Rockies fans say goodbye to Castilla in home finale

Updated: September 24, 2006, 10:17 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies designated Sunday as Vinny Castilla Day and all he wanted to do was thank the fans.

Castilla went 0-for-4 in Colorado's 9-8 win over the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field, tipping his hat and acknowledging the fans whenever he could. The 39-year-old infielder is retiring at the end of the season.

Vinny Castilla
AP Photo/Jack DempseyVinny Castilla will retire among the Colorado franchise leaders in hits, home runs and RBI.

"Today was a day to thank the fans," Castilla said. "We developed a good relationship, me and the people of Colorado."

Castilla, who is the career leader among Mexican-born players in home runs (320), RBI (1,104), doubles (339) and hits (1,882), was greeted by dancers and serenaded by a Mariachi band when he came on the field before the game.

"The time went by fast," said Castilla, who tipped his cap on every plate appearance. "I got emotional out there and was very nervous."

Castilla is in his 16th season in the big leagues, including all or parts of nine seasons with the Rockies. He is currently third on Colorado's career list in home runs (239) and fourth in RBI (744) and hits (1,204).

"It didn't matter if he was speeding past motorists on Santa Fe Boulevard with his bright yellow Lamborghini or hitting a long home run here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Vinny Castilla is one of the faces of the Colorado Rockies franchise."

He hit 32 homers for the Rockies in 1995 when they made their only postseason appearance.

"That was the year we came together as a team and were accepted by the community," Castilla said. "We caught the imagination of the city."

Castilla could work for the team in the front office after he retires.

"Vinny's presence in Mexico would be big and we want to do a better job than we're doing there," general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "There's a lot of different opportunities that could be created within the organization forward as we and him move forward."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press