Where Are They Now? Casey Close
Casey Close has made a bigger name off the field than he did on it. He annually is recognized among the top sports agents in the business, often plying his trade with little fanfare.
Perhaps that is why Close declined, through a representative, to be interviewed for this story.
“When you are the player, you are the star and those are the people who should have their name pushed out in front,” Close said in a 2011 interview with the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News. “I never felt, as an individual agent whose job it is to promote the welfare and benefits of the person you’re representing, I never felt (becoming a commodity) was my job. I’ve always been more comfortable letting your work or your talent speak for themselves.”
Since beginning his current career in 1992, Close’s work has certainly spoken for itself, first as an agent for IMG, then with Creative Artists Agency and over the past seven years with Excel Sports Management. Along the way he has landed some of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history for his clients.
Close’s name first gained prominence in baseball as a player at Michigan, where his grand slam as a freshman propelled the Wolverines to the final four at the 1983 College World Series. As a senior outfielder in 1986, he won the Big Ten Conference triple crown and was named the Baseball America College Player of the Year. He hit .440 with 19 home runs and 72 RBIs in 191 at-bats.
After going undrafted following his junior season, Close was selected by the Yankees in the seventh round of the 1986 draft. Five seasons in the minor leagues found Close just short of realizing his dream of playing in the major leagues by reaching Triple-A Calgary in both 1989 and 1990.
In a 2007 interview with BA, Close already was displaying his self-effacing side.
“I look at the Baseball America listings each year and I look at the list of award winners, and I see those big names for 15 or 20 years, and there seems to be one aberration in there—one name stands out more than any other,” Close said. “What I did in college didn’t necessarily transfer into professional baseball.”
He quickly acclimated himself into the sports agency business and by 1993 had begun representing a rising star in the Yankees’ farm system, 19-year-old shortstop Derek Jeter, who spent that season at low Class A Greensboro. Close later negotiated for Jeter what was then the second-largest contract in major league history, a 10-year, $189 million deal in 2000. He then worked a three-year, $51 million deal for Jeter in 2010.
Other noteworthy contracts Close has landed include a five-year, $125 million extension for Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in 2000 and a six-year, $206.5 million deal for righthander Zack Greinke with the D-backs in 2016. He has been recognized several times in the Forbes ranking of highest-earning sports agents.
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“He’s a tough negotiator, but he is fair and he is professional. He showed all those characteristics that we identified in him as a player,” said Dick Groch, the scout who signed Close for the Yankees and now works in Brewers’ front office. “They were the same characteristics we saw in him as an agent that we saw back in Michigan in 1976.