Friday, September 9, 2011

Yankee bat boy's book full of fun tales

Many people who pick up Clubhouse Confidential, the recently released book of former New York Yankees bat boy Luis Castillo, will be eager to read the behind-the-scenes tales of mischief by some of the biggest stars in pinstripes. Believe me, there are plenty of those. But my favorite stories are the ones Castillo shares about some of the less famous Yankees.

Ramiro Mendoza, the invaluable reliever/spot starter for the Yankees in the late 1990s gets his own chapter and he deserves it. It was great to read about Mendoza’s humility and down-to- earth nature, spending time with and signing autographs for the kids in Castillo’s Bronx neighborhood, taking the young bat boy fishing and on vacation to his modest home in Panama. One of the funniest stories in the book is about Mendoza tricking the young Castillo into eating an iguana. I kid you not, it’s in the book and it’s hilarious. It’s clear that Castillo has an undying affection for Mendoza, to whom he remains close.

Castillo doesn’t have nearly the same affection for Alex Rodriguez. Although he doesn’t directly say it, it’s clear from the book that ARod is probably Castillo’s least favorite player. The chapter about ARod is titled Look at Me, Will Ya? He doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know about ARod, but his many tales of ARod’s selfishness and high-maintenance ways are astounding just because of the sheer number. Castillo details the many reasons why ARod’s teammates didn’t like him and the third baseman’s strange habit of copying the behavior of his teammates, particularly Derek Jeter. Castillo derisively refers to ARod as “His Magnificence”.

Castillo managed to do something that I didn’t think was possible. He actually made me feel sorry for Jason Giambi. I was never much of a Giambi fan, initially because I resented that the Yankees pushed Tino Martinez (a personal favorite of mine) out to make room for him. Later in his Yankee career, the constant physical breakdowns and revelations of steroid use made me really anti-Giambi. But Castillo makes a compelling case that the higher ups in the Yankees hierarchy were unfair and downright cruel to Giambi.

Of course, Castillo has his own problems with the Yankees, namely their firing of him and their failure to give him a World Series ring. Just hearing his side of the story, I don’t think he has much of a leg to stand on about his curt dismissal. But I do feel bad for the kid not being rewarded with a ring for his many sacrifices and hard work for the club. His lingering bitterness, along with what I’m sure was a nice advance payment, was probably what compelled Castillo to write the book. Whatever his reasons, I’m glad he did. It’s a terrific read.

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