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On Trial, Cubs Minor Leaguer Says He Didn't Mean To Hit Anyone With Throw

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DAYTON, Ohio — A minor-league pitcher accused of throwing a baseball that injured a fan in Ohio testified Thursday that he threw the ball downward toward a dugout to try to keep opposing players from rushing the field during an on-field melee.

Julio Castillo, 22, of the Dominican Republic, was pitching for the Peoria Chiefs against the Dayton Dragons when the bench-clearing brawl broke out last July. A fan in the stands suffered a concussion after getting struck by a ball Castillo threw; he has pleaded not guilty to felonious assault.

Testifying in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Castillo said he had been having pitching control problems earlier in the game, became frightened as the brawl began, and did not throw at an opposing player or with the intention of hitting anyone.

"I saw that the players with the Dragons were coming," the Spanish-speaking Castillo said, testifying through a translator. "I was nervous and frightened. I threw the ball in front of the dugout to see if they would go back. I didn't throw it to hit anyone."

Under cross-examination by assistant Montgomery County prosecutor Tracey Ballard Tangeman, Castillo acknowledged that he threw the ball hard and that it went into the stands.

In closing arguments, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor Jon Marshall accused Castillo of throwing the ball at the Dragons' players.

"He does not get a free pass because he missed his intended target," Marshall said.

Marshall said courts have found that such objects as rocks, bricks, pool cues and baseball bats constitute deadly weapons. He said Castillo is capable of throwing a baseball over 90 miles an hour.

"It's hard, it's solid, it's small," Marshall told Judge Connie Price. "This is a weapon, your honor, that is absolutely capable of inflicting death and did in fact inflict serious physical harm that night."

Defense attorney Dennis Lieberman said there were no players in the path of the ball when Castillo threw it.

"He wasn't throwing at anybody. He was throwing at an empty dugout," Lieberman said.

After both sides presented their arguments, Price said she would rule at a later, unspecified date.

Castillo is now on the roster of the Boise Hawks, a Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, but is not allowed to play. The Cubs are awaiting the outcome of the trial to determine whether his status will change.

In the previous game before the brawl, three Peoria batters had been hit by pitches. In the next game, a Peoria player was hit in the top of the first inning, then Castillo hit two Dayton batters in the bottom half – one in the head. The second batter hit by Castillo, Angel Cabrerra, made an aggressive slide into second to break up a double play.

Castillo followed that by throwing his next pitch up-and-in, prompting Dayton manager Donnie Scott to complain to the home plate umpire. Interim Peoria manager Carmelo Martinez came onto the field to join the discussion. The two managers began arguing, and when Martinez pushed Scott, the benches emptied.

Video from the game shows Castillo throwing a ball, but doesn't show where the ball landed.

Officials in the Midwest League suspended and fined 15 players, including Castillo, and both managers for the fight.

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