Casey Catherwood, creative director and on-field host of the AAA baseball team, The Tacoma Rainiers, goes all out. Like a player sprinting home from third base, every ounce of energy or spark of thought is at Catherwood’s disposal daily as he works the crowd and wows hometown audiences at Cheney Stadium.
Whether he’s in the stands with someone dressed as a gorilla or watching Rainier fans race from the outfield to the infield, Catherwood makes sure those who come to spend a day at the ballpark are rewarded no matter the final score. That’s his mission, and, well, he loves it. It is clear during every home game.
We caught up with Catherwood to ask him about his in-game antics, why he does what he does for the fans and when he fell in love with America’s official pastime. (As of this writing, the Rainiers record is 59-42).
When did you first fall in love with baseball?
1995 was probably the first year baseball was on my radar, which makes sense since I was seven years old. I lived through the “My Oh My” Seattle Mariners year in real-time and wore out the ensuing highlight VHS. I vividly remember pretending to be Joey Cora, Griffey, Edgar and Randy Johnson in the cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids. From there, it was “You Gotta Love These Guys” and the unforgettable 2001 season. I have a Kingdome tattoo on my chest. I really love Mariners baseball. It’s a problem.
When the pandemic hit last year in the early spring (right before the season), what was your first baseball-related thought?
Just that our Rainiers season could be in jeopardy, and how sad that would be for a myriad of reasons. A big one being that the one thing COVID really revealed was how important community and being with your neighbors is. Cheney Stadium is such an important part of Tacoma’s connection, and not being at the ballpark was tough.
What was it like to endure a canceled season as a result?
While the time away was hard, there was a lot of time to reflect on important things in life — friends, family and being a part of something bigger than yourself. It certainly taught me, and I think a lot of other people, not to take things for granted and to be more present in the moment.
How has the team and organization worked to get back to normalcy this year?
One day, and game at a time. Honestly, coming back for Opening Night was surreal. Slowly being able to fill the park at full capacity without mask mandates and vaccination has been huge. Our team has had to really pull together and lean on our experience to get through this year. A lot of it has come from our love for our fans and the city.
How has the season been from a winning-and-losing, developing prospects perspective – especially with the Major League team, The Mariners, playing rather well?
I certainly enjoyed watching [new Mariners rookie outfielder] Jarred Kelenic down here. It’s really exciting to have a prospect like that who is young, hyper-talented, and has a little of that superstar vibe around him. I definitely want the best for him and all of the guys that come through here because their success pushes the Mariners closer to the playoffs and hopefully a championship sooner than later.
How has the season been from an in-game entertainment perspective?
It’s been amazing. The fans have shown up and showed out almost every night. Even most weeknights have been big energetic crowds who have showed a lot of love for our game entertainment team. I think they missed the park, so that makes my job easier. It’s been a blast.
Have you added any new wrinkles into the experience this season?
We added quite a few new fun bits this year, but one of my favorites has been “The Tacoma Rainiers Treat People with Kindness.” It’s been a really fun way for us to do things like give gifts to fans, surprise military families with returned veterans, and pull off marriage proposals. All of that with an odd sensibility that includes crying pirates and preaching about being kind to one another. It’s good vibes.
What is the team’s relationship with the City of Tacoma — still doing vinyl nights and restaurant partnerships?
Our relationship with the city has always been about sharing our platform with them. We take pride in using our spotlight to shine on people that are making Tacoma a great place to live, and it’s been really powerful to do that this year. Especially after COVID and the time away from the park.
What do you love most about Triple-A baseball and the Rainiers today?
The fans. They connect with our team in a way that’s unique and probably speaks to the intimacy of our park. I also appreciate the freedom that this level allows to dream big and take risks. I’m not sure that most teams at the major league level are able to come up with an idea and execute it in real-time, quite like we do here.
What do you love most about your job with the team?
I love having an opportunity to be a part of something that’s right in the middle of the culture of Tacoma. I’ve met so many friends through here and made connections that will last a lifetime with other people who inspire me to try as hard as I do. I wake up every day with a purpose, and this place has really given me that.
How can people find out more about the Rainiers — online, TV, radio?
What are your expectations for next season?
I suppose I’m just expecting the best. Hoping for the best. It’s hard to know what to expect about anything in the future anymore, but I’d say that as long as they are playing ball at Cheney Stadium, our fans will be here putting on for R City.