Casey Crosby could’ve easily packed it in. Worse yet, he could’ve lost that ah-shucks smile that sweeps over him every time he steps on a baseball diamond. It would’ve been easy for him to do. Regrettable, but understandable.
After all, a year ago around this time Crosby was recovering from a torn meniscus. He was a 6-foot left-handed pitcher with an 80-mph fastball. In other words, he was a dime-a-dozen prospect. To compound matters, he was a dime-a-dozen prospect from Kaneland High, a small school in Kane County’s Maple Park.
“I was out with my knee injury and nobody really cared,” said Crosby. “I really questioned if baseball was my future.”
But something remarkable happened between the fall and winter months: Crosby shot up four inches and gained much-needed strength. Then, in his first bullpen of the spring season last year, Crosby grabbed the ball and threw a pitch. The radar gun read 88 mph. Had to have been a mistake, he thought, and he threw another pitch. Same result.
“I was in shock,” said Crosby, who’s now 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. “All my teammates were like, ‘You just threw 88 miles per hour.’ Then word got all around school. It was pretty crazy. I honestly have no idea how it happened.”
In late April, Crosby touched 91 on the gun. But even with his escalating velocity, he was still an unknown commodity. “No one knew who I was,” he said.
And then he suffered another setback; he injured his back and missed the second half of his junior season. The kid with a newly minted golden arm only pitched in 33 innings his junior season, posting a 2-1 record with two saves.
“Not many people know about Kaneland or even where it is,” said Kaneland coach Kip Rogers. “It was just a waiting game for Casey. I told him one day someone was going to discover him and recognize his talent.”
Crosby’s time came in late June at a showcase at Plainfield South High School. With college coaches and pro scouts lined shoulder to shoulder during a pre-game workout, Crosby fired a knee-high strike from right field to third base that momentarily struck the crowd speechless. On the mound, Crosby was delivering 88-91 mph fastballs, and to boot, he ran a 6.8 60-yard dash.
Crosby was discovered … in a big way. On July 1, the first day college coaches can call a prospect, Crosby’s phone was ringing off the hook. And it hasn’t stopped since.
“Honestly, I believed I could do it, but I didn’t know it would be this big,” said Crosby, who has signed with the University of Illinois. “Everything changed after that Plainfield showcase. It was overwhelming – but overwhelming in a good way.”
Rogers said it was only a matter of time before Crosby was discovered.
“It really doesn’t surprise me one bit, to be honest,” Rogers said. “When I first met Casey three years ago, I knew he’d be a special talent. It was just one of those things that you had to be patient and hope for someone to see him.
“Within a year he had a big growth spurt, made a couple minor adjustments in his mechanics and he went from low 80s to low 90s. A lot of that was Casey and his natural ability. He obviously comes from good blood.”
Both of Crosby’s older brothers were impressive athletes. Kelly Crosby, a 6-2, 215-pound outfielder, was drafted by the Yankees; and Pat Crosby was a linebacker at Western Illinois University. Both of Casey’s older siblings attended Wheaton-Warrenville South High School. Casey said he learned a lot from his brothers, and also was on the receiving end of many backyard poundings.
Now, as the Prep Baseball Report’s No. 1-ranked prospect in the state, it isn’t far-reaching to say that Casey might be the second Crosby selected come next June’s Major League Baseball draft – a possibility that seemed ridiculous a year ago.
Crosby has changed a lot in a year’s time. He’s grown four inches, has gotten stronger and added 10-plus mph on his fastball. But one thing has remained consistent during his wild ride from the basement of obscurity to penthouse top prospect: his smile.
“I just love playing baseball,” he said. “In batting practice I’m in the outfield diving for balls. I just have fun out there.”
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