Castilla helps lead charge to rep Rockies in Mexico City

April 27th, 2024

MEXICO CITY -- The Rockies are the designated home team for the Mexico City Series games against the Astros on Saturday and Sunday.

But as expected, Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú was overwhelmingly Astros blue.

Well, Charlie Blackmon and the injured Kris Bryant showed up on the back of a couple green City Connect jerseys spotted at the ballpark, and one fellow strolling the concourse reached deep for a purple Pat Valaika (a utility player from 2016-19).

But that was all right. That was OK.

The Rockies had an ambassador on their side. Make that THE ambassador -- Ken Salazar, who serves as the United States Ambassador to Mexico.

Salazar, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado who has held a host of positions such as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Obama, hosted an event at his residence on Friday night. Salazar invited top-level executives from both teams.

But let’s say the event was partisan -- for a team Salazar has followed closely and enthusiastically throughout the team’s life.

Two of the invitees turned out to be among the most successful Rockies and current team ambassadors -- former third baseman Vinny Castilla and former pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, both proud natives of Mexico. But they weren’t even the most vociferous Rockies supporters.

“He started a ‘Let’s go, Rockies,’” Castilla said, mimicking the sing-song of the chant, which left those representing Houston and the Astros good-naturedly puzzled. “It was a good night. I got to meet Ken Salazar and talk baseball with him. He loves the Rockies.”

Castilla said, “I just met him last night, and he was so excited. He was there wearing his Rockies jersey, screaming, ‘Go Rockies all the time.’”

But by Saturday, Rockies players didn’t expect many Ken Salazars in the ballpark. Maybe a few would remember their countrymen, Castilla and De La Rosa, who show up on many all-time lists.

They did have a couple of former Rockies who now are members of the MLB Commissioner’s Ambassador Program -- former center fielder Dexter Fowler and former pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.

Fowler now broadcasts a limited number of games for the Cubs and Guthrie does the same for the Royals.

“I would think the crowd would be pretty split -- we’ve got Vinny Castilla on our side, and maybe that will persuade a few people,” Colorado third baseman Ryan McMahon said.

Well, not exactly.

The home-away-from-home games begin a trip that sees the Rockies travel some 5,400 air miles -- with Miami and Pittsburgh on the itinerary.

McMahon, who noted that the Rockies also crossed the border to play the Blue Jays earlier this month, was not one to complain about travel.

“It’s cool, man, especially with me being from California,” McMahon said. “Even going to Miami, you get a taste of a little more of the Latin culture. It’s really cool. I’m trying to soak it in. We went to a museum yesterday.

“I’m trying to enjoy it all.”