To be a truly great catcher, you have to take charge of the game on the field, and take charge of your team off it.
The very best backstops are the ones who lead by example and set the tone for the rest of the team to follow. Catchers are frequently called the quarterbacks of baseball, the signal-callers, for the other eight guys on the diamond.
And no catcher in the Ches-Mont League’s American Division takes charge better than Oxford senior Ryan Santangelo. The Hornets’ senior was a big part of the last two Oxford teams to win Ches-Mont American championships. The Hornets’ goal for the 2020 season was to repeat as Ches-Mont League champions and go through districts and reach the PIAA Class 6A tournament.
But the 2020 baseball season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the Hornets’ star to wonder what if.
“We really felt this was our strongest team this year,” Santangelo said. “We had a lot of guys back and our sophomore pitchers were looking good. We wanted to go to states this season and I feel we would have if we had a season. It is really sad and heartbreaking to not have a season and not be able to play one last time with your friends. It is sort of depressing. We lost in the first round of districts the past two years and we were all set to get past that and go pretty far this season. We really set states as a goal for our team.”
First-year Oxford head coach Tim Rector, who coached this group of Hornets in middle school, said his catcher was the true leader of this team.
“He took the sophomores under his wing and took it on himself to show them the way and some seniors will not do that,” Rector said. “And he is a great hitter and he handles things so well behind the plate. He is a joy to coach.”
Santanegelo said he feels, being a catcher, his role is to lead his teammates on and off the field.
“We had a good group of sophomores that are going to be really good,” Santangleo said. “We really got on the weight room over the winter and I took it on to show the sophomores how to get ready for the season. I think a catcher should do that.”
Next fall, Santangelo is headed to the University of Charleston (West Virginia) where he will major in biology with the hopes of going to graduate school and becoming a physician’s assistant.
“I just loved the coaches down there when I went on my visit,” Santangelo said. “All the players and coaches made me feel at home and I am really excited to be going down there for school. I just wish we would of had a senior season here at Oxford but it was not meant to be.”
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