As Bob Jones University’s baseball team prepares for its inaugural season, head coach Brent Casteel hopes his players learn that building character is more important than winning games.
“I want to see a first-year team . . . come together and really learn what it means to be a team,” said Casteel. “Honestly, I want them to learn . . . how to glorify God with the game of baseball.”
The new team will play their first game at Truett McConnell University tomorrow, the result of over two years of preparation. Since Bob Jones University announced the creation of a baseball team in 2018, the staff has worked hard to recruit players.
Many of them, such as sophomore outfielder Brandon Davis, sophomore pitcher Ethan Rogers and sophomore pitcher Henry Wallach, signed in 2020 and have been preparing for the season since then. For Wallach, that meant regularly practicing his pitches and exercising his arms since the summer.
However, Casteel’s journey to tomorrow’s game stretches back much further. At a young age, Casteel developed a deep love for the sport, leading him to play baseball on a scholarship while he attended college. After college, he played professionally with the Chicago Cubs until God led him to Bob Jones University to pursue a degree in religious studies.
In 2018, Casteel learned of BJU’s plan to field an intercollegiate baseball team. “I have always had a heart for Bob Jones,” he said, “and when I heard about intercollegiate athletics, I became very excited about the opportunity of coming back here.” He reached out to Dr. Neal Ring, director of athletics for the University, and was offered the job.
Casteel described his coaching philosophy as an investment. “I look at investing in lives, and I look at investing in skillsets for baseball,” he said. “I love pouring out life lessons that God has given me.” Casteel wants his players to learn biblical lessons and principles now that will still be applicable years after his players quit playing baseball.
According to Davis, Casteel’s unique coaching style has impacted the team. Davis thinks of Casteel as an example of a man of God. “Every practice is oriented around a certain devotional,” Davis said. “He knows that is the most important part, and if we’re in God’s will…we’re doing the right thing.”
Wallach said Casteel told them at the first team meeting he had prayed over every player on the team. Last week, the coach also sent his players a Bible reading plan to read through together. “He definitely has made it clear that he’s going to be there for us if we need him,” Wallach said.
Casteel also invests time into his players off the field. Rogers said the head coach cares a lot about those on the team. “He gets involved in other aspects of our lives, too,” Rogers said. Casteel encouraged each member of the team to carefully plan out their schedules, allowing them to manage their time well.
After each practice, the Bruins take time to clean up Conestee Park, the site of the team’s home field. In the past the players have pressure washed dirty surfaces, raked the field, painted walls and planted flowers. Casteel assigns these tasks based on what Greenville County Recreation Department officials need done. “It just makes them really enjoy their field that much more and appreciate what they have,” Casteel said.
The members of the team eagerly anticipate their first season. “I’m really looking forward to it,” Rogers said. “We’ve been waiting three or four years to get on this team, and now we’ve finally made it.”
Davis said the players’ variety of experience levels will challenge the team, but he is confident they will succeed because of Casteel’s style of coaching. He believes Casteel instructs the players in a way that even the less experienced team members can understand while still helping more experienced players learn.
Wallach believes the time elapsed since playing may be the team’s biggest hurdle. Because of COVID-19, many team members have not been able to play baseball competitively in over a year.
Casteel asked for the student body to pray for the team to finish a full season despite COVID-19 and respond well to whatever God allows to happen.
The Bruins currently have 24 games scheduled during the regular season.