CINCINNATI -- In front of an intimate Monday night crowd of just over 14,600 fans at Great American Ball Park, former Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos returned to the city as a member of the Phillies.
Entering the game on defense in the first inning, the 30-year-old saluted the Reds faithful in the right-field seats with a tip of his cap. And in the third, he tallied an RBI single and scored a run, part of a 1-for-5 night that led to Cincinnati's 4-3 loss in the series opener.
"There's such a deep history of baseball here that when tapped into, is pretty powerful,” Castellanos said. “I really enjoyed my time being able to do that.”
It was the first time fans had the opportunity to embrace their former fan favorite since he signed with the Phillies over the offseason. And Castellanos was soaking it all in.
“The fact that I was able to connect with the city and the fanbase so quickly in just one real year, I think is pretty special," Castellanos said before the game. "I don’t know if that happens very often like that.
“Just coming back here and being able to go over where I stayed in Hyde Park and just be around that whole area … [there’s] just nothing but good feelings and memories."
In 2021 with the Reds, Castellanos slugged a career-high 34 home runs, drove in 100 RBIs and was selected to his first career All-Star Game. During the offseason, he opted out of his contract and reaped the rewards of his career year by signing a five-year, $100 million contract with the Phillies to keep him there through the 2026 season. He was awarded the 2021 Ernie Lombardi Trophy -- given each season to the team's Most Valuable Player -- by Reds manager David Bell in a pregame ceremony.
“I think all of his teammates enjoyed seeing him,” Bell said. “You get really close to guys and definitely with Nick. It was nice to see him.”
“I love Nick. He’s one of a kind,” Reds third baseman Kyle Farmer said. “He was a great part of this team for two years. We miss him a lot … I miss him a lot. No words can describe what type of person he is. He’s a great friend and a great teammate.”
Castellanos mentioned that going through his free agency process as well as the lockout this offseason has given him a greater understanding of the business side of the game.
“Not very [tough],” he said of his decision to move on from the organization. “Only because I didn't really have much to think about, right? I really wasn't presented with anything that showed me that they wanted me past what I was already here for.”
This season hasn't exactly gone his way, as the outfielder is slashing just .258/.304/.378 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs.
“Learning how to be good in the big leagues is one thing, but then learning how to play together and learning how to win is a completely other thing. That takes time, and unfortunately for certain organizations, that time window isn't as big as sometimes it needs to be. That’s not my decision to make.”
Having gone through a rebuild himself as a member of the Tigers, Castellanos said he’s still offered advice to some of his former teammates, including second baseman Jonathan India.
“My advice to him is like, just play every day and do the best you can to just stay above all the traps that are easy to fall into when you’re a part of a rebuilding organization. Like, that losing mentality … it’s real and it’s really contagious too as a competitor. Just do the best you can to bubble up, find a good routine and stuff that works for you and really just stick to it the best you can.”