SI.com has asked several athletes to share their thoughts on life after baseball and the game as they see it now. Sean Casey played 12 years in the major leagues with five teams, retiring after the 2008 season with a .302 career batting average. He is now a studio analyst on MLB Network.
It’s funny how, after a career that spans 14 years in professional ball, you never forget the small moments. I’ll never forget what Ray Knight said to me once in Cincinnati, when I was just three years into my career: It’s all going to be over in a blink of an eye, so enjoy being out there, enjoy your teammates, enjoy putting on the uniform every single day. And I was like, Ray Knight doesn’t know what he’s talking about — I’ve got a long career ahead of me, I’m going to be playing for another 15 years! I always think about that conversation because now, looking back, it does seem like it was over in a blink of an eye. Now I’m just so thankful for everything the game gave me — for Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski trading for me in 2006 and being able to play in a World Series for Detroit; for the chance to play for guys like Gene Lamont and Andy Van Slyke, guys I rooted for growing up in Pittsburgh; for going to three All-Star games and playing in great cities, from Cincinnati to Boston.
I was with the Red Sox in 2008 and it was right before Game 5 of the ALCS when I was talking to Harold Reynolds, who was then working for TBS, and I asked him how it’s been with the studio work. He was like, Why are you asking me? You’re hitting .320, for crying out loud! But I was ready to go home — with three young kids back then, I’d been home for 40 days in eight months that year, and that was taking a toll.
It’s true that the biggest thing you miss after you walk away from the game is the camaraderie: the bus rides, the long plane flights, with guys like Big Papi and Barry Larkin getting on the mic and making the whole team laugh. Working for MLB Network over these last few years has been a blast because you feel like you’re part of the team and you’re still a part of the game. The situation is perfect: I get my days in the studio, and I still have time to be a normal dad to my four kids and still be involved with things like my foundation, Casey’s Clubhouse, where we now have about 300 special needs kids play baseball and recently opened up a beautiful new Miracle League Field in Upper St. Clair outside Pittsburgh.
It’s only been six years since I left the game but it does seem like a whole new ballgame now for one reason: the contracts. The money in the game right now is astounding. People say it’s ridiculous how much money these guys are making, but I say it just shows how healthy the game is — the state of the game is good. Sure there are issues for new commissioner Rob Manfred to iron out. I think a big one is pace of play: When people say four hours is a long time to watch a baseball game, you can’t really blame them. If there are ways we can bring it down 15 minutes or so, we need to do it.
But in general, when a guy like Giancarlo Stanton signs a 13-year, $325 million deal, you know that baseball’s pretty healthy. Looking at the market now, people may raise eyebrows over spending $150 million over a pitcher like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, but if we learned anything this year, it’s that you win at the top of the rotation — the Giants' Madison Bumgarner proved that with his ridiculous October. It’s going to be one fascinating winter.
But if there’s one team this winter I’m particularly intrigued with, it’s the Seattle Mariners. They were so close to making the playoffs a year ago and the signing of Nelson Cruz was huge for them. Their pitching is so good right now that now having added Cruz on offense, if they can go out and get one more bat, you’re talking about the Mariners being favorites in the AL West and a World Series contender. It’s going to be a fun offseason to watch with so many storylines, and it’s a fun time to be a fan and follower of the game — and I’m just lucky to be able to follow it for a living right now.