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Opening Day Memories for a Puerto Rican South Bronx Yankee Bat Boy

SOUTH BRONX, NY– While I was in St. Petersburg, Florida traveling throughout the state  to interview many of the candidates for our prestigious 33rd annual LatinoMVP awards I had the opportunity to visit and stay with my good friend Ray Negrón. However, the first person I saw when I arrived at Ray’s home was, Luis Castillo (AKA Squeegee) a former New York Yankee bat boy that I had not seen in over a decade. It was a pleasure to see Squeegee who also was a Yankee stadium bat boy from 1998 to 2005. After settling down, which was quite difficult when you are staying in Ray Negrón’s house also occupied with another good friend, the unpredictable, Aristotle (Aris) Sakellaridis. Luis and I had a rare opportunity to be alone and catch up on our lives. When I asked him about the upcoming Yankee opening day his eyes lit up and he began reminiscing about his days as a bat boy.

I found his stories so interesting that I told him if he would mind if I interviewed him for our readers to also enjoy the stories. He obliged. The following is a bit of the story of a South Bronx kid that became the second Puerto Rican Yankee bat boy.


LS: Tell us about your experience becoming a bat boy for the New York Yankees:

LC: I was 15 years old when I first received the letter from New York Yankees. That occurred with the help of Tina Lewis who was a Bleacher Creature who helped me get the job as a bat boy.

I was 15 years old at that time I AM 40 years old today. I still love to do work in the community because of the mentors of like David Cohn, Derek Jeter. It was Derek Jeter that gave me the nickname, squeegee at the age of 15.

LS: Why that name?

LC: Back then you know, us as young Latinos we use to wear baggy clothes back in the 90s. And Derek used to wear nice slim clothes, well dressed, you know very fit. He say’s to me,  “man you look like one of those window cleaners from Manhattan, using squeegees.” From that day on, that became my official name. Joe Torre to George Steinbrenner to opposing players my name because of Mr. Derek Jeter has never been Luis anymore or Luigi, it was now Squeegee. Everybody calls me squeegee and I was very grateful for him for giving me that name because, hey he was the captain of the team and he’s a Hall of Famer and who better to have a mentor like that, Also, David Cone being another great mentor of mine giving me the opportunity into the Yankee lore of history.

Jeter & Squeegee fist bumping. (Photo credit: Luis Castillo)

LS: You mentioned David Cone how was that relationship like. A star pitcher and a Puerto Rican bat boy?

LC: I was great. I helped warm him up for the perfect game he had.

LS: How was that?

LC: That day there was a long rain delay and I warmed him during the rain delay because Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada were getting ready suiting up to start the game again. Since I was already in full uniform, he asked me to warm him up. We did some warming up in the vows in Yankee Stadium.  Unfortunately, back then the pipes were low, and David is throwing, and the ball kept hitting the roof, I had no catching gear, I’m in the catching position and he’s laughing at me because he’s thinking “this kid is kind of scared.”  It it was comical and then he says, “no we can’t keep warming up here it’s too low.”  So, we went on the field while Javier Vasquez of the Montreal Expos was warming up and we did some more catching and that’s the only warming up he did. After the rain delay, he goes on to pitch his perfect game and he considered me his good luck charm.

LS: So that was a great experience, but also helped you develop a good bond with David Cone?

LS: Yes.  Because of the grace and advise of people like Cone, like Darryl Strawberry and Jeter and others Yankee players that were like my mentors. Because of them I was able to write two books. I’m a published author. I was published Saint Martin’s press for my book, Clubhouse Confidential, a childhood story of different personalities of players and the interactions I had with them and the relationships that I still have to this day. Since then, I have written a children’s book. It’s called “The Lucky Baseball.”

(Photo credit: Luis Castillo)

LS: What’s that one about?

LC: l’m giving thanks to mentors like Ray Negrón, David Cone, Derek Jeter and Tina Lewis who helped me get the job. Also, to my mom who guided me the right way because you know coming from the South Bronx yourself, you know the environment we grew up in. Drug infested and violent areas was not easy. It was tough to get out and or it was easy to get captured into being a follower not a leader. So, with the great help of these mentors, I did. I must thank them and God for keeping me out of trouble and guided me the right way. I am the man that I am today with four children.

LS: You have four children?

LC: Yes, I’m blessed with four boys and beautiful wife Avy, just being a family man. It’s all excellent now.  This year’s opening day would be 25 years ago that I started as a bat boy.

