Q&A: Kailua ace Joey Cantillo

Kailua pitcher Joey Cantillo. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.
Kailua pitcher Joey Cantillo. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

He was named, in part, after the original Joltin’ Joe, the Yankee Clipper: Joe DiMaggio.

Kailua senior pitcher Joey Cantillo is making a name for himself. The southpaw is our prep feature subject in today’s Star-Advertiser.

Joey Cantillo
Kailua baseball
6-4 1/2, 220

Six days a week, working out at Kailua’s baseball facility. Where does your work ethic come from?
> I have an obsession to work hard and be the best. My dad instilled that in me.

What do your parents do for a living?
> My dad (Johnny) is in construction management. My mom (Michelle) is a nurse.

You grew at least an inch and a half since last season. How hard is your fastball now?
> Upper 80s mph, touching 90.

What do you throw?
> Fastball, curve, slider, change.

Is the splitter a thing of the past?
> There are def guys throwing it, a lot of relievers. There’s been some guys on my team who threw it in the past.

With your height and length, the release point on your pitches must be mind-blowing to see for hitters. Randy Johnson was 6-foot-9. Is there anything he did that you picked up on?
> I’ll be happy with 6-5. Maybe the way he pitched, he was a dominant guy. I like to be aggressive and intimidating.

Playing first base on your non-pitching days. Is this something that’s as interesting as pitching?
> I felt like I hit pretty good (in 2016), but I know i can hit a lot better. I definitely put a lot of time into my hitting. I think I’m a combination of both, I have to be this year. I like to say I’m more of a contact guy. I don’t try to hit home runs, just get on base and help my team.

Where did you decide to go?
> I signed with Kentucky. I had about 12 D-I offers. I got it down to Kentucky, UC Santa Barbara and Texas Tech. I’m going to Kentucky as a pitcher.

Who was the coach who recruited you?
> Coach Roland Fanning. Kentucky has everything I kind of wanted. The best coaching staff, to me. I really made a connection with them, same values, family, hard work, team first. It’s a big school, 30,000 students and you get the true college experience. And the SEC Is the best baseball conference in the country, best facilities, nicest stadiums. All of those are just a plus.

Are you prepared to consider pro ball if you’re drafted, say, in the fourth round or higher?
> It’s all there, but I try not to think about it too much. When that time comes, I’ll talk with my family. I’m just trying to focus. I still got to work hard.

Athlete: Clayton Kershaw
What would you like to ask him if you met him?
> Probably ask him his routine and how he does everything, his mindset when he’s doing everything.

Team: LA Dodgers
> I love all Dodgers. I grew up kind of a Yankees fan because my dad’s from New York. I’ve been to a couple of games. Once I got into baseball, we had Oceanic Cable, the Dodgers channel, especially Kershaw.
Kershaw is just all around, a great guy. He’s the best pitcher, but off the field he does everything right, good in the community. His work ethic, he works super hard, definitely the one I strive towards. He definitely has his superstitions, a big routine guy. I like to have a routine like that going into a start.

So what is your routine like?
> It starts two hours before the game, listening to music, definitely something like Drake, just rap in general. When the team is together, we’re stretching, from that point on, once we start that I’m thinking of my game plan, executing my pitches, getting into my mindset. I have a stretching (routine) one of my coaches does a stretching routine with me, and I always have to have my watermelon Rockstar. I’ll usually have one and put it the fridge at the field or one of our coaches will get me one.

So the key to disrupting Joey Castillo’s routine is to empty out all the watermelon Rockstars from the Windward side?
> If Rockstar was out or banned, it could be any energy drink. I know it’s really bad for you. It gets you amped, but I don’t know, it’s a bunch of sugar.

Food (at home): Mom’s Fried Chicken
> I cook fried chicken sometimes for my family. yeah. I can cook. I like food and I would watch her cook and help her out, probably since I was 10 or 11.

What’s the secret recipe for the Cantillo fried chicken?
> It’s just normal seasoning: salt, pepper, herb, flour, egg. Any vegetable oil, start it off medium, make sure it’s all nice and crispy.

Food (eating out): Gomatei Ramen
> There’s three, Ala Moana, Kahala Mall and Pearlridge. None of the other ones are like Gomatei. I order the Char Siu Ton Ton.

Hobby outside of sports: Diving/Swimming
> Not like competitive swimming. Just swimming at the beach with a snorkel and mask, going into deep water. Shark’s Cove would be up there. Secret Beach on West side, and then I guess anywhere North Shore where it’s flat.

Movie: Coach Carter.
> That was the first movie that popped in my head. It’s a good sports movie.

