By Emilee White
If you have ever seen the TV show ‘New Girl,” one of the characters states that he wouldn’t have played basketball if someone hadn’t put a basketball toy in his crib when he was a baby. The point is — whether you want to play sports or work in sports — it can be a path you take from the very beginning. But that wasn’t the case for the New York Mets’ PA announcer Marysol Castro.
“I wanted to be the first Puerto Rican Senator from the state of New York,” Castro said. “I never really wanted to be a journalist. I sort of fell into it. I started my journalism career in 1999 and I came from the world of hard news. I always saw the world through the lens of a journalist and in all of those posts, and all those different networks and television stations [I worked at], I was always very interested in sports. I'm a huge fan of our New York teams so sports was just ingrained in me from the time I was a child growing up in New York City. This was not something that I aspired to do. It literally all just happened, serendipitously.”
GoodSport spoke with Castro to discuss her path to becoming the first female, and Latina, PA announcer for the Mets — second female PA announcer in MLB history — and the strides she made not only for herself but also women in the sports industry.
This interview was edited for clarification.
What was that like becoming the first, not only female but Latina, PA announcer for the Mets?
It was a blessing that I never expected — it came out of left field. I took it, as a responsibility, very seriously because anything I've ever done, I take seriously. It was an honor to be the first female, but it was also, I think, a wake-up call for both the league and the team to know that they had waited so long for there to be a female PA announcer for the Mets.
Did I feel pressure? I wouldn't call it pressure, but just an enormous sense of responsibility to do the job, to do it well, and know that there was and still is a long line of other girls and women who want to get into sports and sports broadcasting. So in any way, shape, or form that I could be a model for that, that's what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it well.
Journalism used to be — and it might still be — a predominantly male-dominated profession. Women have always been put on the back burner, but now women are stepping up and taking over these hard-hitting jobs in journalism, like sports. What were some challenges that you faced trying to make your break in the journalism world? What are some challenges that you still face today?
With me, I have two hurdles to cross — one is being a woman and one is being Latina. I hate to say this, but the people that gave me the biggest challenges in my journalism career were women. And it speaks volumes to the fact that there were so many of us fighting for scraps. We weren't given, as women, positions of authority or positions of power, or we weren't being put in decision-making positions. So as women, it was far easier to have us pinned against one another than try to support one another. But I can say that in the past, I've always supported other women in my career — other women who are interested in what I do or interested in communications or journalism.
I think the narrative behind women in their various and sundry professions, and the narrative of that infighting started to change because I think we realize that there's more power in numbers. So things began to evolve and things have changed, but women still make a lot less money than men, and Latina women make even less. So it has been such an uphill struggle for me and I do the best that I can to persevere. I like to quote my fellow Bronx, Cardi B, “knock me down 10 times, I'll get up 11.”
I want my work to exist in the general market. I'm 100 percent American and I'm 100 percent Latina, but I choose to do my job in English. As it pertains to the Mets, part of the reason they hired me was because I am Latina, and I do speak English and Spanish, fluently. The Mets knew and still know that they want the ballpark and the team to reflect the community that it's in. It was important for the men's organization to have someone represent the Latinos, not only who play in the league, and play for the Mets, but also those who come to the ballpark.
It was incumbent on me to talk to the players, ask them how they wanted their names pronounced for those whose names were in Spanish. Some of them wanted them pronounced in English and some of them were very honored that they were being asked that their names could be pronounced in Spanish. And to my shock, no one had ever done that. No one had ever asked our Spanish-speaking players if they wanted their names pronounced in Spanish. And I just thought, “my gosh, how long has this been going on?”
What was it like when you first started at the Mets? What kind of welcome were you given? Were there any animosities that you had to face?
My predecessor had been there for many years. And the fans had gotten used to a specific voice and the players have gotten used to a specific voice. So I was dealing with replacing someone who had been a mainstay and most people are reluctant to change. Then on top of that, I was a female. And then on top of that, I'm Latina. My Twitter feed just exploded with people that couldn't stand me — “why does a woman have to do this? A woman doesn't belong in baseball. Why does she have to say the names like that? Go back to where you came from.”
But my staff at the Mets could not be more supportive. They stood by me and to this day, stand by me. I always felt like the Mets had my back. A mantra that I have always lived by is what other people think of you is none of your business. And it's easy on good days, harder on bad days. In the last year — this was my fourth season with the Mets — the man who hired me said, “it looks like you have won over our fans.” And I said, “well, I wasn't trying to win anybody over.” I just knew it would take a little bit of time for them to see that I wasn't going to go anywhere and that I can do this job better than anybody else.
What's some advice that you would want to give to other girls and women who want to break into the sporting world?
This is always a challenging industry. [For advice], I always start by saying, “do your homework, know your beat better than anybody else.” Every time I'm in the booth, I learn something new — it's not called inside baseball for nothing. There are so many weird, bizarre stats and rules that exist in baseball. In the middle of the season, [someone] walked by my booth and they asked what I was doing and I told them I was scoring the game. And he was like, “wow, you keep score?” I said, “yes, of course I keep score.” I was shocked that they were shocked at that, but be that as it may, I'm still learning so much about baseball. So I always say to learn your beat — whether it's baseball, football, all of it. Read every day. Be well informed and question things that you read.
The other thing I would say is align yourself with people who have your best interest. I know sometimes it's tough to go into situations — i.e. work situations — and you're trying to find your footing. You're trying to find who you can trust or who you can go to. I hope that I've been that for someone else, specifically for young girls, but align yourself with those people because there will always be naysayers ready to make life difficult for you, but there are the rare few unicorns out there that want us to see you succeed as much as you want to succeed. Also, question authority. I've always questioned authority, respectfully. I think that it’s important to know the “why” of it all, especially if you're going into a business like journalism.
You had mentioned earlier that you didn't always want to get into sports, and that you faced hurdles because you were not only a woman but Latina as well. What was the pinnacle moment when you were younger that you knew you were going to have to fight in this dog-eat-dog world?
I grew up in the Bronx — I'm the youngest of four kids. My parents were both born and raised in Puerto Rico. My parents instilled in us, just by their own example, that the culture was always really important and that no matter what we did, being Puerto Rican coursed through our veins, so anything we did or anything we touched, it meant that we were carrying our Latino-ness with us. When I was 13, I got a full academic scholarship to go to a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania. They didn't know what to do with me and I didn't know what to do with them, but [I knew] going to this very elite boarding school that I was going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far as everyone else. Watching television as a child — whether it was the news, the Muppets, or any other show I watched with my family — and watching those images, I didn't see myself reflected in those characters. So I knew that if I wanted to change that, it was not going to come easily. Growing up in the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s, and seeing the world around me, I knew that I had to be to change that it was not. No one was going to hand it to me.
Then along the way, I connected with other like-minded people who have helped me. You can find alliances in very unlikely places. I give my boarding school a bad rep, but had I not gone to that boarding school, I don't think I would be where I am today. But then I look at this event that I went to this past weekend with Latina women from across the country and actually across the world in the finance world who were supporting me. So finding those alliances in unlikely places is very crucial. Recently I've been hearing young women say, “oh, I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky.” And my response is, “you're not lucky. You've worked hard. Own it.” I can only say that now, because I used to say the same thing until someone said to me, “you're not lucky. You have worked really hard. This is where you're supposed to be.”