View Full Version : Casey makes a good first impression (2/23)

02-24-2006, 10:29 PM
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Casey makes a good first impression
By Rob Rossi

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Sean Casey was still an up-and-coming, minor-league prospect with the Cleveland Indians in the spring of 1997 when he and a few friends traveled to Gulf Coast Community College.
"I remember talking to Bill Mazeroski -- his son was a coach for the baseball team there -- and thinking, 'This is the greatest moment of my career,'" Casey recalled.

Make that almost the greatest moment of his career.

Wednesday was pretty sweet for Casey, too.

As position players worked out for the first time under the watchful eye of new manager Jim Tracy, Casey and Mazeroski met again -- chatting and laughing after the Pirates' Hall-of-Famer spent about 20 minutes hitting ground balls to Casey during a fielding drill.

For the record, Mazeroski lined a few ropes to Casey, who fielded them all cleanly, as though his defensive reputation depended on it.

"Not bad, huh?" Casey said of the scene. "It's pretty cool having Bill Mazeroski hitting ground balls to you during your first practice."

In addition to his work at first base, Casey did some hitting of his own yesterday -- spraying balls to all fields -- during a brief batting practice session. Afterward, he gladly signed about 25 autographs for Pirates fans who have been seemingly forever awaiting the Upper St. Clair graduate's donning of the black and gold.

More than a few Reds fans showed up at Pirate City, too -- hoping to pass along well-wishes to the player who was known as "The Mayor" during seven highly successful seasons in Cincinnati.

Casey, who during spring training will stay at a home in Sarasota, where the Reds train, clearly appreciated the support from fans of both the Pirates and Reds.

Make no mistake, however; he is now a Pirate through-and-through.

And, like his manager, he's fairly impressed with the talent he saw surrounding him yesterday.

"We've got a pretty good club here, really," Casey said. "And (Tracy) is doing a really good job of setting an atmosphere that's moving us in the right direction."

Setting such an atmosphere was the intent behind a speech Tracy gave to his team prior to the afternoon workout.

"Yes, there is," Tracy said when asked if the mind-set of the Pirates' organization needed changing after 13 consecutive seasons of losing baseball. "And I think we took a lot of major steps in that direction (yesterday) morning.

"When a perception has been the way it's been for a significant time, I think there is a mind-set that needs changing."

Though neither Tracy nor any of his players would address specifically what he said during the speech, the message he delivered was clearly focused on erasing any built-in excuses these Pirates might have for continuing with the franchise's losing ways.

"He wants to win now," said All-Star left fielder Jason Bay. "He made that pretty clear."

Bay, for one, was impressed with yesterday's unusually concentrated workout.

"Usually on the first day it's pretty lackadaisical and everybody is feeling their way around a little bit, but I really got the feeling that everybody was over that," Bay said. "Everybody came in a little more ready, a little more focused as far as getting some things done."

Notes: General manager Dave Littlefield confirmed that all position players reported to camp as expected and that all had passed their team physicals.

Seventeen pitchers threw bullpen sessions, the most since camp started last Friday. Included among those pitchers were Sean Burnett, Oliver Perez and Ian Snell -- each of whom had not thrown a bullpen since Feb. 19. Roberto Hernandez threw a bullpen for the second consecutive day. Pitching coach Jim Colborn reported all of his pitchers to be healthy.

Outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, who signed with the club as a free agent during the offseason, fit right in with his fellow new Pirates, Casey and third baseman Joe Randa. "When you've been on as many (teams) as I have, it's always easy to fit in with a new clubhouse," said Burnitz, who is playing for his seventh major-league organization.

Rob Rossi can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or (412) 380-5635.


02-25-2006, 01:23 PM
have the feeling casey is gonna murder us this year

Gainesville Red
02-25-2006, 01:46 PM
He'll do it with tears in his eyes.

02-25-2006, 01:53 PM
have the feeling casey is gonna murder us this year

Just him?

How about most of the league?

I'm predicting 4 DP's in the 1st series myself.

Little Alex
02-25-2006, 02:17 PM
well I mean Casey is above .300 every year. So, if by "murder," you mean, get a hit off of us about one third of the time, then I agree.

Its not like he feels any angst toward the organization. He's friends with most of the players on the Reds, and upper management is different than when he was here, so there is really no one left to hate, except possibly the mascot with the big baseball for a head.

02-25-2006, 04:24 PM
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Marc's Blog -- Casey

SARASOTA -- Just got back from a brief visit to Bradenton, where I got some nice quotes and a two-armed bear hug from Sean Casey. He is different, no doubt about that.

