Calgary Vipers Field Manager Mike Busch added two more stars from his 2006 team to the 2007 version of the Northern League club over the weekend.
Triple-A veteran Nelson Castro who hit six home runs and drove in 43 for Calgary last season is back to anchor an infield that already includes veteran Carlos Duncan and second year man Aaron McEachran. Castro previously played three full seasons at the triple-A level in the California Angels system. For the Vipers in 2006 the 30 year old Castro played 63 games at shortstop and also saw action at third and second.
Also rejoining the Vipers in 2007 is Northern League Rookie of the Year Manabu Kuramochi. Limited to only 67 games because of injuries the Japanese second baseman still hit .303 with 27 RBI , 29 stolen bases and 47 runs scored. Those numbers plus a mid-season All-Star Game appearance were enough to get Kuramochi chosen as the best first year player in the entire league.
“Nelson had an amazing second half”, said Vipers skipper Mike Busch. “He and Carlos Duncan provide incredible leadership just by example. And Mooch is our version of ‘Charlie Hustle’. He gets on base almost every second at bat.” Actually Kuramochi led the Vipers with a .423 on-base percentage. That was fourth overall in the entire Northern League.
The signing of Castro and Kuramochi brings to nine the number of players signed to 2007 Vipers contracts. Busch and Vipers President Peter Young will be attending the Northern League Free Agent camp in Tampa, Florida in late March. The Vipers will have first pick at the two day tryout. The team will also hold a local free agent camp on Saturday, May 5th at refurbished Foothills Stadium.
The Vipers open their training camp on Thursday, May 3. They will host their annual Free Agent Tryout Camp, Open House and Job Fair on Saturday, May 5. The team will then head out on the road for pre-season games in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Fargo and Schaumburg before opening the regular season in Joliet. The Vipers home opener is Friday, May 25 against the Joliet JackHammers.