In most games this season, Rochester Honkers manager Paul Weidner has turned to first baseman Cam Thompson and third baseman Marco Castillo for steady production. The two have reached base in more than 43 percent of their plate appearances and are a constant threat, kickstarting rallies and blowing games wide open with a stream of hits and walks.
But after tonight, those impact bats will disappear.
Thompson and Castillo are departing Rochester after the game against St. Cloud. Their temporary contracts are expiring to make way for a group of top-flight players coming off the end of their college postseasons.
“I definitely came here to prove myself as a Division III player, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job,” said Castillo, who plays college ball at Claremont Mudd Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.
The loss of the two dynamic hitters is a major blow for the Honkers, who rely on explosive outbursts at the plate to win ball games.
Despite a poor team slash line (.232/.357/.315) and a league-worst 105 strikeouts, Rochester has found ways to manufacture runs by capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes. The club has reached base on a league-high 19 errors and walks more than six times per game. That has allowed the Honkers to score an average of 7.1 runs per game, good for sixth in the Northwoods League.
But Rochester’s shaky pitching staff — particularly the bullpen — has rendered much of this success in the box moot. And with Thompson and Castillo soon departing, so too will nearly 25 percent of the Honkers’ offensive production.
“They’ve brought a lot, and it’s unfortunate that they’re only here through (today) because both of them have proven very much so that they can play at this level,” Weidner said.
The squad will need to rely on a corps of depth to replace those two. Help is on the way with a crop of Division I players arriving during the Honkers’ upcoming four-day break from Thursday through Sunday.
By the time Rochester returns to action Monday against Mankato, Weidner said he hopes to have most of the outstanding players in town so he can get to work filling the holes.
And he said he’s confident that won’t be too difficult a task.
“We’ve been really fortunate that all of our full-time player contracts stayed healthy all spring and are geared up and ready to come here,” Weidner said.
Besides the newcomers, the most immediate replacements would be Eric Rataczak and Ivan Witt. Rataczak has tallied a hit in seven of nine games and leads the team with a .324 batting average, all from the bottom of the order. He could move higher in the lineup and provide a punch up top.
Witt, the young but talented catcher, has batted cleanup in most of the early games. He finally broke through a mediocre start with a towering grand slam in the third inning of Tuesday’s game and is tied for the team lead with 10 RBIs.
“We can’t try to do more than we’ve been doing,” Witt said. “We just have to keep trusting each other.”
But no matter the combination of replacements, losing Thompson and Castillo will be a significant blow to Weidner’s club.
While Thompson is headed to Purdue in the fall, neither player knows their next destination, but both Thompson and Castillo said they hope to find a place on another team this summer, whether or not it’s in the Northwoods League. But the two players hope to leave one last impact with Honkers.
“(I’m going to do the) same thing I’ve been doing, just hit the ball hard and just produce,” Thompson said.