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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sean Casey - the Friendliest Guy in Baseball





With a name like Sean Casey, you’re bound to get a good greeting in Red Sox Nation, which had its not-so-humble beginnings in the early 20th century when Michael McGreevey led a band of raucous Sox fans – many of them Irish – called the Royal Rooters.
But the newest Boston Red Sox player is a popular guy wherever he’s been in his illustrious major league baseball career.
The convivial big-leaguer with the sunny disposition has always had an upbeat, outgoing personality. Over the past 12 seasons the chatty first baseman has honed his conversational skills with thousands of players from across the league who have landed on his base.
Last year a Sports Illustrated poll of the players themselves voted Casey “the friendliest player in baseball.” And he’s known around the league as the mayor because of his approachable demeanor.
Of course, Casey is much more than a master conversationalist and all-around good guy.
He’s a three-time All Star and National League MVP who has played for the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians (he and Manny Rameriz are good friends from their year together in Cleveland), Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers before coming to the Boston Red Sox this season.
He’s a back up first baseman and occasional designated hitter who is batting .370 in mid-June.
Casey grew up in Upper Saint Clair, a town outside of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania where sports are a huge part of community life. Just ask Dan Rooney, head of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Casey excelled in high school and won a small scholarship to the University of Richmond where he developed into a fearsome hitter. His senior year he won the NCAA batting title by hitting .461.
He made his major league debut in 1997 with Cleveland, then spent the next eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, where he was selected to the National League All-Star team three times. He has a lifetime batting average of .302, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League’s in 1999, batting .332.
Like any little league kid day-dreaming about the big leagues, Casey got his chance to play before his home-town crowd, when he spent a year with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006.
“It was a dream come true,” he recalls. “I was a Pirate fan growing up – watching Willie Stargel and those guys. So playing at PNC Park in downtown Pittsburgh is something I’ll never forget.”

Familiar with the Bay State
Married with three children, Casey feels right at home in Massachusetts. It turns out he’s been here before.
As a 20 year old junior at Richmond, he played for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 1994.
“When I went to the Cape I realized how beautiful Massachusetts was,” he recalls. “I just fell in love with it up here.”
That summer Casey also met his good pal Father Paul O’Brien, the dynamic parish priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Lawrence who started Cor Unam (One Heart) Meal Center, feeding hundreds of working poor families in this city of immigrants.
Casey and O’Brien shared an Irish-Catholic background, sense of humor and outlook on life that formed the basis of a lasting friendship.
When O’Brien became pastor at St. Patrick’s in 2001, he began making plans for the pantry. He and Casey, along with comedian Conan O’Brian and others started a fundraising campaign, titled Labels are for Jars, which raised need funds while also discouraging negative stereotyping.
In September 2006 they officially opened the Center. Last summer when Casey was in town with the Detroit Tigers, he went up to Lawrence to serve meals and to help spread awareness of hunger issues.
“When you give back to people,” he said in a recent interview, “that’s when your heart really grows.”
Casey, who keeps a bible in his locker, is a man of faith whose social conscience was formed by his parents. He is also proud of his Irish Catholic heritage.
“My great grandfather came over from County Cork around the time of the Irish potato famine, when he was fourteen years old,” Casey says. “He came over to Staten Island, and ended up on Long Island.”
Atop of Casey’s wish list, he says, is to undertake some genealogical research and compile a family history of the Casey clan. Another goal is to make his long-awaited trip to Ireland.
“I have never been to Ireland, but I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go soon,” he says. “One of my best friends, Brian Healey, is from County Cork, and his family still lives there. He’s promised me the royal tour.”
Casey would fit right in over in Ireland, because that’s the kind of guy he is. For now, he’s traveling throughout Red Sox Nation, getting the royal treatment wherever he goes.
- Article by Michael P. Quinlin
For information on Boston Red Sox, visit http://www.bostonredsox.com/.
For information on Labels are for Jars visit labelsareforjars.org.
For information on Irish events in Boston area, visit http://www.irishmassachusetts.com/

Sean Casey Highlights
Drafted by the Cleveland Indians, 1995
Cincinnati Reds, 1998-2005
Pittsburgh Pirates, 2006
Detroit Tigers, 2006-2007
Boston Red Sox, 2008
National League All Star Team, 1999, 2001, 2004
Major League Hutch Award, 1999
Voted Most Valuable Player, National League, 1999
Click here to read Irish Echo article.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Irish Festivals in Massachusetts Summer 2008

Tourism Group Announces Irish Festival Season in Massachusetts

(Milton) – The Boston Irish Tourism Association released its annual schedule of Irish, Scottish and Celtic festivals and concerts taking place throughout Massachusetts this summer.

The outdoor festivities celebrate the state’s vibrant Irish culture and heritage, and feature many of the world’s best traditional musicians, singers and dancers.

“Americans and Canadians looking for the very best Irish music don’t have to travel to Europe this summer – they can find it right here in Massachusetts,” said Michael P. Quinlin, president of Boston Irish Tourism Association.

“And because of how Irish music and dance have integrated with other traditions over many generations, these festivals also feature a lively mix of Cape Breton, Scottish, Appalachian, Canadian and American folk music too.”

