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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/The grind and some frustrations have him contemplating retirement after 40 years 'in the dirt'

TRIBUNE PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Coach Pat Casey (right) signs autograph at the Pioneer Courthouse Square rally one day after Oregon State won the NCAA championship.Amid all the positive publicity surrounding the achievements of Oregon State's baseball program, there is some unsettling news.

The Pat Casey era may be coming to a close.

Casey has not taken my calls since the Beavers returned from Omaha after claiming their third College World Series championship in 13 years. A source close to Casey — speaking on condition of anonymity — says he is talking about the possibility of retirement. During the season, Casey mentioned to me that he was worn down from the cumulative stresses of the job at hand.

Casey, 59, has contemplated calling it quits a couple of other times in recent years. The grind of a long season — a season that never ends, really, with recruiting and fundraising — takes its toll. In the past, Casey's batteries have gotten recharged and he has plunged into the following season with elan and energy.

Other factors are involved this time for the man who has won 900 games and three national titles in his 24 seasons at Oregon State and recently was recognized by both Collegiate Baseball and the American Baseball Coaches Association as National Coach of the Year.

Casey has felt a lack of support of the OSU athletic administration at times, including with the Luke Heimlich situation. He wasn't happy that a fundraising effort for improvements to Goss Stadium before the 2018 season was successfully completed, but the renovations were tabled when it was determined more money would be needed.

Casey feels one of his sons, Brett, got shorted during his time as a player with the OSU program (2007-09), and worries that the same is happening with his youngest boy, Joe, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season. He wonders if it might be best for Joe not to play for his father.

Pat has never wanted to do his job on cruise control. He has said that, if the initiative to perform his duties isn't at the top level, he'd be cheating everyone by staying.

I'm not sure Casey's disillusionment is at that level, but there are times when he feels he has been at it long enough. Couple his 31 years of coaching with eight years playing professionally, he has been "in the dirt" for nearly four decades.

If he was to leave, Casey would not do so because he feels the program is in trouble after losing so many outstanding position players from the 2018 club. Quite the opposite — the pitching is loaded, first-team All-America catcher Adley Rutschman returns with a small group of veterans, some quality holdovers are waiting in the wings and a promising recruiting class will arrive in September.

The Beavers should be more than competitive in 2019 — they'll be a Pac-12 title contender again.

If Casey was to depart, that's exactly the way he would want to leave — with his successor in position to succeed.

Casey has no interest in coaching at another school. If that were the desire, he'd have left a long time ago. In recent years, he has turned down seven-figure offers to take on another program. A devout Catholic, he passed on the Holy Grail of college coaching for his faith — Notre Dame.

Casey would be amenable to staying at OSU in an administrative capacity, perhaps to help with fundraising. He would be an asset in any role, but there's no getting around this — if he steps down as head baseball coach, it would be a staggering blow to not just the program but the entire university.

Casey's popularity among Beaver Nation is at an all-time high. He is bigger than Jonathan Smith or Wayne Tinkle or Scott Barnes or Ed Ray. Fans admire his integrity and work ethic almost as much as his on-field success. He is a role model, a metaphor for the blue-collar image Oregon State has been about for many years.

With football and men's basketball in various stages of struggle, OSU baseball has given its school's followers something to feel good about. Now it's possible that the best thing the university's athletic department has going will be gone.

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@kerryeggers


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