With his sophomore year and first varsity season under his belt two years ago, Marian Catholic’s Angelo Cantelo knew what he could do going forward.
He had posted decent offensive numbers but nothing special. He started at catcher the majority of the Spartans’ games, helping a young pitching staff develop.
And all the while, Cantelo watched then-senior Mark DiLuia (Maryland) lead the way, ultimately winning Player of the Year honors for the East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC).
“As a sophomore, I looked at Mark and what he did to help us win,” Cantelo said. “I talked to my dad [Ray Cantelo] and said ‘I promise you. I’ll win Player of the Year.’ Then this year, we were talking, and I said ‘I think I’ve got a shot.’ He said don’t talk about it, but I knew I could win it.”
Cantelo’s goals came true as the 6’1” senior catcher was named the ESCC Player of the Year.
He hit .411 for the Spartans with 4 home runs, 24 RBI, 13 doubles and a .508 on-base percentage.
Battling through the ESCC, Cantelo (Blue Island, St. Walter) was incredibly proud of the award.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to say, ‘Player of the Year,’” Cantelo said. “We play one of the toughest, if not the toughest, conferences in the state, where you’re facing elite pitchers almost every game. I’ve got a lot of friends in the conference, too, so it’s some bragging rights.”
Late this spring season while hanging out with teammates, Cantelo and his fellow Spartans also made a startling realization about his catching duties.
Cantelo hadn’t missed an inning behind the plate in two-plus years.
“We were sitting around joking, and somebody said ‘You’ve caught every game since late sophomore year,’” Cantelo said. “[Jordan Smevoll] did the math and figured out I’d caught 500 straight innings.”
When his high school career was all said and done, Cantelo had caught 514 straight innings for the Spartans.
Marian Catholic Coach Tony DeCarlo said it was a luxury to be able to pencil Cantelo into the lineup and behind the plate each game.
“Angelo meant the world to our team,” DeCarlo said. “He had such good camaraderie with the pitchers and Coach George Shimko. It’s such a blessing to a coach to have a kid who knows the game as well as he did. He knew what pitch to call, how to read hitters and the approach they took.”
DeCarlo offered his senior catcher a breather throughout the stretch, but Cantelo wasn’t interested.
“Coach DeCarlo asked if I needed a rest, needed a breather,” Cantelo said. “You get beat up, but I didn’t want to come off the field. I want to play every play, every game.”
Cantelo first started catching at a young age and never stopped.
It’s been a learning process throughout to help master baseball’s toughest position, balancing a healthy diet with plenty of stretching and frequent visits to the weight room.
“It’s overcoming the challenge every day,” Cantelo said. “You’re catching different pitches, you’re blocking pitches in the dirt. To be successful, it’s everything. It’s blocking, receiving and throwing.”
DeCarlo marveled at Cantelo’s progression from a late season call-up as a freshman to a three-year starter.
“His biggest step was his leadership ability and physically, his physique,” DeCarlo said. “He lost 30 pounds after sophomore year because some colleges said he was ‘too chubby,’ which is ridiculous. His work ethic is crazy. He’s one of the best, if not the best, I have coached in my short career.”
Cantelo now heads to Division-II Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., where he will have a chance to play right away with the Flyers.
“I really liked the coaches; and it’s close to home, so my family are able to come watch games,” Cantelo said. “Lewis had a little bit of everything. With recruiting, it’s finding the right place where I could play. Lewis was the most welcoming with that family atmosphere.”