Softball field becomes a refuge Summer Creek coach, daughter after death of grandparents
Summer Creek’s Dalisae Alanis walked to the dugout with her hands full on March 5.
The senior outfielder had blue and yellow ribbons in her hands before the Lady Bulldogs’ 10-0 victory against Humble.
The ribbons were worn to honor Summer Creek coach Gabe Castillo and his daughter Derika Castillo’s family members that passed away recently. Gabe’s father, Art Castillo died on Dec. 31 from stomach cancer, and his mother-in-law Rosalba Munoz passed away in mid-February at the age of 76 with bladder cancer.
It was a moment that the Castillos appreciated from their Lady Bulldog teammates.
“It meant a lot because those two grandparents were always there for me,” said an emotional Derika. “They always supported me, and they loved me as well. For one of my teammates to do that for me and my dad was special.”
Softball, a sanctuary
The death of family members has been rough, but the softball field is a place where Gabe and Derika have come together to honor their loved ones.
“It’s been a rough start to the new year,” Gabe said. “The softball field is me and Derika’s sanctuary where we can get away and be together. It’s been rough for all of us, but we’re getting through it as a family.”
Derika idealized her grandfather Art, who was inducted in the Rusk Athletics Hall of Fame for men’s fast pitch softball in 2004. The left-handed pitcher Art, played for the Baytown Hawks.
She wanted to be just like him in the circle — delivering heat to the opposing team.
“He loved me, and I looked up to him,” Derika said. “When I was younger, watching him play fast pitch softball, it made me want to play. So that’s when I decided I wanted to play for him. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
“My dad was her biggest fan,” Gabe said. “Derika and my dad had a special bond. She’s a mere image of him. It’s kind of scary at times, but she is a great pitcher and has a lot of versatility.”
Gabe also lost his mother Sylvia Castillo to breast cancer in 1988. Sylvia passed away at the age of 38.
Art, Sylvia and Munoz might not be in the stands, but there’s someone important in the stands to root on Gabe and Derika.
“My wife (Veronica Castillo) is the fanatic,” Gabe said. “She’s there to hold (Derika) accountable in the classroom and on the softball field. My wife and I know that if Derika keeps working hard it will all pay off down the road.”
Strong, bond, strong play
Fortunately for the Castillos, Summer Creek is having its best season yet.
The Lady Bulldogs are tied for the district lead with Dobie at 6-1 and also defeated the reigning Class 6A state champions Atascocita for the first time in school history this month.
Summer Creek is looking to make the playoffs for the first time in school history.
There isn’t a lot of arguing on the softball field when Gabe is giving instructions to Derika.
“We make sure we keep the separation between dad and coach on the field,” Gabe said. “We also have that bond where we talk about game plan and trying to make sure we’re on the same playing field. It’s basically like having a (graduate assistant) out there with me.”
Derika respects her father on the field and at home. She wants to soak up all the softball knowledge he has.
“When we’re on the field I think of him as my coach, not my dad,” Derika said. “I treat him like any other coach. The softball field is about the team and getting better each day.”
Continuing to develop
Derika has grown a lot since her freshman season last year when she won the Lady Bulldogs’ silver slugger award, and she hasn’t slowed down this season as a sophomore.
Gabe can see a lot of potential in his daughter and knows that she can be a special player.
Derika has the versatility to play catcher, pitcher, the outfield and infield.
It has caught the attention of several Division I coaches.
“She’s a power hitter and understands the game,” Gabe said. “She’s very versatile and can do a lot. It’s kind of a bad and good thing. Usually a girl can focus on one spot, but she can play so many positions. We’re looking for her to do more of a leadership role for the future when (senior Samantha Rodriguez) is gone. She has been doing a great job so far this year. Most coaches see her at the catcher position in the future.”