SENIOR SERIES: A profile look at triumphs and struggles experienced by some Aurora senior prep athletes in the time of the coronavirus pandemic:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
When he closes his eyes, Tony Castonguay can see his Field of Dreams.
It’s in Lawrence, Kansas, where the the standout senior catcher from Grandview High School — who had his prep baseball career cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, which finally claimed his senior season April 22 — eagerly awaits to realize his baseball future.
After forming a big connection with the coaching staff at the University of Kansas, the 6-foot, 200-pound Castonguay signed a National Letter of Intent with the Jayhawks last November (fortunately) and has been virtually counting the minutes until he can head off to his version of baseball paradise.
“It was the entire feeling I got from the coaches to the players to the school itself,” Castonguay told the Sentinel. “It was my vibe. It’s who I am as a person and where I wanted to be. There were a few other schools, but that was my No. 1. (Head coach) Ritch Price came to me first and it’s a big deal to be recruited by the head coach himself.
“God blessed me with a great summer of playing baseball and that’s how I got a chance to move on and keep playing the game I love.”
Castonguay generated a lot of interest from Kansas and other programs with his play last summer, but also with inspection of his varsity career with Grandview.
He was an All-Centennial League second team selection as a sophomore and garnered all-league first team (in one of the most talented baseball conferences in Colorado) and honorable mention all-state honors as a junior when he helped coach Scott Henry’s Wolves make the Class 5A Final Four. Castonguay finished his prep career as a .311 hitter with an on-base percentage of .433 in addition to demonstrating plenty of intangibles.
Price is pleased to have the versatile Castonguay — who also has experience playing on the infield — as part of his 16-player recruiting class.
“Tony is an athletic catcher with a strong arm who can also play the infield,” Price said in a statement on signing day. “He has a good approach at the plate and uses the whole field. Tony plays with a high level of energy and passion, and is someone who will be a great presence in the locker room and a leader on-and-off the field.”
For now, Castonguay tries to keep himself in shape by playing long toss with his dad — a former player at Colorado State-Pueblo — at the typically deserted park right behind his house, while he also lifts weights and practices receiving the baseball in his basement.
It’s difficult, but he’s been able to use the mental fortitude that he feels is a trademark of his game to his advantage.
“For me it has always been about work ethic; I think your work ethic shows,” Castonguay said. “As a person and player, you always have to work on being the best version of yourself. …I think that’s my strong suit, so building around that and trying to make myself a complete player, ready to play for KU.”
As much as Castonguay is looking forward to the future, he feels a certain hollowness with the loss of the best parts of his senior year. He’s especially disappointed that a baseball season with so much promise never happened.
The Wolves returned a great deal of talent from a team that made the semifinals and believed they had what it took to bring home the school’s first-ever state baseball championship. The team got a couple of weeks of practice together and that turned out to be it.
“We were looking forward to having that (championship) ring in our hands,” Castonguay said. “We felt we had the team and we had the determination from the beginning to hopefully make a run for that. It’s unfortunate that mother nature took this away from us, but God has a plan. …I’m just thankful to have those relationships with those guys. That’s what means the most to me.”
As a team captain, Castonguay stays on group chats with coaches and other teammates to stay connected to others.
His family and friends have been fortunate not be directly affected by the coronavirus, but he’s found another benefit of the stay-at-home orders in Colorado.
“If anything, it gives me more time with my family before I’m gone,” said Castonguay, who is currently scheduled to leave on May 26 (his birthday) to play summer baseball with the Chillicothe Mudcats in Missouri.
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