A couple of visits from home and getting to play with a major leaguer highlighted one of Bradley County’s professional baseball players’ activities the past couple of weeks while the other two continued their success on the hill for their respective teams.
After enjoying a visit from his mother, Kim Rainwater, and her family a couple of weeks ago, Ryan Casteel got a special surprise when his dad, Randy, and his family made the recent trek to Wyoming.
“We didn’t tell him my mom was coming with us. He was shocked when he saw her,” Randy Casteel said. “It was the first time he’s gotten to see her since my dad passed away (just a week after Ryan left to start his pro career in June).”
During the visits, Ryan’s brothers (Micah, Cooper and Brody) got to throw out the first pitch before games. Ryan’s girlfriend Bethany Underwood and uncle Ronnie Casteel also got to make trips West to see him.
The Casteel family also got a surprise of their own while out there as major league standout Todd Helton came to Casper (Wyo.) for an injury rehab stint with the Ghosts as well.
“When they introduced Todd to the team and Ryan told him he was from Tennessee, Helton hugged him and told him he was glad to see another guy from Tennessee on the team,” Randy Casteel related.
Helton, the starting first baseman for the Colorado Rockies for the past 13 years, is from Knoxville and played baseball and football for the Tennessee Vols.
With Helton in the Ghosts’ lineup the Rookie League team set new attendance records on back-to-back nights. “There were over 3,700 people in a stadium that only holds about 2,800 so it was standing room only,” Randy Casteel said.
“After the (first) game, Helton bought the whole team Outback steaks,” the elder Casteel commented. “Ryan said the after-game meal was usually something like peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.”
Although Ryan Casteel had a 10-game hitting streak snapped during the visit, the former Bradley Central and Cleveland State standout is hitting .294 on the season with 25 hits in 85 at bats. He has driven in a half dozen runs while scoring five times.
The Ghosts finished the first half of the Pioneer League season with a 17-21 mark and are 3-3 in the second half. The Pioneer League season runs through Sept. 9 with a championship playoff to follow.
“They’ve been talking to Ryan about playing in an Instructional League this fall in Arizona,” Randy Casteel related. “That’s a good sign they are happy with his play and could help him for where he gets to play next year.”
Former Walker Valley and University of Memphis standout Ryan Fraser notched his first professional victory during the past two weeks and is now 1-1 on the season with seven saves for the New York-Penn League leading Brooklyn Cyclones.
Fraser has been in 16 games, giving up just eight hits and only one earned run with 21 innings pitched for a 0.43 earned run average.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander has struck out 28 and held opposing hitters to just a .119 batting average.
The Class A New York Mets’ farm team has a league best 33-15 record on the season. The Cyclones’ regular season runs through Sept. 5 before starting their playoffs.
Former Bradley Central fireballer Cole Brand earned his second professional victory and is now 2-1 on the season for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Rookie League team.
Brand has pitched 16 innings of relief work, striking out 15, while allowing 16 hits and just five walks. He has compiled a 2.25 ERA, with a 1.31 WHIP and finished three games.
The Cardinals are in second place in the Gulf Coast League East Division with a 19-17 record. The Rookie League short-season ends Aug. 29.