TORONTO -- I've interviewed hundreds of baseball players for The News in the last 15 seasons and I constantly get asked who's my favorite one. I answer every time without hesitation -- Sean Casey.
The Detroit first baseman is obviously nowhere near the best player in the game but he did enter this season as a lifetime .302 hitter and coming off a 9-for-17 performance in last year's World Series. Buffalo fans, of course, will always remember him as the player who delivered the Bisons their first championship in 36 years with his 10th-inning home run at Iowa that won the 1997 American Association finals.
(I thought I was getting fired that night, by the way, because I couldn't find him for an hour after that game. Turns out he was in a phone booth in the stadium concourse emotionally telling his family back home in Pittsburgh about his home run and his first big-league callup. No way I could have come home without quotes from the guy who made Bisons history.)
Casey is just the nicest guy you'll ever meet and basically everyone else in baseball feels the same way. The media loved Casey during last year's Series and he's developed such a reputation for remembering names and faces that his career-long nickname earned in the Cape Cod League is "The Mayor."
Casey amazed me again Thursday in the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre. I had not spoken to him one-on-one since 2000 in Jacobs Field. No way he'd remember, right? But before I could even reintroduce myself, I got the handshake, that big smile and "Mike, how's things?"
Casey had plenty to say about the Tigers' hopes of repeating as AL champions and you can read his comments in a story on the Tigers we're planning for Monday's paper. We shook hands when the interview was over and he said, "Say hi to everyone in Buffalo."
There's nobody else in the game like him.