It isn’t uncommon for athletes to grow up on the same field together all the way to the high school stage. After all, schools and districts are zoned for a reason.
However, it is rare for lifelong friends to take that to the next level.
Two key contributors on Pearland’s state finalist baseball team – Jake Mader-Cooper (Sr. RHP/IF) and Isaiah Castañeda (Sr. OF/RHP) – have been on the same trajectory from the beginning.
“It feels amazing to have the opportunity to play at the college level with a friend I’ve played baseball with since Little League up to high school,” said Castañeda. “Jake is a great teammate and I feel like he’s someone who really pushes me and keeps me accountable. Keeping something like that going is irreplaceable.”
Both Mader-Cooper and Castañeda recently inked their futures by signing to play for Rice University at the conclusion of their high school careers. While they didn’t coordinate their initial decisions to commit, it seems like destiny played a part in it.
“Isaiah and I go back a long way, even with the All Stars when we were eight or nine,” said Mader-Cooper. “We’ve always had a good relationship with each other, pushing each other to be better, and I’m really fortunate to have him there (Rice) with me next year. Already having someone I know as well I know him there is just a plus for my future college experience.”
Now that the two have sealed the deal on their collegiate aspirations, what’s next?
“It’s a big relief, now that I’ve signed,” said Castañeda. “I don’t have to worry about trying to get into college and whether or not I’ll get to play ball when I’m there. Now, I can just go out there and have fun once the season starts. I’m still going to work hard, of course, so I can contribute to the team and be ready for my freshman year at Rice when all is said and done.”
“The mindset now is that the work has just started,” Mader-Cooper said. “Going to play D1 baseball is a much bigger challenge, so the end goal right now is to get better every day. There are things that I need to work on, and so does everybody else – small goals at a time. Rice will take care of itself, but for now we’re looking to make it back to State.”
Great minds do think alike.
Rice will be calling in the upcoming Spring, but Mader-Cooper and Castañeda still have a job to do when they take to the diamond for Pearland one last time.