On November 18, 2019, former Wethersfield High School baseball star and 2014 graduate Ryan Costello suddenly passed away at the age of 23 in New Zealand.
Less than a year later, his parents Tammy and Chris Costello, along with his high school baseball coach Mark Bagdasarian and other family, friends, and supporters celebrated Ryan’s life while raising money and awareness through a charitable golf tournament.
The proceeds from the event, held at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain on Oct 12, will benefit The RC13 Foundation, started by the Costello family and Bagdasarian, which will provide scholarships to local baseball and softball players while bringing awareness to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
“Ryan was such an inspirational person and he was very deep,” said Tammy Costello, “He loved his community and he loved people and it frustrated him that some people who wanted to go to college couldn’t go because they couldn’t afford to. We wanted to provide a scholarship to someone that could assist them.”
At the time of his death, Costello was overseas continuing his baseball dream when a rare heart condition, known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, took his life. WPW is a disorder that causes a specific problem with the electrical system of the heart.
One of the goals of the foundation is to provide potentially life-saving devices, such as an AED (automated external defibrillator) to local facilities.
“He got physical, after physical, after physical playing baseball,” stated Bagdasarian, “This could have been prevented. It’s something that is extremely treatable.”
Costello grew up in Old Wethersfield where he began playing baseball at an early age.
Bagdasarian remembers him as a tremendous ball player with an unwavering drive to succeed, “He loved baseball, that’s all he wanted to do. His parents got him involved in travel baseball and I was one of the owners of Baseball City at the time and he used to work off his tuition. He came in with talent and little by little you could see that talent grow.”
Costello would go on to earn back-to-back All-Conference honors and was selected All-State following his senior season at WHS.
“He was so demanding of me as a coach and his teammates,” added Bagdasarian, “He was leader by example but was not afraid to get in [his teammates] faces and demanded more out of them. He wanted more and he expected more. The best part about it was after the game he’d give them a hug, and everything was good. They knew that he was doing it because he wanted to get the best out of them.”
High school teammate Nick Quadrato knew him as a talent on the field and a best friend off it, “Ryan put in the work. At a young age, probably 13 or 14, he knew his job was going to be a baseball player. After school he wasn’t goofing off, he was going to the gym and working on his game. He put the time in, and it really showed.”
“We all know how good of a baseball player Ryan was, but he was a better person than he was a baseball player. He was the best friend, best teammate that a kid could ever ask for. He held his friends accountable. He knew what was right, what was wrong, and he wanted what was best for everyone.”
After high school, Costello went on to star at a Division I level as an infielder for Central Connecticut State University. He would again earn All-Conference and help lead the Blue Devils to a Northeast Conference Championship title.
Dean Lockery, who was Costello’s teammate and roommate for three years at CCSU, recalled the first time the two met, “We were both freshmen and both played the same position, so I knew I would be competing against him. You could tell from the first practice that he was going to be one of the better players. We competed and made each other better. After that first year it was really clear that he was going to be the guy and you wanted to be just as good as him. He challenged everybody to get on his level.”
After hearing the news of Costello’s death, Lockery said his perspective on life changed, “He was on top of the world, ready to have his best year ever. It’s still hard. Once something like this happens you start to think of life differently, you just never know.”
Following to a stellar college career, which ended with a great performance in the NCAA Regionals, Costello achieved his childhood dream and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners before eventually being traded to the Minnesota Twins.
During his stint in the minor leagues, Costello continued to be a clutch performer. He made the Midwest All-Star game while representing the Fort Myers Miracle, hitting a go-ahead three run home run to ensure the Miracle a league title.
His last baseball stop was in the Australian Baseball League, playing for the Aucklund Tuatara.
On that fateful day last November, the news of his passing shook the state and stunned the local Wethersfield community.
“I’ve had some tough losses in my life but that was the worst day of my life,” recalled Quadrato, “It took some time, but spending time with Tammy and Chris is what helped me. Just being with good people and reminiscing on the good times with Ryan. His legacy will live on.”
Costello’s legacy is now living on through The RC13 Foundation, who in conjunction with In A Heartbeat Foundation, donated and presented an AED to 860Baseball, the home of the Connecticut Capitals and where Costello sharpened his skills growing up.
The foundation will continue to honor his life and baseball career with fundraisers and the annual golf tournament to provide additional AEDs
and raise money for future scholarships.
Tammy Costello said baseball was how people identified her son, but it was only a small part of who he was, “Ryan was very gregarious, he was funny. He wanted his family around him and a lot of times he would just hang out and relax. We always had a good time together and we’d travel with him all the time. Baseball was his career choice and what he was passionate about, but it did not define him. He valued family.”
She added that with the help of Bagdasarian and his former teammates, Ryan’s lasting influence will live on in Wethersfield and beyond “Ryan loved Old Wethersfield. It’s so rewarding from the standpoint that this community keeps me going. It’s very easy when you lose a child to lose a part of yourself and a part of me shattered that day, but I picked up the pieces because of these kids. We have to be strong as a community.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin