Casey Kowalski: player, umpire, coachPublished 11:19am Tuesday, July 19, 2011
On any given day, Casey Kowalski may walk out to the mound to throw a few innings, sit in the dugout as a pitching coach and analyze a young pitcher or crouch behind the catcher as an umpire to call balls and strikes.
Why the Fergus Falls High School graduate has taken on roles as player, coach and umpire simultaneously is simple.
“I have always had a passion for baseball,” Kowalski says.
One of the many faces of Casey Kowalski, the fierce pitcher, showed up Wednesday. As a Hurricanes took on the Pelican Rapids Lakers, Kowalski pitched 6 innings and allowed only 2 runs in a 5-4 victory.
Kowalski, a 2004 graduate of Fergus Falls, had high hopes after a great high school career, signing a letter of intent to play at North Dakota State University. But after arriving at the school, something just didn’t feel right for the hurler.
Casey would leave the Bison and return to Fergus Falls, taking a year off before joining Minnesota State Community College in 2005. After two successful seasons with the Spartans, Kowalski spent the next two seasons honing his skills from the mound at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
“I had a blast playing baseball at MSU,” he said. “I had a chance to play with some very good baseball players and learn from some of the best baseball guys in Minnesota.”
In 2009, the Mavericks posted a 17-0 home record and captured the Northern Sun Conference.
Casey would return home the following summer with the plan of playing baseball for the Fergus Falls Hurricanes, which he has done since graduating from high school, and working. But a few surprises would be in store for Kowalski as former VFW coach Kellen Shebeck accepted a Co-Head Coaching job at M State and asked Casey to help with the pitchers.
“I really never thought I would be coaching at any level, but when Kellen and Jarrod (Asmus) accepted the role of head baseball coach I thought I would help them out as much as I could.”
Casey has helped coach a young staff, who stands in the same shoes he had been in a few years ago.
“I feel that my knowledge of pitching could be valuable to the team.”
The Spartans have seen improvements on the mound and that could be contributed to the craftiness of their pitching coach.
Another aspect of Casey’s field experience forms in the shape of a dark shirt, gray pants and a facemask as he works as a umpire from spring to fall.
“I have more respect for umpires now that I am one myself. It is harder than you think.”
Casey has even considered taking the mask up permanently, umping college or minor league games.
The future for Kowalski looks to be a bright one in the sport of baseball. Building an impressive resume in the sport allows Casey the opportunity to advance in both coaching and umping. But his true love is standing 60 feet, 6 inches from homeplate and working against opposing hitters.
“I will continue to play as long as my body allows me to,” he said. “In high school I severely broke my leg in a football game, and over the years my leg has began to hurt more and more. I know that one day I wont be able to play baseball anymore, so I plan to keep playing until that time comes.”
Hurricanes Coach Dave Johnson enjoys having Kowalski as a player with a coaching background.
“He is another coach,” said Johnson. “He is a great go-between with players and is another set of eyes and ears out there on the field.”
Johnson has also noticed the maturity of a player he has coached since he first set foot in the ‘Canes dugout after high school.
“He understands what we expect at this level. Its a higher brand of baseball and he helps by letting the young guys know that it is a different game than they are used to.”
Kowalski doesn’t have much time outside of baseball, but that isn’t a problem for him.
“Baseball does take up a lot of time in my life. Just being around the game is fun for me so I really dont need to find time for other things. But I do find some time to get out in my bow stand or get out on the lake somewhere.”
Kowalski and the ‘Canes road begins in Dent against the Vergas Loons Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they look to take the 2011 Countryside League championship.