By Carlos Ochoa/Staff Writer/@carlosochoaLBCC
Baseball players and coaches say LBCC coach Casey Crook is a leader, mentor, colleague and father-figure.
Tai Tiedemann, 19, a sophomore center fielder and pitcher for the Vikes, said Tuesday, March 15, “Coach Crook is very professional. Everybody knows when LBCC comes, they are going to have a rough time because we are so competitive. He is a big part of why I came to LBCC. It’s always been about the team. He is definitely a sort of father-figure to the players.”
Crook broke the school record for baseball coaches with 514 wins Feb. 23, with an 8-0 triumph over Irvine Valley, surpassing Joe Hicks. Crook won his 521st on Tuesday, March 15, a 3-1 victory over El Camino-Compton.
Crook said he “loves seeing progress in the players, on the field and academically. It’s the player who struggles in school and gets their degree that really gives me a sense of satisfaction.”
After 23 years coaching at the college, Crook said, “I still love the competition, it gets your heart pumping.”
The challenges Crook said he faces are “keeping the routine of keeping the field ready for play and trying to get players to progress.”
Jon Rodriguez, part-time assistant coach, said, “He is an absolute animal when it comes to working. There are days when I go to the field and he is out covered in mud preparing the field.”
Rodriguez, who returns for his fifth season as a member of the coaching staff, added, “He epitomizes what an educator and a coach should be. There is always a bigger picture, everything he teaches on the field can be implemented in real-life.”
Grossmont College coach Randy Abshier said, “He surely loves the game. I mean, he is in tune with his players and they all seem to have a good relationship as a team. He is one heck of a competitor.”
Aside from baseball, Crook teaches lecture and activity classes at the LAC and is the co-department head of kinesiology. He deals with over 50 student-athletes during the Fall and 25-29 in the Spring.
Crook said one of his favorite moments as a coach was winning the state championship in 2006. He said, “It is difficult to choose one moment because there were so many great memories, but that one touched me the most.”
After a series of off-and-on years, Crook said he noticed his teams would not make it to the playoffs during seasons the team wore red on their jerseys. Now, he does not allow players to wear red during their games. He jokingly said, “Red is a cursed color.”
Orange Coast College coach John Altobelli said, “Casey always gets his players to play hard. They play the game the right way. That’s a great sign of a great leader and what Casey is all about. That’s why we play a 3-game series every year.”
Crook said even though he loves the sport, “There are more important things than baseball. I would love to see them all get degrees. If you go through the program, there is a good chance for success, but if you listen to your counselors and become engaged as a student, your chances of success grow even further.”