Blue Wahoos manager, teammates, eulogize the tragic loss of Ryan Costello

Only 23, Costello died in sleep while preparing to play in Australian Baseball League

Ryan Costello played in 40 games for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the second half of the 2019 season and helped the team reach the playoffs for the franchise's fifth consecutive year. (Photo/Graphic by Daniel Venn)

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | November 18, 2019 4:01 PM

The words Travis Blankenhorn wrote Monday on his Instagram page embodied the heartfelt emotion of so many, following the loss of his former roommate, fellow Pensacola Blue Wahoos teammate Ryan Costello.

Only days before Costello, who played 40 games this season for the Blue Wahoos, was to begin playing in the Australian Baseball League, his life was being remembered after he suddenly passed away.

Costello, 23, a Hartford, Conn. native and infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization, was found dead in his hotel room in Auckland, New Zealand. The Auckland Tuatara, the team he had joined to play winter league baseball, announced Costello had died of natural causes.

"I don't know where to start… Ryan," Blakenhorn wrote on Instagram. "From living together all year, to staying after the games and playing ping pong to 2 a.m., to arguing over where we are going to get food, to playing video games all night, to the car rides home talking about the game… and, of course, the passionate talks about hitting we always had!

"You were a great person and great friend that I'm truly going to miss. My thoughts and prayers are are with your family and friends! Rest in Peace brother. I love you."

Costello had joined the Blue Wahoos in the second half of the 2019 season, after playing 68 games for the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins' High-A affiliate in the Florida State League. He also played part of the 2018 season in Fort Myers.

His manager, Ramon Borrego, who took the Miracle to the FSL title in 2018 and then led the Blue Wahoos to the franchise's fifth consecutive playoff appearance in 2019, described the shock he felt all day Monday to comprehend Costello's passing.

"(Monday) is a very hard day," said Borrego in a text message where he said he was overcome with emotions. "Not only for me, but for everyone. My heart is devastated and I mean this is the purest way possible.

"My relationship with not only Ryan, but with the other teammates as well, goes beyond just being their coach, but also their friend, their father for the season, and their mentor.

"In my eyes, Ryan was not just a player, but he was also an amazing human being, who always gave me everything he could and demonstrated nothing but respect.

"I am writing this with tears in my eyes and all I can say is that he will forever have a place in my heart as I could never forget about such an amazing soul, who I will always consider more than just a player, but more like a son."

The Twins also issued a statement on Costello's passing. He has been in their organization since acquiring him in July 2018.

"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 left-handed hitting Costello batted .240 for the Blue Wahoos with 21 RBI, seven home runs, five doubles and two triples. In addition to playing first base and third base, he was also had spot duty as a left fielder.

In September 2018, Costello hit a three-run homer to help the Miracle beat the Daytona Beach Tortugas and win the FSL championship.

His final game in 2019 was Sept. 7 when he played first base in the Blue Wahoos 10-5 win against Biloxi Shuckers in Game 4 of the Southern League Division Series.

Costello did not play the following day when the Shuckers rallied in the deciding game to win the series and advance to the league championship series.

On his Twitter page, Jeremy Zoll, the Twins assistant general manager and director of minor league operations, wrote: "Ryan's infections energy and drive for greatness will never be forgotten. He is the definition of a great teammate and has been taken from us far too soon. Sending thoughts and prayers to the Costello family."

Costello was chosen in the 31st round of the 2017 draft by the Seattle Mariners. He was playing at Central Connecticut State, following his high school career in Wethersfield, Conn. 

On July 30, 2018, he was acquired by the Twins in a trade with the Mariners that sent Twins veteran pitcher Zach Duke to Seattle.

"My prayers and thoughts go out to the Costello family. Rest in Peace, Ryan," wrote Twins rookie infielder Luis Arraez on his Twitter page. Arraez began the 2019 season with the Blue Wahoos and was one of seven Blue Wahoos players who went on to play for the Twins this year.

Nick English, owner of Munger English Sports Management, which represented Costello as his agent, called Costello "an inspiration to many." Costello arrived in New Zealand last week and was to begin playing with the team this week.

"On behalf of our staff and families and others who have supported Ryan throughout his career in professional baseball, I want to express our deepest condolences to the Costello family," English wrote in a statement. "Ryan was an absolute pleasure to work with.

"We join the players, coaches and staff members of the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Fort Myers Miracle, Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings, Arizona League Mariners, Auckland Tuatara, Central Connecticut State University and Wethersfield High School in offering our unwavering support to Ryan's family during this difficult time.

"We wish the days of sorrow one day can turn to days of joy in celebrating all that was - and is - good about Ryan's life and spirit. He was an inspiration to many on the field."

A GoFundMe page has been established by former Blue Wahoos teammate Mark Contreras to help pay for the costs of transporting Costello's body back to the U.S. and for funeral arrangements in his hometown.

It can be accessed on the Blue Wahoos web page, www.milb.com/pensacola., as well as www.gofundme.com.

"My condolences go out to his family and friends," Borrego said. "Rest in Peace, Ryan Costello. You'll always be a part of the family today, tomorrow and always."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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