People have butchered the pronunciation of Marysol Castro’s name all her life. They’ve called the Westport resident “Mary-Soul” and “Marie-soul,” Americanizing each syllable, taking the music out of the name. While she was in college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, one professor, with name-mangling ability normally only found among Starbucks baristas, called her Marty Phil Castro.
That’s why, as public address announcer for the New York Mets at Citi Field, Marysol — that’s Mah-di-sol — Castro works so hard to pronounce each player’s name the right way.
“I’ve corrected people my entire life in pronouncing my name,” she says between sips of coffee at Terrain Cafe in Westport on a recent afternoon. “I feel like I owe not just the players, but even someone who is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. … Whether the name is Latino, whether it’s European, I want to get the name right. When I don’t, it bothers me and I try to fix it immediately.”
Castro is the first female public address announcer in Mets history and the first Latina PA announcer in Major League Baseball. The mother of two is the host of the food-focused CTBites podcast Hot Dish! She is also a seasoned broadcaster who has worked in local TV news, as a reporter on ESPN and as the national weather anchor on ABC’s Good Morning America and The Early Show on CBS. Castro will again host the Greater Hartford Puerto Rican Parade & Festival del Coquí on June 2 for TV station WTNH.
Joe DeVito, executive producer of entertainment marketing and production for the Mets, says Castro has announced Hispanic players’ names correctly, sometimes for the first time in their careers. (Nearly one out of every three MLB batters who come to the plate are Latino.) “For many, many years, public address announcers and broadcasters have been using an Americanized version of these players’ names. For them to be able to hear their names being pronounced in the native way, the way it’s meant to be pronounced, I think is really special for them.”
Castro began her tenure with the Mets last May. She was hired by the team at the same time as Colin Cosell, a Stamford native and grandson of legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell. The two split PA duties for Mets home games.
The story of how Castro got to the announcer’s booth behind home plate at Citi Field is, well, a bit of a curveball. Born in 1974 in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in the Wakefield section of the borough. Castro recalls that the neighborhood is a “two-fare zone,” meaning “you had to take a bus to the train station.” She loved baseball from an early age, but announcing, or a career in journalism, wasn’t part of her initial life plan.
While at Wesleyan, Castro planned to become a lawyer. But after graduating, she switched directions and taught high school English for three years in Brooklyn. Deciding she wanted to be a writer, Castro applied to graduate writing programs. While researching various schools and programs, she came across Columbia’s graduate journalism program. On a whim, she decided to apply. She got in, gravitated toward broadcast journalism, then got a job working for a local news station. There she was able to impress her superiors with her ability to navigate her old stomping grounds in the Bronx.
“Half the battle when you’re doing local news is figuring out how to get from point A to point B,” she says. This was easy for Castro, and her knowledge of Bronx geography, paired with her go-getter attitude, allowed her to complete stories at a rapid rate. She moved up the ranks, and before long, moved on to national stations and shows.
Thirteen years ago she moved to Connecticut with her now ex-husband, and still loves living here with her two sons, ages 9 and 12. Last year, she was asked to audition for the Mets’ PA position. Castro stood out in auditions. Her voice is clear and distinctive, somehow quintessentially New York but lacking the heavy New York accent normally associated with the Bronx.
DeVito, the Mets official who was involved with Castro’s hiring, says the organization was impressed with the quality of her voice, her baseball acumen, and her professionalism during the audition process. “We realized there was a great deal of value to having someone who could pronounce some of the Latino players’ names much more accurately than any non-Latina could. We then dove into her pedigree and saw what she had done and we were very happy that we found somebody that was at the top of her game professionally.”
Castro’s first game took place a year ago on May 31. She remembers it vividly. “It was a 7:10 first pitch.” She made the opening announcements. “I was fine, and then, ‘Now here are your 2018 New York Mets!’ After I said that I was like ‘oh shit,’ and for a good five seconds I was nervous.”
That initial nervousness quickly passed, only to come back as the game wore on. “By the fifth inning, suddenly now there are double switches happening,” she says. “Some sort of strange fog had settled in, so we couldn’t quite see the bullpen. It was a perfect storm. I just dialed in with my spotter and said, ‘Let’s ignore everybody, let’s just do this. If I make a mistake, I’m going to make it big and I’m going to keep moving.’ After that game, I drove home. I’ve never slept so hard in my life.”
After that first game the job grew less stressful. Castro says the not-so-secret factor in her success as a PA announcer and broadcast journalist is preparation. Since taking the job with the Mets, she has built upon her existing baseball knowledge.
“I like to be over-prepared. I am the Larry Bird of any industry I’ve ever been in,” she says. “I’m a student of the game. I want to know the ins and outs, especially as a woman, because the minute I mess up, it’s exacerbated 10 times, specifically in sports. It was certainly the case at ESPN. Regardless of how supportive my colleagues were, there’s always somebody waiting for you to fail.”
Outside the booth at Citi Field, Castro is a passionate food lover and home cook. She recently began hosting Hot Dish!, the podcast for CTBites, a popular state website devoted to food and dining news that has a content-sharing agreement with Connecticut Magazine and Hearst Connecticut Media.
“She is a fantastic host,” says Stephanie Webster, editor and co-founder of CTBites.com. “She is quick on her feet, has a great sense of humor, she makes the guests feel at ease instantly, and she gets people to speak openly.”
So far, Castro’s interviewed top Connecticut chefs like Matt Storch and Tyler Anderson, as well as CTBites contributors. She plans on interviewing up-and-coming chefs as well as others in the state’s food industry.
When she steps away from the mic, Castro “is 100 percent real,” Webster says. “She never pretends. She is driven, smart, quick-witted, badass and hilarious. That being said, she is always professional when in front of a mic and she likes to curse as much as I do, which makes me feel better about myself.”
As this summer progresses, Castro will spend a lot of time in the booth behind home plate at Citi Field. She’ll make sure to get the pronunciation right and prep before each game. When she speaks into the microphone in the booth, she wants aspiring female journalists and announcers to hear her and be inspired.
“I do hope that I’m helping some other young woman somewhere,” she says. “I hope I’m making her struggle less stressful.”
But Castro also knows that sometimes her voice will get lost between the crack of the bat and the cry of the food vendors at Citi Field. That sometimes, despite all the work she puts in, her voice will go unnoticed. And that’s OK with her, too. “If you come to a game and I’m calling the game, if you don’t notice my voice, that actually means I’m doing my job. Because the experience, when you come to the ballpark, should be one where you enjoy it, and my voice is kind of there just carrying you along.”