Thursday, July 13, 2006

Keeping Casey at Bat for OSU

So often we view "success"--the realization of specific goals--as the end point in our efforts at life. "If I can just make partner, it's Easy Street from here on out!" "One big pot of no limit Hold-em and I can retire!" Or even, "Two more years of tricks and I can take my baby and get out." The destination validates the process, makes its hardships bearable.

But what happens when you reach success? What if you've worked your whole professional life to reach the pinnacle of your occupation--and now you've done it? Your life has changed; have you prepared yourself to actually live in that new life? It's not like challenges simply disappear. They're just replaced by new ones.

Pat Casey has finally tasted the biggest success a college baseball coach can have--leading a team to the national title. Not only did his team achieve what few thought possible, they achieved it in a manner that embodied the absolute best about sports and sportsmanship, putting an exemplary face on Oregon State athletics and the school in general. I saw for myself at Pioneer Square the humility the coach brought and passed on to his team, the quiet pride and constant awareness that it wasn't being accomplished alone.

So now, post-goal, Casey is finding that the work and the choices don't stop. (Only a fool would cash in and hit the recliner after a season like that, anyway!) To the stark fear of Beaver Nation, the coach has unsurprisingly become a hot property. And now the granddaddy of storied schools has come calling--Notre Dame. Wouldn't you know it, they need a coach. And wouldn't you know it, Pat Casey is an active Catholic. And here's something else to think about: they're willing to nearly triple his salary at OSU. The Beavers look ready to do whatever they can to persuade the coach, but assuming they bring comparable money to the table, it's not likely to be a financial decision.

Casey has to decide whether he wants to make a life out of building programs, or building a dynasty. If he goes to Notre Dame, on a professional level it would be the same challenge he once faced at OSU--creating a winning program where one was not evident. Typically, if a coach does that once, he'll do it again at the next alchemic opportunity. If you left the best thing you'd ever had for another challenge, what's the justification for not moving on once greener pastures again beckon?

Tugging him in the opposite direction, likely, is the strong pull of family and place, and the sense that Corvallis can become a mecca for Northwest and Northern California players, blowing away for all time the idea that the PNW can't play ball. His home could become the home not just of Pat Casey, 2006 CWS champion, but Pat Casey, college baseball legend. And he could do it while growing old among people he knows and loves, in--let's face it--the best state in the Union.

I'd respect either choice; both have honor to them. What path will success push him onto? Traveling miracle worker, or rooted institution?

(Pssssst. Pick us!)