Time waits for no man, not even Sean Casey.
Though the world has slowed because of the coronavirus pandemic, moments march on and the former Major League Baseball player has found himself pondering lately where the years have gone.
“In my mind, I’m still a kid in high school,” he said as he reviewed score sheets from Upper St. Clair’s WPIAL championship run in 1992. “So how the heck did all this happen?”
Time turned into 45 years and 11 months of moments from celebrating the Panthers’ title 28 years ago to watching his oldest son play for his alma mater.
Andrew Casey will graduate from Upper St. Clair this year and then embark on his dream of one day playing professional baseball, too.
“Really, at this stage in my life, I am extremely grateful for everything,” Sean Casey said. “My career. My family. Being a dad. Yes, I really think this pandemic has given me time to reminisce.”
Anniversaries have a way of taking one on a trip down memory lane, too.
It was 25 years ago since Casey led the nation in hitting and then was selected in the second round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians, embarking on a 12-year professional career that included a stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006.
Because of a sore hamstring, Casey was used as a designated hitter, instead of a first baseman, for the University of Richmond as the Spiders battled Alabama in an East Regional elimination game at Clemson. He drilled two doubles. Although the two-baggers were not enough to beat the Crimson Tide, Casey clinched the NCAA Division I batting title in that 10-4 loss.
“I always thought I did want to win batting titles but, oh my gosh, I never thought I’d lead the country in hitting. There were so many teams in baseball to think about that,” Casey said.
None, but Richmond, offered Casey a chance coming out of high school.
“That’s the most amazing and crazy thing about it,” he said. “It’s funny to think about that story.”
The story starts with a father’s love and guidance. James Casey toiled in the garage with his son to perfect his swing. He also encouraged him to recruit himself. So Casey waged a writing campaign. He contacted 31 schools. Only Richmond responded.
“I was not a 5-star recruit. The big-time athlete,” Casey said. “I had to beg people to take me.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity they gave me and I’m glad I took advantage of it,” he added of his time at Richmond. “I have so many great memories.”
Casey rushed Sigma Phi Epsilon, which is founded on virtue, diligence and brotherly love. He forged lasting friendships out of old rivalries. His roommate, Jay Adams, played at Mt. Lebanon before joining the Richmond roster. Adams is now Casey’s financial advisor.
“His friendship means more to me than my money,” Casey said.
Before cashing in on the professional baseball paycheck, there were those Richmond remembrances on the diamond that have landed him into the school’s Hall of Fame as well as on a variety of Player of the Year lists while becoming the first player to ever win the Colonial Athletic Association Triple Crown, which included the NCAA battling title.
In 55 games his junior season, Casey had 89 hits in 193 at bats for a .461 average. He edged Todd Matlock of Indiana State, who finished second at .460, for the batting crown. Casey drove in 70 runs and scored 63. He hit 26 doubles and 14 homers while striking out only 13 times.
Although Casey said winning the batting title was rewarding, he described the award, gathering dust in the attic, as similar to one from Century Sports with a congratulations inscription for placing second in a Bethel Park youth tournament.
“I really thought I’d get something like a silver bat,” he said. “It really was significant because I knew how much hard work I put into this in the garage, after school. If I didn’t do anything after Major League Baseball, it was cool for that.”
Casey played in three Major League Baseball all-star games and one World Series. While he spent stints in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Boston, Casey played the bulk of his career in Cincinnati, where he is enshrined in the Reds’ Hall of Fame. He had a .302 career batting average with 130 home runs and 735 RBI. His postseason average was .410 with two homers and nine RBI. In fact, his .432 batting average is one of the best in Tigers’ postseason history.
After re-watching the 2006 World Series he played in with Detroit, Casey said he misses “that adrenaline rush” of bringing 60,000 people to their feet.
“It’s unimaginable,” he said. “I’ll never get that again.”
The grind of playing a 162-game Major League Baseball season, however, can be left in the past, Casey said.
“It definitely demands a certain mentality,” he said. “When you do that for so many years, it does run its course.”
For the past 12 years, Casey has been getting a lift from the sport he loves. He works as an MLB Network broadcaster and commentator.
“I miss working so much,” he said. “MLB Network has allowed me to stay in the game. It has allowed me to use my personality and I so enjoy talking baseball. I can’t believe I get paid. There are so many perks of the job.”
Casey has been able to attend all-star events and World Series games. While he has been able to involve his sons, Andrew and Jake, both baseball players, in his endeavors and activities, Casey has also been able to pick and choose his schedule.
In January, he took off to watch Andrew’s team battle in basketball. The Panthers reached the WPIAL semifinals and the second round of the PIAA playoffs, but fell both times to Butler.
Matt Clement, coach of the Golden Tornado, and his son, Mattrix, played an integral role in both battles.
Casey and Clement were scholastic and professional rivals. In high school, Casey doubled and scored two runs off Clement when USC defeated Butler for the WPIAL title in 1992.
That baseball title, the only one in USC history, means much to Casey.
“In all my years of playing baseball, that WPIAL championship, doing it with the friends I grew up with, is the most special. So many memories attached to so many emotions,” he said.
Casey said he was disappointed when his oldest son’s chance for a championship vanished because of the COVID-19 virus. Shortly after the winter basketball playoffs were suspended, the PIAA canceled all spring sports seasons.
“I’d tease Andrew that I got a WPIAL championship and I thought they had a real shot in basketball and better one in baseball because they had a good team to make a run at a title,” Casey said. “I’m bummed for (Andrew) and all those guys, especially the seniors, who just play baseball. They missed out on a great season and great memories.”
Casey anticipates watching Andrew excel at the next level as he enrolls at the University of Dayton in the fall.
“I have enjoyed doing different things with each of my children. Sometimes you have to put things on hold to really enjoy life. It’s your choice. With the proper perspective comes gratitude,” he said. “Right now, I am really enjoying my life. Watching my kids grow is truly a blessing. I just hope I am able to continue to guide them in the right way as a dad. I hope I have taught them to believe they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to and to find something that they are passionate about.”