© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

01/27/09 3:46 PM EST

Casey joins MLB Network team

Former infielder trades in bat for gig with fledgling channel

Sean Casey retired from Major League Baseball on Tuesday and joined MLB Network as a studio analyst.

Casey, a three-time All-Star first baseman and designated hitter, ended a 12-year career that began in 1997 with Cleveland and concluded last year in Boston, with its biggest chunk an eight-year run in Cincinnati.

Casey joins an on-air crew of baseball analysts that includes a plethora of former players, including Harold Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac and Mitch Williams. He'll be a regular on the one-hour "Hot Stove" show that will give way to the eight-hour nightly "MLB Tonight" once the regular season starts.

"It's weird. I kind of feel like I'm not really retiring but I'm really moving on to a new stage of my life," Casey said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "MLB Network really gave me an opportunity to stay in the game and be able to spend more time with my family. That's the big thing for me. It was time to really be home more."

Casey, just 34, like Larkin, joins the Network with no previous broadcast experience. He was widely considered to be a great ambassador for the game of baseball and one of the most accessible players during his time in uniform.

Tony Petitti, the Network's president and chief executive, called Casey, "the friendliest player in baseball." And he wasn't far off the mark. During the call, several veteran baseball writers lauded Casey for giving his time so readily to the media during a career in which he batted .302 with 130 homers and 735 RBIs.

Casey, as a member of the Tigers, hit two homers during their five-game 2007 World Series loss to the Cardinals and called that one of the highlights of his career.

"I was raised by mom and dad to treat people the way I want to be treated," Casey said. "That was a big thing for me throughout my life, not just baseball."

Casey, one of more than 100 still outstanding free agents this offseason, said he had some talks about returning to the Red Sox in 2009, but that possibility seemed to disappear when the Sox instead re-signed free agent Mark Kotsay, who will be utilized in a utility role in the outfield and at first base.

Casey played only one year in Boston, where he batted .322 with no homers and 17 RBIs in 69 games.

"That was one of my favorite years," he said. "Just being part of that team was unbelievable. The tough part about this for me was that baseball has been so good to me. It was everything I thought it would be and more. My agent had talked to some teams and nothing was in concrete yet. I think I could have definitely played [this] year and being back in that role coming off the bench. But weighing my options with my family, I decided I just wanted to stay home more."

Casey was a big cog on the Reds with Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, who, ironically, are still currently unsigned free agents. In 2005, the last year the trio played together, they combined for 89 home runs.

Casey joins a growing list of free agents who've retired since the end of the season, including Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina and Dodgers pitcher Greg Maddux, and Los Angeles second baseman Jeff Kent.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.