Casper is settling in well with the Crushers
Max Casper is just a big kid playing the game he loves.
Whether he's in the field, at the plate or in the dugout, the Crushers' second baseman always seems to be having the time of his life.
"The thing that I try to remember the most is baseball is a game; it's a kids' game," Casper said. "I'm lucky to be playing a kids' game at 22 years old. I don't have a real job. I mean I get to come out and people pay money to watch me play baseball."
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Casper has always had his size against him as he tried to prove himself as a baseball player.
"I've always been too small, too little, too weak, where it has always been an adversity thing," Casper said. "It's just been a chip on my shoulder I've had my whole career really."
Casper's love for baseball started as soon as he could pick up a glove. By the time he was in high school at an all boys military school, Casper broke down a barrier of sophomores not being allowed to play varsity with his skills as a shortstop.
"It was kind of a cool thing, me and my buddy made it as sophomores, but then everyday you had to go out and prove yourself," Casper said. "Everyday you had to fight through the adversity. If you were hurt, somebody else was in there and you didn't want to get Wally Pipp-ed."
In college at North Dakota State University, Casper came in as a recruited walk on with no money invested in him and nothing guaranteed. Fighting for his job, Casper went on to start 42 games as a freshmen then eventually started 170 games guarding the gap between second and third.
After his successful college career, Casper found himself bouncing around independent baseball before finding a home, for now, with Lake Erie. But the adversity followed close behind him.
Opening day, Casper found himself on the bench and would have to wait to get his shot at the Frontier League. It didn't take long, though, for Casper to get his chance and in manager Jeff Isom's eyes he has really stepped up.
Filling in at second base, Casper has gone from bottom of the lineup hitter all the way up to leadoff while leading the Crushers in batting average at this point in the season.
"You think you know what you've got each year when you come into the season, you're hoping that you have a surprise or two and the teams that I've had success with, there has always been a good surprise and I hope he is the surprise by the end of the year," Isom said. "But it doesn't surprise me just because the way he goes about his business and works hard there. You always want someone like that and he has a lot to offer."
With just a handful of blunders, Casper has taken strongly to the change to second with the help of veteran Juan Sanchez. While Isom has said that shortstop will be Sanchez's position for a while, the combination has been effective on defense.
Almost as important, though, has been the surprise of Casper's bat. For the past two weeks now, Casper has fought his batting average up with his role as an everyday player to lead the team.
Casper says he doesn't even look at him numbers, he just likes to track how hard he hits the ball for better results.
"You can only control so much in baseball and I'm finally starting to figure that out, I've read a couple books that it's more about the process than the results; if you hit the ball hard, you should be happy with yourself," Casper said. "You beat the pitcher, the pitcher knows you beat him, the pitcher's mom that's watching knows you beat him. But you hit it right at somebody and you're upset with yourself? That's not right and you can't have that mentality out there."
"Honestly, I don't even look at my batting average because then I start thinking about it and it turns into 'well, now I've got to get two hits.' I keep a chart in my notebook in the locker room of how many times I hit the ball hard. I don't care how many hits I've got, it's just how many times you hit the ball hard."
As long as Casper is in a Lake Erie uniform, Isom said he will continue to be impressed to his approach to the game on and off the field.
"He takes every at-bat like it's his last one and doesn't give up on anything," Isom said. "It almost feels like he's a better two strike hitter so he's not afraid to work counts and get deep in counts. There have been a couple times where it has been a 3-1 count and I'm giving him the take sign with guys in scoring position and he's looking at me funny, but I'm like you're fine hitting with two strikes so make that pitcher throw another strike."
"As a manger, I always ask myself 'can I trust this guy?' and that goes a long way. I trust him on and off the field and on the field in particular, if I put down a certain situation of bunt or if he's going to be in a different defense, is he going to be in the right spot? Can I trust him? And he does all the little things I can trust anywhere he's at on the infield."