Four Live Oak High student-athletes—Aidan Keenan, Landon Stump, Diego Castellanos and Kaitlyn Silva—signed their college letters of intent on Nov. 9, the first day of the early signing period for high school athletes in sports other than football.
The quartet gathered at the Live Oak gymnasium for an honorary ceremony signifying their achievements. All four have had unique journeys to reach the four-year collegiate level, and their signings made history as well.
This is the first time Live Oak’s tradition-rich baseball team has had three Division I-signees on the same club. Keenan signed with Stanford, Stump UCLA and Castellanos with St. Mary’s. Then there’s Silva, who will play women’s lacrosse at Division II Fort Lewis in Colorado.
The midfielder has had one of the more rapid ascents of any athlete in the South Valley—boy or girl—in recent memory. A lifelong softball player, Silva only started playing lacrosse in her junior year and in that time started receiving offers from four-year programs.
Silva said she also received offers to play softball but chose lacrosse for college because of her newfound passion for the sport.
“After playing 12 years of softball, it got a little boring and burned me out. Lacrosse gave me an extra spark,” she said. “I decided I wanted to switch things up.”
Silva’s rise has coincided with Live Oak adding girls lacrosse in 2020, though the team didn’t have a full season until spring 2021 due to Covid.
“I’m super proud of myself and the team and how we’ve done this in just over two years,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
That would be one way to describe Castellanos’ talent and ability. However, as is common in a lot of cases, the center fielder didn’t start receiving attention from four-year programs until after a spectacular junior year that included being named the MVP of the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Mount Hamilton Division.
Known as “Diggy” by his teammates, Castellanos said signing with his friends and family in attendance was truly a special moment he won’t soon forget.
“It means everything,” he said. “Family, friends, that’s what it’s all about. I worked hard for this, so this is a good day.”
The three baseball standouts also play on the football team, with Stump starring at quarterback and Castellanos excelling as a wide receiver and kicker. Keenan joined the team in late October and has been doing kickoff duties.
That’s enough to make anyone around the Live Oak baseball program a tad bit nervous as the Acorns are in the midst of a Central Coast Section playoff run and injuries are prevalent on the gridiron.
“All the coaches are telling me to tackle with my left arm,” said Keenan, a right-hander who could be selected in the first couple of rounds of the MLB Draft in June.
Castellanos credited Erik Wagle and KPI for being the driving force for his recruitment to St. Mary’s. Coaches from the university in Moraga visited the KPI facility in the summer to watch Castellanos take batting practice, and a month or two later they saw him play in a camp/tournament. Castellanos’ teammates are continually amazed at his hand-eye coordination and sweet swing.
“Diggy, I swear does not strike out,” Keenan said. “He might have struck out five times last year. I remember me and him had a bet on how many times he would strike out and he won so I had to pay him some money. He barrels every ball like it’s a free barrel every time so I’m really happy for him he committed.”
Stump added: “Diggy is the best pure hitter I’ve seen. He just hits everything.”
Keenan and Stump have great backstories as well. Friends since they were 9 years old, and having developed into pitchers with stuff that should translate to the next level, their journeys differed in that Stump started gaining attention at an early age while Keenan was a late bloomer.
Both whip the ball and pound the strike zone, and Keenan has come close to hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. While that’s cause for praise, it was another 100 that really got the two chuckling.
“We had a celebration when Aidan hit 100 pounds (on the scale),” Stump said. “When he was 14.”
To which Keenan replied: “Literally.”
Keenan’s rapid rise has matched his mid-90s fastball, and it all started happening as he and Stump were training during the Covid lockdown period.
“I remember being in the gym during Covid and we’d have to outwork each other,” Stump said. “We’d be working out and then he just did some pushups out of nowhere so I had to do at least one more than him, then he would start doing some pull ups so we would always go back and forth to see who could do more than each other. And that hard work got us here today.”
“It obviously means a lot that we’re both committed to our dream schools, at least for me,” Keenan deadpanned. “I’m sure it’s one of his dream schools, too. We went through this process together, we’re pretty much the two pitchers in our whole area who pushed each other toward our own goals and pretty much helped each other through this process.”
Stump relayed an anecdote detailing their journey together, highlighting how their competitiveness drove them to new heights.
“When we first started (and Stump was offered a Division I scholarship after his freshman year), I don’t want to make it sound like Aidan is trash but it was a little sooner for me because I was throwing harder before him,” Stump said. “Then I remember out of nowhere they keep showing me stuff and saying, ‘Oh, Aidan has PR’d (on the radar gun). And Aidan has PR’d again. And he did it again. Then eventually Aidan is talking to all these schools, too. It was like, ‘Dang bro, where did this come from?’”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]