Johnny Castagnozzi has always enjoyed watching the television coverage of Major League Baseball’s draft. It became especially interesting to Massapequa’s senior shortstop last season as a number of people he’s played with were selected.
This time, it could be his turn.
MLB has suspended spring training, announced that Opening Day will be delayed and suggested that players not gather to work out. It has not as of yet changed the dates of its first-year player draft from June 10-12.
“I always like watching it. It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Have I thought about what it would be like if my name was in it? Not a lot, but maybe a little.”
Castagnozzi has been looking forward to his final high school season for so many reasons, though now it seems in limbo with Nassau County schools closed and all athletics postponed until at least the end of this month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s been a starting infielder for the Chiefs as they’ve won the past three Long Island Class AA championships and, as he says, “Who wouldn’t want to go 4-for-4?” Massapequa won the 2018 state title, was a semifinalist a year ago and he’d like to help fit the Chiefs for another state crown. He’s seen how seniors on the Massapequa team emerge as leaders and he wants to do that for this team.
And he hopes his play – improved after so much offseason training – improves his draft stock to the point where it becomes a tough call between signing and going to play at the University of North Carolina.
“It would all depend on the draft in June and how I’ve played this season,” Castagnozzi said. “I don’t think it’s something you can focus on though. You try to be the best player you can be for your team and whatever happens happens.”
There is definitely interest. Gina Castagnozzi, his mother, said that more than a half a dozen MLB teams have done in-home visits with her son after evaluating him on the field. She said that more than half of the 30 teams have done measurements and testing on him – everything from vision and range of motion to reaction time.
“Scouts watch you over the course of a bunch of years to track your development,” he said. “They have video of you from when you’re 15 or 16 and they look at video of you now to see what areas you’ve improved and how much you’ve improved. Last summer, I was hearing they liked my progressions from the year before.
“I want this season for me and my team and win another state championship, but I’d also like the chance for [scouts] to see my game today. I didn’t play basketball this year so I could focus entirely on baseball. I’ve never felt so prepared for a season.”
Some scouts last summer made suggestions about improving one or another facets in his game.
"You listen but you don’t gear your training to one scout’s advice or another’s," Castagnozzi said.
He wanted to improve his speed this offseason, so he combined work strengthening his legs with agility drills.
Regardless of what happens with Castagnozzi and the draft, he has essentially had a plan for the coming summer. He would go to North Carolina to take summer classes and begin baseball workouts for the Tar Heels, or depending on where he might get drafted and negotiations with a team, go play minor league baseball. But with the coronavirus pandemic, he’s not even certain about that.
“I don’t know how long school will be closed, if we’re going to do classes online or if we’ll have to stay in school into the summer,” he said. “You have to finish school and graduate if you want to go to college.”