Not every athlete gets an opportunity to play professional or college ball for a major program. When that chance does happen, you cherish the moments and drink it all in.
That is exactly what my good friend Casey Rodrigue did with his career in baseball. Casey’s career took him all the way to the Frontier League, a professional independent league.
Now that his playing days are through, Casey has other plans.
He is hoping to inspire the next generation to chase their dreams and help them polish their craft. He calls it “Coaching By Casey,” a name that is catchy, simple and obvious.
He says coaching gives him a high because he loves watching the progress unfold in pressure situations.
“I enjoy seeing them use what we talk about and apply it in the game. Success on the field is like non other, if you can help a kid achieve that…that is something special,” he said.
Casey’s career began with T-ball at the age of five. He did not begin playing competitively until the age of 10 when he began playing for the LA Lightning where he played shortstop for four years. He knew baseball would be his sport from an early age due to the influence of his father (Brian) and brother (Brian Jr.), who played baseball at Saint Louis University.
“My brother and dad always loved baseball. It was definitely my best chance to play college and pro ball so I stuck with it,” Casey said. “My brother and dad are my biggest influences on why I played the game.”
With help of his father and brother, he took his talents to Brother Martin High School, based out of New Orleans, where he went on to have a stellar high school career. He made the varsity roster as sophomore. However, he wasn’t declared a starter right away. It wasn’t until district play began, the school gave him a shot at second base. Casey never looked in the rearview mirror after that.
For his junior and senior season, he started at shortstop for the Crusaders. In his junior season, they reached the quarterfinals before losing a heartbreaker to Dutchtown by one run.
Casey hit .375 for his high school career and was selected for honorable mention in the 2011 Sports Writers Association Class 5A All-State Squad. He was also listed for the Times Picayune All-Metro Squad.
Casey wants to share his high school experiences with others in hopes they can set themselves up for a successful future because he understands how important those four years are.
“I want to reach kids starting at a young age about the game. There are many things that I learned in college and pro ball that if I would have perfected at a young age, would have allowed me to have more success in high school,” he said. “Success in high school shapes what kind of colleges are interested in you.”
For Casey, he knew from an early age that college baseball would be in the cards for him. It was his desire and work ethic that boosted him. He may not have been the most talented (maybe he was) on whichever team he was on, but he knew that he was going to work harder than the guy next to him.
“I knew it was an option when I saw my brother (Brian Jr.) work day after day after day, perfect his skill and he walked on at Saint Louis University and made the squad,” he said. “I believe there is a college team out there for all players who want to work hard. Even if they have average skills, at that level, it’s a mentality that separates players.”
Although it was not a major division I school, Casey had the opportunity to perfect HIS skill and play for LSU Eunice, a popular JUCO in Louisiana. In his freshman season for LSUE, he played a vital part in leading his team to a 57-5 record and a NJCAA National Championship. He was named on the NJCAA Division II all tournament team. As a freshman, Casey hit .313 with 27 RBIs, 12 steals and 30 runs scored for the season.
Despite moving to bigger things, that season was one of his favorite memories in his entire career. They were like the Golden State Warriors, except you know, they actually finished the job.
“That season was a once and a lifetime experience,” Casey said. “We went down as the winningest team in junior college history posting a 57-5 record. That season, we never felt we were going to lose a game which is hard to come by in a baseball season.”
In his sophomore year, Casey put up some gaudy numbers earning him a 2nd-team All American spot. He was an absolute terror on the base paths channeling his inner Willie Mays Hayes swiping 68 bases, leading the country. He was able to steal four bases in a single game not once, not twice, not three, but four times. FOUR!
He led the Bengals in batting average (.358), hits (83), runs scored (74) and extra base-hits (27). He also finished with five home runs and 53 RBIs helping lead his school to their second straight championship appearance. Unfortunately, they missed out on the repeat.
Due to the success at the JUCO level, now it was time to show up the big boys in the Big-10. Indiana was looking for a utility player to which LSUE coach Jeff Willis blurted out Casey’s name. They offered him a scholarship and sometime later, after the 68 steals, the calls came pouring in for other opportunities. Casey wanted to stay true to his word. He said it was the best decision he ever made. He is probably right.
As a junior, Casey appeared in all 59 games, starting 58 at second base. He led Indiana with 12 steals continuing his knack for making pitchers and catchers look silly. In his first season in the Big 10, he finished first in at bats (246), tied for first in triples (6), tied for third in runs scored (48) and ranked fifth on the team in hits (65).
Once again in his second season, he went ape shit and topped a great debut year.
As a senior, he was one of four Hoosiers to start every game. He led Indiana with 47 runs scored, 15 doubles, 7 triples, 26 total extra base hits and 13 steals. He finished his senior with a respectable .287 average and an 11-game hit streak which is the third longest in Hoosier history.
Even after all the gaudy stats and being an absolute nightmare on the base paths (105 steals in four seasons), he says he will cherish the people and the experience the most.
Each level of baseball is completely different from the next, to experience that is a blessing and I thank God and my family for the opportunity,” Casey said. “My teammates at Eunice and Indiana are lifelong friendships that I would not trade for anything.”
One of the biggest pieces of advice he has for anyone wishing to make it in baseball is to just keep playing and don’t let others get in the way of your success and happiness.
“Do not let one coach or one experience stop you from playing the game. If I had taken advice from every coach, dad or player that tried to help me, I would have become one big pile of garbage,” he said. “Put your hands like this, stand like this, approach a ground ball like this…’some of that matters to a point, but I have learned that each player is different. Success follows the determined player who believes he is the best every time he steps in the batters box or mound. When it comes down to it what works for one player doesn’t always work for the other. There are certain mechanics that help most players become successful and it is my job to present that to the athlete and let him determine what works best for him.”
That is advice I personally wished I would have listened to when I was younger. If you are looking for a good man to teach your kids, he is the closest thing to Gordon Bombay you will get. That is legendary.
Casey’s playing career may be over, but the impact he leave on kids looking to play is just getting started. This is a great friend of mine and I have been around many college athletes and he was one of the most down to Earth and grounded guys I know.
Check out his Facebook page for more information below…