TV show: Supernatural
> It’s on Netflix. Thrilling, terrifying, exciting. It’s like a horror TV show, kind of. It has a good story to it, brothers who are hunting evil things. I’m not usually are into that stuff but one of my best friends showed me that.

Music artist: Justin Bieber
> He’s not the only guy I listen to. His new music is good, and some of his old music.

Teacher (elementary through high school): Mrs. Peters
> She’s my economics teacher right now. I had her class junior year and now (senior). She’s real and she cares about her students after high school. She cares about there more than the four months they’re in her class. She works hard to. She gives us some good information about taxes, credit cards, post-high school things. She talks about how expensive college is.

GPA: 3.8
> My parents don’t let me slack, I’ve always been A’s and a few B’s.
> I took one college course, English 100.

Class: Art
> I think I’m a pretty good artist. I’m not the best painter, but I can draw. Just whatever the art assignment is. I don’t have time to doodle.

Place to relax: The Ocean

Motto/scripture: “Don’t let anyone else out work you”
> That’s just hard work in general. It doesn’t matter the talent level, I was never the most talented guy, I don’t think. But If you put in the time and effort at practice every day, you can do it. That’s the reason why I’ve been able to get better at baseball.

What your mom (Michelle) says that you can’t forget: “Do the dishes”
> Definitely do the dishes, she says that every night.

What your dad (Johnny) says that you can’t forget: “Dammit”
> He says a bunch of stuff.

What your coaches say that you can’t forget:  Whenever Coach Corey yells “LETS GO!”
> When he was a younger coach, I heard he was more of a screamer and yeller. That’s just what I heard. Now it’s awesome playing for him. It probably was always awesome, but since I’ve been playing for him it’s been awesome. Everyone knows Coach Corey.

How does your baseball affect your daily life during the season and offseason? I try not to let baseball affect my daily life but it does, because it means so much to me, I often carry my past performance with me.
> I carry it through my day, in my social life. I don’t like this, it can affect me.
It’s not only pitching, it’s hitting too. It’s hard. Up and down. I try to just be positive. The beauty of sports is the ups and downs and how you handle them.

What middle and elementary schools did you attend? Maunawili Elementary, Kailua Intermediate
> I love Hawaii. I was always in public education. Private school, it wasn’t something that was necessary for us. Public school, I’ve had really good people to help me along the way. Kailua’s like anywhere else in Hawaii. Kailua is beautiful, nice friendly people, small, quiet.

What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?
I played for the Windward Giants and Eastside Baseball. I do not play for any club teams but (Kailua) baseball and has me at the field at least 6 days a week for the whole year doing my workouts and working with Coach Corey.

Where have you travelled for baseball?
I have played in Northern Cali, Southern Cali for the Area Code Games, Las Vegas, Arizona, and Florida (showcases). You have to be selected to try out of your region. Nevada/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico/Hawaii/Colorado. The top 20 players were selected.

What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
> I like to play basketball with my friends, and I’m pretty good at that, but I never really enjoyed it too much, organized basketball. But I loved baseball.
> I played a few years when I was 10. I go hiking, go to the beach.
> I’m happy with my decision with baseball.

What is your ultimate dream/bucket list?
Play Major League Baseball
> I’d like to visit Europe once in my life. Tahiti, one of those really nice islands.

What is the history and background of your name?
My dad’s favorite player was Joe DiMaggio, and my grandfather (mom’s side) was named Joseph.
> So they went with Joseph. Joey is a nickname. Cantillo. It’s Italian, from Sicily, my dad is Irish and Sicilian. My mom is from Guyana, a small country right above Brazil. She was here as a nurse. My dad was a naval officer.
My sister, Kyla, is 19. She played soccer.

Any shout-outs or additional thoughts are welcome.
Thank you to my parents as well as Todd Takabuki, Kale Sumner, Travis Teshima, Grant Odo, and Corey Ishigo.
> I would be nothing without them. All those guys, they do the extra and dedicate a lot of their free time and a lot of stuff. They really care.

Last year’s postseason highlight as a team: Campbell beat Kalani in the OIA championship game. You entered the title game as a reliever.
> That was definitely different. You can’t do the same routine, a starter’s routine. To be honest I didn’t pitch that well in those last two innings, but we got the job done. That was the big highlight, the showcases were highlights, but winning the OIA was pretty cool.

Quarterfinal loss to Campbell.
> That whole team had the seniors, all the returnees. Now I’m the only returning starter on the team. A lot of juniors and sophomores, a lot of guys who haven’t gotten any experience. It’ll be interesting as we gain confidence. It all starts on Wednesday.

We started off slow as a we always do, then we the Velasco (tournament).


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