After a simple long-toss session, Kaneland baseball coach Brian Aversa had seen enough.
This was six years ago after Aversa had taken the reins of the Knights’ program in midseason. Then-senior pitcher Casey Crosby was airing out lengthy throws with his potent left arm to a partner.
Crosby didn’t even need to throw off a mound for Aversa to know he had something special. It’s also why, when Crosby made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers on June 1, Aversa made sure to arrive at Detroit’s Comerica Park early enough to witness Crosby’s long toss.
“All I had to do was watch long toss to know Casey had it,” said Aversa who was part of a 25-person entourage that was on hand for the Tigers’ 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees. “His arm strength was amazing. I got up to speed real quick with scouts present on a daily basis.
“I was like a kid in a candy store just watching him play long toss during batting practice. I felt like a little kid again at the ballpark with my dad. Then the first batter he faces is future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. He strikes out Alex Rodriguez twice. It was a surreal moment.”
Though Crosby took the loss that night – allowing six hits and six runs in 31⁄3 innings – it could not temper the Kaneland community’s euphoria.
A 6-foot-5, 225-pound Maple Park native, Crosby twice has been sidelined with elbow injuries. Shortly after being selected by Detroit in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Crosby underwent Tommy John surgery.
In 2010, he was shut down in July with swelling in his pitching elbow. But he persevered and got the call-up to the big leagues when Tigers starter Doug Fister landed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left side.
“The teachers, faculty and students can’t stop talking about Casey’s debut,” said recent Kaneland graduate Jacob Razo, who knows Crosby thorough common family friends and last saw him at a Kaneland practice this spring. “We all wish him the best because he’s a great, humble guy.”
It adds to the recent bull run of success for the entire Knights’ athletic program, but specifically baseball. Kaneland baseball has won at least a share of the past three conference titles and won the Class 3A state title last spring, with Razo in right field. The success has provided a path for every player from high school all the way down to the junior ranks.
“There were so many incoming texts that my phone actually died at the game,” Aversa said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the feeder programs. Everyone realizes this is an awesome moment and are happy for what Casey has been able to accomplish.”