Brent Casteel, BJU Bruins men’s baseball head coach, has learned over the years that glorifying God includes all areas of life—even baseball.
Casteel began playing baseball at a young age. In between 7th and 8th grade, he transferred to a public school in order to be seen by scouts. Though he had been saved early in life, it was at this point, Casteel said, that his spiritual walk began to suffer. Throughout high school he chose to pursue his dream of baseball instead of the Lord.
Casteel then played baseball in a secular college for two years, and again, his spiritual life suffered greatly. “I wasn’t living for God the way that I should have been,” Casteel said. After his second year of college, Casteel signed with the Chicago Cubs. However, in his second year of spring training, he received a call from his father saying that his grandmother had passed away. He also learned that his father had accepted Christ as his Savior.
Because of those two events, Casteel decided to pursue his relationship with God more seriously. He asked his mother to send his Bible to him, and when she did, he began to study it. He also found other Christians within the Cubs organization and began spending more time with them. Casteel began to ask himself how he could use baseball for God’s glory. “I started learning that baseball is not about me. It’s about Him,” Casteel said.
Casteel’s baseball career ended after three years playing for the Cubs’ minor league teams. He returned home and became involved in his local church, where he grew immensely. Eventually God allowed him to return to baseball this time in a coaching role with a team in his hometown.
Casteel counseled at the Wilds Christian Camp in North Carolina for one summer, and through the influence of students there, he eventually ended up at Bob Jones University.
After graduating from BJU with a degree in religious studies, Casteel became involved in several ministries, including ¡PlayBall!, a baseball outreach to the Dominican Republic. After many years of involvement with different baseball-based ministries, Casteel learned that his alma mater, Bob Jones University, was in the process of hiring a baseball coach.
At the time, he was serving as an assistant pastor of a church in Florida and helping to coach a local team in town. He decided to apply for the coaching position, and after the hiring process, he, his wife Dianne and their four children moved to Greenville to begin the process of building BJU’s baseball program from the ground up.
Through a long, difficult process, Casteel discovered that God intends everything—even baseball—to be used for His glory. Now he teaches his own players to live all of life as a Christian, whether on the field or off. “I’m here to help others,” Casteel said. “I’m here to serve. I’m here to love God. I’m here to respond the way God wants me to respond.”
Nathaniel Schlicting, a first baseman for the practice team, said Coach Casteel exhibits both professionalism and a genuine concern for his players. “He teaches us that baseball is more than baseball—it’s another area to share Christ,” Schlicting said.
Casteel now faces the challenge of building a baseball program. His job includes actually forming a team, figuring out where it is going to practice and play, coaching and teaching, and also building a fanbase. Last year Casteel held an informational meeting for those interested in the team.
Forty-five students attended. After hearing the requirements for being both a member of the baseball team and a college athlete in general, 32 of them decided to continue with the tryout process. After measuring each of their skill sets, Casteel cut the number down to 18.
Those 18 now form a practice squad that will have a promised tryout in the fall of 2020 for the 2021 season. For now, the squad works out and practices together in preparation for the tryout. The final roster will include 30 players and will play its home games at Conestee Park in Mauldin, South Carolina, about a 20-minute drive from campus.
Until then, Casteel will continue to use baseball to share the Gospel by taking the practice team into the community to help Little League programs.