Rob Casal prepared for his college baseball career in an unorthodox manner. He did nothing. He did not pick up a baseball or a bat. He did not even play catch with a friend.
It may have been the wisest decision of the former St. Francis Prep star’s young life.
The Howard Beach product has put together two impressive seasons at Division II Caldwell College in New Jersey of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. A first team all-CACC and second team all-Northeast Region performer as a freshman, he was even better his sophomore year, going 8-4 with a 1.99 earned run average.
Last week, days before the Cougars won the CACC Tournament that earned them an automatic bid to the Division II NCAA Tournament, he was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year.
“It means a lot to me,” Casal said. “You work real hard all year and this reward shows they see how hard you work. I was not really expecting any of it. It caught me off guard.”
Not bad for the lightly recruited right-hander from Howard Beach. A control pitcher in high school who relied on his curveball as an out pitch, Casal has become a strikeout artist at Caldwell. Now armed with a fastball that tops out at 89 miles-per-hour and rapidly developing changeup in addition to that hook, he struck out 98 batters this year in 81 1/3 innings pitched and allowed just 57 hits. Actually, Reardon said, Casal’s one shortcoming may be wanting to whiff too many hitters.
“He gives a quality effort every time he goes out there,” Reardon said. “Even without his best stuff, he has the will to win, he competes. He does what he needs to do and more. He takes the initiative to do extra. He takes care of his body. He’s constantly working his tail off.”
Casal has put on a good amount of muscle since arriving at Caldwell. His work ethic has been flawless. Reardon saw the talent and ability when he was recruiting him. Casal was only throwing in the low-to-mid 80’s, but was a winner and understood how to pitch.
“I had a smile from ear to ear when he signed that letter of intent,” said Reardon, who believes Casal could pitch at a Division I level. “He’s the guy you want in the big game.”