Ask Omar Velazquez about Rob Casal and his face brightens.
“He’s phenomenal,” Velazquez said of his teammate on the Caldwell College baseball team. “He’s just lights out. Every time he goes out there, we expect to win.”
Casal, a Howard Beach native, has improved drastically since his days at St. Francis Prep. He was the Terriers’ ace as a senior in 2006, but this past season, his second at Caldwell, he was named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference pitcher of the year.
The cause for his success? Casal credits his coaches at Caldwell — specifically head coach and Queens native Chris Reardon — for fixing his mechanics. With the adjustment, Casal’s velocity has risen to the high 80s and there could be more mph to gain.
Casal was 9-4 this season with a 1.89 earned run average for the Cougars this season.
He recorded 106 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings while allowing only 61 hits. In a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Philadelphia University in the CACC Tournament, the 5-foot-11 right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout while striking out seven to earn a spot on the all-tournament team.
He also went nine innings in Caldwell’s 7-3 victory over Dowling College at the Northeast Regional, allowing four hits and one earned run while fanning eight batters. Casal was named to the Daktronics and ABCA/Rawlings all-Northeast Region second teams last month.
“It took me awhile (to adjust), but it was worth it,” said Casal, who is playing this summer with the Metro NY Cadets, based out of St. John’s University.
He could have played Division I baseball. There was interest from NYIT and Hofstra. Adelphi, another Division II school, was also a major suitor. But Reardon, Casal said, was very persuasive.
“I think it was the coach,” Casal said. “He has a way with words.”
Another Queens product from the CACC, Tommy Mejia of Newtown and Dominican College, just signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs organization. Casal is a guy who has the potential to make the jump from Division II baseball to the pros.
“He has become a more complete pitcher since entering Caldwell,” said National League scout under condition of anonymity. “He can run his fastball up in the high 80s and might continue to improve.”
Caldwell has been a good nurturing ground, Casal said. There are five players from Queens on the roster, including Velazquez, a Long Island City graduate. Bayside outfielder Jorge Ynoa and A.J. Boardman, Casal’s former teammate at St. Francis Prep, will join the team next year.
This summer presents new challenges. The Metro Cadets play in the Atlantic Coast Baseball League — one of the more solid associations in the area.
Casal (0-2, 2.50 ERA) started the summer in the rotation, but has since been moved to the bullpen by coach Frank DelGeorge, the former head coach at St. Francis College.
“He had a great college season,” DelGeorge said. “We’re waiting to see it here.”
Casal has been underestimated before. Don’t be surprised if he makes good again.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@
©2008 Community News Group
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