A New Purpose for the Game

by   |     |   jgamet@bju.edu   |  
Coach Brent Casteel

The BJU Bruins have begun workouts at Conestee Park in Greenville in preparation for the team’s inaugural season of intercollegiate competition in spring 2021.

The trees along the highway continued to pass by as a young baseball player made his way back home. Shattered hopes and dreams made the trip seem that much longer as he wondered what the next chapter of his life would bring. Would he ever lace up his cleats again?

Those questions and many more raced through Brent Casteel’s mind. After being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984, Casteel began to work his way up the minor leagues. He then got the call. Not the one that would send him to the major leagues, but a call signaling that the team would not be picking up his contract.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do next,” Casteel said. “But it was through that experience that God was trying to get me serious about Him.”

Keeping his Eye on the Ball

Baseball had always been a part of Casteel’s life, and he realized early on that he had ability in the sport. Throughout Little League Baseball and into high school, Casteel developed his talents, which garnered the attention of colleges and professional scouts.

“I realized I could have an opportunity to go to college and have a career in baseball,” Casteel said. “Even though I was saved at 9 years old, baseball was my focus completely. I was playing for myself and not for the Lord.”

Casteel’s dream became a reality as he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. In his first year in the minors, Casteel would catch for future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and play alongside other notable players such as Mark Grace and Joe Girardi.

It seemed as though everything was going his way. He had worked hard and gotten to the top rung of the ladder system. What could possibly go wrong? It was then that Casteel received another call from back home. Through tears, Casteel’s father told him that his grandmother had passed away. He also said that as a result, he had become a believer in Christ.

“He was crying both tears of sadness and tears of joy,” Casteel said. “Tears for his mother’s passing but joy that he was now part of the family of God.”

As he hung up the phone, Casteel began to think more about his life. He was in spring training in Arizona preparing for the upcoming season and yet he knew he needed help. He called his mother and asked her to send him a Bible.

“That’s when God began to teach me that baseball isn’t about me, it’s about Him,” Casteel said. “I really had to go through a learning process to find out what that really meant.”

The BJU Connection

A few years later, Casteel learned that his pro baseball days were over as the team didn’t pick up his contract. He returned home to Florida uncertain of his next steps. That summer, Casteel began working at his church where he was offered a job as the janitor and head baseball coach. That first season, Casteel led his team to the state championship.

Casteel wanted to complete his undergraduate degree and learned of Bob Jones University after working at the Wilds Christian Camp in North Carolina. He eventually graduated from BJU and served in a variety of coaching positions, including Northland International University women’s soccer coach, and as an assistant pastor and a coach in Florida.

Casteel is also heavily involved in a baseball ministry called PlayBall, which uses the sport to reach people with the Gospel in the Dominican Republic. “We love baseball and we love the Lord and we want to use this as a tool to share the Gospel,” Casteel said.

Each summer, the ministry welcomes about 1,000 players in a series of camps and clinics, with many of those players coming to know Christ and be connected to local churches.

Baseball Is About Christ

In 2018, BJU announced the addition of baseball as an intercollegiate program. Soon after, Casteel was announced as head coach.

“God has taught me so much and I look forward to teaching that to these young men in the Bruins baseball program,” Casteel said.

Baseball is woven into Casteel’s life, and through the experiences God has brought him through baseball now has a new purpose.

“Baseball is about Christ,” he said. “We play for Him and to make Him known to the world.”

 

This story first appeared on BJUBruins.com.

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Jonny Gamet is the sports information director for the BJU Bruins.