Jan. 25, 2012
By Terry Kelly
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Growing up, Lobo pitcher Jake McCasland could always count on at least one thing: the presence and support of his father, Jim. Whether it was helping coach Jake's first baseball team, or attending all of his practices all the way through high school, Jim was always there to encourage and be there for his son.
"He definitely got (my brother and me) started," the younger McCasland said. "We started playing with just bats and balls and gloves when we were really little. He taught us everything: fishing, hunting, and all that."
"I helped him out quite a bit," the elder McCasland said. "I helped out the first two years he got started."
Jake played with his younger brother, Morgan, from the time he was eight-years-old all the way through high school, and their dad was there every step of the way.
"When they were little kids, we traveled to a lot of places," the elder McCasland said. "We went to Puerto Rico for a World Series, and Atlanta for another. We did a lot of traveling and got to see a lot of the country."
Jake fondly remembers those trips as well. "We went all over the country," he said. "The Puerto Rico and Atlanta trips were big deals, and we'd go to Mesquite, Nev., every year too."
"Those trips just about broke us, but they were still fun," the elder McCasland added laughing.
Jake can thank his father not only for taking him to baseball tournaments all across the country, but also for his excellent athletic genes. Jim's success in athletics began when he was a child, as he helped lead his Tucumcari, N.M., Little League team to the city championship in 1957 and later the state championship that same year. He later played football on scholarship during his freshman season at Texas Tech in 1966, but had to give it up after only one season.
"I had a bum knee, and a dislocated shoulder and hurt vertebrae in my neck," he said. "I was pretty beat up, but I did alright."
Even though he was too injured to continue his football career, Jim still stayed active by throwing the javelin for Texas Tech's track and field team his final three years in school. He even has a baseball background. As a youth, Jim, was part of the Tucumcari little league championship team.
With athletic genes such as those, it is no wonder Jake has found success on the baseball field. In 2010 he helped Piedra Vista High School in Farmington, N.M., win the 4A state championship in baseball and was named New Mexico's Player of the Year. He also pitched two games in the Connie Mack World Series, held annually in Farmington, and won both games. One of those wins is one of Jim's fondest memories of watching his son play.
"I'm getting old, I'm 66-years-old now, " he said laughing. "So many of my favorite memories of him are recent. He pitched in the Connie Mack World Series two years in a row, and shut out the Florida Legends 3-0."
The Legends are a club team out of Coconut Grove, Fla., and had players such as Manny Machado, the third overall pick in the MLB draft that year. Although, Machado didn't make the trip to play in the tournament, the Legends featured another first round draft pick that day, Luke Jackson. Jackson was the opposing starting pitcher, whom Jake was able to out-duel in a 3-0 victory.
Like Jackson and Machado, Jake was also drafted in that season, but not until the 38thround. So, he decided to attend UNM and play for coach Ray Birmingham and the Lobos. So far he is enjoying his time on campus.
"I like to be part of everything that goes on here in New Mexico," he said. "It's a lot to do with why I came here. It's close to home. I like it. I'm really enjoying it. It's a lot of work, but it's not too bad."
Since Jake is so close to home, this affords Jim, and Jake's mother, Roxanne, the opportunity to see their son play often.
"We attended every (game) in Albuquerque," Jim said. "We also went to Phoenix twice to watch them play: against Arizona St. in the regular season, and then in the regional tournament."
Watching Jake play, or even practice, has always been important to Jim, says Roxanne.
"One thing I always appreciated is Jim would sit there and watch (Jake and Morgan) practice," she said. "He'd sit in his truck way out in the outfield and watch. He always enjoyed watching them at their practices. They never minded that and that was pretty neat. From day one he would be there to watch them practice. He missed a few, but whenever he was available he would go."
Jim said this year shouldn't be any different in terms of watching Jake. He and Roxanne plan on making many trips to Albuquerque.
"I don't know if he'll end up in the rotation or as a reliever," he said. "But if he's a reliever then you have to go to every game because you never know when he might pitch and you don't want to miss it."
Jake started 15 games for the Lobos last season, and was second on the team in innings pitched with 76.2. The Lobos won the Mountain West tournament last season, and that success has Jake optimistic about the upcoming season.
"We've got a good team," he said. "We've got a good shot at doing some good things this year with all the guys we got returning. All things are looking good so far. I'm definitely excited about it."
While another MWC tournament championship and a return to the postseason might mean a successful season for Jake and the Lobos, Jim has impressed other things to his sons over the years.
"All I've ever stressed to my two boys, whether they're listening or not," he said laughing, "s just always try and work as hard as you can. Always work hard and keep your head in the game, in whatever you do. Just give it everything you've got, and you might be surprised where it takes you."