When the reigning national champions begin their 2019 season at a spring training ballpark in Arizona on Friday, their former coach probably will be inconspicuously sitting somewhere in the stands or finding a quiet spot out on the berm.
Or maybe the ever-competitive Pat Casey will just end up pacing back and forth through the concourse.
He won’t be in the dugout, though.
The College World Series legend — one of the game’s most successful in this new era — announced in September that he’d be stepping away from the Oregon State program that he built into a powerhouse. The work was wearing him down. After 24 years at OSU, the 59-year-old Casey said he was ready to move on to something else.
But that was five months ago.
College baseball is back now. And Casey doesn’t have a team to lead.
“It’s strange,” Casey said by phone this week from Surprise, Arizona.
He’s not quite sure if that feeling will dissipate over time, or if he’ll have a nagging urge to reverse course. He’s not making any decisions today.
“I don’t think the great Lord put me on the Earth to do one thing,” said Casey, who’s now a senior associate athletic director at Oregon State. “I’m excited about the other things that are out there. But I’m also excited to think that if I have the itch, and the desire, and the passion to coach again, and if someone gives me that opportunity, I may do that again.”
At least for this year, the Beavers will have to move on without Casey. They should do just fine.
They’ve got guys like star catcher Adley Rutschman and dynamic pitcher Kevin Abel returning to help lead the way. Pat Bailey, a longtime assistant under Casey, took over as interim coach. Oregon State was picked to finished third in a competitive Pac-12 and it’ll open the year ranked No. 8 in the D1Baseball Top 25.
Beaver players indicated in a preseason press conference that not much has changed. Bailey was always the one who drew up practice plans, anyway. He said he’s regularly asking Casey for tips and pointers, too.
“We’re really good friends,” Bailey said. “He’s welcome to come into the office at any time.”
Casey’s trying to find the right balance. He said he hasn’t attended any practices. He’s made no baseball decisions.
But he also feels incredibly invested, in the program and the people involved.
He can still summon remnants of the jubilant emotions that overtook him when he celebrated with this group at TD Ameritrade Park last summer. The Beavers beat Arkansas in a thrilling three-game championship series. He spearheaded their milestone title runs in 2006 and 2007, too.
Those are the types of moments you chase for 12 months.
Now Casey will have to find a new pinnacle to pursue. He chuckled as he admitted that he’s not sure what that’ll be.
But then again, he did not exactly prepare himself for a high-profile coaching career, either. He said he had to be talked in to applying for the Oregon State job two decades ago — as an NAIA coach, he didn’t feel qualified.
“I never dreamed when I was coaching at George Fox College that I’d ever be standing in the middle of Rosenblatt Stadium and then TD Ameritrade,” Casey said.
So perhaps it’s OK if the next chapter hasn’t revealed itself yet. It’s baseball season again. Casey, seated in the stands, has a perfect way to pass the time as he figures it out.
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