Best Pro Athlete

Luis Castillo

They say hitting a Major League pitcher is the most difficult feat in sports. We sometimes wonder about that -- tackling, say, Earl Campbell head-on in his prime sounds pretty hard, too. But still, hitting breaking stuff from the Big Unit or El Duque must be damnably difficult, despite how easy Castillo makes it look. And he does it in so many ways: drag bunt singles, slap shots to no man's land, twisting line drives that tax the outfielders' knowledge of physics, and even the occasional home run. (OK, he had two last year anyway.) But as well as Luis puts the bat on the ball (.344 last year), hitting is only part of the remarkable package. What makes Castillo truly special are his speed (he had a Major League-leading 62 steals last year) and his play at second base. He credits his fielding ability in part to growing up poor in the Dominican Republic, where he fashioned gloves out of whatever he could find. (Legend has it he was partial to milk cartons.) All the hard work has paid off in incredible snags of hard-hit ground balls often followed by wheeling, acrobatic throws to first that belong in the ESPN highlight canon. Long live Luis.
 
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