HELENA — Leugim “LG” Castillo’s known professional baseball would be his future beginning at a young age.
It’s a conviction he’s carried throughout his life growing up in Lancaster, New York. Any thoughts otherwise were brief, even while he blossomed as a football player in high school.
Now, the Helena Brewers outfielder is in his second season of baseball. With his physical gifts, it’s easy to wonder just how long until the 18-year-old makes his ascent up the minors.
Castillo grew large at a young age, noting he weighed 210 pounds in high school, a muscle mix of power and speed from the jump. Though, when he tried football as an eighth grader, the game scared him.
The hits and nonstop violent nature of the game gave him room for pause, enough so he quit in eighth grade.
It was a decision his friends hounded him for.
“They made fun of me for quitting,” Castillo said. “I said, I’m not quitting this year (in high school), no way I’m going through that again.”
Castillo went on to a high school career that won’t be forgotten in Lancaster.
His high school football coach remembers him as a dominating wide receiver.
“If the defensive back played press coverage, LG beat him deep and the defensive back gave LG space, we threw him a quick ball and he usually broke a tackle and turned it into a long gain,” Lancaster football coach Eric Rupp said. “He left as our program's all time leading WR and was a first-team all-state player.”
His size and skill in football set him up for a potential two-sport scholarship at Oklahoma. The Sooners would welcome Castillo as both a baseball player and a football player.
Other schools around New York recruited Castillo, but being able to play both sports seemed most promising.
“He has everything you need — size, speed, confidence, and lots of talent,” Rupp said. “Additionally I believe the game of football taught him the value of hard work, preparation and how to overcome adversity.”
Football also taught him to protect his body.
Castillo had a lot of close calls his senior year. Each time an injury seemed close, Castillo thought about baseball. A child of a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother, he also listened to his parents advice.
“I thought can I really do this the rest of my life,” Castillo said. “My parents were like ‘it’s going to be baseball. My mom told me it was going to baseball.’”
He remained committed to Oklahoma up until the MLB Draft, though likely just pursuing baseball if he ended up in Norman. Once the Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 17th round of the 2017 draft, the kid who’d played baseball since time he could walk was committed to the diamond.
Castillo, now weighing 235, looks like an NFL player in the minor leagues. His range extends all over the outfield, and his home-to-first time is under four seconds. His staggering mix of size of power has his teammates believing it’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together.
“I think he’s got something special,” said fellow outfielder Je’Von Ward, who roomed with Castillo at spring training. “I feel like if he taps into it, it's going to be insane. He’s got crazy power, speed combo. You don’t see that with 18, 19-year-olds nowadays, at all.”
Castillo spent last season in Arizona, appearing in 12 games while hitting .178. The season frustrated Castillo, with each strikeout weighing slightly heavier than the last. The Arizona Leagues presented a unique atmosphere and Castillo admittedly did not adjust well in Year 1.
Gone were the fans and walk-up music. The fun, extracurriculars were absent.
“You come from high school ball and college ball with all these fans and people cheering you on and your schools,” Castillo said. “You get to Arizona and it’s like boot camp, almost.”
Helena, so far, as been the exact opposite.
“When you get here, it’s liberating,” Castillo said. “You get to see fans. You have Greg (Mroz) on the radio calls, your parents can hear back home so they know how you’re doing. You got music for walk up. It feels more like pro ball.”
With a professional feel, Castillo’s taking a professional approach to last season’s demons. Castillo knows he needs to keep his confidence high.
“So if you get down after two weeks of baseball, it’s going to be a long three months,” Castillo said. “I’m trying to keep my confidence up and keep growing.”
Castillo began the season on fire in Helena, recording at least one hit in his first five games, including two hits in three consecutive games. Then, his struggles caught up with him. He’s not letting it affect him this time around.
“Personally, I got off to a hot start, but I’m struggling a little bit,” Castillo said. “That’s baseball. Today I can come to the game and have a monster game. Tomorrow I can start struggling again. I have to stick with it. I have to stick to my same routine I do every day. I can't get too down in the dumps because if you do that this game will eat you up.”
Castillo is hitting .257 with four RBIs in Helena going into Wednesday's game.
Castillo grew up with Spanish as his first language. His parents, through electronic means, taught him English, hoping to teach their son the second language without passing along an accent.
As far as where his nickname LG came from, well, baseball of course.
“My baseball coach when I was like 7 maybe told him my name was Leugim, he said yeah, your name is going to LG,” Castillo said. “And it just kind of stuck.”
It’s fitting. LG’s stuck with him. He’s stuck with baseball.