You can tell he's still trying to adjust to his new surroundings, and he admitted it's still "weird" to him to be playing for another team. But he's getting there. I think having Joe Randa there will help; they got to be pretty tight during Randa's time in Cincinnati last year. They're actually getting quite an ex-Reds contingent in black and gold. I watched Casey and Randa hit off C.J. Nitkowski during live BP, and later spotted Gookie Dawkins walking around. The latter two guys had numbers in the 70s on their backs...

Anyway, Casey seemed more interested in hearing about what was going on in Reds camp than telling me about his new home. He was curious about Castellini and Krivsky and asked about everyone from writers to clubhouse attendants to traveling secretary Gary Wahoff. As I'm sure I'll write in the feature that will appear in Monday's Post, Casey seems to be trying to keep a low profile in Pittsburgh, not wanting to cause too much of a stir as the new guy in town. I'm sure he'll do fine.


02-26-2006, 06:13 AM
give him a couple of years and then bring him back as a coach in Cincinnati. I look forward to that.:thumbup:

02-26-2006, 06:05 PM
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Casey born again
Ex-Red making transition to 'new guy' after trade to Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. - Sean Casey was about to start his ninth big-league season. But the night before reporting to spring training was different this time around.

"I hadn't really felt nervous at all," he said. "I finally felt nervous that night. I felt like it was the first day of school, going in not knowing anybody. I had some butterflies."

The trepidation came from the fact that for the first since 1998, Casey would be putting on a uniform other than that of the Cincinnati Reds. The offseason trade that sent the first baseman to the Pittsburgh Pirates finally hit home.

"Putting on the new uniform, not wearing the Reds' colors, was a little bit weird," he said. "It was the first time in my big-league career where I was the new guy."

Casey, being an outgoing person, quickly got over it. He's starting to feel like a Pirate already.

"It's a good bunch of guys over here," he said. "Having (former Red) Joe Randa here helps, having a guy to buddy around with."

But Casey said he's trying to keep a low profile.

"I'm trying to fly under the radar, get my work in, do my job. Kind of be myself," he said. "I'm kind of feeling my way around."

But it's safe to say that after less than a week of spring training, Casey is already a fan favorite at Pirate City. Casey, after all, never met a fan he didn't like.

And Casey didn't get traded all that far. Bradenton and Sarasota are as close together as any spring training cities in Florida. Casey already had made his spring housing arrangements when the trade happened. He didn't change them.

"It was unbelievable we already got a place in Sarasota," he said. "I said, 'Let's finally stay close to (the Reds') Ed Smith Stadium.' A week later I got traded. ... It's kind of ironic."

The Reds and Pirates play six times this spring. The Pirates come to Cincinnati for the second series of the season. So Casey will get re-acquainted with his former teammates and city very quickly.

"It will be good to play the Reds down here and get that over with, playing against the guys over there who are my buddies," Casey said. "To get back to Cincinnati, to tell the fans hello, will help me move on. I feel good that it's happening early in the season."

There was an outpouring of love from fans after the trade of Casey, who was the longest-tenured Red.

"I heard from so many people," he said. "It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you developed some relationships there, made an impact with people.

"I read a lot of stuff (on The Enquirer Web site). That made me feel good."

Casey, as usual, was very emotional immediately after the trade. But he's OK with it.

"I love Cincinnati," he said. "I love the city. I love the fans. But I understand that it's a business. No hard feelings at all toward anyone."

Casey has moved on in a lot of ways.

He and his wife, Mandi, are renting a house in Upper St. Clair, where he grew up.

Casey is a free agent after this season. He conceivably could return to Cincinnati. He hasn't thought that far ahead.

"I'm going to play this year out," he said. "It will be my first year as a free agent. I'll test what's out there. I'll keep the door open to whatever lies ahead


02-27-2006, 01:58 PM
Unfamiliar surroundings
Casey adapting to life as a Pirate
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter

BRADENTON, Fla. - Something approaching panic flashed through Sean Casey's eyes for an instant. As he stood behind a batting cage at Pirate City, awaiting his next batting practice round, one of his new teammates started to walk toward him.

The Mayor couldn't remember the guy's name.

"It's all, 'Hey, man' ... 'chief' ... 'boss,' " Casey admitted in a stage whisper. "Guys walk by and I'm looking around to the back of their uniforms."

In the wake of the December trade that sent him from Cincinnati to his hometown, the party line was that if Casey had to go anywhere, Pittsburgh was the perfect place. Now that Casey is out there for real, in a black and gold uniform surrounded by people he doesn't really know, some truth remains in that snap-judgment sentiment.

Casey won't have to learn the streets, the customs or the people. He knows which bridge over each of the three rivers goes where, and no one will have to explain to him the appeal of Primanti Bros. sandwiches overflowing with cole slaw and French fries. The house he and his wife, Mandi, rented for the season is in Upper St. Clair, just minutes from his parents' place, providing a perpetually on-call babysitter.

