Casey gets shot with Burlington

By Matt Hill
   JOHNSON CITY -- Casey didn't strike out after all.
   Instead, it looks like this Casey will be striking out hitters a little bit longer.
   Former East Tennessee State pitcher Reid Casey, who was recently passed over in the Major League Draft, has joined the Cleveland Indians organization as a free-agent.
   Casey, a former prep standout at Sullivan South, joined the Burlington Indians out of the Appalachian League during the team's three-game series against the Johnson City Cardinals this past weekend.
   Casey becomes the second former ETSU player to play with Burlington in two years. Last season, Andy Baxter was an Appalachian League All-star with Burlington.
   For Casey, he's just glad to still be playing baseball.
   "I'm just glad I'm getting the opportunity to play," Casey said. I'm glad somebody took a shot on me, so I hope everything will work out."
   Casey was ETSU's No. 1 starter this season, and pitched very well considering he was going up against everybody else's top pitcher.
   Casey finished this season with a 9-6 record with a 4.88 E.R.A. and 94 strikeouts. Casey ended his career as ETSU's all-time leader in strikeouts, innings pitched and games started.
   Draft day came, but Casey's name never appeared on the board. It spawned ETSU head baseball coach Tony Skole to say that it was "the shock of the draft."
   But Casey didn't see it that way.
   "I don't know about all of that," Casey said. "I don't know if it was a shock, but it was a little bit of a disappointment. But there are a lot of other guys out there that were in the same boat that I was in that probably deserved a shot and didn't get it. I'm just glad to have an opportunity.
   With Casey having gone through four years of college, age may be an issue. But collegiate teammate Nathan Copeland, an Elizabethton resident and former Appalachian League player, told him not to worry about the pitfalls that might occur.
   "The bit of advice he gave me was to not worry about those things, and try to block them out," Casey said. "He told me just to do what I'm capable of doing, and things should work out."
   Baxter has also given Casey advice on life in minors.
   "He pretty much said the same thing," Casey said. "He played on this team, and he just told me to go out there and trust in my stuff. He told me I could really be successful in this league. I trust that he was speaking the truth."
   Casey definitely made his mark on the ETSU program. As highly-touted recruits like Jeremy Hall, Shane Byrne and Boodle Clark can throw heat, Casey has left long footprints to follow, and it will be tough to accomplish what he did.
   Casey looks back on his collegiate career with a smile.
   "Looking back on it, I think I had a pretty successful career," Casey said. "I would of liked to have won a few more games, but I think I helped the program out and hopefully set a foundation here of tradition. But yeah, I think I had a pretty good career."
   The win of Casey's career that almost every ETSU fan remembers happened his freshman season, when the he pitched beautifully in an upset victory over Tennessee.
   "That one sticks out out, obviously," Casey said. "That was my first-ever win, and coming against a program like Tennessee was a bonus. But I think the bigger games were probably the conference games. Without a win in some of those games, we don't get in the tournament, maybe. But yeah, that (the Tennessee win) was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my career."
   Once Casey finally gets a chance to pitch, he wants to make the most of it. Casey knows that Appalachian League pitching is tough, but he feels like he can succeed.
   "I'm not expecting to go out and be a No. 1 starter, obviously," Casey said. "I've got to show that I can pitch, and hopefully I can work my way into the rotation."
   Casey missed his chance to pitch at Cardinal Park, where he played in college. But Casey will have several more chances to pitch in front of Tri-Cities baseball fans, including a series with the Elizabethton Twins in mid-August.
   Casey cannot wait for that opportunity.
   "I'm looking forward to that," Casey said. "I'm looking forward to getting back here and seeing everybody."
   If Casey ends up playing in the major leagues, he would become the second former Sullivan South star to make it to that level in recent years.
   Casey's teammate at South, Dan Wright, is now playing for the Chicago White Sox.
   Casey hopes he can join him someday.
   "That would be great," Casey said. "I haven't spoken to him in a couple of years, but I watch him every time he starts and keep up with him.
   That would be great to see him again, and maybe pitch against him."
   Hopefully, he will get his wish.