Throughout the offseason, Chicago Dogs broadcaster Sam Brief will catch up with members of the 2019 Dogs to revisit memorable moments, check on what they’re up to during the offseason and talk baseball.
He’s made it to the majors once before, and now Casey Crosby has taken the first step towards a return.
Seven years after making his MLB debut with the Detroit Tigers, Crosby inked a minor league deal Wednesday with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A local product from Elburn, Illinois, Crosby graduated from Kaneland High School and was selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft.
The 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher is a flamethrower, and he dominated for the Dogs in 2019. Crosby posted a 1.99 ERA, tossing 64 strikeouts in just over 40 innings. From July 6 to August 12, he didn’t allow a single earned run.
After rolling through the American Association, Crosby spent September with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers, a team Dogs manager Butch Hobson guided for six seasons. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, Crosby pitched in six games. Not a single team scored against him. He gave up just one hit and struck out eleven batters.
Three months later, the Dodgers came calling with a Minor League contract offer. Crosby gleefully accepted, and in February 2020 will report to Dodgers Spring Training in Glendale, Arizona.
Here’s the latest “Briefly Speaking,” featuring a delighted Casey Crosby:
Sam Brief: Casey, you just signed with the Dodgers. Can you describe how it feels to have made it official?
Casey Crosby: It’s definitely a relief and a load off my back. It’s a little stressful not knowing where you’re going to play next year, especially when you’ve got a family. Now, I know where I’m going come springtime, so I’m excited.
SB: How did the signing come about?
CC: I’ve been emailing teams. My agent [Scott Pucino] has been helping me write to teams and sending video feeds from the American Association and the Atlantic League. I gave them references to Butch, my manager in Lancaster and scouts who have seen me this year.
I actually knew the Dodgers’ Director of Player Development, Will Rhymes, from before. He was with the Tigers when I was there in the lower levels, and he remembered me. The only thing was my injury history. But they contacted some people, and they came to the realization that I’m completely healthy. Then, they offered me.
SB: How did you find out they offered you?
CC: My agent called me. It was on Wednesday [December 4], late morning. He told me, “Hey, the Dodgers want you. I told him, “Let’s do it.”
They sent the contract over that day, and I signed it that night. Here we are.
SB: What exactly does the contract stipulate?
CC: The contract states that I’ll be on the Triple-A roster [Oklahoma City Dodgers], and I’ll compete for a spot in the spring. It’s a basic Minor League contract, so they can release you anytime and not have to compensate you for any salary or anything like that. It’s not like a Major League deal where everything is guaranteed.
SB: You have made it to the big leagues before, in 2012. Take me through the day the Tigers called you up.
CC: I remember it distinctly. It was a Tuesday, and I was in Rochester. I was scheduled to start on Thursday back at home against Buffalo. I went to the field around 2:30. One of our coaches is like, “Hey, Phil wants to see you.” Our manager was Phil Nevin, now the third-base coach for the Yankees. So I went in there and he told me, “You’re not making your start on Thursday, because throwing against the Yankees is probably gonna be a lot better than throwing against Buffalo. You’re going to the big leagues.”
I took a moment. It was crazy. That was seven years ago. It sort of feels like a dream now, but I still remember it like it was last night’s dream.
SB: So you made your debut that Friday, and the first batter you faced in the majors was none other than … Derek Jeter. Mind-boggling?
CC: Honestly, I didn’t really think much of it. I was on the mound. I did my warm-up stuff. I was out there with my glove and the ball. I was in game mode. I didn’t really look at him. It was just like he was another player. But later, I watched a replay of it and was like, “Holy crap, did I just do that? Did I just stare him down and face him and think nothing of it?”
SB: A few batters later, you struck out A-Rod.
CC: I did. Twice.
SB: And did you think to yourself, “Holy moly, I just struck out A-Rod?”
CC: I didn’t really think anything. It was the first inning, and I was in game mode. I got the third out and walked in the dugout. When I walk in, I just kind of go over that feeling of getting the last out. Then, I digest my inning, and I move on to the next one.
Honestly, I didn’t feel any sort of, “Wow, this is a big moment” until the next inning, when I faced Robinson Canó.
CC: I don’t know, something just caught my eye. The way he stood in the box or something. I was like, “That’s Robinson Canó, oh my goodness.” Because he has a very distinct batting stance, so that’s when I got a little nervous, I’m not going to lie. I ended up walking him.
SB: What’s a behind-the-scenes perk of playing in MLB that you particularly loved?
CC: The travel. In the major leagues, you’re flying private jets and getting any kind of food or drink you want. Even in Triple-A, you’re still on a bus, you’re traveling through the night. And in the majors, it’s not just planes — it’s private planes, just for you and your team.
SB: You started three games in Detroit, and then you were sent back down to Triple-A. How difficult of a pill was that to swallow?
CC: Getting sent down is a huge hit. I didn’t do what I needed to do to stay. But I had the confidence that I’d be back. So I had a positive mindset going back to Triple-A. Obviously, though, it didn’t work out to get back up there.
SB: Injuries then forced you into a hiatus. You didn’t pitch at all in 2015 and 2016. How did life without baseball set in?
CC: I literally didn’t watch any baseball. I didn’t look at any baseballs. I focused on getting my accounting degree, on my family and on seeing what I could do after baseball. It was different, you know. I was working at a bank for a couple of years in my hometown. It was a time in my life that I cherish because it made me realize how lucky I was to play baseball.
Now, I’m back. And when I have a rough outing, give up a home run or allow a couple walks, they don’t mean anything anymore. I don’t take them home with me like I used to.
SB: You’re a proud dad. Tell me about your family.
CC: There’s Haley, my wife. She’s the best. Obviously she is, I married her. I’ve got my two girls — Tessa, who’s five, and Gemma, who’s three. They’re active little girls, both in gymnastics. Tessa has even gotten to a point in her gymnastics where she’s doing classes with 12-year-olds. And if anyone asks her about gymnastics, the first thing she says is, “I’m in level three.” She should still be in a level called kinder-gym. She’s a gifted girl. And Gemma is so happy-go-lucky. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She will make you laugh all day, and she does that to us.
SB: How do you balance your hectic baseball lifestyle with having a family?
CC: You just embrace it. First up, you have to have a rockstar wife, which I have. Secondly, you just have to accept that this is your life, and you know it’s not going to be like this forever. You know that, at some point, you’ll go back to a normal life. Everything we do is an adventure, and not many people get to do it. We’re planning on all going to Arizona for Spring Training and experiencing it all together.
SB: What was your family’s reaction when you were signed?
CC: My wife was so excited. She knew how badly I wanted to get back into affiliated baseball and just keep playing the game. My kids, well, they’re kids. They were like, “Cool, dad. When can we watch TV?”