Tim Locastro practicing with the Newark Pilots on June 5th. Photo courtesy Steve Plopper/Newark Pilots
On Saturday, June 8, Tim and Colleen Locastro were tuned into the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft when they heard a familiar name. They were elated to hear that their son, Tim, had been selected by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I was with my parents watching the live draft feed on MLB.com,” Locastro said. “I went up stairs for a minute to grab something and next thing I knew, I heard my dad scream ‘Yes!’ He came upstairs and told me I had been drafted to the Blue Jays.”
Locastro was taken with the 385th overall pick in the 13th round of the draft. The 20-year-old Auburn, N.Y. native had just wrapped up a tremendous junior season at Ithaca College before he was called to the pros.
Ithaca’s record 41-win season ended with a third-place finish at the NCAA DIII Baseball Championships. The Bombers lost a heartbreaking 5-4 contest in 13 innings to the eventual runner-up Southern Maine on May 28.
The Ithaca shortstop was tabbed a First-Team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association and a Second-Team All-American by D3baseball.com. He was also named the Empire 8 Conference Player of the Year and named to the D3baseball.com College World Series All-Tournament Team among many other accolades.
Locastro led the Bombers in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.436), runs (71), hits (71), home runs (4), slugging percentage (.663), and on-base percentage (.553). Flashing his speed on the base path, he was only caught stealing once in 41 attempts. He ranked second nationally in runs scored, third in stolen bases and fifth in on-base percentage. His 71 runs and 40 stolen bases both established new single-season school records.
“We were pretty confident every time he came up to the plate that he was going to get a hit,” said teammate Jimmy Wagner, a rising junior pitcher at Ithaca. “In the field, he covers so much range. He is so quick and he’s so fast with his hands that any ball hit near him was pretty much going to be an out.”
Locastro and his coaches knew it wouldn’t be long before he would have a chance to prove himself at the next level.
“I had a good idea that I would be drafted in this year’s draft, but didn't really have any idea which round,” Locastro said. “I was pleasantly surprised to be picked that early in the 13th round. I thought it would have been later.”
“Everyone at Ithaca helped put me in position to be drafted,” he added. “My teammates and I winning regionals and advancing to the College World Series helped me. [Head Coach George Valesente] and all the other coaches and trainers are one of the best staffs in the country, if not the best. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today.”
Locastro flew to Dunedin, Fla., home of Toronto’s Florida State League Blue Jays and its spring training facilities, where he signed his first professional contract on June 13. The decision to sign, however, was not an easy one to make.
“There were definitely thoughts about returning for my senior season because of how close we came to a national championship and wanting to win it all in 2014,” he explained. “Leaving my friends and teammates was tough, but I’ll be back in the fall semester to take some classes at Ithaca and see all of them. At the end of the day, the pros outweighed the cons to forgo my senior year.”
Had he not signed with Toronto, Locastro was scheduled to spend the summer with the Newark Pilots of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League under Mike Armstrong. Amstrong, currently the hitting coach at Amherst College, served as an assistant at Ithaca from 2010-2012. He knew Locastro would most likely be snatched up by a major league club before he could enter the Newark lineup. Although he was in the dugout for the season opener on June 5, Locastro did not play while resting a leg injury.
“He [deserves this opportunity] more than most,” said Armstrong, a graduate of Ithaca and former Bomber catcher. “He works his tail off, and the best part about him is that he makes everyone around him better just because he loves playing the game so much. His passion is what really makes him a great player. He would have hit second in the lineup and would have been our shortstop.”
Locastro’s stay in Newark was brief, however. He was drafted before the Pilots could take the field for their second game.
“I’m bummed not having him here in Newark,” said Wagner, who returned to the Pilots’ pitching staff for the second consecutive summer. “It’s going to stink next year at school not having him behind me, but I’m happy for him. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Locastro was assigned to Toronto’s Appalachian League affiliate, the Bluefield Blue Jays. He scored a run in his debut on June 22 and recorded his first hit in a 7-3 victory over the Burlington Royals on June 26. Three days later, he doubled home his first RBI.
“I was excited when I saw that I was in lineup for my first game and then right before the game it was all nervousness,” said Locastro about the emotions he felt in his debut. “After getting my first game and my first at bat out of the way, the nerves were pretty much gone. Now every game I play feels like just another game that I've been playing since I was six years old.”
From playing in the College World Series with the Ithaca Bombers to being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, Locastro experienced the most memorable two weeks of his life, and is now fulfilling a childhood dream of playing professional baseball.
“It's something I always dreamed of, and still to this day can't believe, but it's starting to set in more each day,” he said.