Milwaukee Talks: Brewers infielder Casey McGehee
A month into his second season with the Brewers, Casey McGehee has gone from unknown prospect to starting third baseman to one of the team's more consistent and popular performers.
The story of the 27-year-old Californian's trek to success includes some familiar twists and turns. A 10th-round draft pick out of Fresno State, McGehee worked his way through the Cubs' minor-league system, racking up a handful of all-star appearances, but was waived after the 2008 season.
Claimed by the Brewers, he won a roster spot with a strong performance in spring training, worked into a regular role due to injuries (Rickie Weeks) and underperformance (Bill Hall) and made himself into a starting player.
Off the field, McGehee has earned attention because he and his wife, Sarah, have 3-year-old son, Mackail, who has cerebral palsy. Mack McGehee who threw out the ceremonial first pitch July 29 and then watched his father hit a game-winning homer, welcomed new sister Cooper Reece at the start of the team's current 10-game trip.
In the weeks leading up to that trek, we spoke to McGehee about those topics and more in a Milwaukee Talks interview.
OnMilwaukee.com: With the first year in Milwaukee under your belt, you're no longer the "new guy." There are some new faces on the team, though. Is this clubhouse really as welcoming as players say it is? What does all that stuff mean, anyway?
Casey McGehee: This clubhouse really is unbelievable. I came over (from Chicago) before spring training last year, and from Day One when I walked in for Fanfest and met some of the guys, instead of just, "Hey, nice to meet you" it was,"Welcome to the family." It's really like that. I think it's pretty rare to see six or seven or eight guys taking their families out to eat together and enjoying each other's company. But, that happens here. It's a good group. We have a lot of fun together.
OMC: Sometimes, that fun rubs other teams the wrong way. You guys aren't untucking your shirts after victories this year ...
CM: That's something Cam (Mike Cameron) wanted to do last year and other guys jumped on board with it. I think us not doing it this year speaks to the fact that everybody holds Cam in high regard in the clubhouse. He was a big part of the organization. He's still leaving his mark on the organization, because some of the things he left with the guys who were here last year, they're now passing it on to the new guys.
OMC: You lost Cameron and Jason Kendall from the clubhouse, but you still have guys who have been around a lot like Trevor Hoffman, Jim Edmonds, Gregg Zaun and Craig Counsell. Guys like Prince and Braun and Rickie Weeks may be young, but they are experienced. Is that "clubhouse leadership" thing people talk about really important?
CM: It is, but it's not really a rah-rah type of thing. It's more guys leading by example. You take a guy like Counsell -- he's out there grinding. He's one of the smartest baseball people you'll ever want to meet. There is never a time when he is not prepared. I think anybody that's spent any amount of time around him loves him. He's helped me tremendously in the last two years with a lot of different things. He's a pro's pro.
OMC: Let's talk about your situation. This was really the first year that you came into a situation where you were guaranteed a job -- not just a job, but a starting job -- in the big leagues. You didn't play winter ball, but you did have knee surgery. How does your knee feel?
CM: My knee feels great right now. I feel like I'm able to move around. There were days last year when it was pretty bad. It wasn't a lot of fun to be moving around.
OMC: When you got off to a slow start in spring training, people wondered if you were healthy or if you were going to suffer a sophomore slump. Did you worry about that? Did talk like that bother you?
CM: I've always been confident that I can play and contribute to a winning team at this level. At the same time, I'm glad people have questions. That's kind of the driving force for me going out there and working every day. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. There is a little bit of that feeling that I want to prove it to people.
OMC: People may refer to you as a bit of a "late bloomer," but it seems like a lot of guys in that category just had to wait for their opportunity. Are you the same player today that you were three or four years ago, or was there a light that went on in terms of maturity and confidence that helped you succeed?
CM: I think it's a little of both. Like I said, I've always been confident that I could help a big league team win and be productive. Physically, I'm pretty much the same kind of player. I was kind of biding my time, waiting for a chance. I don't think I was quite ready for the big leagues as far as being able to handle it mentally.
OMC: How is the mental part different?
CM: I don't know if I was ready to handle the ups and downs of a season at the major-league level until a couple years ago. There is so much riding on each and every game and each and every pitch. There are so many people who are expecting you to perform. In Triple-A, you were trying to move up. There is nowhere to move up when you make it to the big leagues. The goal now is to win.
OMC: You hit in the spot behind Prince Fielder. You probably hear this a lot, but what is that like? How would you describe Prince as a teammate?
CM: It's so funny. People obviously want to know is he a good guy? Is he a jerk? You see him and he's a big guy. He's got tattoos all over. He's really a big kid. You couldn't ask for a nicer guy. He truly cares about the guys he's playing with. He definitely leads by example. No matter if he's hurt, injured, struggling or hot, he goes out there and gives it all he's got. He brings a lot of energy to the clubhouse.
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I hope Casey is a Brewer for a long time to come.
What a stand up guy. More ball players should be like him.
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