Pat Casey's not done yet at OSU
CORVALLIS — The best part about the path to 800 career victories at Oregon State, Pat Casey reasons, is the folks who have been there with him along the way.
"I think how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to do this, and how many people have helped me to do it," the Hall of Fame-bound baseball coach said Friday night in his Goss Stadium office between games of a doubleheader against Ball State.
In his 23rd season at the OSU helm, Casey is already on his way to No. 900. He's at 802 after the sixth-ranked Beavers (13-1) swept a pair of 5-1 decisions, following Thursday night's 2-0 win over the Cardinals that got him to the 800 milestone.
There was little fanfare, except for the barrage of text messages he received from former players after Thursday's triumph.
"It was really cool," Casey said. "They know I'm low-key about that kind of stuff. I texted each of them back, 'You're a part of it, you're a part of it, you're a part of it.' So here we go."
That's the extent of the back-patting that exists in Pat Casey's orbit.
"He's not a guy who is always celebrating his accomplishments," says third base coach Andy Jenkins, one of the stars of Casey's first College World Series team in 2005. "He doesn't take credit for much.
"But he has to be pretty proud of the longevity and all the good players he's had, and building such a great program to where it is today. He is reminded of that stuff when he gets to milestones like 800 wins."
Casey's record at Oregon State is 802-441. He has four conference titles, four College World Series berths and two national championships since 2005. Oregon State baseball is on the national radar on an annual basis.
If you think he's forgotten where it all started, think again.
"Brian Masewicz threw a 3-2 slider (for a strike), and we beat Western Oregon 4-3 on a Tuesday in March 1994," Casey said. "My first game here, I didn't care who we beat. It was amazing. I can still feel the emotion."
Casey won his first five games, against the likes of Concordia, Eastern Oregon, Willamette and George Fox, then lost 6-3 in a return date with Western Oregon. The Beavers finished 25-24 overall and 14-16 and in fourth place in a six-team Pac-10 North that included Washington, Washington State, Gonzaga, Portland and Portland State.
My, how times have changed.
Coleman Field became Goss Stadium, and Casey spearheaded fundraising efforts that produced millions of dollars for renovations that have included a new clubhouse, players' lounge and Hall of Fame room.
Not bad for the kid from Newberg, who began his coaching career with seven successful seasons at George Fox.
"Funny thing about it, I never had any intention of coaching," he said. "I didn't even have any intention of coming to Oregon State."
When longtime coach Jack Riley stepped down after the 1994 season, Casey was working at a real estate office in Newberg when he received a call from OSU administrator Jack Rainey.
"Why haven't you applied for the job?" Rainey asked.
"Well, you're going to hire (OSU assistant coach) Kurt Kemp," Casey replied. "He's a good man."
Rainey encouraged Casey to apply.
"So I got in my broken down Maxima with a cracked windshield and drove to Corvallis," Casey said. "And I'll be darn, for some reason, they took a chance on a crazy Irishman."
In his seven seasons at George Fox, Casey reaped a combined $30,000 in salary. In his first season at Oregon State, he made $36,000.
"I thought I was in heaven," Casey said, "and I was."
Last summer, Casey signed a six-year contract extension that calls for him to make $800,000 this season, with annual increases that will spike to $1.05 million in 2022.
When Casey took over for Riley in 1994, he was thinking big, but not that big.
"When you follow somebody who has had success and you're jumping a level, there's always that question, 'Why did you hire the guy from a lower division with little experience?'" Casey said. "To me, it was a pretty big deal.
"I took the job with not a lot of knowledge of anything. I really didn't start thinking about it until after I got the job. Jack's fight was to keep baseball at Oregon State. My job was to make this thing bigger."
Casey was left to build the program, with little help from then-athletic director Dutch Baughman.
"Dutch was very good to me, but he was honest," Casey said. "He said, 'I'll let you fundraise, but I'm not going to help you, because I have to fundraise for football.'
"I don't think he dreamed I'd do what I've done, with the help of an awful lot of great people over the years."
There have been times in recent years when Casey has considered resigning his position. Part of it was burnout from a job that offers little leisure time, and not enough family time.
"You evaluate things all the time," he said. "I was never afraid to go do something else. There were a few things that happened that inspired me to stay. I'm glad I did.
"The one thing I don't want to do is do it just to do it. I want to do it because it's the same way I felt when I walked in the door in August of '94. I want to make sure I do it better. I feel like I'm a lot wiser today than when I started."
But not all that much different.
"He's exactly the same as he was when I played," said undergraduate assistant coach Ryan Ortiz, a two-time all-conference catcher for Casey in 2008 and '09. "But it's a little different between when you're playing for him and then coaching for him. I appreciate him more on this side, seeing how much he wants guys to play hard and, above all, become men."
But there has been growth.
"Pat has mellowed some," said his father, Fred Casey, at 83 a regular visitor to Goss Stadium for Beaver games. "He still competes like crazy, but he's slower to anger."
"My core values have never changed," Pat Casey said, "but now I'm able to communicate better. It's been a huge evolution for me. I'm able to handle the tough situations better. "There are some times the fire burns a little deeper inside, but maybe I don't burn the whole dugout down anymore."
Casey has had to adjust to the modern athlete.
"It's no secret that times are a little different than when I started," he said. "You're dealing with a different mind-set now. The social environment around the kids has changed. I had to really understand that.
"But one thing is the same: I learn more from the players than I learn from anybody. If you want to get to where you want to get, they're going to have to be a big part of what you're doing. You have to have their trust.
"I still think the core of coaching is to be dedicated to what you're doing, but you also have to give them a little bit more freedom. I've always said, if you play hard for me, I'm easy to play for."
Through the years, Casey has been courted by the likes of Arizona State and Texas and Notre Dame. He has turned down every opportunity to leave Corvallis, in no small part due to his family: wife Susan and chldren Jonathan (31), Brett (30), Ellie (26) and Joe (19), the latter a freshman outfielder at OSU.
Jonathan — who is autistic — is the only one of the children still living at home with Pat and Susan.
"That was the biggest problem I had earlier," Pat said. "I'd say, 'I have to spend more time with Jon,' and my wife would say, 'Jon loves the ballpark.'"
And Jon was comfortable in Corvallis.
"It's been the perfect place for Jon to live through the years," Fred Casey said.
Pat Casey turns 59 years old on — of course — St. Patrick's Day.
He no longer thinks about leaving his job at Oregon State. He thinks often of claiming another College World Series crown.
"You shouldn't be in coaching if you don't," Casey said "The feeling after winning one is … crazy. I wish I could explain it.
"I don't think I'm unrealistic about winning a (national) championship. I realize how difficult that is. The good thing is the expectation of what we should do when a player walks in the door as a freshman. It is amazing how much easier it is to coach when a guy walks in the door and the expectation level is to win it all."
How much longer does Casey want to coach?
"The day I hang my uniform up after a game and that's it," he said, "I'll know."
Casey is looking at another milestone. His 30-year coaching record, including his time at George Fox, is 973-555. With good fortune, he could hit 1,000 victories this season. Twenty-seven to go.
When it happens, there will be more text messages on the way. Casey will have his phone ready to give thanks to those who give thanks to the man who made it all happen.