JOLIET – All season long, the influence of Joliet Slammers shortstop Max Casper’s influence has been felt, on the field and off.
Fans all summer at Silver Cross Field have enjoyed seeing the guy wearing uniform No. 4, smiling and greeting them before games outside the main gate.
“It’s a good way to interact with fans,” Casper said before Tuesday’s game against Gateway, the opener of the season-ending three-game series. “If they get to know you, they’re more likely to cheer for you.”
Casper went 2 for 4 with two walks Tuesday as the Slammers rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat Gateway, 17-5. Casper drove in two runs and scored three.
He was named over the weekend as the winner of the Frontier League’s Fran Riordan Citizenship Award.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Casper said. “They give it to one guy, and they gave it to me. I don’t feel I did anything over the top. I just do what I do every day. They (Slammers) gave me the opportunity.”
Slammers manager Jeff Isom had Casper at Lake Erie last season and relayed a touching story.
“Max does a lot behind the scenes,” Isom said. “There was a grandmother whose grandson, maybe 10 years old, had cancer. Max drove himself there, an hour and a half away, and brought him some Lake Erie Crushers’ stuff. It made the kid’s day.
“Later that same day, Jim Tressel, the old Ohio State football coach, visited the kid. Max didn’t come back talking about it. That’s how he is. The grandmother talked to me and thanked us later.”
Isom nominated Casper for the Fran Riordan Award last season, and the Slammers did the same this summer.
Among his off-field endeavors, Casper recently visited a camp for foster children located near Newark, where he played softball with the kids. He has visited several area YMCAs and hospitals.
“It’s a great thing for Max and the organization,” Slammers general manager Chris Franklin said of the award. “Whether it’s parades or reading books to kids, he’s always the first one to say yes. I’m just really proud of him.”
Isom said he brought Casper to Joliet “to hit .250 and be one of the best defensive players in the league, and he has done that.
“He’s also a leader, always in the game. He coaches other guys where to be defensively. He takes a big load off my shoulders.
“Off the field, he couldn’t be better. We want all our guys to be involved in the community, and Max has done that plus a lot more behind the scenes.”
With the Slammers trailing, 4-0, in the third inning Tuesday night, Casper singled and scored the first run.
Then in a five-run fourth, which was highlighted by Grant DeBruin’s three-run homer, he singled home a run and scored one as Joliet went ahead, 6-4. Chris Epps ignited the rally with a solo homer.
In a five-run fifth, Casper walked with the bases full, DeBruin singled home a run and Russell Moldenhauer singled in two.
DeBruin belted a grand slam, his team-leading 12th homer, in the eighth, which was the third five-run inning of the night. That gave DeBruin eight RBIs.
JD Dorgan had a double and homer. Adrian English had three hits and Moldenhauer and Epps two each.
Wednesday’s game begins at 10:05 a.m. The Thursday season finale is set for 7:05 p.m.