Kaylyn Castillo went from walk-on to All-American as a catcher at Arizona State – now she has defied the odds again becoming a professional.
The 5-foot-2 Castillo signed a contract with the Akron Racers of National Professional Fastpitch, the four-team softball league entering its ninth season in June.
Since graduating from ASU with a business marketing degree, the 22-year-old Castillo, who described herself as focused and goal-oriented, now works as a graduate assistant coach for the Sun Devils.
“I’m a very competitive person,” Castillo said. “How could you not love softball? I love hitting, I love fielding, I love telling people what to do. The real world is scary out there, out on the softball field it’s fun.”
She picked the Racers’ Joey Arrietta over the other general managers with whom she spoke.
Besides Akron, Ohio, NPF has teams in Chicago, Charlotte and Kissimmee, Fla., and although it doesn’t have the coverage of a league such as the WNBA, NPF boasts stars such as Jessica Mendoza, Cat Osterman and Natasha Watley. Castillo said there is a salary cap of $150,000 per team to divide between 20 players.
“Just having the personality and the types of things that draw people to watch the game,” Castillo said of how to popularize the league. “We’re pretty fiery, we have a lot of talent out on the softball field. It is a game similar to baseball, so why wouldn’t people like it in America? I think it’s growing every year. I get people around the nation now who recognize me, and it’s kind of weird, but just talking to them and making sure they know about things. I have a lot to say, so if anyone wants to talk about it, I’m willing.”
Castillo said she will be accomodated in a temporary townhouse in Akron during the season, which runs three months through August, and all she needs is a bag of clothes because she will return to Phoenix to live once the season ends.
“Hopefully, as it gets more popular, we can extend the season,” she said. “With only four teams, there is only so many times you can play each other.”
The fact there are only four teams makes the accomplishment all the more respectable, compared to the 30 teams in Major League Baseball.
After playing third base at Louisville, Castillo switched to catcher once she transferred to Arizona State since Krista Donnenwirth was already at third. While Donnenwirth and the rest of the senior class won the national title as freshmen in 2008, Castillo celebrated in Oklahoma City for the first time last June with the victory over Florida.
“After we won, it was great, everyone was watching and knows you’re a national champion, so when you talk to people, that’s all they want to talk about, but after that, it’s like what’s next,” Castillo said. “I didn’t want to stop, I needed to do something to get this feeling back.”
Arizona State softball coach Clint Myers, the two-time national champion, praised Castillo, as well.
“We are thrilled for Kaylyn Castillo to have signed a pro contract to play with the Racers this coming season,” Myers said. “She was a spark for the Devils in both her attitude and ability, and she will contribute in a BIG way to the Racers.”
Castillo, originally from Norco, Calif., also owns an international business certificate and after studying abroad in Italy, she wants to do more exposing to other cultures or anything where she can enhance her people skills. She would also consider interning at a local business in between the softball seasons.
The Sun Devils began the season ranked as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation and the favorite to repeat as national champions. Castillo is mentoring Amber Freeman, Nikole Afusia and Lucy Aubrecht, who are all competing with each other for the starting catcher role.
“They are learning every day,” Castillo said. “They have so much talent, the skys the limit, just as long as they don’t doubt themselves. Last year, we had trust in each other, and if they develop that trust over the season, they’ll be fine.”
They are definitely being taught from someone who never doubted herself.