"I learned that the prepared mind had an edge. When that was coupled with a prepared body, great things became possible.”
With discipline, a commitment to learning, and the understanding that building blocks achieve goals, comes success in an individual. Little League is an incredible tool for such rewards. If you start early and learn the value of teamwork, you will build confidence and develop skills. If you consistently apply yourself, you will develop a mental toughness which leads to the courage necessary to not only be a successful player, but over time, a successful person.
We would like to introduce Peter Kasturas to our Oradell Little League community today, as we kick off the Oradell Little League Season. Peter is a successful human being, an educator, a thinker, and a motivator. But did you know that his success didn’t just show up one day at Oradell Public School?
Peter Kasturas started his journey like many of our players… playing Little League baseball in River Edge. He went on to have memorable seasons in not only high school, but in college at Kutztown University where he was a leader on the diamond.
before either of them even signed a major league contract. But something
happened to Kasturas one day in the Spring of 1987 at a selective tryout
held by the Houston Astros. Another passion crept into his life…teaching.
Peter’s passion for wanting to become an inspirational educator became
reality, and these days, he’s at the top of his game (pardon the pun).
We share with you now a very special profile. Meet Peter Kasturas.
An inspiration to our kids in this Oradell Little League community.
OLL: Peter, you are a very active teacher at Oradell Public School
and you have been since 1988. But you also had another passion that
many people don’t know about: baseball. Tell our community about
playing Little League baseball as a child.
Kasturas: I was born in River Edge in 1964 and started playing Little League
baseball in 1969. I’ll never forget my ﬁrst “Robin League” game. I was so
proud to put on my Orioles uniform. I was a lefty shortstop! I loved being
part of a team. We had so much fun playing in those days. When we weren’t
playing hardball, we played wifﬂe ball. My backyard was the greatest wifﬂe
ball stadium on the block! My brother, Perry, and I created so many cool “automatics.” It was incredible. He and I invented some pretty cool pitches too!
OLL: Tell our players about your biggest moment in your Little League career. You know… that moment you will never forget.
Kasturas: I remember the ﬁrst time I felt that “in the zone” feeling. I was 11 years old and playing in our Little League championship game. I had my best game going four for ﬁve with two homers and making a leaping catch over the centerﬁeld fence to save the victory. It was an incredible moment I’ll never forget. The best part was that we did it as a team. Celebrating with my teammates at the ice cream parlor after that game was so very cool. I remember wearing my mitt with the ball still in it for three days straight!
OLL: Coaching is an important part of the game. Who in your young baseball career really guided you to work hard, never give up on yourself, and ﬁnd the courage and strength to be successful in not only baseball, but in life?
Kasturas: My biggest baseball inﬂuence, without a doubt, was my father. I really loved when he would take me out into our backyard and hit me ground balls. He hit them harder and harder until my reﬂexes became razor sharp. In the beginning, I had some anxiety, but as I worked, I improved. I learned when to glove the ball and when to knock it down. He would get so excited when I was really on my game and would teach me how to improve. I loved that. My father also took me to the ﬁeld whenever he could to work on defense. I remember how he trained me by simulating actual game situations. I’d go out to centerﬁeld, and he’d announce the situation. He’d hit ﬂy balls, hard grounders, gappers, deep shots, you name it. Those times with my dad really built my conﬁdence. While I loved the game, this ﬁne tuning brought me to the next level, and I really improved. Through hard work and really focusing on the mental aspects of the game, my conﬁdence grew daily, and I became a very solid player. My mother and father were both very supportive and always just told me to do my best. This simple advice coupled with their love and support on and off the ﬁeld not only helped me with baseball, but with life in general. My mom and dad are my heroes in life. By the time this article gets published, they’ll have been married 54 years!
OLL: What was the best advice you ever received from a coach?
Kasturas: One of my travel team coaches really instilled in us
the value of preparing not only our bodies, but our minds. While
he talked about baseball a lot, he seemed to talk more about life.
He constantly talked about the value of good nutrition, getting proper
rest, and exercising regularly. I listened. He wanted his teams coming
to the ﬁeld prepared and ready to play. That also meant getting to the
ﬁeld early, having my uniform and equipment ready to go, and
stretching before playing. I learned to love preparing myself. I
remember him also telling me to envision, in my mind’s eye, game
situations. Whether it be pitching, batting, ﬁelding, or just being a
good teammate. I learned to really study pitchers while they were
pitching to other batters. I learned that the prepared mind had an
edge. When that was coupled with a prepared body, great things
OLL: You’re about to blow everyone’s mind with this. Back in April of 1987, Kutztown University’s Peter Kasturas had nine hits in a sweep over East Stroudsburg. Your manager Mitch Hettinger is quoted as saying “I have been coaching baseball 13 years, and I have never seen one batter put on such an awesome display of hitting.” Why were you so dominant at the plate during that doubleheader?
Kasturas: I’ll never forget that doubleheader against ESU. It’s hard to explain what being “in the zone” is, but when you’re in it, it’s simply undeniable. We were on a major playoff push after a very rough start to the season and now found ourselves needing to win our last four games. During that ﬁrst doubleheader, I knew we’d be facing two tough pitchers, but for whatever reason, I just felt conﬁdent.
I had laser focus on offense and defense. The game just seemed
to slow down, and the ball looked so big. I came up in some
very big situations during both games, and ended up going
9 for 9. I also had hits in the previous and subsequent games
and was told later that I had tied a Division II record by
getting 11 straight hits. That record has been broken since,
but it was quite a thrill at the time. I think my teammates were
more excited about it than I was. More importantly, we only
needed two more wins. We won the third game, but lost our
last college game by a single run which kept us out of the
playoffs. I came up with a man on second and a chance to tie
or win the game on my last at bat, but the pitcher beaned me
in the back and got the next batter to ﬂy out deep to right to end
the season. It was all very exciting.
