Sports Radio Boston – MLB Network Analyst – Sean Casey

Casey on the case for MLB

His friendly style fits new network

By Chad Finn Globe Staff / August 21, 2009 The Red Sox, laboring behind the Yankees and locked in a wild-card battle with the upstart Rangers and lurking Rays, have made their fans sweat during the dog days of August. So perhaps it’s wise to turn to a cooler head – one just a season removed from being a true insider – to put the club in perspective.

“Aw, c’mon, you never count out the Red Sox,’’ laughed MLB Network analyst Sean Casey, who spent the final season of his 12-year career as a reserve first baseman in Boston last year. “We know what Tampa Bay did last year, and Texas has come a long way.

“The X factor for them being able to hang on is their pitching. But I just think at the end, you have to believe the Red Sox will be there in the postseason. They’ve got the experience, and they’re the best team in the [wild-card race].’’

Of course, it must be said that Casey was long ago identified as a world-class optimist, having earned the nickname “The Mayor’’ for his geniality toward teammates, rivals, fans, and even the media. In 2007, he was voted the friendliest player in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll of 464 players.

Casey, 35, who batted .302 and made three All-Star teams, has put his affability to logical use in his new career with the MLB Network, mainly as an in-studio analyst on such programs as “MLB Tonight.’’

The MLB Network, which has had a dazzling rookie season, features a dugout’s worth of ex-players-turned-analysts in addition to Casey, including Barry Larkin, Harold Reynolds, Dan Plesac, Joe Magrane, and Mitch Williams. One characteristic they all have in common: A sense of humor that translates to television and lets viewers in on the camaraderie and banter.

“We’re never really told what to say or what to do,’’ said Casey. “We’re there to provide a clubhouse atmosphere, to let the fans inside the dugout, the clubhouse, to show them what we see there.’’

Although Casey was pegged as a natural for a media career when his playing days were done, he said he never gave it serious thought until last postseason, when he had a fortuitous conversation with Reynolds.

“I was talking to Harold and I happened to ask him, ‘Hey, how was the adjustment after you stopped playing? What was that like going into broadcasting?’ And he kind of looked at me and said, ‘Why are you asking?’ I told him I was thinking about maybe retiring and might consider doing some media stuff. A few days later, I got a call from [the] network, and it just kind of went from there.

“I’m so glad I got in on the ground floor.’’

Casey, who also filled in for Jerry Remy during a NESN Red Sox telecast this season, says he has no regrets about moving on to his second career, in part because he has such fond memories of how his first one ended.

“You miss times,’’ Casey said. “The feeling of jumping around your teammates after a big win, the camaraderie. You miss being around a team. It’s the other stuff that gets old, the travel, missing stuff with your family, all of that.

“I’ve been able to do stuff that I haven’t been able to do since I was 18 years old, going on vacation to the Jersey shore, going tubing with my kids. It was just time. I had a good run, and I don’t miss it that much. My competitive juices were fulfilled.

“But playing in Boston was a total treat for me. Getting to know Tito [Terry Francona] and Theo [Epstein], playing with those guys, in that environment at Fenway. It’s something I’ll always remember, and I feel like I got to go out on a high note.’’

Old favorite ailing

Nick Charles, a mainstay on the national sports broadcasting scene since the ’80s, announced this week that he was taking a leave of absence from his current gig as a Showtime boxing announcer to undergo treatment for Stage IV urothelial carcinoma, a form of bladder cancer. Our best wishes go out to the 63-year-old, whom we remember as half of our all-time favorite tandem of sports highlight show co-anchors when he teamed with Fred Hickman on CNN’s “Sports Tonight’’ in the early ’90s. Charles and Hickman never quite generated the buzz of ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, but with their chemistry, charisma, and it’s-serious-but-not-that-serious approach to sports, they spawned countless imitators but very few equals . . . The full slate of University of Massachusetts men’s basketball and football games, as well as 15 hockey games, will be broadcast on WAMG (890), also known as ESPN Radio Boston, for the 2009-10 seasons. It’s the first time in more than a decade that Minutemen hockey games will be broadcast in the Boston market . . . Versus and DirecTV are embroiled in a standoff reminiscent of the showdown between the NFL Network and Comcast. DirecTV’s contract with Versus – which is scheduled to carry 54 NHL games in a season that begins Oct. 1 – expires Aug. 31. In a message to subscribers, which scrolled across television screens tuned to Versus yesterday, DirecTV has made it clear that the network may no longer be an option if a deal is not agreed upon. The satellite television provider is accusing the network of “asking for terms which do not reflect the market and which they are not asking of other distributors.’’ Stay tuned, hockey fans.

He knows his stuff

The intention was to take a bye this week from commenting on Boston’s budding sports radio showdown, but we do want to acknowledge one pleasant surprise on the clearly formidable “98.5 The Sports Hub’’ airwaves: Damon “D.A.’’ Amendolara. There was natural skepticism when Amendolara, a New Yorker via Miami, was hired to host the 6-11 p.m. show on weeknights. What insight could this outsider possibly provide about Boston sports? The answer: A lot more than the majority of longtime sports radio hosts in the market. Amendolara has proven himself to be beyond informed and even progressive; on his show, the name Bill James is not a punch line but a reference point. And he treats callers with respect.

Now, if he could just convince midday host Gary Tanguay to tone down his transparent Chicken Little routine regarding Francona and the Red Sox, The Sports Hub might really be on to something.