Pitching Sensation Calvin Costner Is Set to Light Up Shipley

The incoming freshman is generating buzz on the Main Line.

It was a rare day off for Calvin Costner—no school baseball practice, nothing to do for his elite travel team. He could’ve easily been relaxing at home with his mom, getting some rest before final exams.

But when a sport is coursing through your veins, there is really no time away from it. So the accompaniment to Costner’s night was a ball game: the Auburn-LSU contest on the SEC Network. College baseball isn’t high on television’s hits list, but it was available, so Costner was watching. “I just love the game,” he says. “It’s fun to play. It’s fun to watch. It’s America’s pastime.”

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Costner has played youth football, he can do some damage on the track, and he enjoys playing basketball. But nothing has the allure of baseball. He loves to play it, practice it, watch it, and talk it. And if everything goes right, it will be part of his life for a long, long time.

The 14-year-old will start ninth grade at the Shipley School next month, poised for success on many levels. A fine student who enjoys science and hopes to study engineering in college, Costner has impressed several coaches with his skills and work ethic as an outfielder and a pitcher.

“During a middle-school game this year, he hit a ball farther than some of the varsity guys have,” Shipley head coach Bryan Bendowski says. “Members of the coaching staff were looking at each other and saying, ‘We can’t wait until next year.’”

Calvin Costner can play ball, and he keeps up the grades to match.// all photos by tessa marie images

REDS MENACE: Shipley’s varsity coaches can barely stand the wait for Calvin Costner.

The Wayne resident is growing in many ways—and that’s not just a reference to Costner’s sturdy, 5-foot-9-and-a-half, 145-pound frame. After spending most of his grammar-school years in Radnor public schools, he began at Shipley in 2014. He’s a naturally quiet boy, with a ready smile. Once he’s comfortable, he becomes more talkative—though, around adults, he is quite deferential. That’s a nod to his mother, hard-working Debra McCall, who makes sure her prodigy fulfills his potential as a man, too. “It’s grades first, and baseball and everything else second,” she says.

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In our sports-crazy world, it’s tempting to reverse that order. And as Costner prepares for his high-school career, it’s difficult not to forecast big things. “It’s kind of early, but he has the tools,” Bendowski says. “He has the speed, the arm and great power. If he continues to work all year round, he definitely could compete at a high level in college.”

Costner has the smile, but McCall’s light comes from her eyes. She loves to write, but her most important project is her son. She’s in the trenches with him every day. She’s the mom the other kids talk to and the one they can count on for a hug or a smile. Like most parents of teenagers, she can embarrass her son easily, like when she’s singing Flo Rida in the car.

Costner’s opportunity at Shipley was a dose of good fortune for McCall and her son. They met Bendowski through the Wayne American Legion team, where he coached Costner’s under-13 prep team. “The first thing I noticed was how much of a phenomenal athlete he was,” says Bendowski. 

It didn’t take him long to ask McCall if she had considered sending her son to a private school like, maybe, Shipley. “[Private school] was basically a dream for me,” McCall says.

While Bendowski and his staff eagerly await Costner’s arrival on the Shipley varsity scene, the Philadelphia Reds have him. The travel program, based in King of Prussia, just debuted an under-14 squad that includes Costner. His affiliation with the Reds provides high-level practice against strong competition from around the Mid-Atlantic while he works on the maturity needed to play varsity as a freshman. “He beats himself up,” says Reds coach Sandy D’Orazio. “He wants to be perfect all the time.”

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Costner is trying to overcome the frustration that can occur on the mound. He works to remain calm by putting his faith in the four pitches he’s developed: fastball, slider/cutter, changeup and knuckle curve.

He’s serious about his training, and he doesn’t like to lose. At the beginning of his eighth-grade school year, he completed a conditioning run to find that only one other student could keep up. “We pushed each other in the mile run throughout the year,” Costner says. The result? “I won.”

Expect more victories from Costner. His is a happy story of potential ready to be realized and an example of what happens when opportunity meets talent.

“I’m most impressed with how he handled his transition [to Shipley] and how he carries himself,” D’Orazio says. “He’s a likable young man, a nice young man.”

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