Former University of Richmond athletic greats Sean Casey (baseball) and Lou Wacker (football) will be inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in late April. The Richmond alumni and five others were announced as the 2014 hall of fame class at a ceremony at the State Capitol in early January.
Casey had a tremendous career playing baseball for Richmond, where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, finishing with a .405 batting average while driving in 158 runs in as many games. His most notable year was the 1995 season when Casey led all of Division I college baseball in batting average (.461) and carried the Spiders to the National Collegiate Athletic Association East Regional. There the Spiders captured the program's first NCAA tournament victory, an 8-2 win over Jacksonville. At the end of the '95 season, Casey was named a second team All American, Colonial Athletic Association player of the year and was the first player to win the conference Triple Crown, finishing first in home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
"I'll never forget we were all watching the selection show [for the tournament] in the Commons," Casey said. "We heard we were the fifth seed, and we all ran out and jumped in the lake."
In the summer of 1995, Casey was selected in the second round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians and was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1998. There, Casey would spend eight years before playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. Casey finished his MLB career as a three-time all-star, with a batting average of .302, more than 300 doubles and 700 RBIs and 130 home runs. There were a few of those home runs that Casey said stood out as big moments in his career.
"Hitting home runs in games four and five of the World Series [with Detroit in 2006] is just an amazing experience," Casey said. "And growing up watching games there and then hitting a home run in PNC Park [home of the Pittsburgh Pirates] was just unreal."
Casey lives in the Pittsburgh area with his wife and children and continues to be involved in the baseball world through his work as an analyst for the MLB Network.
During his career, Casey became known as "the Mayor" for the approachable and bright character that followed him on and off the field. He has been involved with many charitable programs, most notably for opening a ballpark for special needs athletes, a project Casey said might have meant more to him than anything he's done on the field.
Lou Wacker, Richmond's other alumnus member of the 2014 hall of fame class, was an all-conference and all-state running back and defensive back for the Spiders in the 1952-55 seasons, while also participating in the track program.
Wacker broke the school record for most interceptions in one game with three against Wake Forest University in 1954, and after graduating went to play for the Detroit Lions in the National Football League.
After his playing career ended, Wacker coached at multiple schools before eventually becoming the head coach for the Emory & Henry College football team in Emory, Va. Between 1982 and 2004, Wacker led the Wasps to a 164-76 record, for a nearly 70 percent winning record.
Wacker was unavailable for comment on this article.
Corry Gross, the marketing and sales coordinator for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, said the hall classes first go through a screening committee to determine their eligibility for the ballot.
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"In November, the honors court, made up of different individuals like college athletic directors, media relations directors and writers, votes for the individuals most worthy of induction," Gross said. "There are usually four athletes selected, a coach/administrator, a veteran (chosen by the veteran's committee) and a media selection."
When asked about the Richmond alumni inductions, Gross said: "From what I hear, Sean Casey is one of the nicest and outgoing people in baseball. His charisma is showed on the television screen on MLB Network. Sean sent letters to about 15 schools when he was in high school because no one was recruiting him. Richmond was the only school to offer him a scholarship, and now look where he is at.
"When I spoke to Lou in Richmond, he was extremely humble to be honored in the Hall of Fame. He is an all-time Virginian. He started at Midlothian High School coaching, then went to U of R, then a defensive coordinator at Hampden-Sydney and finally at Emory & Henry. He loves where he is at."
The inductions for 2014 will be made official at the 43rd Annual Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet on Saturday, April 26, at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center in Portsmouth, Va. The weekend of the induction will include a celebrity golf tournament that the new class and other inductees participate in on April 25.
"Later that night, we hold a celebrity reception and auction to raise money for the museum as we are a nonprofit," Gross said. "We do the unveiling of the new display cases at the reception. On Saturday, we hold an autograph session in the afternoon and then finally the Induction Banquet that night. The new members give speeches and they also do a lineup of other inductees that attend. We usually have about 30-40 inductees from other classes come to the event as well."
Tickets for the Hall of Fame weekend are now on sale at the halls website, vshfm.com, or the Hall can be contacted at 757-393-8031.
Contact Collegian reporter Jeremy Day at firstname.lastname@example.org
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