Amid the greatest season of his 16-year career, Colorado Rockies all-timer Vinny Castilla was selected as a reserve for the 1998 All-Star Game at Coors Field. Although Castilla went 0-for-2 at the plate—and finished third in the Home Run Derby—that All-Star Week in Denver remains among the highest points of his professional life.
Now 54 and a special assistant with the Rockies, Castilla is looking forward to this year’s celebration, partly because he’ll be a manager in the All-Star Futures Game—which will feature the best minor league prospects—and because he’ll get a chance to relive some of the moments that made his ’98 All-Star experience so memorable. “I remember it all so well,” he says. “Being an All-Star is great, but being an All-Star in your home city? That’s hard to top.”
Castilla spoke to 5280 in advance of this year’s All-Star Game. He recalled his favorite moments from that week in 1998, talked about this year’s Home Run Derby, and said it really doesn’t matter that he took an 0-fer at the plate in his home stadium 23 years ago.
5280: What’s the one memory you relive again and again from that All-Star experience in Denver?
Vinny Castilla: That ovation the fans gave me when I went out and competed in the Home Run Derby. I will never forget that. The cheering. I still get goosebumps when I think about going onto the field and hearing that. That, honestly, was one of my greatest memories as a major league ballplayer. That ovation. That meant so much to me, and I’m still very grateful I got to experience it.
You didn’t get nervous?
No way. I fed off that energy. It makes you want to be your best.
You made it to the second round of the Home Run Derby in 1998. Then, in the All-Star Game, you went 0-for-2. Does that haunt you?
I wanted to do great, and I enjoyed every second of that game. It doesn’t matter that I went 0-for-2 because I got the rest of the experiences. You gather with all those stars in the clubhouse. That was fun. I got to do the derby. Then there was the actual game. Of course, I wanted to do my best, but the performance doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, I was an All-Star. That’s on my resume. You ask any ballplayer, and they’ll tell you they want to be in that game. They want that experience and that memory. I got to do that twice in my career.
Which All-Star appearance was more special? Your first one, in 1995, or the one at Coors Field?
The first was nice, and I started that game. So that will always be special. But the second one in Denver was more meaningful. That was my home, that was my team, those were my fans.
You have some past All-Stars on the current Rockies roster. Have you shared with them any experiences from your game here?
Trevor [Story] just asked me the other day about the Home Run Derby because he announced he’s going to participate. He wanted to know if I had any tips. The derby now is different that it was when I did it, so I couldn’t offer much. Back when I did it, you had a chance to take your time. Now you have to keep swinging.
Humidor or no humidor for the Home Run Derby?
No humidor, man. I want to see someone hit it over the lights.
What are you looking forward to from this year’s events?
I’m managing the National League team for the Futures Game. I’m looking forward to doing that and seeing those future stars. It’s a real honor for me and my family that I get to be a manager for that game. I’m expecting a lot of people here. People are hungry for the game, especially after what we went through last year. They want baseball. For us to get this game in Denver, right after the pandemic? We have to be grateful for that. We’re going to have those stars here, we’re gonna have a lot of fans.
Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Shohei Ohtani. The guy’s hitting 500-foot shots. I’m also excited about managing those future stars. I’m playing in the celebrity softball game, too.
Think you can hit one out?
Oh, you know, I’m going to swing hard.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and length.