Hanover’s Graham ready for takeoff

  • Hanover High senior Casey Graham watches Hollis-Brookline warm up before the NHIAA Division II teams' game on May 5, 2022, on the Dresden Athletic Fields in Norwich, Vt. Graham plans to attend college with the hope of becoming a commercial airline pilot. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs —Tris Wykes

  • Hanover High's Casey Graham, center, accepts congratulations after scoring against Hollis-Brookline on May 5, 2022, at the Dresden Athletic Fields in Norwich, Vt. Sam Sacerdote is at left and Larry Ruffing (41) at right. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2022 9:37:58 PM
Modified: 5/21/2022 9:19:43 PM

If the Hanover High baseball team is to rise through next month’s NHIAA Division II playoffs, Casey Graham must factor heavily in the ascent. Luckily for the Bears, new heights have long been a goal for their senior shortstop.

Graham, 18, is a four-year varsity player who’s headed to Florida Institute of Technology with plans to become a commercial airline pilot. He’ll be in the cockpit not long after arrival at the Melbourne, Fla., school, which sits halfway up the Sunshine State’s east coast, a little south of Cape Canaveral.

Graham’s first college roommate? Lebanon High pitcher Sid Wallace, another senior who has his pilot’s license and whose father, Jack, flies for United Airlines. It’s an exciting time in the young men’s lives, but there are bragging rights to be handled first: Lebanon visits Hanover on Thursday.

“I’m going to put most of my time into flying, and that will be my new sport,” said Graham, who also played golf and hockey. “I’m totally comfortable flying. I know a lot of people aren’t and I understand why, but it feels right to me.”

Graham said he grew up fascinated by aviation and built and collected model planes. Around age 7, a phone app called Infinite Flight debuted, and Graham became a frequent user of the mobile flight simulator game.

“That made me change from just being a person who liked airplanes to one who like the idea of flying them,” he said.

A more robust simulator game, X-Plane, later fed that interest, as did some rides in smaller planes with pilots who were family friends. On a trip to France in a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Graham was so clearly excited that the pilot invited him into the cockpit for an extended visit.

There have also been round-trip rides to Montpelier and Keene with classmate Lucas Brien, who’s headed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Arizona campus in the fall.

“It’s fun being up there with someone the same age,” Graham said. “My parents are nervous but also really excited, because they’ve known how much I wanted to do this. They’re not holding me back at all.”

Graham said he investigated playing NCAA Division III baseball, but the lure of flying eventually won out. He’s excited about Florida Tech’s suburban campus of about 3,500 undergraduates in Melbourne, which has a population of roughly 80,000. The school has a satellite campus at the city’s airport, where it parks the more than 30 planes it owns.

“Literally the first day of class, I can begin taking flight lessons,” said Graham, who plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science. “You have to start by learning the manuals and stuff, but it’s not long before you can start soloing, and after 250 flight hours, you can try for a private pilot’s license, which will probably be next summer for me.”

Graham is gaining experience with a new situation this spring when, after three seasons as a first baseman, he moved to shortstop at the urging of Hanover coach John Grainger. The boss thought his veteran’s exceptional hand-eye coordination made him the best candidate, but there were early challenges.

“He’s taken some licks, and I’ve been hard on him sometimes,” said Grainger, a former Keene State standout who noted that he, too, wanted to become a pilot but gave that dream up to play college baseball. “Casey’s really mild-tempered but he’s also hard on himself, and he struggled with confidence for a while.

“Now, though, he’s not just making routine plays; he’s making exceptional plays. It’s all coming together for him.”

Hanover has never won a baseball state title, and Graham could leave his mark on the program by helping the Bears fill that empty spot in their trophy case. It would be a nice accomplishment to ponder as he soars above the Florida coast in a few months.

“The first time I drove by myself I was really nervous, and I’m sure the first time I fly solo will be at least a little nerve-wracking,” Graham said. “But I’ve always liked knowing what I wanted to do, and now I have a chance to make it a reality.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.

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