For 24 years Rolando Casanova dispensed baseball and life wisdom from the FIU dugout. Hence, it was no coincidence that during the nearly quarter century that Casanova was an FIU baseball assistant coach the Sunblazers-turned-Panthers enjoyed their most success on the diamond.
Casanova, who recently passed away at the age of 57, was an infielder on the 1977 FIU Sunblazers baseball team. However, it was his impact as an assistant coach that helped the FIU baseball program thrive.
Casanova had two assistant coaching stints with the FIU baseball program under former FIU coach Danny Price. Casanova first coached at FIU from 1979-80 and again from 1982-2003. During his time at FIU, the Sunblazers/Panthers appeared in 10 NCAA regionals.
Casanova was a part of the 2001 FIU baseball team that reached the only NCAA Super Regional in program history. In the 1990’s, Casanova was an instrumental part of the FIU coaching staff that led the Panthers to 1998 TAAC championship and 1999 Sun Belt championship, as well as the 1995 FIU team that won 50 games -- a program record that still stands to this day.
Besides his baseball acumen, Casanova had a knack for dealing with the players he coached.
"Coach Casanova is an icon in the baseball community," said Tommy Duenas, a former FIU catcher who played for Casanova from 2001-2003. "I remember back in high school when he would arrive in the stands to recruit, players would be saying "FIU is here. We better get a couple of knocks so we could impress 'Caz'." As a coach he knew how to handle players whether you were going good or going bad at the plate or on the field. It was just amazing to see the response from the amount of FIU players and baseball people from all around at his wake. That shows you the impact that he made. He was special. He was one of the good ones."
And Casanova's kindness wasn't limited to his players. When I first started as the FIU beat writer for the Miami Herald in 2002, Casanova's friendly disposition and willingness to talk FIU baseball made my job easier as I adjusted to the new assignment covering FIU sports.
After his coaching career at FIU, Casanova worked as a scout for the Detroit Tigers until his passing.