CORVALLIS — Mitch Canham was introduced Friday as Oregon State’s new baseball coach, in a large second-floor auditorium of the Valley Football Center, where some OSU boosters, coaches and school president Dr. Edward Ray — as well as a Pac-12 Network audience — watched.
It was a little amusing to the man Canham was replacing, Pat Casey. Also evidence as to how far Beavers baseball has come since Casey took over the program in 1994.
Coming from small-college George Fox, Casey arrived at Oregon State to little fanfare. There was no press conference, not even a press release that he can remember.
“I walked into Gill Coliseum, and my door was locked to the baseball office,” Casey said. “I walked over to the administration office and asked the gal if I could get a set of keys.
“She asked who I was.”
Now all that is asked of Casey at Oregon State is how can we keep you around? When Casey retired last September after 24 years, 900 wins and three national titles as OSU coach, he became a special assistant to athletic director Scott Barnes. But a clause in Casey’s updated contract left open the possibility of returning to the dugout following a year’s sabbatical.
Casey closed that door last week when he told Barnes that he would not be back. But Casey is 60 and looking fit and healthy. So have we seen the last of him in a baseball uniform?
It is a question Casey is unwilling to answer definitively.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Casey said. “I’m enjoying the day for Mitch. I’m enjoying the day for OSU Beaver baseball. And I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
It’s pure Casey, who would rather talk about anything than himself. And particularly, one of his former players done well, which is the case with Canham, who at 34 quickly rose through the Seattle Mariners’ coaching ranks and now has landed one of college baseball’s premier jobs.
“When you coached him, you knew whatever he decided to do, he was going to be great at it,” Casey said. “He’s just a resilient guy.”
Casey was part of the coaching search process as an adviser to Barnes. Though Casey did not offer what might have been the difference between Canham and others under consideration such as his former OSU coaches Pat Bailey and Nate Yeskie, he said it was a “perfect mix” of candidates.
Barnes “knew that I really believed we needed (the new coach) to be a Beaver to carry this on,” Casey said. “You have three incredible candidates, then he gave me that distance because he knew it was uncomfortable for me to be around it … it worked out just fine.”
Casey did not attend a home game during the 2019 season, as he wanted to give the coaching staff its space.
“I wanted that year gap to respect everybody,” Casey said. “I didn’t want people to say, “What would coach Casey do?” I could shake my head about something and they’d say, ‘Oh, he’d do it differently.’ I was never going to do that.”
Casey insists that he watched every Oregon State pitch during the season, either on streaming services or television. Casey often talked with coaches individually in their office, out of public view.
“The injuries early in the year, they got through that, then you lose (Mitchell) Verburg and (Brandon) Eisert (two key pitchers) down the stretch. Tough,” Casey said of the 2019 season. “I thought they did a phenomenal job.”
While he will not wear a uniform next season, Casey will be back for games and practices.
“I will return to the yard,” he said.