When college classes begin in late August, Ryan Casteel will remain in Cleveland rather than traveling to Knoxville.
The Bradley Central catcher signed a baseball scholarship with the University of Tennessee last September, but has decided instead to go to Cleveland State Community College. He signed the papers on Monday.
"I wouldn't get to catch (at UT)," he said. "If I'm going to get drafted it will be as a catcher and not as an outfielder."
A phone call to Vols coach Todd Raleigh's office was not returned and a request to UT's sports information department for a comment from the coach went without reply.
Casteel had a rough three days when he went unselected in major league baseball's annual player draft last week.
"I kept hearing that I'd go in the first eight rounds or that I would go late. It was 50-50 on signing me in the top eight rounds. For whatever reason -- and it was probably signability -- they didn't draft me," he said. "I guess I was asking for too much money. Then too it seemed like every time cross-checkers (national scouts) were scheduled to come watch me we would get rained out."
The Times Free Press best of preps all-area baseball player of the year wants to play pro baseball and said he took to heart the experiences he has had this month including personal tryouts for four of the big league clubs -- Cincinnati, Colorado, Detroit and the New York Mets.
"I did well at the workouts. I think they didn't want to pay what I was asking. I overpriced myself. Next year I'll know what to say and what not to say," he said.
He will play immediately -- and at catcher -- for Cleveland State. Asked who would be his starting catcher for that first game, CSCC coach Mike Policastro said it would be Casteel.
"He'll be our starting catcher but outfield will be a secondary position for him," Policastro said.
Because he is going to a junior college, Casteel won't have to sit out a year, and he will be eligible again for next year's draft. If he had gone to UT he would not have been eligible for the draft until his junior year, or his sophomore season if had redshirted one year.
"I think he wants to play pro baseball and I think he decided he didn't want to tie himself down for three years," Bradley Central coach Travis Adams said.
"I'm sure it was difficult for him with the (draft) expectations he had and that everybody had for him," Policastro said. "He had to come to some decisions."
Casteel said he finally told Raleigh on Sunday that he wasn't going to Knoxville and then he and his father (Randy) met with Policastro on Monday afternoon and he signed the Cleveland State scholarship papers.
"Coach Raleigh called my dad (over the weekend) and asked that I call him ASAP. I called him and he said he'd call me back and then he started texting me. He tried to talk me out of going juco. He kept texting but wouldn't call me back," Casteel said. "He knew I was thinking about it, and I finally told him through text (message) I wasn't coming."
Casteel said he told Raleigh through text messaging because the coach wouldn't call him back.
He was in Knoxville playing in a tournament with the Chattanooga Cyclones this past weekend and went 6-for-9 with a home run and two extra-base hits off the wall.
"It seemed like I was free of the stress from the draft and a decision on Tennessee and Cleveland State," he said.
Policastro, who has sent several players to UT, was in Danville, Ky., two weeks ago scouting a catching prospect. He said he had not contacted Casteel since the youngster signed last fall with UT and that his first meeting with the Bradley standout was on Monday.
"I'm excited and I think (Policastro) is excited. I think it's going to be a good year," Casteel said.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...