Daniel Castano (’17) has only bits and pieces of memories from that awful afternoon in July 2022.
Thankfully, the former Baylor left-hander has virtually no recall of the horrifying image that flashed around the world in an instant: a baseball struck at 104-mph slamming off the bill of his cap and into his forehead.
He was knocked to the ground that day in Cincinnati, got back to his knees, and remained there as medical personnel rushed to his side.
“What happened?” he asked his teammate, Miami Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings. That’s also what his wife Brooke was asking herself back at their home in South Florida. They’d met during their days at Baylor and married in 2018. Later, Brooke (’17) would joke that if she’d been at the game, there would have been a pregnant woman with a one-year-old son sprinting onto the field to be with her husband.
“She was the first person I called when I got back inside,” Castano said. “She says it’s a good thing she wasn’t there because her running on the field would have made more headlines than me getting hit.”
Funny how certain threads of memory have come back to him.
“I do remember that when they said they were going to call for a cart to take me off field, I tried to get up,” he said. “I’m thinking there’s no way I’m getting on one of those.”
He did get back on his feet and did not need a cart to get off the field. In the blurry days that followed, Daniel and Brooke were overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern ranging from their Baylor family to strangers from here, there, and everywhere letting them know they were praying for Daniel’s recovery.
“More people have reached out than I could have imagined,” Castano said. “That has been remarkable, and I’m so thankful for the kindness people have shown us.”
His recovery was steady but slow. He is back on the mound and at the plate, playing for the Triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, but returning to the major leagues is far down the road.
“I’m doing well,” he said. “Still getting headaches, a little bit of concussion stuff. But I’m definitely making progress. Being able to throw off a mound was great. It’s getting better: It’s just slow.
“I’m progressing. But there are some weird symptoms that have been kind of eerie, like a little eye twitch. But the CT scan came back clean, and I’m thankful for that.”
Castano is a graduate of Lake Travis High School in Austin and has a marketing degree from Baylor. Although Daniel and Brooke have a home near the Marlins’ spring training facilities in Jupiter, Florida, he says: “I’m a Texan through and through. That’s where we’ll return someday.”
His decision to attend Baylor turned out better than he ever could have hoped. He had feelers from almost every Big 12 school, but Baylor recruited him aggressively and with just the right touch.
“I liked the Christian aspect to Baylor,” Castano said. “The unique thing about Baylor is that it’s such a close-knit community. It has a small feel. My wife always talks about how she loves how the professors knew all of their students and cultivated relationships. All the guys I met at Baylor, we were in each other’s weddings, and I’m still pretty close with a lot of them.”
Although football concussions get much more attention than similar injuries in baseball, Major League Baseball has become more and more mindful of the dangers.
“The unique thing about Baylor is that it’s such a close-knit community. It has a small feel. My wife always talks about how she loves how the professors knew all of their students and cultivated relationships.”
“There’s so much that’s unknown with brain stuff,” Castano said. “You know, the athlete in me wants a plan, like if it was a shoulder or a knee. You want to get in there and get stronger. It doesn’t work that way with the brain. You can make it worse by pushing too hard. You can’t make it heal faster, but you can definitely make it worse.”
Last season, an array of players, including Max Fried of the Braves, Jurickson Profar of the Padres, Tyler Stephenson of the Reds, and Garrett Cooper also of the Marlins, were in MLB’s concussion protocol.
Cubs outfielder Clint Frazier suffered one concussion while with the Yankees in 2018 and recently revealed he kept a second one, sustained in 2020, a secret.
“They weren’t really made aware until I pulled myself from that game in 2021,” Frazier said. “I had a pretty bad concussion that definitely didn’t just affect my baseball life but affected my personal life.”
Fried was injured when a throw from Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson bounced and hit him in the chest. He slipped and fell on his pitching shoulder.
He remained in the game and pitched six innings. Almost immediately afterwards, he began having headaches that lingered.
“I would say it’s unknown territory, right?” Fried said. “I don’t have anything from prior experience. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.” Profar was carried off the field and briefly hospitalized after a July collision with teammate C.J. Abrams.
“It was scary,” he told reporters. “I’m very thankful to the fans, the Padres fans, and the baseball fans—all their messages and prayers. I’m very thankful for all of them.”
As for Castano, he has developed a certain attitude about the various challenges. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the 19th round of the 2016 draft, traded to the Marlins in 2018, and made his major league debut for them in 2020.
He has refined his pitcher repertoire, added a cutter, and coped with being on a nearly constant shuttle between the minors and the majors. Still, he’s thankful.
At Baylor, one of his teammates was Josh Pettitte, whose father, Andy, pitched 18 seasons for the Yankees and Astros and was part of five championship teams, all with New York.
“Josh’s dad gave me his number,” Castano said, “and we’ll talk, especially if I’m struggling with something. He’s able to pull up the film and give me his thoughts. He’s helped me with the cutter and the slider, finding a grip I’m comfortable with, that sort of thing.
“I’m really just thankful for the opportunity. I’m thankful for every day I’m in the big leagues. I embrace all of it and try to get better. I’ve got to earn my position. I’m having fun doing that.”