Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 30, 2013

Tenure in Bluefield winding down as Custons prepares for Air Force

Staff reports
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — There are many reasons why members of the Bluefield Blue Jays may leave before the Appalachian League season comes to an end.

Most don’t leave to join the Air Force. Garrett Custons isn’t most people.

Custons, a 10th round draft choice by Toronto out of the Air Force Academy in June, has four games remaining with the Blue Jays before beginning his two-year commitment with the United States Air Force.

That’s not a problem for Custons, he knew the deal.

“I knew going to the Air Force Academy they were paying for my school and it was a great opportunity to go there and baseball would take second fiddle to it,” Custons said. “It would be in the backseat and I understood that going in and I am happy with what I chose and I am excited to start my career in the Air Force as well.”

Custons, a native of Sarasota, Fla., will be a financial management officer stationed in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

“I don’t know how many people I will have under me, but I think it would be about 20 or 25 people working for me and some real on-the-job experience,” said Custons, who will turn 23 on Sept. 14. “I am really excited about that and it is what I signed up for.

“It was my first choice of jobs and that is what I got so I am excited for it.”

A four-year standout at Air Force, Custons was considered a top prospect out of Florida, but made the decision to leave home for Colorado.

“It is tough to say, it is a good academic school,” Custons said. “The guys there are really cool and it is just something where I kind of liked that opportunity to go the whole military route.”

Custons started fast, earning Freshman All-America honors, batting .328 with nine home runs and 64 runs batted in. During a stellar four-year career, he started 204 of 209 games, batting .333, and became just the sixth  two-time All-Mountain West Conference performer in program history.

All that allowed Custons to get a chance at a professional career.

“I had a great time, there is some good baseball played out there and it was fun,” Custons said. “Since I showed up my freshman year I wanted to get drafted and go on to make a name for the Air Force Academy.”

He did both. Custons became just the fifth player in Air Force history to get drafted by a major league baseball team, and the first since 2007.

Playing time was limited early for Custons in Bluefield, but his numbers had improved through Monday, batting .234 (11-47) with seven runs batted in, five doubles, four runs scored, three walks and two stolen bases. He is batting .320 with runners on, and .308 with runners in scoring position.

That hasn’t kept Custons from enjoying his tenure in Bluefield.

“I am just having a blast, at first I struggled a lot at the plate, adjusting to this kind of pitching and addressing the wood bats, but I have started to adjust and started to play a little better which led to more playing time,” said Custons, who had two hits in Monday’s loss to Danville. “I would just have to say playing with the guys has been awesome, it is a great team we have got here.

“I know we have got a great record, but outside of that, it is just great to be with the guys.”

That goes for the entire Toronto system, which has welcomed Custons and the rest of their prospects with open arms.

“It is a tremendous organization, you never play in the minor leagues before you show up so you don’t really know exactly what to expect, but I have friends that played minor league baseball and they kind of let me know how it went and how it worked for them,” Custons said. “One of them played with the Blue Jays so I kind of had an idea of what to expect.

“They really welcome you into the organization and I am really happy to be drafted by the Blue Jays, it is really a great experience.”

It has been an adjustment in other ways for Custons, who grew up as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the chief rivals for the Blue Jays in the American League East.

“I am a Rays fan, it is tough to deal with it, you do something one way your entire life and then all of a sudden you have got to change,” Custons said. “I am a Rays fans whenever they are not playing the Jays, it is a little tougher, but I will be back in Florida and be able to go to some Rays’ games and hopefully see the Jays come in there and whip some butt.”

Custons made numerous close friends in Bluefield, and will miss them all, but that is simply part of a life spent on the move.

“Oh yeah, it is tough to leave all your friends like that,” Custons said. “It was tough to leave my friends in college and high school, but it is just something you do over time. It is a maturing process and I am excited to start a new portion of my life.”

Baseball, however, isn’t over for Custons. He’s just not sure when he will be back on the diamond.

“It is kind of up in the air, it is not exactly black and white, there are a lot of gray areas, but I think I should be able to come back with them some time next season,” Custons said. “I don’t know how many days, and then the following year I will be back full time.”

Who knows where the current collection of Blue Jays will be, but Custons is looking forward to playing ball with them again in the future.

“We don’t know each other a lot because we have only been here a month and a half, but I have really, really become great friends with a lot of these guys,’ Custons said. “I will try to hang on with a lot of these guys and keep in touch with them just like my friends in high school and college.

“Hopefully I will keep up with these guys and be back in a year and hang out with these guys a lot more.”  

While Custons will be serving in the Air Force, his teammates will continue pursuing an Appalachian League title. Custons will be their biggest fan.

“That would be nice, rumor has it I get a ring if they do,” he said, with a smile, “so, ‘Let’s go boys.’”

—Contact Brian Woodson