When the Chicago Cubs rallied past the Cleveland Indians to win the 2016 World Series, it ended the longest championship drought — 108 years — in the history of North American sports.
For Chattanooga Lookouts relief pitcher Casey Crosby, that scintillating seven-game series had a profound effect on a different front.
"I had taken that whole year off, and I hated baseball at the time," Crosby said. "Watching the Cubs doing what they did and seeing how much joy it brought to people made me want to just try one more time."
Crosby is the oldest active member of the Lookouts, as the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder from Maple Park, Ill., is set to turn 30 in September. His first professional run resulted in a three-week stint with the Detroit Tigers in 2012, but he continually battled injuries and figured his career was over after the Boston Red Sox released him from a minor league contract in April 2015.
Though his comeback journey in the Minnesota Twins' farm system is still in its infancy, Crosby already has a save with Triple-A Rochester (N.Y.) and a victory with the Double-A Lookouts. His win, which occurred last Saturday on "Star Wars Night" at AT&T Field, was his first since he was a member of the 2013 Toledo Mud Hens, Detroit's Triple-A affiliate.
"I think he's a great guy, and I think he's a great guy to have on the team," first-year Lookouts manager Tommy Watkins said. "The guys can all learn from him with the way he goes about his business. When I was done playing, I was done. I never really had the urge to play again, though I think it's in us all.
"It's exciting that he wanted to play and that he's back. He has a chance to fulfill his dream again."
Crosby's dream is being shared by his wife, Haley, and their two daughters. It is being funded by Crosby's rise to prominence more than a decade ago as a left-handed prospect out of Kaneland (Ill.) High School.
Detroit selected Crosby in the fifth round of the 2007 draft and provided him a signing bonus of nearly $750,000.
Crosby faced immediate adversity in his professional career, with Tommy John surgery wiping out his 2008 season. He reached Double-A in 2011 and got to Toledo in 2012 before getting the brief big-league promotion that yielded a 1-1 record and a 9.49 earned run average in three starts.
"That was six years ago and only three weeks long, so it still kind of feels like a dream," Crosby said. "It was incredible, and I hope to get back. When I was up there, I didn't really know what to do and didn't want to do anything wrong to upset anybody.
"That made me too aware of things and didn't allow me to enjoy it like I wanted."
Crosby underwent surgery in 2013 for bone chips in his elbow, which helped accelerate his exit from the game.
Being rejuvenated by the Cubs in October 2016 was one thing, but there also was the matter of making it known that he wanted to return. His comeback started quietly in March 2017.
"Honestly, I didn't tell anybody," Crosby said. "I just started throwing into a net in my driveway. By the middle of last summer, I had my agent come out and watch me throw, and everything was good. He contacted a bunch of teams to watch me throw a bullpen session, and that gave me a little bit of momentum.
"I made the decision to go play independent ball in Nebraska, and that showed everybody that I was healthy and that I could throw back-to-back days."
Minnesota signed Crosby, who had been working at a bank and taking accounting courses at Northern Illinois, to a minor league contract in February.
Crosby said his fastball velocity during his brief time as a Detroit starter was in the 90-94-mph range and that it is currently 94-96, adding that the biggest difference between now and six years ago is how much healthier he feels after an outing.
Whether he makes it back to the big leagues will be determined down the road, but it's a road Crosby and his family are traveling without any regrets.
"Now that I'm here and doing this, walking away would be so much easier because it would be on my own terms and not my arm's terms," he said. "I feel fulfilled that I've done this, and I think it can be a life lesson for my daughters as far as never giving up on something.
"It's been magical. I feel more accomplished. I've had to dig my way up from the bottom again, and it just feels incredible. It's different now, because my wife and I have two daughters who can enjoy this all, too."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.