2007-08 Honor Roll No. 1: Jason Castro

The story of the spring was baseball's playoff run deep into Omaha, and one man was as responsible as any for that surge. Meet catcher Jason Castro, who we announce today as our first of ten Honor Roll winners in the 2007-08 class.

In the latest issue of The Bootleg Magazine, we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2007/2008 school-year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational.  While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents.  Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

During the months of June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one.  Our first announced member of the The Bootleg's 2007-08 Honor Roll is baseball catcher Jason Castro.

Jason Castro: 2007-08 Honor Roll Winner

Jason Castro, sorry for the oversight. On our original list of 30 Honor Roll finalists, we had five basketball players, two footballers, two futbolers and enough runners to start an Olympic delegation for a small island nation. We even had two of your teammates, pitcher Erik Davis and DH Randy Molina. But you, unique among our ten Honor Roll winners, were nowhere to be found.

But then came a Reggie Jacksonesque push down the stretch and playoff runs. Castro's stats speak for themselves: a .379 batting average, a team-best by .025, a .613 slugging percentage, a .429 on-base percentage, and a near-perfect .996 fielding percentage. However, what's most impressive is how Castro steadily raised his performance as the opponents grew more formidable and the stakes ever higher.

Jason raised his batting average to .381 in the Pac-10 season, helping Stanford, picked seventh preseason, finish second to Arizona State. Then came the playoffs. In 11 games, Castro hit .413, slugged .717, batted in 17 and reached base 48.1 percent of the time, all team bests, many laughably so. Offensively, Castro was in a pack with teammates like Brent Milleville, Sean Ratliff, Cord Phelps and Randy Molina through the first two-thirds of the season, but simply powered past his teammates – and plenty of opposing pitchers – with his astronomical numbers when they mattered most.

As the catcher, Castro was also the de facto captain of the team, and his relationship with and understanding of Stanford's pitchers is reflected in the staff's 3.95 ERA and 8-3 mark in the NCAA Tournament. Consider that Drew Storen and Danny Sandbrink, two freshmen, went a combined 4-0 in the playoffs. Certainly Storen and Sandbrink deserve the lion's share of the credit, but freshmen simply don't perform like that in the College World Series without a manager and a catcher masterfully pulling the strings. Castro's defense is also underrated, as opponents successfully stole just 58-of-92 bases on the season, a testament to his awareness and his arm.

The Houston Astros evaluated Castro as the full five-tool player, and then selected the junior with the No. 10 overall pick in the MLB Draft a month ago. Also rewarding Castro for a superlative season were the Pac-10, which named him to their All-Conference team, and Rivals.com, which dubbed him a Second-Team All-American.

Right now, Jason Castro is already a household name – as a dreadlocked guitarist from American Idol. But if his years at Stanford are any indication, don't count against the other Jason Castro to make a name for himself in the major leagues, especially when the pressure's the highest.

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