Determination fuels former Cathedral Catholic standout John Cresto’s professional baseball career

Asheville Tourists infielder Johnny Cresto (17) during media day at McCormick Field on April 2 in Asheville, North Carolina.
(Tony Farlow/Asheville Tourist)

John Cresto had a hard time getting on the field for much of his high school career. Now he’s getting paid to be there.

An unknown for most of his high school career, Cresto parlayed a breakout senior year at Cathedral Catholic into a scholarship at Division I Santa Clara, and the 22-year-old is now a budding star in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system.

Cresto acknowledged some frustration set in when he couldn’t land a regular spot in the lineup after transferring to Cathedral Catholic from St. Augustine before his junior year.

But Cresto’s frustration only fueled his determination. He went from a virtual unknown his junior year to the Western League’s Player of the Year as a senior in 2015 during a period when the Dons were widely considered among the nation’s most talent-rich programs.

He believes the chip on his shoulder he developed in high school has helped shape the hungry player he is today.

“One hundred percent,” Cresto said. “After games in high school I would go home and hit, almost to the point where I was doing too much.

“It taught me not to not take any steps back with the little things in my game. Mentally and physically, everything needs to be worked on. I realized that and from that time on I’ve been a workhorse.”

His work ethic paid off.

Cresto, who was selected by Colorado in the 28th round of baseball’s 2018 amateur draft, is batting .285 (49 for 172) with 25 extra-base hits including four home runs with an inside-the-park homer and 35 RBI in 48 games in his first full year of pro ball at Single-A Asheville, North Carolina – numbers that are especially impressive considering the South Atlantic League’s reputation as a pitcher’s league.

Cresto’s primary position is third base, but he’s also played first and both outfield positions for the Tourists.

An athletic background has helped him adapt to different roles. Cresto played competitive basketball and football through middle school. He’s an avid beach volleyball player too.

“There’s plenty more to learn,” Cresto said. “I’m a student of the game and I always will be. This is my first full season and there’s a huge developmental period before hopefully getting to the big leagues. That’s my hope and my dream.

“That’s what I practice for every day.”

Cresto had to give everything he had just to get a chance at one of the area’s most competitive programs. He is among six former Dons players currently playing professionally. Pitchers Alex Schick, Dan Camarena, Stephen Gonsalves and Brady Aiken, and infielder/outfielder Sean Bouchard are the others.

Dons coach Gary Remiker immediately recognized Cresto’s athleticism when he came to Cathedral Catholic, but he couldn’t find a position for him. He tried Cresto at third base, first base, the outfield and even pitching.

“He had the tools, he had speed, he had power, he had the strong arm, but what he really needed to work on was consistency on the field, and he was coming into a program that had a lot of talented players ahead of him, that’s why he didn’t become a full-time regular player until his senior year,” Remiker said.

Remiker finally found a place for him at third base, and Cresto excelled.

“He really locked down that spot for us,” Remiker said. “He was extremely consistent that year, and kind of from ‘out of nowhere’ ended up being the Western League Player of the Year.”

Cresto started out his collegiate career at shortstop. It wasn’t until midway through his sophomore year that he returned to third base.

He experienced the biggest setback of his career at the most inopportune of times. Midway through his junior year, he suffered a blood clot after fouling a ball into his calf, ahead of the amateur draft.

It took him about four weeks of grueling physical therapy to get his range of motion back, and he was able to get back on the field for the last few weeks of the season, but the injury likely affected his draft status. He was projecting to go higher after being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 18th round of the 2015 draft.

“I kind of let some of the pressure get to me during the junior year as well as getting hurt and not being able to play for about four weeks,” Cresto said. “That definitely affected things, but I think that everything happens for a reason and I was blessed to be drafted in 2018.”

He believes a positive mindset helped put his career back on track.

“When something bad happens, or something doesn’t go your way, it’s about the finding the positive about those things and trying to use that to your advantage,” Cresto said.