Story by Charlie Crowley, Sports Editor
As an athlete, you try not to worry about much. Worrying means you’re not focused on the game, and not being focused on the game means you’ll probably be watching from the bench or stands pretty quickly. However, there’s a small part of your mind that worries about one thing: injuries. It’s not so much about injuries you’ve had in the past, but rather that one freak play could make you step back from the game.
One freak play… or in Casey Wila’s case, four.
Casey Wila is a senior left fielder for Aquinas College. His season on the diamond was cut short for not the first, not the second, but the third time in his college career. Overall Wila has had four major injuries to his legs, starting with a torn ACL and meniscus his junior year of high school. His freshman year of college, he tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus. After an injury free sophomore year, he broke his fibula. Then, to top it all off, his femur this year.
“Yeah, I got a lot of metal and reconstructed ligaments,” he said.
Although Wila has only played one full season of college baseball in his time at Aquinas, his teammates sing high praise of what he brings to the team even if he isn’t playing.
“He’s a role model, he’s a leader, coming in on my visit, he’s one of the first guys I met here,” said junior infielder Ben Walton. “Casey really introduced me, talked to him the whole night, said goals, everything he wanted to achieve, what he wanted the team to be, he was very passionate from the beginning, and he brings that every day to the park.”
“Casey was the spark in our lineup,” freshman infielder Nick Hepner said. “If you need someone to get the job done he was the one. He was just a fierce competitor, he loves the game.”
“He brought faith and leadership to the team,” added junior outfielder Mike Priest. “He’s kind of the one who initiated saying prayer before every game and every practice, just trying to get our mindset right.”
Wila’s passion and commitment to baseball showed before he even got to Aquinas. Originally recruited to play basketball, he talked to head coach Doug Greenslate, who attends the same church as Wila. After talking with Greenslate, he was invited to play on the Saints’ summer team. Leave it to the seasons to change for him to really make his mark.
“I had an absolutely horrible summer,” Wila said. “They didn’t really go into the fall expecting much out of me. I flipped the switch in the fall and had a great fall and made the team.”
Wila, however, was not sure how he’d adjust to college going to two practices a day. Starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending his day at 6 p.m. — and that’s not even counting studying — would be quite the challenge for a first-year student.
“I didn’t know how I’d make the adjustment academically and just didn’t want to set myself behind the 8 ball from the get go. I was pretty torn and my dad goes ‘Well, look at it this way. If you’re going to be last man on both teams, which team would you rather spend more time with?’ I said I think I’m a baseball guy through and through so that was my decision, the basketball coach accepted that, and it worked out.”
After four years of playing, and many major injuries, Wila says that his parents, Jim and Mary, were a huge support system for him.
“Each time that any of these injuries has happened, I’ve either been in a cast, had to be on crutches, non-weight bearing. I’ve gone home for the duration of the time where I wasn’t able to do things on my own. That’s a pretty humbling experience at 22 years old having your parents help get you in and out of the shower and make you food and stuff. Without them and that support system, I wouldn’t have rehabbed as well as I did and wouldn’t have become the player I did bouncing back each time.”
Although the game has set him back many times, Wila said he thanks baseball for everything, and that he “can’t thank baseball enough for what it’s given me in my life.” He’as also thankful for being able to attend Aquinas and be a Saint.
“I’ve met great people, I’ve had great professors, I’ve had people who have been more than willing to go out of their way to help me in my injuries and in my studies and in baseball. I can’t change that; I wouldn’t change that for the world. The community aspect here at Aquinas is outstanding, and you know I feel at home here. I’m proud to be a Saint, and I’ll be around, I’ll be an alumni, I’m going to come back and support my school. I’ve had a great experience and a great four years. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Despite everything, it’s no secret that the passion that Casey Wila has for his school and the game he loves is something he shows everyday. Thanks for what you’ve done here at Aquinas, Casey. We’re proud to have you be a Saint.
About the writer…
Charlie Crowley is a junior studying communication and journalism.He is The Saint‘s Sports Editor. He spends most of his time playing hockey, sleeping, eating, and on Reddit. He’s also a Hoosier, and proud of it, but can’t hit the open three to save his life.