For the Virginia baseball team and its two newest members, this semester has held some major surprises.
Despite being ranked No. 3 nationally in preseason polls, a rash of injuries thinned the Cavaliers’ roster by early March. Head coach Brian O’Connor held tryouts for four members of UVA’s club baseball team.
Following a week of tryouts, O’Connor offered first-year catcher Ben Cassillo (Col ’18), a Latham, New York, native; and fourth-year infielder Kevin Radford (Col ’15) from Norfolk, Virginia, spots on the team. Says Cassillo: “It’s still kind of surreal every day when I show up to the field, that feeling of, ‘Oh, wow, I get to be a part of this.’”
Q. What has it been like to be a part of the team?
Radford All the guys have been great. [They’ve] helped me out a lot with the ins and outs of defensive strategies and signs. I’ve had one at bat and I’m not going to lie—I was a little nervous. Unfortunately, I struck out, but it was a good experience.
Cassillo When I go into the bullpen and warm up some of the pitchers, all the kids that huddle near there and talk to us or ask for balls, seeing how much they look up to players and realizing I’m one of those people they aspire to be, is cool. I love being able to toss a foul ball up to them.
Q. Why did you come to UVA? Did you have offers from other schools to play baseball?
Radford I ended up at UVA because it’s a great academic school and I wanted to be in an environment with a good social and academic life. I had two Division III schools recruiting me, but I would’ve rather come to UVA than play baseball at a D-III school.
Q. Does your experience get compared to that movie Rudy at all?
Cassillo Immediately my father made the reference to Rudy and said that when I get in the batter’s box for my first at bat, he would love to start a “Rudy” chant just as the crowd does for Rudy when he gets his appearance. I definitely feel like Rudy in that I feel that I have something to prove, not only to the coaches, but to myself.