OLL: You told me another story I’d love you to share if you
could. Soon after that doubleheader, you really had an
important life decision to make. You told me you could
continue to try to play baseball, or you could be a teacher.
Both were passions of yours. In the end, you chose teaching. Why?
Kasturas: In the Spring of 1987, I was invited to a selective tryout for the Houston Astros. I’ll never forget that day. I played ﬁrst base and pitched in college, but they put me out in centerﬁeld because I could run and hit. I ran a very fast 60-yard dash that day and nosed out a very young Marquis Grissom, a player that ended up playing many years for the Montreal Expos. When it was my turn to bat, the skies opened up, and it really began to pour. No matter…I stayed focused and hit well. After the tryout, one of the scouts approached me and offered me a chance to play in the minor leagues.
By that time in my life, I had already transferred
college from Seton Hall to Kutztown, changed majors
from business to teaching, and had undergone a few
signiﬁcant personal challenges. I was 23 going on 24
and was the oldest player at that tryout. At that time
though, I was also very focused on studying the science
and the art of teaching. It was a difﬁcult choice. While I
knew I probably could’ve had a good run in baseball, I
didn’t feel as if I was on the fast track to the pros and had
no desire to languish in the minors while my true calling
waited. I knew that teaching was an opportunity I couldn’t
pass up. My ﬁrst interview came that following year at
Oradell Public School, and I had secured the job before
graduating college. I was very motivated to help kids and
knew I could have great impact. 29 years later, I know
I made the right decision.
OLL: Teaching is very much like coaching, isn’t it? It’s about instilling positive values and trying to help kids understand their worth, not only in school, but in life. Tell the audience how important it is for you to bring conﬁdence to kids.
Kasturas: When asked to describe what I do as a teacher, I often say, “I teach kids, not subjects.” Every child is different. I do my best to ﬁnd out what makes every child tick and work very hard to build skills and conﬁdence. Taking risks in a loving and supportive environment can yield great beneﬁts. I show them that hard work and perseverance can create fantastic results. I also try very hard to get them excited about learning by making learning relevant and fun. By creating experiences to remember, I do my best to instill the values I learned as a child. The ﬁrst assignment the kids complete every school year is to watch the Jim Valvano ESPY speech from 1993.
Those 11 minutes and 15 seconds say so much about what’s important in life. On my wall every year is our “Class Code.” It’s simple…it says to be “SOLID!”
S = Shoot for the moon!
O = Optimistic is the way to be!
L = Live with passion!
I = Ignite the ﬁre within!
D = Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up!
Anything is possible if you dare to really be yourself.
OLL: How important is teamwork to you in the classroom, and does the classroom mentality also translate to the baseball ﬁeld?
Kasturas: One of the greatest aspects of life is the opportunity to brainstorm, create, and cooperate with others. I love systems and have great respect for leaders who have the wisdom and dedication necessary to create successful teams. While baseball may involve lots of individual actions, it’s teamwork that wins championships. When everyone knows their roles and respects each other and their coaches, teams become uniﬁed. Collaboration and team spirit are satisfying on many levels. The greatest team I ever played for was a semi-pro baseball team from Dumont in 1986. We had a great coach, yes, but more importantly, we had a mix of veterans and younger players that really bought into the team concept. For the ﬁrst eight games, I remember our record was 4 and 4. At that point, two veterans held a players-only meeting. I’ll never forget how powerful that meeting was. By taking a risk, those two veteran players made a huge impact on us. We ended up winning our last 19 out of 20 games and rolled to a league championship.
Yes, we had talent, but no more than other teams. We created our own edge by setting and following strong rules and by trusting and supporting each other. We knew we had something special. I hope you all get that experience in your life. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of a great team. It takes great leadership.
OLL: If you were a baseball coach these days, what qualities would you look for most in a player and why?
Kasturas: First and foremost, I want players who are willing to work hard and accept their roles. I admire players who always try hard no matter what the scoreboard says. Players that believe in team accomplishments over individual accomplishments will always be winners in my book. I want players that support each other through thick and thin. Baseball is a difﬁcult game, and no one is successful every time. I admire players who try their best, but don’t get too down on themselves when things don’t go their way. Instead, they realize that there is always another at-bat, another chance to ﬁeld the ball, and another game to pitch. I want players who play to win, but lose with grace. Do your best and the rest will take care of itself!
OLL: Explain to our players what being “coachable” means to you.
Kasturas: I’ve played on literally hundreds of teams in my life whether it be baseball, bowling, basketball, etc. I’ve prided myself on being a very “coachable” player. For me, that means I listened intently at what the coaches were trying to teach me and did my best to apply those lessons daily. I may not have always gotten the desired results immediately, but I tried my best and improved daily. Being coachable means being open to the process and accepting roles. There are no small roles on great teams. Everyone is important. Coachable players buy into that mindset and attack every situation with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. You never know when your opportunity will emerge. Always do your best.
OLL: Finally, what advice could you offer our Little Leaguers today in this very competitive environment?
Kasturas: I remember reading the great John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” at a very early age. On that single sheet of paper, he said, “Good things take time.” Well, almost 53 years into my life, I realize fully now that he is absolutely correct. The building blocks of his pyramid were many of the things mentioned in this profile; hard work, cooperation, team spirit, mental and physical conditioning, enthusiasm, and so much more. The key to all of it though is to NEVER GIVE UP. No matter what your situation is in life, there is always another opportunity to try your best. Be thankful for the struggles you face in life. They are our greatest teachers and help us to really appreciate the good times. Develop your mind and body, yes, but also never forget to develop your heart. Every day is a new opportunity to create. Go for it!