Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro walks back to the team facility after speaking to reporters about his off-the-field troubles prior to afternoon spring training baseball practice, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Under the warm Arizona sun the Chicago Cubs got back to basics Friday. Base running and fielding were the focus on the diamond.
But away from the field, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts found himself talking to reporters about something besides fundamentals: allegations of sexual assault against his young star, Starlin Castro.
"In every team, in every sport, you always want your players to conduct themselves well off the field." Ricketts said. "I don’t know any specifics about the situation, talk to Starlin and his people."
Castro made his first public comments about the allegations.
"I cooperated with the police in talking about that. I’m ready to play baseball and practice hard with this team," he said.
His statements are the first in response to allegations that surface earlier this year. Castro did meet with Chicago police last month, sitting for hours explaining his side of the story.
A 23-year-old woman says she met Castro and his entourage at the Club Crescendo last September. The group then left the club and went to Castro’s downtown condominium on State Street, according to the woman. It’s there she alleges the 21-year-old Castro sexually assaulted her.
Alfonso Soriano, Castro’s friend and teammate, said this is valuable learning experience for the young professional baseball player.
"He’s a great guy and he think everyone is a friend and now he know you need be a little bit more…. careful," said Soriano.
No charges are filed and Chicago police are still conducting an open investigation. Ricketts deflected specific inquiries from reporters, but made a point that should make other players sit up and take notice.
"Everyone buys in and you’re accountable. I think that’s the Cubs way," he said.
Eventually, baseball made its way back to the front of the line of questioning.
"My defense. I want to get better by working hard," the Cubs' error-prone infielder told reporters.
There are big expectations for the young man. Starlin Castro turns 22 years old one month from Friday.