A pair of local professional baseball players are in Arizona for some fall work and one of them got a taste of what they are working for earlier this week.
“I got to go be a part of the (Colorado) Rockies game Tuesday night,” related former Bradley Central and Cleveland State standout Ryan Casteel in a phone interview Thursday evening.
“I got to shag fly balls during batting practice, hang out in the clubhouse and caught some bull pen, plus I sat in the bull pen during the game. I then showered and left just like a big leaguer,” he explained. “It was really nice to go and get to see what its like (in the Major League).”
Casteel and former Walker Valley and University of Memphis hurler Ryan Fraser are in Arizona for some extra work after recently completing their third professional seasons.
One of eight members of the Class A Asheville Tourists the Rockies invited to fall instructional training, Casteel and fellow catcher William Swanner were both invited to participate with the Major League Club as the Rockies closed out their regular season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I went Tuesday and he (Swanner) got to go Wednesday,” Casteel stated.
After moving up from Class A ball to Double-A during the summer season, Fraser has been chosen by the New York Mets to represent them in the Arizona Fall League.
“There are six teams, all in the Phoenix area, that are made up of six or seven players from each of the Major League clubs for a 40-game schedule between Oct. 9 until Nov. 15,” explained Fraser, who just arrived in the Southwest two days ago.
“It’s made up mostly of Triple-A and Double-A players with a few other top prospects,” he added. “I’m really honored to be chosen to play in this league. It’s a big honor.”
Playing for the Surprise (Ariz.) team, Fraser will join with a few other Met farmhands, as well as players from the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals organization on the squad.
Fraser began his third pro season in Port St. Lucie, Fla., before being called up to Binghamton, N.Y. He had a combined 5-4 record with six saves and a 2.81 earned run average in 45 relief appearances. The big right-hander struck out 43 batters and walked just 20 in 64 innings of work.
“Moving up is always a good sign,” Frase commented. “I felt like I had a a good season and made the adjustment to Double-A pretty well after I got settled in.”
After the completion of the season around Labor Day, Fraser flew back to Florida to pick up his car he had left there when he went north, visited some family there and then came to Clevleand for a week to see everybody here.
“I’m excited about this opportunity,” he said of the fall league. “I’m need to go in there and take care of business and keep inching my way up.”
Casteel spent the late spring and summer in Asheville, N.C., playing for the Rockies’ Class A squad, before being invited to his third fall instructional league.
“We had an awesome season, winning the (South Atlantic League) championship,” he remarked. “We had a great group of guys. It was a lot of fun.”
“I struggled a little in the first half (of the season), but thankfully I turned it around in the second half.”
After posting the best record (88-52) in all of Minor League Baseball during the regular season, the Tourists knocked off the Rome (Ga.) Braves in the opening round of the SAL playoffs before downing the Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers in the championship round.
Casteel caught six of the seven postseason games and did well at the plate, hitting .318 with a .400 on base percentage. He had seven hits, including a double and a home run, plus he scored five times and drove in four runs.
During the regular season, he played in 71 games, rapping out 70 hits, including 24 doubles, two triples and a pair of home runs. Casteel drove in 28 runs and stole a half dozen bases while posting a .279 batting average and a .332 OBP.
Having already spent two weeks in Arizona, the Cleveland native and newlywed has two more weeks to go before getting to come home to his new bride and family.
“We are doing a lot of individual work and we play a few games, but not many,” he related. “When we do play its no more than five innings.”