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Gazette Premium Content Air Force's Custons aiming high on the baseball field

FRANK SCHWAB Updated: March 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

There’s not much Air Force’s Garrett Custons can’t do on a baseball field.

He hits for average. Custons’ .383 mark is third in the Mountain west among qualifiers. He can hit for power too. His .654 slugging percentage is second in the conference. He even has five steals – not bad for a catcher – and he has thrown out eight of the 12 runners trying to steal against him.

He is aware he is having a good season and isn’t shy about his personal goal.  

“I want to win Mountain West Player of the Year. Anything else would be a down year,” Custons said. “I want to set the bar high. And I know if that happens, I’ve helped my team win the most games possible.”

The junior then said, next year, his goal is national player of the year.

“I like to set the bar very high,” Custons said.

He isn’t being conceited, because the goals are his way of pushing himself. And, it isn’t like he is being unrealistic thinking he can win conference player of the year, considering the start he is off to.

“He brings so much to the program, not only offensively but defensively,” coach Mike Kazlausky said. “He’s the best catcher in the league, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

The more Custons improves, he has allowed himself to wonder if he has a future in the pros.  

“Every single day,” Custons said. “I’m excited to serve in the Air Force and what I get to do, and I’m also excited about baseball and playing at the next level.”

If Custons does get a pro contract, he can serve in the Air Force for two years, then shift the final three years of his military commitment to six years of reserve duty, which would allow him to play full time. Given his skill set, it seems possible some team next year will make Custons the fourth Air Force player to be drafted, the first since Karl Bolt in 2007 and only the third since 1976.

The two-year military commitment is mandatory and makes for a more difficult sell to pro teams in any sport, but Custons’ talent could be worth waiting for. That’s his hope.

“I feel I’ve put myself in a good position to get drafted,” he said. “Now I just have to see how takes a flier on me.”

There’s a long way to go until then, and Custons wants to keep improving. This year, he made it a point to become more selective at the plate. He saw the movie “Moneyball” and listened to the virtues of on-base percentage, and had already heard the lessons about the value of taking pitches from his coaches and father. He decided to become more patient, especially against pitchers who knew of him as a reigning first-team all-conference player. His .457 on-base percentage is second in the conference, up from last year’s .413 mark.

“I knew I’d get a lot of bad pitches, and I didn’t want to expand my zone,” Custons said.

Custons is also quick to point out team goals and his teammates. He begins the interview by mentioning the team’s goal of making the conference tournament, and how its 2-1 start in league play puts it on pace to do so. And when asked if he finds it difficult to stay patient when he is the star of Air Force’s lineup, he says that first baseman Seth Kline and outfielder Alex Bast are more than capable of driving in runs behind him.
“We have a lot of good hitters in a row,” Custons said. “If you want to walk me, go ahead.”

Contact Frank Schwab: 476-4891

Twitter @GazetteAirForce

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