Vinny Castilla to manage Mexican national team

Updated: February 28, 2007, 6:49 PM ET
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Vinny Castilla will get his first taste of managing this summer when he leads the Mexican national team at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"That's very exciting, man," said the retired slugger who wants to one day manage in the major leagues.

Castilla is Mexico's career home-run leader in the majors, with 320 homers in 16 seasons with Atlanta, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Houston, Washington and San Diego.

The Rockies claimed him off waivers last season so he could retire in a Rockies uniform. The third baseman had his best years with Colorado, stringing four consecutive seasons (1996-99) with more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Now, he's serving as a special assistant to Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd, who gave Roberto Mansur, president of the Mexico City Reds and a member of the country's national selection committee, permission on Wednesday to borrow Castilla's services for the tournament, to be played from July 11-19.

Castilla has been serving as a coach at the Rockies' spring training, working mostly with infielders.

"This is the next chapter of his life," O'Dowd said. "And managing this year for the Mexican national team at the Pan Am Games will be another great experience for him. And it's good for us, too, to expose him to that and for him to see players from around the world a little bit. He'll do some scouting for us and I think that only benefit us."

Among Castilla's evolving duties with the Rockies is serving as the club's first ambassador to Mexico.

"I told Vinny we'd like to set a goal for him to add one player per year from his country that has a chance to impact our organization whether that's at the rookie level or the major league level," O'Dowd said.

So far, so good.

Castilla convinced the Rockies to give Mexican League star left-hander Oscar Rivera a shot at winning a roster spot this spring and he's been impressive during workouts the last two weeks.

Castilla always wanted to play until he was 40, but bad knees forced him to retire last October one year shy of that goal.

"If I live a normal life, like a coach's life, it doesn't hurt," he said. "If I start running, they start barking."

Castilla has no regrets about retirement.

"I'm very happy what I did in my career and I'm very happy what I'm doing now," he said.

He wants to eventually manage in the majors.

"I'm closing one chapter and opening another one. I'm very excited to work with the young kids at the big league level and the minor league level," he said. "Baseball is my life and I hope to be around it for the rest of my life."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press