Case Closed

Life has been a whirlwind for Andrew Case over the last year.

From marrying the love of his life, Kelsey, to having a child together, to pitching for Canada at the Pan American Games qualifier in Brazil and starting the season with the Toronto Blue Jays Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, the list goes on and on.

He added to that list by announcing last week that he was retiring. The Prospects Academy and Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) product had spent six seasons slugging it out in professional baseball. The Saint John, New Brunswick native made it as far as Triple-A Buffalo in 2017-2018.

In light of the announcement, we reached out to his former coach at PBA, Todd Hubka, to chat about his memories of Case and what he sees as the road ahead for the 26-year-old.

Q: Take us back to the first time you met Andrew Case.

A: That was a few years ago. Yeah, you know what, he’s your typical Eastern boy, that’s for sure. He’s a very genuine young man. What I got a kick out of with him was just the way he talked and everything. He’s very East coast and a very personable young man.

Q: When you look back on it, how was it that he ended up in southern Alberta, of all places, playing baseball at PBA?

A: Yeah, you know what, he went down to the United States in his freshman year and didn’t like it.  He was at the Prospects Academy in his grade 12 year and we had another couple of kids from the academy up there. Corey Wood and and Travis Steinke and they just mentioned that this Case kid wanted to come out to PBA.

You know, I really didn’t know a lot about him and from there, we communicated and got it all set up for him to come here and and it all worked out in the end.

Q: What was it like coaching him?

A: Very easy to coach. He’s a very personable young man. I think that anyone that knows him, that has followed him throughout his PBA career, his Bulls career, with the Toronto Blue Jays, to the Vancouver Canadians, all the way up to Triple-A or whatever … whoever meets Andrew Case knows what a wonderful guy he is and how genuine he is and always has time to talk to people. With coaching, there wasn’t much difference.

If he had an opinion, he made sure he told you his opinion and he was just great to coach. I wish more kids were like that on the field to coach. He’s a great kid.

Q: Was there anything that really stood out to you in terms of his mechanics or his abilities that made you think he would be a gamer for a while?

A: For sure, he’s a gamer and that’s not hard to figure out. I mean, you play ping pong, pool, you know anything you play with him and he wants to win. So being the gamer, I mean, those are hard to find and he was definitely that.

Right from day one when he got to us, he knew how to throw strike one and he got ahead of hitters all the time. What was holding him back a little bit was probably just his physical ability. After he came to PBA and got on our workout program and put some good weight on, all of a sudden the velocity started to go up more. It was just good work ethic that got him better.

Q: One of the things that everyone has harkened back to is his no-hitter at the inaugural T12 tournament in Toronto. Were you there for that, and if not, do you remember what was said about him at the time, as that was what many believed put Andrew on the map?

A: No, I wasn’t there but of course, you could watch the games online or whatever. So I was watching it and I actually called up Jamie, the Toronto Blue Jays scout that ended up signing him. And as he was throwing, I was talking to Jamie and … true story … and he was talking about signability and stuff like that and at the time, Andrew did not commit to coming back to Prairie Baseball Academy for that fall but he was working out with us. He said, “well, we could draft him in the spring,” and I told them that he’s not going to school right now, you can sign him if you want. And as we were having that talk, Mr. Alomar, Roberto, walked over to him and said “sign this kid.” And you know, Jamie said, “well, I guess we know what we’re doing now.” So that’s kind of how it went down.

It took a few days after the Tournament-12 for him to sign with the Blue Jays. But what a neat opportunity for him to go to the inaugural T12 and do what he did out there and show off his skills. Without that opportunity, he would have never had that chance with the Blue Jays. Good for the Blue Jays and good for Andrew for how well he threw.

Q: What’s it been like watching him make his way up the ranks and continue having the success that he did have over the last few years?

A: It was a little surprising how well he did early and how quickly he moved through the system and got up to A-ball down in Florida and then to New Hampshire. Every stop he made, he pitched to keep himself on the team. There weren’t a lot of bad outings when Andrew came into close games or threw late in games. Of course, we always follow our guys close, so you’re always on box scores the next morning or late at night seeing how he did. We’re just proud of him for how far he took his game and really just a step away from making it all the way. Wish he would have stuck with it but it’s his decision and we wish him all the best.

Q: Speaking of that decision, any ideas or have you heard anything about what he has in store? Were you in contact with him over the last while to kind of determine where his mindset was at? And even beyond that, what was your reaction when you heard the news?

A: All of us coaches here at PBA were a little surprised that he did retire. But it’s his decision. You know, he’s not young anymore. I think he’s 26 years old now … I mean, for our sake, it’s disappointing. But you know, Andrew has lived through the grind for a lot of years of professional baseball and it just seemed like, talking to him, he seemed to feel like he was stuck in Double-A and not getting the opportunity to move up anymore.

When you’re a late sign like he was, there’s not a lot of money invested in him and he just saw younger kids come through the system that the Blue Jays had money invested in that he thought he was better than. But they pushed them on to bigger and better things and that’s professional baseball. From talking to him, he just felt that it was time and you’ve got to respect that.

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Q: I know he has a young family on the go, as well. And at some point, there comes out a point where a decision has to be made on that front as well. 

A: Yeah, absolutely. He was missing his family. They were back in New Brunswick and I’m sure that had something to do with it, too. Where his future is, you know, we’ve been in contact with him and he’s contacted us, telling us he wants to try to stay in baseball and do some coaching. But, you know, this has all just happened real quickly and we just don’t know where that might go.

If we can help him out in any way through PBA, we would love him to come out here and coach. It’s just a matter of if we can make it work or not. We stay in touch all the time, so we’ll be in contact with him and trying to figure out what’s best for him. Whatever we can do to help that, we’re here for him.

Q: You bring up a great point. He’s remained active within the PBA community and I know during your luncheons and fundraisers and that kind of thing, he’s been very involved and tries to give back. 

A: Absolutely. And that’s what makes Andrew so special.  He doesn’t forget where he came from, right back out in the Maritimes, to the Prospects to Prairie Baseball. There was a process for him to get to where he got to and he hasn’t forgotten that. And that’s what makes Andrew special. He’s a great kid with a great personality and whoever meets him or gets an opportunity to talk to him, it’s easy to figure that out.

Q: What kinds of lessons do you hope some of your players at PBA take away from what Andrew has gone through over the last number of years as a pro ball player and even a prospect in your own ranks?

A: The last year, he didn’t come out to Lethbridge to train before the season. But before that, the last couple of years before that, he would come out in November and stay with us just about right until spring training. It was great having him around, having a professional pitcher with our pitchers and seeing when he threw his light-ups and he threw his bullpen. Just the way he approached everything, everything was in control and it’s like having an extra coach there. It showed with our pitchers too, as they realized how you go about doing things. That’s why we would love to have him back. He’s very knowledgeable when it comes to pitching and he understands it. He also understands the competitive part of it and as we move forward in baseball in general, that’s hard to find these days. It’s that competitive-type individual that just, every day, wants to give it their all to get to the next level. And Andrew is one of those guys.

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