LS: So, in April of this year, opening day has a special meaning to you because it reminds you of 25 years ago when started as a bad boy?

LC: February 2nd, 1998, I received the letter that excited my mother a to almost have a heart attack.  She opened the letter from the New York Yankees and that was the final one, they had written me two previous letters not promising me the job but that I had to keep good grades in school to be considered. I kept my grades up to 90s and 100’s and Sonny Hight and Tom May Baseball Operations and from the front office. The letter of stated, “well Luis as you know there’s only eight positions available every year, we came to the decision that we have one final spot and you are the final winner, welcome to the 1998 bad boy staff.”

After that I had to meet with Brian Cashman, Lou Cucuzza and Rob Cucuzza, and a couple of bat boys to do on field training of drills to see if I can throw.  They fell in love with my arm, and they hired me on the spot.  The first thing they said, was, “Well you have to cut that hair and take off that little mustache dirt that you got on your lip”. They welcomed me into the staff and Brian Cashman was present that day when I was filling out my paperwork.

David Cone personalizes photo for batboys. (Photo credit Luis Castillo)

LS: Excellent, that’s a very good story I congratulate you for it’s not everybody that gets that opportunity. You were the second Puerto Rican who got that job. The first one was Ray Negrón. He got his back in 73 you came in 98.

LC: Ray came in that first dynasty. I came in the second dynasty.

LS: One last question. What was it like to put on that Yankee uniform on that first day of your new job?

LC: I was in heaven. I had to pinch myself after that day was over. it was a five-and-a-half-hour game. That first day was against the Oakland A’s.  We won 17 to 13 and my first day on the job I made a play down the right field line that made ESPN top ten plays.

LS: You serious? How was that? I had a glove that was from Modell’s, and it was torn in the middle. It was a cheap glove and Chuck Knoblauch and Jeff Nelson came to me after the game and said, “man you are making plays down the line like that you need a professional glove.” And Chuck Knoblauch gave me his glove. It was like welcoming me into a fraternity, the family.

LS: What was the play you did?

Squeegee focused on the field. (Photo credit: Luis Castillo)

LC:  My first job was to be the ball boy by the right field line.

I was sitting on stool and dove off the stool to catch a ball. Then I was warming up Paul O’Neill in between innings. That first day I see Derek Jeter, David Cohen, David Wells, Andy Pettite the great Mariano Rivera, players I would only see on baseball cards just to mention a few.

I was watching them, and it was like being a little kid, they were being like little kids, but they were grown men and welcoming and welcoming an urban kid like me. That first day I was nervous, but after the game I felt like I was welcomed into a family. I felt like I was adopted. Especially when players like Chuck Knoblauch and Jeff Nelson and Jeff Nelson came up to my locker and they congratulated me on the catch I made. I didn’t know these guys the first day on the job and that catch was like making a statement.

You know Michael K still had it on Yankee classics. I thought he didn’t know my name and he said “Great play by the ball boy down the line.” Then in the clubhouse the players were in the players’ lounge and the catch was being shown as a top ten on ESPN play list.  The players would look at that catch and look this this kid, me and that’s Derek Jeter’s nickname for me, Squeegee stuck. After that Michael Kay and Bobby Murcer when they were in the broadcast booth would say, “Great play by squeegee, or “Squeegees down the line.” and you know I’m very grateful to the Bleacher creatures because without them and the lady, Tina Lewis this dream would not be possible.

LS: Congratulations remembering that on this coming opening day you will remember that twenty-five years ago you started your job as the second, Latino bat boy in Yankee history and that changed your life forever.

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  1. Mildred Martinez

    March 31, 2023 at 5:30 pm, would like to say; This is a fantastic story of motivation, that needs to be funneled down to our Puerto Rican kids, and Latinos kids of all cultures, to up lift their spirits, and horizons that it is possible to reach the stars, as an upcoming famous sports athlete. “Yes it is possible / Si se puede“

    The youths of today that are participating in different sports, thinking with low expectations that they will not go anywhere then their local communities field’s, to ever see as far as fame of their sports because you do-not hear anything about scouters coming into any community which motivated the kids to do their best like they once used to do. We must keep up with the legacy of Latinos doing great in sports and this is a great story to be added on to the list 🙏🏼

    • Julio Pabón

      April 1, 2023 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you so much for your comments. Feedback like your’s is what motivates us to continue doing what we are doing.

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