College Corner: From UMBC to Durham, the Casali brothers' bond remains strong - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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College Corner: From UMBC to Durham, the Casali brothers’ bond remains strong

Photo credit: UMBC Athletics and Joy R. Absalon

Curt Casali fits the role of big brother perfectly.

First, there’s the size difference: He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, while his younger brother, Andrew, is 6-foot, 185.

Then the age: Curt, 28, is seven years older than Andrew.

And the field positions: Curt Casali plays the ultimate, big-brother baseball part, catcher, while Andrew, the middle child of three boys, is, naturally, in the middle of the action in center field.

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Then there’s the paving-the-way aspect that all big brothers must embrace.

Curt Casali was a star high school baseball player in Connecticut, played at one of the nation’s best baseball schools, Vanderbilt University, and has caught nearly 150 games in the majors, all for the Tampa Bay Rays.

He inspired his little brother, who also thrived at the same Connecticut high school and is now wrapping up his career as a senior leadoff hitter for the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers.

“He’s a little bit of a bigger guy, but I’d like to think I have the speed on him,” Andrew Casali said. “He’s more of a power guy, and I’m more finesse.”

Brotherly competition

Different worlds, yet there always will be that friendly competition that burns between brothers.

“Whether it was at home playing video games, playing basketball or comparing numbers,” Curt Casali said, “absolutely, we were competitive.”

Sometimes, the age and size differences were painfully evident during their childhood.

“Me, (Andrew) and my other friends were playing football inside (one day). I tackled him, put too much weight on him and he broke his wrists,” Curt Casali said. “He took it like a man, though, and didn’t cry.”

How could you cry in front of the guy you wanted to be?

“I remember going to his high school games all the time,” Andrew Casali said. “He was my biggest hero growing up.”

There were things, though, that the little brother did that the older brother never accomplished. Andrew Casali won a state high school championship as a senior captain, pitching in the finale for New Canaan High School. That year, 2013, he was named Connecticut’s Player of the Year.

Still, Andrew Casali wasn’t heavily recruited like his brother, but he had a chance to play Division 1 baseball. He signed with UMBC, and started all 46 games for the Retrievers as a freshman, earning America East All-Rookie Team honors in 2014.

That was the same year his big brother made the major leagues. A 10th-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2011, Curt Casali was traded to the Rays in 2013 and debuted in the majors in July 2014, singling in his first at-bat against Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson.

He’s had some memorable big-league moments since, including becoming the first rookie catcher in baseball history to post consecutive multi-homer games.

This season, however, hasn’t been kind to either Casali brother.

A rough start

In the spring, it looked as if Curt might be the Rays’ Opening Day starting catcher, but the team acquired veteran backstop Derek Norris in late March – Norris was released by the Washington Nationals after they signed former Oriole Matt Wieters – pushing Casali back to Triple-A Durham.

Casali is hitting .304 in 15 games with the Bulls, the fourth consecutive season he’s played at Triple-A.

His younger brother’s senior season in Catonsville hasn’t been ideal, either. UMBC lost nine of its first 10 games and Andrew Casali hit just .139 in that span. He and the Retrievers (14-17, 7-5 America East) now have turned things around.

UMBC has won five of six, and Casali has hit in 17 of his last 18 games, improving his season average to .311 while leading his team in hits, at-bats and runs scored.

During the rough times, Andrew had a place to turn – to someone who understands the ups and downs of baseball.

“We talked early in season a lot because he wasn’t having the best start,” Curt Casali said. “But’s it’s happening less now, so things are going better.”

Andrew Casali graduates this month, and he’s not sure what’s next, whether he’ll have the opportunity to play professionally.

“He definitely has the talent to pursue the next level if he wants to,” his brother said.

If the younger brother were to make the pro ranks, he has a built-in role model in the minors. One day, he said, he’d love to play alongside his big brother, something he’s never done before.

“I would have zero interest in playing and rooting against him,” Andrew Casali said. “I support him too much.”

 

BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week

Zach Biggers, INF, United States Naval Academy 

Fr./Walhalla, S.C./Walhalla HS

Biggers was named the Patriot League’s Corvias Rookie of the Week. The 5-foot-10, 150-pound infielder recorded a hit and drove in a run in four of the five games Navy played last week. He had six RBIs and hit .400 while recording a triple and a home run.

Billy Griffin, LHP, Washington College

Sr./Middletown, Md./Middletown HS

Griffin once again was named Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Week. It’s the southpaw’s second such honor this season. The 6-foot, 185-pound starter worked eight scoreless, allowing no walks and three hits while striking out 12 against Muhlenberg College (Pa.). At one point, he retired 18 consecutive batters. He is 3-3 and leads the conference with 71 strikeouts.

Conor Reynolds, INF, Johns Hopkins University

Sr./Baltimore/Loyola Blakefield

Reynolds was named Centennial Conference Player of the Week after leading the Blue Jays to a 4-0 record with a .538 batting average and 10 runs scored. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior also walked six times. Reynolds has worked 34 walks, tops in the conference.

Moments worth mentioning

Johns Hopkins’ win streak is now at 12, the third longest active streak in Division 3. Hopkins is ranked sixth in the country and first in the Mid-Atlantic region. … The University of Maryland earned another sweep last weekend. The Terps swept Michigan State University, outscoring the Spartans, 20-5. Maryland is now 18-1 at home. … Salisbury University won the Capital Athletic Conference last weekend. The Seagulls went 4-0 in the tournament and outscored their opponents, 82-17. Salisbury scored double-digit runs in each game and hit the 20-run mark in three. The conference championship earned the Seagulls a guaranteed spot in a Division 3 regional tournament this May.

Matchup to watch

The game to keep an eye on this week is between Towson University and Maryland. The Tigers and Terps will play their annual contest at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Last year’s game was canceled due to weather conditions, so the sides haven’t clashed since 2015, when Maryland won, 9-2.

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