Thursday, March 13, 2008

Q&A with Curt Casali

Vandy baseball is finally hitting the stride everyone has expected. Wednesday's 11-4 win over Western Carolina was the Dores' fourth straight, and the lineup seems to be gelling well in the continued absence of Pedro Alvarez. Though Ryan Flaherty and Dom de la Osa are struggling a bit by their standards, guys like Andrew Giobbi, David Macias and Alex Feinberg are really stepping up, as is freshman catcher/DH Curt Casali.

After hitting his first career homer Wednesday, Casali sat down for a few questions with The Sports VU.

SPORTS VU: What happened on that home run pitch?

Curt Casali: The pitch was a hit and run, so I was gonna swing at it either way. It happened to be a fastball, inner half, and I was able to get a good swing on it.

SV: Did you get the ball?

CC: I think I did. That’ll be in my locker, going back to my parents soon.

SV: Pedro (Alvarez) has been out; how have you guys been able to pick it up?

CC: That’s the opportunity we have. When one player falls, the other guy’s gonna step up big. We’ve had a lot of guys step up in the middle of that lineup, like (Andrew) Giobbi and Shea (Robin), coming through in clutch situations. Pedro’s a big loss, but we’re able to handle it because we’re such a deep team, full of seniors and other guys that can really play.

SV: This being your first year, what’s been the biggest adjustment facing college pitching for the first time?

CC: The first game, it was getting past the nerves. I think I’m past that right now; I’m becoming a better defensive catcher. Coming from Connecticut, the pitching is not that stellar. I’m now learning to catch guys who can throw it mid-90s. The opposing pitching is also very good. I’ve just got to learn to be patient, learn to take strikes and take good pitches, get the pitch that I want to hit.

SV: Who’s your favorite pitcher to catch?

CC: I’d have to go with Nick Christiani. I think he’s the one guy that most people don’t like to catch, but me and him, we’ve got a good bond going on. Hopefully, on Saturdays I can catch him, we’ll see.

SV: Who’s got the nastiest stuff?

CC: Nastiest? Probably Nick. Nick’s got the ball that moves the most. Taylor Hill’s ball moves a lot, Jake (Brett Jacobson) has a really good slider, Mikie Minor too.

SV: What have you learned being behind Shea?

CC: Shea’s been such a huge help to me; he’s been with me every step of the way, literally. Every time I come in the dugout from an inning, he’s always there to say, “good job.” If I did something that I shouldn’t have, he’ll give me advice or something. Blake Allen, he’s been a great catching coach to me. He’s a little hard, but all the instruction they’ve given me has really taken me a long way.

SV: What defensive adjustments are you looking to make?

CC: I’m really looking to get my feet wider behind the plate, just so I can move laterally better. Blocking is always a big issue, you can never be too good at that. I’ve been working at that too, but there’s only so much you can do.

SV: What MLB catcher do you take after the most?

CC: Coach Allen, he has some film from a bunch of major leaguers; I wouldn’t say I compare myself to any of them because I’m just a college catcher. If I had to be somebody in the major leagues, I’d probably want to be like Joe Mauer. He’s one of my favorite players to watch play; hitting-wise, defensively, he’s got everything.

SV: Do you have any superstitions?

CC: Sadly, I don’t. I’m not a big believer in superstitions. When the bench is doing the “two-twos,” the middle finger across the hat, I’ll participate in that, but I don’t really have any superstitions. We’ve got a bunch of routines on the team; I’ll usually get to the field about an hour before we have to be here, get dressed, take a couple swings, get my legs stretched out.

SV: What kind of music pumps you up when you get to the plate?

CC: Oh man, I’ve got Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” playing up there, but everybody says that’s a little cliché and isn’t original enough, so I might have to change it. I was gonna go with Tom Petty and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” It’s a variety for me; I’m not a big rap guy, any classic rock with good guitars will get me going.

Casali and the rest of the Hawkins Nine will open conference play at home this Friday against No. 6 South Carolina. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. as sophomore sensation Mikie Minor (2-1, 1.66) takes the mound for the Commodores. Check out The Sports VU for full recaps and player quotes after each game this weekend, and don't forget to sit in the new right-field bleachers!

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