Concord baseball alum Ryan Kastle – and his mustache – providing a spark for the Northeast Tides

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 07-18-2023 10:33 PM

Ryan Kastle has only shaved his mustache three times in the last four years. He’s regretted it each time.

It’s the 2021 Concord High graduate’s good luck charm on the baseball field; he’s never shaved it during a season. Even amidst the sticky New Hampshire summer heat, the mustache isn’t going anywhere. And why would it?

Kastle’s hitting .280 with five stolen bases and 12 runs scored so far this summer playing for the Northeast Tides in the North Shore Baseball League.

“Moral of the story: The ’stache is here to stay for the summer because it’s been treating me well,” Kastle said.

By head coach Scott Bleakley’s memory, Kastle is the first Concord native he’s had on a team that’s based on the Seacoast and plays quite a few games against teams in Massachusetts. The Tides’ roster also features Ben Rose, a Merrimack Valley graduate, and Brady Philibotte, an alum of John Stark.

Kastle is happy to make the long drives, and the team is more than happy to have him.

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He estimated that his average commute to a game is about an hour and a half one-way. But for a team that’s at the top of the NSBL standings at 16-4, he’s happy to do whatever he can to contribute.

Kastle doesn’t play a ton – he only has 25 at-bats in 18 games. He’s still made the most of his chances when they’ve come. He has seven hits in those 25 at bats; he’s also second on the team with those 12 runs scored, with Bleakley often turning to him as a pinch runner.

It’s that relentlessly positive attitude he brings to each and every game that elevates everyone around him.

“I haven’t really had a guy like him, a guy that knows his role and he’s going to do whatever the coach asks,” Bleakley said. “I think those (other) guys are going to say, ‘Look at Kastle, and he’s driving a million miles to get here.’ I think that helps me tremendously to get guys to buy into the team concept.”

Same page

Kastle wasn’t sure what his baseball career post-high school would look like.

He moved down to Charleston, S.C., and went to community college, but it didn’t feel like the right fit. He started working at a barbecue restaurant, hit the gym more frequently, then moved back up to Concord and played on last summer’s Post 21 American Legion championship team.

He enrolled at St. Joseph’s College of Maine last fall and split time between the JV and varsity team this past spring. With Bleakley well-connected with the Monks’ coaching staff, Kastle was on his radar.

Initially, he didn’t even have a spot to offer him. When something did open up, Bleakley was very clear: He couldn’t guarantee a ton of playing time.

“Ryan accepted that, but it’s one thing to accept it and then another to actually execute it,” Bleakley said. “He is the ultimate team guy.”

Contrary to the New England Collegiate Baseball League or the Cape Cod League, which require players to be part of NCAA-sanctioned programs, the NSBL is basically just a league for anyone age 18 or older.

It’s been a perfect fit for someone just looking to continue to improve his game as he prepares for his sophomore year of college.

“The balance of everybody’s on the exact same page, everybody’s there to win, but it’s also every single game is the most fun you’ll ever have,” Kastle said. “It’s a great crew. I’m super happy I ended up with Scott.”

The catch

Bleakley described it almost as mythically as someone who watched Willie Mays’ famed over-the-shoulder catch for the New York Giants during the 1954 World Series.

It was June 15 against the North Reading A’s at Spaulding High School in Rochester. Kastle’s St. Joe’s teammate, Michael Vittozzi, stood in the right-handed batter’s box as Kastle waited in center field. Vittozzi turned on a fastball.

“I got the jump of my life,” Kastle recalled, as he bolted toward the left-center field gap. “The ball passed me at like 6½ feet, and I did this one-footed leap, full-layout extension. Caught it over my shoulder.”

If someone had video of it, Bleakley swore, it would’ve made SportsCenter’s Top 10.

A few weeks later, Bleakley mentioned the catch to Kastle’s father: “His dad laughs; he said, ‘I know. I know. I know it was a great catch, but I’ve seen that like five, six times.’ ”

It’s this spark, this jolt of energy, this unbridled enthusiasm that’s hard to quantify but is so tangible in the dugout, and on the field that’s helped put the Tides at the top of the NSBL standings. As the conclusion of the regular season approaches this weekend, perhaps Kastle has a few more eye-popping plays saved up for the biggest games of the summer.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had quite a player like Ryan Kastle,” Bleakley said. “I’ve been managing for a lot of years, and he’s a special player. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

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