fool of myself,” said Castano. “Not that I do this perfectly, but I pride myself in trying to be a pro and handle my business appropriately.”
No matter what stage of life, minor or major leagues, Castano’s goals stay the same. However, there are noticeable differences between the two levels that can inhibit stress, health, and overall performance.
“They always say the hardest thing to do is not getting to the big leagues, it's sticking in the big leagues. They say it's very hard to get there. It's even harder to stick,” Castano said. “I think part of that is just consistency, some of that is opportunity, and the third part is probably just having confidence in yourself knowing what you do well, and regardless of who's at the plate, or if you’re having a tough night, being able to bounce back from it and go out there.”
Alone from the mental side of things, Castano believes the physical side is just as paramount to making sure he can go out there and be at his best every time he takes the mound.
“One hundred and sixty-two games is a lot and you're throwing starting every five days, in the big leagues, as opposed to six or even seven (days), that'll start to wear on you,” said Castano. “Just enhancing my recovery routine, knowing how to strengthen my shoulder better. Those are some of the things that I've really had to learn and think through that, Lord-willing, if I get another opportunity, I could potentially stick up there.”
While Castano’s seventh year in professional baseball is a little over halfway complete, he recalls one of his favorite memories that will last a lifetime.
In 2020, the Marlins made their first postseason appearance since 2003, and only the third in franchise history.
With no fans in attendance, Miami clinched a postseason berth in Yankee Stadium and went on to defeat the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Series before losing to the Atlanta Braves in the divisional round. The club’s long drought had fueled this impressive run.
“We had T-shirts made called bottom feeders because an announcer was roasting us about being the bottom feeders of the division,” Castano said. “We just had that grittiness on our side, and everyone just fed off each other like, well, we got nothing to lose, why not give this thing a shot? And we made a little run, it was super cool to be a part of.”
Castano continues to fight to earn his permanent spot on the Marlins roster. However, no matter what stage of life he is in, there are some things that are non-negotiable away from baseball. Being a faithful husband, serving his church, and raising his kids well are his number one priorities. While he still strives to be a great competitor on the mound, he knows there is more to life than just baseball.
“I don’t really have the goal necessarily to play for 10 or 15 more years, but the time I do play while my kids are still young, I want to make the most of,” said Castano.
The man who he is at home, in church, and in this world is the man he aims to be on the field. From a leader, mentor, servant, and father, Daniel Castano leaves a positive mark on the people he meets along the way.