Born: July 2, 1974
Town: Willingboro Township, New Jersey
Sean Thomas Casey was born on July 2, 1974 in Willingboro. The family later moved to Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Sean’ s father was a salesman for a chemical company. His calling card was his affability and interest in clients’ lives—traits his son would one day share. Sean grew up a Pirates fan, however his favorite players were Don Mattingly and Will Clark. Next to baseball, pro wrestling was Sean’ s passion. Sean was an intense athlete, but a genuinely friendly and happy kid, too. He never forgot a name or a face; his sunny disposition helped him through the ups and downs of baseball.
For most of his childhood, Sean was ungainly and slightly overweight. When he began to fill out during his years at Upper St. Clair High School, he grew to 6–4, but with wide hips and narrow shoulders—not at all a ball player’ s body. However, he had excellent hand-eye coordination, great bat speed and a good feel for the strike zone. Sean was offered a scholarship by only one college, the University of Richmond. He accepted, and hit almost .400 for coach Ron Atkins as a freshman. After a successful sophomore season, Sean began to think he might have a future as a pro. By the end of his junior year he was sure of it. He led all Division-I hitters with a .461 average, and hit safely in 31 straight games. He was named a second-team All-American at first base behind Todd Helton of Tennessee.
The Cleveland Indians chose Sean with the second pick of the 1995 draft. The Indians had two highly rated first base prospects ahead of Sean, Richie Sexson and Russell Branyan. By the end of 1997 he had surpassed them both. Unfortunately, at the big- league level, the Tribe decided that powerful Jim Thome would be their first baseman. Sean didn’ t play another position, and he was more of a line drive hitter than a slugger. And he was too good to be a part-timer, so Cleveland traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in 1998.
While warming up for his third game with the Reds, Sean was struck near the eye by an errant throw. Doctors repaired the damage by inserting a plate with five screws in his cheek. They feared his extraordinary vision would never be the same again.
Their fears were unfounded. The following season, Sean became one of the top hitters in baseball. He batted .332 with 25 homers and 42 doubles. He also became Cincinnati’ s most popular athlete. His chattiness with the fans and with enemy base runners endeared him to all. A nickname he had acquired in high school—The Mayor—followed him to the big leagues. In a 2007 player poll, he was named the friendliest man in baseball.
Sean played through the 2005 season with the Reds. He batted .300 five of the eight years he was with the club and played in three All-Star Games.
Sean was traded to his hometown Pirates in 2006, but injured his back in a collision at first base. The previous year, with the Reds, he had suffered a concussion. Never a great physical specimen, Sean was beginning to show his age. The Pirates dealt him to the Tigers during the season. He helped the team reach the playoffs and eventually the World Series that fall. This is where all the experience paid off—he hit .353 in an upset of the Yankees, .333 in Detroit’ s ALCS victory over the A’ s, and he torched Cardinals’ pitchers in the World Series, collecting 9 hits in 17 at bats for a .529 average. Unfortunately, his teammates enjoyed less success against St. Louis, and lost in five games.
Sean played one more year for Detroit and then finished his career as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He batted .322 in his final season and then retired to work for the MLB Network as a studio commentator.