Casper Wells played baseball at Towson University from 2003-05 and made it to the major leagues for parts of four seasons, toiling with five teams from 2010-2013. He went back to independent ball and the minors before the Detroit Tigers released him from their Double-A affiliate in Erie two years ago.
Wells, an outfielder, said that left him facing a lot of questions. He tried some pitching, but his elbow kept getting sore. Debating his next move in life, Wells began driving toward his family's home in Schenectady, N.Y., when he received some terrible news.
His family's house, the one Wells grew up in, had caught fire. Lightning struck a rod, the roof caught fire and the house was gone. Everyone got out of the house, but all of Wells' baseball memorabilia was lost: his first home run ball, all the jerseys, the lineup card from the day he got his first hit, everything had been wiped out.
And it opened Wells' eyes.
"That made me realize being with my family [was important], and what was I going to do if I don't do baseball?" Wells said. "I talked to people, and they said you could get your degree. So I decided to go back and … finish."
Wells needed 36 credits to complete his degree in electronic media and film and returned to Towson. He graduated in December 2016, with some help from the Detroit Tigers, who, when they drafted him in the 14th round in 2005, said they'd take care of the final three semesters of his degree if he ever went back.
Now a college graduate, the 32-year-old Wells also boasts a job. He recently started working in medical sales along with a job as a part-time weekend manager at Das Bier Haus, a restaurant in Baltimore.
"Baseball is not going to define who I am in my life," Wells said. "I learned a lot from those experiences. I made a lot of contacts. But moving on, there's a new chapter in my life, and I'm definitely looking forward to [it]."
Wells pitched and played outfield for three seasons at Towson, becoming the lone Towson Tiger to be picked as the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year (2005). His return a decade later to finish the degree did not surprise Towson baseball head coach Mike Gottlieb.
"To his credit, I think he understood the importance of it," said Gottlieb, now starting his 30th season. "He understood the importance of getting the degree. I'd like to think it sets a good example for [other kids]."
Gottlieb said about 90 percent of his players graduate, but finishing 11 years after leaving is a bit different.
In the majors, Wells played in a total of 277 games with Detroit, Seattle, the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia and Oakland. Wells posted a .230 batting average with 25 home runs and 81 RBIs.
That came after spending much of 2005-2010 in the minors. He worked his way up to his major league debut with Detroit May 15, 2010 and went 0-for-4. Wells got his first big league hit May 19 against Oakland's Dallas Braden, a single, and finished 2-for-5 that day.
"It's an everyday job," Wells said of big league life. "You can't take a day off. There's someone who could take your job. There's someone out there who isn't taking a day off. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. I always tried to out-work everyone."
Wells also tried to deliver those messages to modern-day Towson players when he was back on campus the last three semesters. He began meeting with the team and talked with players about various subjects, becoming sort of a mentor -- one Gottlieb enjoyed having around.
"Unintentionally, he was like an additional coach in the last three semesters," Gottlieb said. "He got to know the kids. They liked having him around. I was impressed with him, with some of the suggestions he made in terms of baseball."
Wells is proud of his baseball accomplishments and won't forget them. He now lives in Federal Hill while taking on his new jobs.
He'll look back with pride at being one of the few players to even make the major leagues and accomplish something. But now, it's time for the next part of the game.
And he's just fine with that.
"... With the work I put in, I made it to the pinnacle of my professional career in baseball [for] 3.5 years," Wells said. "But I know there's no regrets in my mind. I worked as hard as I could."
Issue 230: February 2017