From Colombia to the United States and from baseball to music, NSU student Jair Morelos Castilla has led a life of talents and travel following his dreams.
Born and raised in the coastal city of Cartagena, Colombia, he started his journey at the age of four to become a professional baseball player. When Morelos Castilla decided at ten years old that he wanted to play in the pros, he said training began non-stop.
“[I said], ‘Let’s start to practice like a professional.’ That was day and night, day and night of just baseball… [and] always working for my dream,” he said.
He received his first taste as a professional athlete when he signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010 at 16 years old; he was assigned to the foreign rookie Venezuelan Summer League with the VSL Phillies.
Many professional players like Morelos Castilla start in the minor leagues as a stepping stone to Major League Baseball. Major league teams sign players to their affiliates to foster and improve their skills.
When he found out that he signed to a minor league team, Morelos Castilla said his father, a baseball coach and former player, was ecstatic.
“Oh, [he] was like crazy. My mom was a little worried [though],” he said. “My dad said… just go ahead and have fun and play baseball. Do what you know how to do.”
After playing two seasons and winning the VSL Championship in 2012, Morelos Castilla moved to Florida to play as a rookie in the Gulf Coast League for the GCL Phillies and then with the Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League, a Class A Advanced team.
His minor league baseball career came to a close in 2014 after he was released by the Williamsport Crosscutters. After four years, Morelos Castilla played a total of 157 games.
“It was I think the greatest time of my life – those four years that I played for them.”
Though his minor league career came to a halt, Morelos Castilla said his dream of playing professionally isn’t over.
“I just reached a little part of my dream… but the real dream is to play at the big leagues, so that’s why I want to come back,” he said.
He explained that professional baseball does not just teach technical skills; it also teaches practical lessons such as managing money and how to live alone at a young age.
“It [taught me]… how to be a man even when you’re a kid [and] how to [learn] other cultures and another language,” Morelos Castilla said.
“Baseball is kind of similar to life: You have to adjust. If you’re not hitting, you have to go to the cage, and then you can reach that level. It’s the same in life. If you’re missing something, you have to work for that and make that adjustment.”
For now, he finds himself in practice rooms and concert halls pursing his other passion: music. A senior music business and physical education double major, Morelos Castilla explained why he chose to chase his other dream after his professional baseball career ended.
“I think it’s good to follow your dreams, but baseball also closed all the doors in my life,” he said. “I just didn’t have time to practice music [then]. That’s why I decided to come back to college and [am] now spending time in music.”
He said he owes part of his success at NSU to Associate Professor of Music Kenneth Green for helping him, calling Green “a person who understands each of his students.”
“I am so grateful I got to play pro baseball so young, and now I’m ready for life no matter what happens,” he said.
Morelos Castilla will join the Colombian National Team for the 18th Bolivarian Games Nov. 11-25 in Santa Maria, Colombia.