The festivals run from June through September and take place in every part of the state, from the Boston area to western Massachusetts, and from Merrimack Valley and Worcester to Cape Cod.

The Irish festivals are part of a larger list of ethnic activities being promoted by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT), the state’s official tourism bureau, which has just introduced WorldFest, a collection of ethnic events throughout the state.

“There are so many wonderful, exciting and affordable events happening throughout Massachusetts this summer,” said Betsy Wall, executive director of MOTT. “Massachusetts residents don’t have to travel far distances, at great expense, to experience a new and exciting culture. There’s a whole world waiting for them in their own back yard.”

Kicking off the Irish festivities is the new Worcester Irish Music Festival, June 14-15, at the city’s refurbished Hibernian Center. Lt. Governor Tim Murray will join Irish community leaders and music lovers from Central Massachusetts to celebrate Irish-American heritage dating back to the 18th century. Canada’s Celtic rock band, Seven Nations, is headlining, along with New York City’s Irish punk band Black 47.

Now in its sixth year, the Cape Cod Celtic Festival, June 26-29, is modeled after the successful Celtic Colours Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This year’s line-up features fiddle maestro Seamus Connolly, piping master Paddy Keenan and Cape Breton Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond.

The Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival, July 12, is fast becoming “the place where up and coming Celtic performers can have a forum,” says Jeannie Hebert, head of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce.

On July 19 the 15th annual Glasgow Scottish Lands Festival takes place in Florence, MA, featuring an all-day gathering of the clans, piping and athletic competitions, and music from Enter the Haggis and other bands.

The state’s largest Irish festival is the ICONS Festival hosted by the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton on September 12-14, 2008. The three-day festival combines the best Irish musicians with their counterparts from other traditions, says Brian O’Donovan, festival director.

“In addition to Irish traditional acts like Liam Clancy, Paul Brady, Lunasa and Solas, for example, this year we have a terrific group from Quebec, Le Vent Du Nord, who play distinctly French Canadian music, with the same joie de vivre that exists in Irish music,” O’Donovan says.

“We will also have offerings from Cape Breton, Scotland and Brittany.”
Nearby Rhode Island also boasts two excellent festivals: the Blackstone River Theatre Celtic Festival on July 19 and the Newport Waterfront Irish Festival on August 30-September 1, 2008. The Celtic Fest at Blackstone River Theatre is part of a year-round program that brings top Celtic bands to perform, according to director Russell J. Gusetti. And the Newport Festival, now in its 11th year, features Eileen Ivers and other top acts over Labor Day weekend.

In addition to the festivals, a number of Irish performances are taking place at outdoor concert venues, including the Agganis Arena, Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, Cape Cod Melody Tent, the Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park, and the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset.

The Boston Irish Tourism Association was formed in 2000 to promote cultural tourism year round. It publishes three travel, food and culture guides each year, and has developed an Irish Heritage Trail (www.irishheritagetrail.com) that highlights Irish landmarks throughout Boston and around the state.

For further details on the festivals and concerts, as well as other Irish and cultural activities, hotel packages, gift shops and Irish pubs, visit www.IrishMassachusetts.com. For details on the state’s WorldFest activities, visit www.massvacation.com.


Irish, Scottish and Celtic Festivals in Massachusetts, 2008
Compiled by the Boston Irish Tourism Association

June 14-15
Worcester Irish Music Festival
Hibernian Center
Worcester, MA

June 26-29
Cape Cod Celtic Festival
Various Locations Cape Cod, MA

June 28
Western Mass Highland Games & Celtic Festival
Greenfield, MA

July 12
Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival
Indian Ranch Performance Center
Webster, MA

July 19
Blackstone River Theater Celtic Festival
Cumberland, RI

July 19
Glasgow Scottish Lands Festival
Florence (Northampton), MA

August 9
Irish Festival
John Boyle O'Reilly Club
Springfield, MA

August 30 - September 1
Newport Waterfront Irish Festival
Newport Yacht Club, RI

August 31
Sons of Erin Irish Festival
Westfield, MA

September 12-14
ICONS Festival / Irish Connections
Irish Cultural Centre of New EnglandCanton, MA

Upcoming Irish, Scottish and Celtic Concerts in Massachusetts, 2008
Compiled by the Boston Irish Tourism Association

Agannis Arena
Boston
Celtic Thunder (October 6 & 28)

Bank of America Pavilion
South Boston Waterfront
Young Dubliners & Jethro Tull (August 4)

Cape Cod Melody Tent
Hyannis, Cape Cod
John McDermott (July 6), Saw Doctors (August 14), Comedian Brian Regan (August 21)

Colonial Theatre
Boston
The High Kings (September 13-14)

Lowell Summer Music Series
Boarding House Park, Lowell
Richard Thompson (June 28), Bela Fleck (July 17), Saw Doctors (August 7), Hothouse Flowers (August 15)

River Run Concert Series
Pilgrim Memorial Park, Downtown Plymouth
Tribute to Tommy Makem (August 27)

South Shore Music Circus
Cohasset (South Shore)
John McDermott (July 5), Saw Doctors (August 13), Comedian Brian Regan (August 24)

Summerfest 2008
New Bedford
Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul (July 4)