Baseball: Wells taking to the hill, not over it

Baseball: Wells taking to the hill, not over it

Published Friday, June 12, 2015
by Bill Cain

Baseball: Wells taking to the hill, not over it

Former Major League Baseball player Casper Wells, a graduate of Schenectady High School, takes a yoga class at the Jewish Community Center in Niskayuna Tuesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER R. BARBER
Former Major League Baseball player Casper Wells, a graduate of Schenectady High School, takes a yoga class at the Jewish Community Center in Niskayuna Tuesday.
 

Dreams don’t last forever, but tomorrow there are other dreams to be had.

Schenectady native Casper Wells isn’t saying his days as a professional baseball player — even a Major League Baseball player — are done, but if they are, he’ll move on to the other things he wants to do with his life.

“At some point in your life, it’s time for a change. Baseball isn’t forever,” Wells said. “I might have been thinking I’d be playing forever, or until I was 40, but there’s a lot of other things I’d like to pursue.”

He’d like to build a family and a home someday, maybe a career in television or film, for which he’ll finish the degree he started at Towson University with some upcoming online classes.

First, though, Wells will pursue a pitching career.

As a senior at Schenectady High School in 2002, Wells set a program record with 11 wins, going 11-1 and winning five postseason games, including the state semifinal.

In his junior year at Towson University, he was 6-0 with a 4.97 ERA in 12 starts, striking out 53 in 70 innings. He also hit .362 with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs in 58 games.

South Troy Dodgers coach George Rogers said he was a little surprised the Detroit Tigers stuck Wells in the outfield after they drafted him in 2005.

“When Casper got drafted, we thought it was as a pitcher, because he could pitch the snot out of the ball,” Rogers said. “But he could also hit pretty well, too.”

Wells became a power hitter in college, catching the eye of pro scouts.

“I felt I was a better pitcher than hitter; then I started hitting home runs in college,” Wells said. “Power speaks loudly. You start hitting home runs and that takes precedence over everything.”

He said he throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a curve, slider and his out pitch — a circle change.

“I have a circle change that acts like a split-finger [fastball] because it drops pretty sharply,” Wells said. “There’s actually a clip on the Internet of me striking out Asdrubal Cabrera when I got to pitch in the big leagues. Everyone thought I was throwing a curve, but that was actually my changeup.”

Wells has a few pitches he’d like to try to develop, pitches like the cutter that has given him trouble as a batter. He hopes his experience in the batter’s box can help him when he climbs the mound.

He has thrown 1 2⁄3 innings in the majors, allowing five runs.

THINGS HAPPEN

Things happen for a reason — Wells said he believes that, and it has helped him keep a level head as he has faced certain setbacks in baseball and in life.

His four-game home run streak with the Seattle Mariners in 2011 was halted by a Brandon Morrow fastball to the face. His numbers in 2012 didn’t drop drastically, but in 2013, he had trouble sticking with teams and worked through lingering eyesight trouble that led to a second Lasik surgery that ended his season early.

Wells spent early 2014 with the Class AAA Iowa Cubs before a bulging disc sidelined him before his release. He spent the early part of this season with the Class AA Erie SeaWolves (affiliated with Detroit), until he injured his elbow in an overzealous attempt to see if he had a future as a pitcher.

He refuses to trace his setbacks back to that Morrow fastball, just as he refuses to see them as negative situations.

“I look at it as a change,” he said. “Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. Or when you’re doing things and changing but the outcome is still the same, you have to drastically change.”

He even applies that view to the rest of his life. He was on his way back to Schenectady, having lunch May 27 in Buffalo and texting with one of his three sisters, Livija, when she suddenly texted him that their home was on fire.

A lightning strike started an attic fire at the Eastern Boulevard home. Maybe not immediately, but before long, Wells looked at the lightning strike as incentive for another change.

He was done with pro baseball for the summer, instead choosing to stay home and do what he can to help his family as they deal with the task of finding temporary housing and figuring out where to start with repairs to their home.

Wells’ family is safe and healthy, even the family’s pets — cat Felix and hedgehog Milo.

Yes, hedgehog.

The fire destroyed some of Wells’ baseball memorabilia, but he said that mattered far less to him.

“That stuff wouldn’t mean anything if someone got hurt,” said Wells, whose “stuff” included the Mariners jersey in which he hit a Mother’s Day home run for his mom, Daiva. “It would be selfish for me to think those things hold so much value over a house my parents lived in.”

NEW PLAN

When the fall rolls around, Wells will start thinking about baseball a little more seriously. He’ll return to Arizona, to EXOS, the training facility he has used for the past five years. He’ll begin a pitching program to prepare for . . . whatever is next.

He’ll also complete his degree in television and film online from Towson University.

Right now, he has no plan beyond that. No designs on how or when to get seen by pro scouts. That plan will come later.

In the meantime, he’ll throw a few times a week and keep in shape.

He’ll spend time in upstate New York that he hasn’t spent in more than a decade, enjoying summer here by checking out some concerts, enjoying the outdoors and the company of his family and friends.

He’ll also spend time with some young local athletes.

He was at the Schenectady Jewish Community Center on Tuesday night to participate in a class of Yoga for Athletes.

“When you get older,” said the 30-year-old Wells, “you have to figure out how to let your body recover and take it easy a little bit when you can. Later on in my career, I learned how important stretching is. I never really stretched much, but it’s so important to your body. I did a lot of yoga, which has been real beneficial for me, as far as maintaining flexibility and balance, mentally, spiritually and physically. Creating a great balance. I’m a big advocate of doing yoga for athletes.”

He’s also looking forward to partnering with the JCC for Sports Performance Training sessions and one-on-one baseball instruction from June 29 through Sept. 3. More information on the limited-space sessions can be found online at www.schenectadyjcc.org or by contacting the JCC’s Sports & Wellness Director, Josh Wagner.

“It’s nice to be here in the summer time and have a chance to help out some of the younger kids,” Wells said. “I’m looking forward to answering any questions they have and being able to help them out.”

He would like to have kids of his own someday, and a wife, a home — a home, for the guy who bounced around between five different franchises in 2013 and has spent long enough living out of his truck.

If a career as a pitcher doesn’t pan out, it’ll give Wells one more opportunity to look at what some may call a setback and, instead, see an opportunity for a change.

“It gives me total peace of mind, being able to say I did what I could and enjoyed it. Now, it might be time for something else,” he said.

“When things happened last year, I was thinking, if baseball is done, I felt so lost. Then I realized I should probably not put so much emphasis on it. I should have some balance.

“I strive to have a family, and right now I’m just building toward that family I’ll have one day, having kids, accruing money to have a nice house to have kids in, to be able to do nice things with my family that I will have one day. That’s something I’ve really looked forward to having.”

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