Castelluccio makes New England team for national showcase

As a 12-year-old last summer, Andrew Castelluccio attended regional tryouts for a national baseball showcase tournament.

A year older this summer, Castelluccio returned to the tryouts. This time, however, the end result was different: He made the cut.

Castelluccio, a Ridgefield resident, was one of 18 players chosen to the USA Baseball NTIS (National Team Identification Series) Team New England 13U squad that will compete against 15 other regional teams Aug. 9-13 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

All players participating at the event — which also features regional teams at the 11U, 14U, 15U, 16U, and 17U levels — will be evaluated for future national team trials and a chance to represent the country as part of Team USA in 2018.

“The NTIS program gives players from across the country the opportunity to wear USA across their chest,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in an online press release. “It is an outstanding achievement for the athletes to be able to represent their region, and an honor to have a chance to be selected for next year's National Team Programming."

Castelluccio was named to Team New England following two rounds of tryouts last month in East Hartford and Manchester.

“Going into the tryouts I felt I had a shot,” he said. “it was close to the end of my travel season and I was playing well, especially my pitching. I tried out last year as a 12-year-old and knew what to expect.

“During the tryouts I was killing it in infield drills and pounding the strike zone in my pitching tryout,” added Castelluccio. “I had my stuff that first day. In the second tryout I had to pitch to six batters, some who were older. I got most of them out.”

A pitcher and middle infielder, Castelluccio played in both the Ridgefield Little League and its travel program. He was a member of the Community Center team that won the Majors Division town championship in 2016 and also played on the Ridgefield Little League All-Star squad that competed in last year’s District 1 11/12-year-old  tournament. Castelluccio now plays for the Connecticut Wolfpack, an AAU travel team based in Bridgeport.

“I feel that my pitching and my hitting are my strengths right now, but I really want to improve as a shortstop,” said Castelluccio. “There is always a moment to work and get better and I always find myself doing something everyday to practice, whether it’s in the garage doing wall ball or going to [a] field to hit or field grounders.”

At the regional tryouts, Castelluccio was joined by players from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine.

“I didn't know any players at either tryout … there were a lot of players from Massachusetts and some from Connecticut,” he said. “I thought I had two really good tryouts and I was happy, but there were so many other good players there doing good, too.

“The tryouts were pretty much the same … the 30-yard dash, infield grounders, outfield throws, batting and pitching,” added Castelluccio. “The second tryout included a practice game that lasted five hours because there were over 20 pitchers who had to all pitch to six batters. I had five at-bats and got a few hits.”

Castelluccio, who expects to play shortstop and possibly pitch for Team New England at the showcase tournament in North Carolina, is looking forward to competing against high-level talent.

“I am just excited to compete against some of the best players around the country,” he said, “and I know that there will be many opportunities to learn and get better.”