Many collegiate athletes have a simple lifestyle. It’s get up every morning, go to class, compete in their respected sport, and do it all over again the next day. But it’s not easy, especially once you reach the final year of your playing career and wonder,”What now?”
However, for one APSU baseball senior, the blueprint for his future is already turning into a structure.
On Feb. 28, senior Kevin Corey woke up just like any other day, but instead of making the trip over to the ballpark to play Dayton, he first had life-changing matters to attend to. Corey and his fiance of almost eight months, Summer Crosslin, exchanged marriage vows at a courthouse with family on hand. It was so sudden that APSU head coach Gary McClure had no idea when asked after the game, and acknowledged that it’s the only time he can recall when a player of his has gotten married prior to a game.
“That snuck up on me,” McClure said with a laugh. “But I’m glad for him. Kevin’s a great kid, and I told him he was smart to save a lot of money doing it this way. You save all those fights you get into about the wedding months ahead, and it’s quick. I told him I thought he was a really intelligent guy.”
But one family member is still on its way.
The Corey’s are expecting a child on Oct. 4, which is in fact the day Kevin was born. Corey said they decided it was the right thing to do to go ahead and get married before the child arrives, with a larger ceremony scheduled in the future. While it’s something he has looked forward to his entire life, it’s hard not to be worried as a new chapter is unfolding in his life.
“At first it was scary, but with the support I’ve gotten it has made it easier,” Corey said. “It didn’t happen at the exact time I wanted it to, but I know God’s going to take care of me and has a plan for me. I’m just trying to go with the flow and just enjoy it, and try not to stress about it. It’s been pretty cool going and seeing ultrasounds and all of that.”
If you ask Corey about his childhood, though, it’s as if he was just a child not long ago as he thought back to his youth in detail.
Growing up in southern California, Corey quickly picked up the game of baseball at the age of four. Being one of four siblings, the local ballpark became a second home where the weather was perfect year round for baseball. But even when the weather was bad, he and his father would move things indoors. Corey can recall times when he and his father would hit balls in an indoor batting cage in their home following a move farther north, which he says were some of his favorite memories growing up.
Corey said his dad has been the biggest influence on his career, having played at the collegiate level at San Jose State. Those hours in the cage became lessons Corey has utilized from that point forward, even to this day.
“A lot on just how to play the game the right way,” Corey said. “I was smaller when I was younger and I was always playing against bigger guys, so I always had to do all the small things. I think that kind of carries over to what I do now, like in certain situations. Just doing the little things doesn’t mean you’re going to get a hit or something, but anything to move a guy up or help the team win. My dad kind of instilled that in me.”
The hard work payed off for Corey as he was very successful in high school, being named to the All-Northern-California first team his senior year after batting .455 while recording a school-record 40 RBI. The numbers caught the eye of one of top baseball programs in the state, Cal Poly, and Corey signed on to become a Mustang. But after sitting out a season as a redshirt, Corey decided it was best for his career to move on elsewhere after a rough year due to a back injury.
By sitting out of year and having to deal with injuries, Corey needed to get back in baseball shape before moving elsewhere. To do so, he stayed in the state for his sophomore year at Chabot College, a junior college that would give him a chance to be in the lineup almost every day and prove he is still capable of playing at the Division I level. Although his stats at the plate weren’t up to par as he would have liked, Corey posted a 2.77 ERA on the mound with 43 strikeouts, proving he can provide for a team no matter what role he is put in. Austin Peay put their trust in him and by seeing the Govs play on the west coast in the 2011 Eugene Regional, it solidified his decision to wear the red and white.
“I really liked it when I came on my visit, and I just enjoyed being out here. It’s a good, small town feel that reminded me of the high school I went to actually,” Corey said. “I was already committed, but I went and watched and how they competed against Oregon and the other big name schools. I really enjoyed that because I enjoy being the underdog, so I thought that was cool.”
Little did he know he would be pitching on the big stage in a regional contest one year later.
The Govs reached the final of the Bloomington portion of the bracket, playing against the host team Indiana Hoosiers. Although Corey was handed the loss, ending the 2013 campaign for the most-successful team in APSU baseball history, he now looks back on it as an enjoyable moment where any baseball player would want to be.
While his season was a struggle with an average of .220 to go along with a 2-2 record on the mound, injuries forced Corey to play through pain throughout the year. He admitted it wasn’t a pleasant thing to deal with, but after having surgery to repair a bone chip in his wrist, he approached 2014, his senior year, with high motivation.
“My confidence wasn’t there because I had been hurt and I let that weigh on me a lot and made me think I’m not the hitter I used to be,” he said. “But I think this summer I got healthy and put a lot of time in the weight room and stuff, and it clicked back in my head that you know what, I am a good hitter. So I came in this year with a lot to prove I guess and just to prove I am a good hitter.”
Now halfway through the season, Corey has proved his case in limited amount of chances. The senior has appeared in 20 of the 33 games, compiling a .315 average with four doubles and 12 RBI. In 2013, Corey had no doubles in 150 at bats, but has had a knack for finding the outfield gaps this season. From March 11 to March 22, Corey put together a seven-game hitting streak, stepping up in key situations to put his team in position to win.
Even though his spot in the lineup isn’t guaranteed, Corey exemplifies what a team player is. As he watches an infield full of freshmen starting around the horn, Corey is always one of the first members to high five his teammates. But when his name does get called to grab a bat or field some grounders, there’s no question he’s going to give it his all.
“Whenever it’s my chance to go out there, DH, play defense, or whatever, I just try to make the best of those opportunities,” Corey said. “Since I’ve been thinking that way this year it has definitely helped me realize that as a player, you’re not in control of everything and that’s for the coaches to worry about. When I worry about what my job is and what I should be doing, I think that’s what has helped me be successful in the time I’ve been on the field this year.”
With a locker room of more younger players than veterans, it’s important to have leaders. Corey is the only senior middle infielder on the team, which puts him in prime position to help in ways other than being out there himself.
“He’s a pretty easy-going guy, but at the same time I think he is a good leader,” said senior Matt Wollenzin. “He’s a different sort of leader than I am. He’s a little more vocal, but just the fact that he’s a senior who is producing, guys are going to listen to what he has to say for sure.”
Corey is hoping to continue being a leader once his playing career ends by becoming a coach just like his father. However, his goal is to reach another level and coach in Division I, with the last thing he wants being a desk job. Corey wants to be at the ballpark to pass along the knowledge he has developed. After visioning what it looks like to have success playing baseball, he wants to see others succeed.
One day, it could be his son or daughter who his following in his footsteps.
Photo: Kevin Corey waits to start an inning last season (The All State)