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Casilla's lessons to prospects go beyond game

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- Santiago Casilla's prolonged stay in his homeland in recent weeks offered him an opportunity to speak with young players at Oakland's Dominican Republic academy.

"I was just showing them what the A's organization is like, what they were going to expect when they got here and what they needed to do to prepare themselves for the season," Casilla said through interpreter Juan Dorado shortly after arriving in A's camp on Sunday after waiting out visa delays.

MESA, Ariz. -- Santiago Casilla's prolonged stay in his homeland in recent weeks offered him an opportunity to speak with young players at Oakland's Dominican Republic academy.

"I was just showing them what the A's organization is like, what they were going to expect when they got here and what they needed to do to prepare themselves for the season," Casilla said through interpreter Juan Dorado shortly after arriving in A's camp on Sunday after waiting out visa delays.

But Casilla's words spilled into life advice, as well, in light of recent fatal car accidents in his country. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, just 25, was killed on Jan. 22. Former Major League infielder Andy Marte was in a separate crash in the D.R. on the same day.

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There was no sign of alcohol at the scene of Ventura's accident; officials are still waiting for a toxicology report that won't be made public.

Regardless, the Dominican Republic remains one of the most dangerous places to drive, and Casilla and neighbor Pedro Strop, who pitches for the Cubs, want to instill the importance of making good decisions in these young players.

"I know what it's like to have money and be rich and famous," Casilla said. "But I wanted to talk to them about that time in their lives, talking to them about driving and being more responsible when they're behind the wheel and also potentially under the influence. I just wanted to reiterate that you're not invincible."

Strop was involved in a car accident in the D.R. in November 2014 but walked away needing only a few stitches in his left arm. At the time it was the third crash in a one-month stretch involving a baseball player in the country, including the one that killed Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras.

"I was really lucky," Strop said. "This guy, he rammed the back of my car, and he was really drunk. ... If he would have hit me in the middle [of the car], he would have killed me."

Casilla wants to make sure younger players are "aware of what they're doing and how they're going about their day to day."

"He's at the point in his career, and with the success that he's had, where when he talks, people listen," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's one thing to hear that from a coach, it's another thing to hear it from a current player who's got multiple World Series rings. Those kind of guys are invaluable to your younger players, especially over there, and sometimes guys are reluctant to do that, but he's embraced where he is and understands the effect that he can have on those kids."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Santiago Casilla