Casey Combs has had a baseball career full of injuries but it’s because of those injuries that the ETBU senior catcher has develop a new passion.
“I’ve battled through a lot of injuries in my career and I’ve seen a couple chiropractors, one in particular in Shreveport and he does this therapy called, ‘Active Replacement Therapy,’” Combs explained. “He’s a chiropractor but he does special sports therapy stuff and he has helped me dramatically with hand problems, shoulder problems and he has helped a couple other guys on the team over the years. That kind of thing got me very interested in helping other people who have been in my position who battled through all the daily aches and pains and what not.”
The injuries date far back for Combs who didn’t expect to play college baseball.
“I stayed home my first semester of college that fall,” he said. “I tore my rotator cuff my senior year of high school. I got the surgery and we were hoping that would finally get me good to go for daily basis and not have any pain. Then one of our catchers here, when I was going to be a freshman, he was Conner’s (Combs’ brother and former ETBU baseball player) roommate, tore his UCL over Christmas break. So in between that fall and spring semester my freshman year of college, my brother called me one day out of the blue and said, ‘Hey, if you’re ever thinking about playing baseball some more, we need another catcher. That’s when it kind of hit me and I felt God calling me to ETBU and it really turned my life around.”
Baseball helped Combs deal with injuries and other issues that he was facing.
“Baseball has been huge,” Combs offered. “It’s been a huge distraction for me to kind of rediscover my passion for it. I’ve always had a passion for sports but through all my injuries, it kind of wore down on my passion for it. Playing every day with arm pain kind of wears down on your mind and soul and just makes you think God didn’t make me to be a baseball player. I think once I got over that hump of thinking this wasn’t for me, I feel like God put me exactly where I needed to be. I’ve enjoyed every second of being here. This is the best school in the world. It’s been awesome and baseball has been a very big blessing in my life and the two years of playing with my brother, there’s probably been nothing more special than that opportunity.”
The sport was always a part of Combs’ life. His dad, Pat Combs, played in the majors for the Philadelphia Phillies and was part of the 1988 Olympic team that won the gold.
“He gives me advice after every weekend,” Combs said of his dad. “He’s always telling me to keep my head up after a rough weekend. He’ll sometimes take those jabs at me after a bad weekend. He’s not afraid to tell me what I did wrong and stuff like that and I think that’s played a big role in my leadership and growing. I’m not afraid to tell the guys what they’re doing wrong or when they need to change something. He has given me a lot of advice over the years. He has been one of my biggest encouragers in trying to lead me in the right direction, trying to guide me path and help me get to where I’m supposed to be. After every weekend, he’s always sending me texts and videos of my swing, stuff like that, trying to work on stuff for me, so he’s definitely been one of my biggest supporters and biggest encouragers and reasons I’ve tried to improve each and every week.”
When all said and done, Combs will have many fond memories of playing baseball for the Tigers.
“It’s hard to beat a couple moments I had with my brother,” he recalls. “I know there was one in particular when I hit my first home run here. Conner was actually on second base and relayed the pitch to me so I knew what was coming. He was watching me and I’m looking right at him and the pitch comes in and I hit a home run. That was my freshman year. I step on home plate and he gives me a big hug. That was one of the coolest moments. There was another moment where I was on deck and Conner was on second base. Somebody got a base hit and the on-deck person is supposed to go behind home plate and tell the guy where to slide so I told Conner where to slide and that was the walk-off run.”
His career isn’t over just yet and Combs said there’s still time to create more memories.
“We’ve definitely created some moments this year,” he said. “We’ve really come together as a team. We’re not very different from last year as a team as a whole but the feel is different. The guys are playing harder so I think we have a chance to create even better memories this year and hopefully we come away with a conference championship.”
His head coach, Jared Hood, will definitely have fond memories of the catcher.
“Casey has drastically improved over the years, not only in his game play but in his leadership,” Hood said. “A lot of times we rely on him to catch three games in a weekend and in order to do that, you not only have to be physically tough but mentally tough as well and he’s having a good year. He’s showing maturity at the plate. He’s doing a really good job of handling the pitching staff for us and he’s just done a really good job.”
ETBU is currently 19-9 overall and 8-4 against conference opponents, will play host to LeTourneau in a three game series today and Saturday. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. today with the second game following. The series will conclude with game three Saturday at 1 p.m.