So why is it that Casey, renowned as the friendliest person in baseball, seems to be navigating Pirate City with the slightest sense of unease? The man who might just know the life story of every player that has reached first base in the National League the last eight seasons appears uncommonly withdrawn.

"I've been pretty quiet in the clubhouse," he said. "I'm just trying to fly under the radar and get my work in, do my job. I'm kind of feeling my way around right now."

It may be that Casey has grown uncomfortable with the attention his return home has drawn. As beloved as he was in eight seasons with the Reds, Casey rarely commanded the spotlight. Those duties, for the most part, were reserved for Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. But there was Casey during the week leading up to the Bengals-Steelers playoff game last month, submitting to interviews about which team he would support (answer: the Steelers, unequivocally).

Or it may be that the characteristic that has defined him as much as his ability to put the ball in play, his gregarious personality, is serving as a sort of short-term burden. He knows what people probably expect of him, but after nearly a decade spent building and strengthening relationships in Cincinnati - not only with players, but with coaches, front-office and stadium staff and the media - he has to start over. And because he's in the final year of his contract, he might not even be in Pittsburgh when 2007 rolls around.

The night before he officially reported to Pirates camp last week, he told Mandi he felt like he was on the verge of his first day at a new school. Childhood anxieties took over.

"When I first got traded, I had a lot of emotions swirling around, but I hadn't really felt nervous until that night," he said. "I had some butterflies."

So he's taking it slow, trying not to overextend himself by becoming everybody's best friend from day one. He's blending in as best he can, and getting used to the new number 25 on the back of his jersey. A guy named Roberto Clemente already had claimed Casey's usual 21.

On the field, where it ultimately will matter most, his trademark chortle is emerging. He was in the group of hitters taking swings during Pirates pitcher Oliver Perez's first live batting practice session Saturday. When he finally connected with one of the left-hander's offerings, sawing one off weakly toward left field, Casey sarcastically urged the ball on.

"Oh, look at that! Get down, baby!"

After taking his allotment of pitches, Casey bounced out of the cage and sidled up next to Joe Randa, another key Pirate addition in a busy offseason. The two grew close during Randa's stint with the Reds last season, and Casey said having a friendly face in a similar situation around has helped the transition.

It's the letting go that's the most difficult part, especially with reminders of what he left behind ever-present.

About a week before he was dealt to the Pirates, Casey had finalized his housing for spring training. He had always wanted to stay closer to Ed Smith Stadium, and finally found a place a short drive from where the Reds train. Because the Reds' and Pirates' facilities are only about 10 miles apart, Casey decided to keep the place after the trade.

Now, he drives by the main street that leads to the Reds' complex every day on his way up to Pirates camp. Sometimes he instinctively wants to make a right turn instead of going straight.

Then there's the matter of actually suiting up and playing against the Reds. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh may face each other more than any two teams in baseball, playing nearly 20 times each regular season and at least a half-dozen times each spring. There will be six meetings this March, and the Pirates will visit Great American Ball Park during the first week of the regular season.

"It'll be good to play the Reds down here in the spring to kind of get that over with, playing against the guys," he said. "I feel good that it's happening early in the season, too."

Casey still talks regularly with several Reds players and officials. He said Adam Dunn called him the other day to complain about how much punishment he was taking while fielding grounders at Casey's old position.

"I said 'Hey, first base isn't that easy,' " Casey laughed.

With time, he figures to grow more comfortable with the separation. More than a month remains in spring training, so Casey will have ample opportunity to get to know everyone at his own pace.

It will happen, because Casey really can't help himself. There's always been more to the game for him than what goes on between the lines.

Of course, Casey's play is what moved Pittsburgh to acquire him in the first place. On that front, the Pirates expect nothing more of him than he did in Cincinnati.

"He's the same Sean Casey I've watched over the last seven or eight years," said new Pirates manager Jim Tracy. "We're talking about a guy that knows how to hit. It's just that simple - he knows how to hit."

Tracy went on to praise Casey's aversion to strikeouts, a key pillar in the philosophy he is trying to establish in Pittsburgh, saying he hopes one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball will rub off on others. Then there's the matter of what Casey will bring to the clubhouse, the "enthusiasm" and "love of the game" Tracy hopes will permeate a team that appears to be on the rise.

Casey doesn't know if he'll be able to settle in with the Pirates and become the kind of fixture he was in Cincinnati. He said he'd worry about impending free agency and the future when the time is right.

"I'm looking forward to this season, I really am," he said. "It seems like we've got a pretty good team, good staff, good players. I feel like I've got my best baseball still ahead of me, and that makes it exciting."


02-27-2006, 02:22 PM
no suprise, casey is such a class act. We'll miss ya sean.