Curt Casali: Skip Milos / Tampa Bay Rays
New Canaan’s first-ever Major Leaguer, the Tampa Bay Rays’ catcher explains how his parents toughened him up, that incredible Derek Jeter moment, and the continued rivalry with Darien Blue Wave.
YOU WERE A BASEBALL STAR AT NEW CANAAN HIGH SCHOOL AND VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY. DID YOU IMAGINE YOU’D MAKE IT TO THE MAJORS?
You think it’s going to happen, but then there are those first few days of your minor league career, days when you are riding in a bus for what feels like forever, the clubhouses aren’t very nice, and the pay is below the poverty line. There’s a level of doubt that creeps in. I’m a firm believer that the players who can eliminate that doubt the earliest are the ones who are going to thrive in baseball, and eventually give themselves the very best chance to make it to the majors.
YOU’RE 27. IS BASEBALL STILL FUN, OR DOES IT FEEL LIKE WORK?
I enjoy the game every single day. The only time I view it as work is when we take a red-eye flight home after a night game, then have to get up the next morning and play. You can call it a job because we get paid to play, but it’s something we’ve wanted to do our whole lives.
WHAT’S IT LIKE GOING TO ALL THE MAJOR LEAGUE STADIUMS?
It’s very cool. I love the division I play in [AL East]. I get to go to Boston, New York and Baltimore, so my family can come see me. Those cities are OK drives from New Canaan.
HOW DID YOU GET WELCOMED TO THE BIG LEAGUES?
It was in Tampa, and we were playing the Yankees. Derek Jeter stepped into the box. I’d never met the guy in my life. He dug in, then looked at me and said, “Hey Curt, congratulations. Welcome to the big leagues.” I was like, oh my God, incredible! I got to speak with him a couple of times after that and he still remembered my name.
IN WHAT WAYS DID YOUR PARENTS HELP YOU BECOME A MAJOR LEAGUER?
They taught me first to be a good person and never take anything for granted. They told me I have to get it done if I want something. I’m forever thankful to them for raising me that way.
DO YOU OFTEN GET ASKED FOR AUTOGRAPHS?
When I’m in Tampa people know who I am. Little kids look up to you. I remember what it was like. If someone asks for my autograph, as long as I’m not catching that day, I’ll stop and sign for them. If I can make a kid’s day then I’m going to do it.
BIGGER RIVAL, YANKEES OR DARIEN BLUE WAVE?
Darien. I hate those guys, I really do, but in the nicest way possible. There was nothing like beating Darien. I still feel that way.
“My parents, Lou and Cathy Casali, taught me first to be a good person and to never take anything for granted. If I needed some comfort, they’d give it to me, but for the most part, it was tough love. They told me I have to get it done if I want something. I’m forever thankful to them for raising me that way.”
Tampa Bay Rays’ Catcher