Baseball: Max Casper stands as people person for Slammers
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media August 18, 2014 8:36PM
The Slammers' Max Casper chats with fans outside Silver Cross Field. | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 19, 2014 2:11AM
To Max Casper, playing for the Joliet Slammers isn’t just about baseball.
Before every home game, the Slammers’ friendly shortstop is outside the front gates at Silver Cross Field, greeting and talking with fans and signing autographs for them as they enter the stadium.
“Just say ‘Hi’ to everybody, greet people as they walk in,’’ Casper said. “I could sit in the clubhouse for a half-hour or I could do something. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to sit around.’’
When there’s a signup sheet for players to make appearances in the local area, Casper leads the team in community commitment.
“It’s always fun to give back to the younger kids because they don’t know if you’re the Joliet Slammers or Chicago White Sox,’’ he said. “You’re a professional baseball player and they think the world of you.
“It’s fun to say hi to them, and if they come to the game, it’s a bonus for everybody. You never know who you run into at different things like that.’’
Casper has visited several YMCAs in the area, a camp for foster children where he played softball with the youngsters, and was part of the Fourth of July parade in Homer Glen.
Besides the 15 or so appearances he’s made outside of Silver Cross Field, Casper also participated in the baseball youth camps at the ballpark, where, according to Slammers hitting coach Matt Kennedy, Casper is usually the campers’ favorite player.
“I don’t have a side job or a girlfriend or anything in town to hold me to anything,’’ Casper said. “I just like going out and doing different things.’’
The 24-year-old North Dakota State product thought he’d be playing again this season with the Lake Erie Crushers. But after Jeff Isom, Lake Erie’s manager last year, got the Joliet job during the winter, the Crushers’ second baseman was released by Lake Erie.
“It was going to come down to me and another guy to play second this year,’’ Casper said. “When ‘Ice’ (Isom) left, I didn’t hear anything. As soon as their manager took the job, I saw they signed the other guy right away.
“I got an email. Then I got an email 15 minutes later from ‘Ice’, asking if I wanted to come and play shortstop for him next year. I said ‘You mean second?’ He said, ‘No, short.’ I said ‘All right.’ ’’
After North Dakota State, where Casper made the team as a walk-on, he briefly played in 2012 for Sioux Falls of the American Association. He was released after about six weeks, went back home to Fargo and was signed later in the season by Fargo for the stretch run.
Casper was traded that offseason to River City and two days later to Lake Erie, where he played all but two games in 2013 at second base.
His shoulder-length hair became a familiar sight this season at shortstop. When Casper had it cut a week ago, it drew a comment from the Lake Erie broadcaster during last week’s series.
“It was time,’’ Casper said. “I felt like it had kind of run its course.’’
As for the course of his career, Casper said he’s not sure.
“I’d like to come back, but I thought I was coming back to Lake Erie last year,’’ he said “You never know what’s going to happen in the offseason.’’
Joliet’s main shortstop this season has maintained a positive attitude and demeanor regardless of the situation.
“The biggest thing that I try to keep in mind is that it’s a game,’’ he said. “It’s still a game. I’m a 24-year-old kid playing a kid’s game.’’