PRIDE OF SCHENECTADY: Casper Wells was key figure in Schenectady High School baseball team’s success

The Detroit Tigers' Don Kelly (32) and Casper Wells, right, celebrate after scoring on a single by teammate Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning of an interleague game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 26, 2011, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The Detroit Tigers' Don Kelly (32) and Casper Wells, right, celebrate after scoring on a single by teammate Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning of an interleague game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 26, 2011, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

SCHENECTADYIt was one of those special moments in a baseball career full of them when Casper Wells  homered off New York Yankees ace Andy Pettitte.

It was May of 2012. Yankee Stadium. Mothers Day, with Wells’ mom, dad and three younger sisters all in attendance.

“My mom literally asked for it,”  Wells said of the gift — in the form of a high drive off the left-field foul pole — that he presented to Daiva Wells that day in a 6-2 win. “We were in a hotel room. I had no home runs. No RBIs. I’m thinking, ‘No big deal, mom. It’s only Andy Pettitte.’”

Wells was playing outfield for the Seattle Mariners at that point in his Major League career after making his debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2010. The Schenectady High School and Towson University graduate also saw Major League action with the Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he finished up in 2013. He also spent time in the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.

“I don’t know if people realize how difficult it is to get to the Major Leagues,” said Jerry Rosen, Schenectady’s varsity baseball coach when Wells was leading the Patriots to three Big 10 championships, and, in 2002, a spot in the state title game. “How many first-round picks never see it?”

Wells made it as a 2005 14th-round pick by Detroit. Among his Major League accomplishments, the 37-year-old belted 25 home runs, which included a streak of homers in four consecutive games while with Seattle in 2011.

He homered against the likes of Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Tim Licecum and C.C. Sabathia in his career, and in 276 Major League games, he batted .230, collected 81 RBIs and 21 outfield assists, and even pitched twice in relief.

“He was a bulldog,” Rosen said of the 2022 Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame honoree who shined both as a hitter and pitcher. “That carried him through college and playing in the Major Leagues.”

Wells is the third representative of new Schenectady High School [following the merger between Mont Pleasant and Linton] to receive SCSD Athletic HOF honors after basketball coach Gary DiNola and basketball player Willie Deane in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

“I had tons of help and guidance along the way,” said Wells, who, with his wife Aubrey and 16-month-old daughter Sienna, reside in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I’ve got to mention my parents [Daiva and Casper Wells IV] right off the bat. They were always there for me, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

The younger Wells had a knack for doing big things in bunches, like when he earned all five pitching wins [three as a starter, two in relief] during Schenectady’s drive to the 2002 New York final, went 4-for-4 in a game against Texas in his rookie season with Detroit and homered in those four consecutive games to tie a Mariners’ rookie record.

“I was feeling comfortable. Playing every day.” Wells said of his homer streak against Boston and Toronto that ended when he was hit in the nose by a pitch. “I was in a zone.”

That could be said of Wells’ senior season at Schenectady in 2002, when the right-hander went 11-1 and set a school one-season pitching record for wins [he went 17-1 in his career], and allowed four earned runs. The Big 10 all-star pitched 3 2-3 innings of no-hit ball in relief when the Patriots rallied past Rome Free Academy 9-5 in the regionals, and blanked Calhoun in a 3-0 in the state semifinals before the Pats’ 4-1 loss to Clarkstown North.

“The game I remember best is the RFA game,” said Wells, whose team trailed 4-0 and 5-2. “I was shutting them down, and we chipped away. A lot of people delivered like they had all season long.”

“The state semifinal sticks out for me,” said Rosen, whose teams went 64-9-2 in Wells’ sophomore through senior years. “I remember in the first inning thinking, ‘They’re not touching him.’ You don’t think of that as a coach. He just mowed them down.”

Wells’ three-year playing career at Towson reached a high point when he was a junior, when he went 6-0 on the mound, batted .362 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs and was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Player of the Year. 

“At first, they wanted me only as a pitcher, but I wanted to hit, too,” said Wells, who batted .367 as a Schenectady senior. “I was begging to hit, and after putting some balls into the trees, they let me.”

Hitting was Wells’ ticket to the pro level (he batted .351 with 28 home runs and 115 RBIs at Towson), and he played for several minor league teams in the Detroit organization before joining the Tigers at age 25 for stints early and late in the 2010 campaign.

“It was a big uphill battle after going 420[th] in the draft in the 14th round. They drafted a lot of outfielders that year, too, but I wanted to see it through,” said Wells, who works in the Phoenix branch for Brown & Brown Insurance. “I  gave myself a time frame to be there in 2010, put in the work, and that’s what happened.”

“He always worked hard and wanted to get better,” Rosen said of the Capital District Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. “Combine that with his internal drive and incredible skill set, and you’ve got Casper.”

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