Casey flying with Eagles

GLENDALE — Understandably, Chris Casey becomes flooded with fond memories when talking about his son Danny's baseball career.

Chris has coached Danny through just about every level at which he has played the game — from Little League to high school and on to Glendale Community College — and has seen him develop into quite a solid all-around player, collecting an assortment of all-league and all-conference accolades at each stop along the way.

This season, things have been a little different for the Casey family, as Chris, when he can squeeze it in between his duties as a Vaqueros assistant baseball coach, now watches Danny's games from the bleachers rather than the dugout or coach's box.

Danny and his Concordia University team are currently enjoying a run to the Avista-National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series, which will commence at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Lewiston, Idaho, when the ninth-seeded Eagles take on eighth-seeded Faulkner University.

"At the Casey household, we're extremely excited and we're glad that I had the opportunity to not have a conflict in the championship series with Glendale and the [NAIA] World Series," said Chris, whose postseason run with the Vaqueros ended on Saturday, one win shy of the California Community College Athletic Assn. championship game. "The whole entire family is excited about it."

Danny's parents will make the trip to Lewiston today, one day after the Eagles departed on their quest to further extend a postseason in which they have gone 7-0 while advancing through the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament and NAIA National Championship opening round at Cal Baptist University in Riverside.

"We had a goal in the beginning of the season — it's pretty much everyone's goal — to get to the World Series," said Danny, who graduated from Concordia on May 13, the same day his team beat Cal Baptist, 4-3, in a playoff game. "We just took it one game at a time, one pitch at time and everything just kind of worked out. We started out kind of slow, then we started finding our identity and we just kind of went from there.

"Our coaches said that it wasn't really [a matter of us getting] hot at the right time, we're just starting to play to our potential. That's what we've been doing."

In his second season at Concordia, Casey has solidified his standing as a stalwart third baseman and handy offensive player out of the No. 7 hole. He is batting .282 (40-142) with 26 runs batted in, 21 runs scored and seven stolen bases in eight attempts, while recording a .954 fielding percentage with six errors.

"Danny Casey is probably one of the best third basemen in college baseball, let alone NAIA," Eagles Coach Mike Grahovac said. "He's solidified our defense, he's a big part of our offense and Danny's a leader for us.

"He makes spectacular plays. He's phenomenal. He shuts down a lot of people's games."

In the postseason, Casey, who hit .345 and won a GSAC Gold Glove as a junior, has stepped up his offensive production, batting .364 with three RBIs and five runs.

"Danny was a known name throughout the league from last year," Grahovac said. "Sometimes people pitched around him [this season], but he just did a great job for us solidifying our offense and defense."

Danny, a La Crescenta native, who played youth ball in the area, spent two years in the Crescenta Valley junior varsity system before transferring to Bellarmine-Jefferson in Burbank for a two-year varsity stint that included a Santa Fe League Player of the Year honor in 2005.

Chris coached Danny in some capacity at every stop and was hired on by Glendale college Coach Chris Cicuto in time to coach Danny for the final year of his stint as a standout shortstop for the Vaqueros in 2009.

"My Dad's been a part of my baseball career since I can remember," Danny said. "He was coaching me up until two years ago which was pretty remarkable because usually people don't get to experience your father coaching you. It's fun having your dad there as a coach. You can't ever call him, 'Dad.' It's been pretty cool."

Just as Chris, who rushed from Rio Hondo College following the Vaqueros' 11 a.m. win over Rio Hondo College on May 14 to catch the Eagles' 2 p.m. final game of the NAIA opening round at Cal Baptist, divided his attention between the concurrent playoff runs of his team and his son's, Danny too kept one eye on his alma mater's progress in the Southern California and state tournaments while Concordia was making its own push.

"I've been texting my Dad nonstop to find out what happened," said Danny, who was at Rio Hondo for the Vaqueros' May 15 win over Southwestern that clinched a state berth. "But [the Vaqueros] had a really good run. They got a lot of the alumni fired up."

The 10-team double-elimination World Series continues Saturday, when the Eagles would play either No. 1 seed Embry-Riddle University or drop into the loser's bracket, depending on Friday's result.

Chris will be watching it all anxiously in the stands, fighting to keep his coaching instincts from kicking in.

"I have a tendency to stand on the third-base side and occasionally kind of have to withhold myself," Casey said. "You spend so many years in the trenches with him and work with him to make him a better player, a better human being and a better student. It's great, though, and it's exciting to see him play."

And, while Danny's concentration will undoubtedly be focused on the field, a part of him can't help but listen for that familiar voice shouting encouragement from afar.

"It's a little different," Danny said of having his dad in the bleachers instead of on the field. "As a son, I can always hear his voice [in the crowd] no matter what, even if the whole crowd is screaming. I'm just used to that voice."

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