Minnesota Twins prospect Ryan Costello, whom the Mariners drafted after he played his collegiate baseball at Central Connecticut State University, was found dead in his Auckland, New Zealand, hotel room days after joining the Auckland Tuatara in the Australian Baseball League.
The 23-year-old third baseman died in his sleep on Monday morning, team officials said. No cause was given.
“The Minnesota Twins are deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Ryan Costello yesterday in New Zealand. On behalf of the entire organization, the Twins send their most sincere condolences to Ryan’s family, friends, coaches and teammates,” the team said in a statement.
Concerns were raised when Costello failed to report for training Monday morning, days ahead of the Tuatara’s opening game of the 2019-2020 ABL season, which Costello was playing in over the winter before resuming his career with the Twins franchise.
Costello was born in Hartford and raised in Wethersfield where he played for the town’s high school baseball team. An honorable mention on the 2014 All-Courant baseball team, Costello went on to play third base at CCSU
“He was born with one of those left-handed swings,” said CCSU baseball coach Charlie Hickey, who recruited Costello and coached him for three years. “When he hit a ball right, it went a long way … he was a fun challenge to coach, because he had a lot of passion. Once you put that challenge in the right direction, he was going to become a very good player.”
“Last season ended with him playing at the Double-A level. You start to have expectations that that phone is going to ring (about a promotion to the majors). Unfortunately, it’s never going to ring.”
Costello battled nagging injuries in his first two years playing for the Blue Devils, Hickey said. After his sophomore season, Costello expressed his frustration to Hickey in regards to the lack of the success the team had in his first two seasons, as well as personal struggles. The two were in agreement that both the players and the coaching staff needed to work harder to attain their goals.
The following season, CCSU won the NEC Championship, and Costello was named to the All-NEC First Team.
“As I sit at my desk right now, I look out at my couch, and I can see Ryan with a lot of passion, and what he wanted for him as an individual and what he wanted for us as a team, and we were able to accomplish that,” Hickey said. “He was a lot of fun to coach … He definitely left a mark on the program and a lot of people he was around. It’s a difficult day, but you try to remember all the laughs and smiles he had.”
After batting .296 with nine home runs, 52 RBI and 22 doubles in his final season with the Blue Devils, Costello was drafted in the 31st round by the Mariners.
Bill Masse, a Manchester native and former scout with the Mariners, wrote an emotional post about the prospect on Twitter, linking to a video from the day Costello was drafted.
“I don’t really know what to say with the death of Ryan Costello,” Masse wrote. “My heart bleeds today for everyone who was a part of his life. This video was the day I drafted him. It is all you need to know how special he was … goofy, innocent, loved life.”
The video shows Costello prepping for a game for the Keene Swamp Bats, summer baseball team in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He hints toward the Mariners having interest in him, but he innocently wasn’t sure how the draft process works and whether he would get a phone call before being drafted. He was admittedly nervous and his “anxiety level was through the roof,” Costello said. A teammate saw the news Costello was drafted on his phone and told Costello.
“Yo let’s go!” Costello said, celebrating and running down the first baseline into the outfield to hug teammates.
“I don’t know why I was doing that, it was just my first instinct was to take off and running,” he said while being interviewed later that day. “I don’t know it was just a crazy feeling, something I haven’t felt before.”
Costello played in the minor leagues for the Clinton LumberKings and later for the Fort Myers Miracle during their 2018 championship run.
“Ryan has been such a pleasure to have on this team,” Clinton manager Denny Hocking told The Courant in 2018. “He’s a leader in the clubhouse, he’s a leader on the field, he leads by example. It’s part of his DNA.”
Costello, in a 2018 interview with The Courant, credited his Wethersfield coach, Mark Bagdasarian, and Hickey as influences, saying “what they did in molding me as an adult helps me take care of myself.”
“In my eyes, this is a step-by-step process, I’m going to work level to level if I’m going to make it to The Show, and I’m okay with that. I’m going to accept that challenge,” he said.
Costello was sent to the Twins last season in a trade, where he would be called up to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the team’s AA affiliate. In 40 games with the team, he hit .240 with seven home runs and 21 RBI.
“We wish the days of sorrow one day soon can turn to days of joy in celebrating all that was – and is – good about Ryan’s life and spirit,” said Nick English, the owner of Munger English Sports Management, which represented Costello. “Ryan’s hard work and dedication to his craft were admirable, and we were blessed to be alongside him as he lived out his dream of playing professional baseball.”
Players and others who knew him posted on social media in remembrance of Costello,
“This is devastating,” wrote Willy Yahn, a former UConn baseball player in the Oriole system from Sharon who played with Costello on the Bristol Blues, on Twitter. “This guy was my dawg playing for (the Blues), they put me in the locker next to his when I came to the team late we hit it off. Played against him this past Spring Training and he was smiling and joking as always.”
©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.