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Ford’s Graham starting to get deserved recognition

Kasceim Graham is one of the top high-school pitchers in New York City you’ve never heard of. The athletic and soft-spoken Bishop Ford senior quietly does his job on the mound far from the spotlight he deserves to share with some of his peers.

But in Graham’s case, seeing is most definitely believing. Just ask Xaverian coach Dennis Canale.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best pitcher we’ve faced this year,” Canale said. “He was kind of unknown to us, too, because in his junior year we didn’t face him. But I have a very high opinion of him. I think he’s terrific. He throws the ball well, he mixed his pitches well. He’s going to give somebody fits in the playoffs.”

So why is Graham so underrated? Perhaps it’s that he pitches for Bishop Ford, a solid CHSAA team, but one not as renowned as rival Xaverian. In fact, earlier this month Graham handed the Clippers, the defending CHSAA Class A intersectional champion, their lone loss of the regular season.

“We needed a win bad and Xaverian is kind of a rival because we know everybody so I just had to pitch my best and get the win,” said Graham, who tossed a complete-game two-hitter.

Graham first starting playing baseball at the age of 7, as an at outlet for an energetic kid. But soon he caught the bug and fell in love with the game. As a freshman, Graham was a centerfielder, but soon found a new home on the mound. He’s thrived there ever since.

“He’s got a live, loose arm and he’s gone unnoticed all this time,” Bishop Ford coach Mike Hanrahan said. “Last year it was a surprise because he was our ace and not a lot of people were talking about him.”

But with Bishop Ford (9-7) playing in the upper echelon of a tough Brooklyn/Queens division, the 6-foot-1 Graham has garnered attention every time he has stepped on the hill.

“Do I feel I’m underrated? A little, but I don’t let it get to me because if you just play the game, people will find you,” Graham said. “Word travels fast in New York.”

Graham’s fastball has topped out at 91 when pitching with the Brooklyn Bonnies last summer, but he regularly throws between 87-89 mph. After heavily relying on his fastball to overpower batters last year, Graham has added a curveball, slider and changeup to his repertoire.

When not on the mound, Graham plays centerfield and is a designated hitter. He has a .301 batting average with a team-best seven doubles and 18 runs scored.

“Last year I just threw my fastball a lot and overpowered people and this year I have more of a pitchers mentality,” he said. “I can throw my curveball and changeup more. They might not be great pitches, but I can throw it to set up batters.”

While the rest of the city might not know about Graham yet, his teammates beam about their ace hurler.

“He’s a phenomenal pitcher,” fellow pitcher Stephen Bove said. “He needs more recognition. There are people around the league who know he is and know what he can do, but not like it should be. He’s definitely making a name for himself.”

Graham, who is 3-4 with a 2.19 earned run average and 57 strikeouts in 44 23 innings, isn’t completely unnoticed. He is mulling offers between the University of Albany and Rollings College in Winter Park, Fla. But first there’s the CHSAA playoffs and a chance to continue to open eyes around the city.

“He’s a great kid, respectful. He’s a true success story,” Hanrahan said. “He developed academically, on the field and as a young man.”

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