Former Knights Hurler Passes Away…

Sad news to report today as former Knights pitcher Frank Castillo has passed away.

Castillo, Frank copy

A native of El Paso, Texas, Castillo spent the 1989 and 1990 seasons with the Charlotte Knights – both in Fort Mill. At that time, the Knights were the Double-A Southern League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

Reports out of Arizona say the former Charlotte hurler’s body was found in a lake on Monday after he dove in off of a pontoon boat and drowned. He was just 44 years old.

Chicago Tribune

In 1989, the Knights played in a temporary facility located next to the future home of the team (Knights Stadium). That year, Castillo worked his way up from Single-A Winston-Salem where he went 9-6 with a 2.51 ERA over 18 starts with the team. He had eight complete games for the Spirits and earned his promotion to the Knights.

Later in 1989, Castillo made his Knights debut and went on to start 10 games for the Double-A squad. He posted a 3-4 mark with a 3.84 ERA. He also had four complete games.

In 1990, the Knights opened Knights Castle and Castillo made 18 starts for the club – going 6-6 with a 3.88 ERA. He struck-out a team-high 112 batters over 111.1 innings pitched. He added four complete games and a shutout. Charlotte went 65-79 during its first season at what is now known as Knights Stadium.

Castillo was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round of the 1987 draft and continued to make his way through the organization over the years. He made four starts for Triple-A Iowa in 1991 and went 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA. He tossed a complete game shutout and earned his shot at the Majors.

On June 27, 1991, Castillo made his Major League debut at the age of 22. Castillo was brilliant on the mound that day. He threw eight innings of two-run ball and left with a nice 3-0 lead. His 1990 Knights teammate Rick Wilkins homered in the second inning of that game off of Pittsburgh’s Doug Drabek to give him some offense. Castillo, however, was unable to earn his first Major League win as the Pirates rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning en route to the 4-3 win.

Castillo went on to spend parts of 13 seasons in the Majors with the Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins from 1991-2005. He won at least 10 games in a season five times. His best Major League season came in 1995 when he went 11-10 with a 3.21 ERA. He finished eighth in the league in ERA and third in shutouts (2) that year.

In all, Castillo won 84 games in the Minors and 82 games in the Majors. He had 25 Minor League complete games, along with 10 Major League complete games.

On a personal note: I’m very saddened by this news today. With this being the 24th and final season at Knights Stadium, I have spent a lot of time researching players past and present from 1990 through this season. During the offseason, I put together a list of candidates for the “All Knights Stadium Team”. Fans voted, and we honored the players in an on-field ceremony on Opening Day, and other days throughout the year.

Over the course of this final season, I’ve talked to current and former players, along with long-time season ticket holders, and former staff members. There have been countless great memories of Knights Stadium over the years. And, while I continue my look back, I’m sad at the news of Frank’s passing.

While I never got to know Frank, he was a member of the Charlotte Knights family. 794 different players (as of July 29) have donned a Knights jersey since 1990. My prayers go out to his family and friends. Thanks for your time with the Knights. Thanks for the memories.

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