D-backs draft paralyzed ex-ASU player Hahn

PHOENIX – In 2010, Cory Hahn passed on the chance to sign with the San Diego Padres after being drafted in the 26th round, instead going to Arizona State confident that he’d be drafted again in a few years.

Just three games into his collegiate career, Hahn’s dream was shattered when he was paralyzed from the chest down while sliding into second base. But on Saturday, the Diamondbacks revived that dream, selecting the 21-year-old Hahn in the 34th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.

“We couldn’t be any more excited,” D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery said. “Talking to Cory, he was thrilled and, as usual, humbled and actually thanked us, which kind of surprised me. All the credit goes to him and his family for what they’ve endured. We couldn’t be more happy about bringing him on board.”

D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, who spent time with Hahn in the hospital after the incident, made the official selection in the round matching Hahn’s uniform number from Arizona State, where he still serves as a student coach. After Hall announced the pick, the D-backs draft room erupted in applause.

“It was a very emotional selection for us to make,” Hall said. “When Ray Montgomery and his staff had come up with the idea and presented it to me, it was a no-brainer. And it’s not about us. It’s really about Cory and his family.”

Before making the pick, Montgomery spoke to Hahn on the phone, letting him know the D-backs planned to take him. Hahn was sitting on an airplane awaiting take-off when the D-backs called.

“When you get to the other side, everybody’s going to know,” Montgomery told Hahn. “So your phone’s probably going to be blowing up.”

Out of Mater Dei High School, Hahn was California’s Mr. Baseball in 2010. In his third game at ASU, Hahn slid into second base and collided with the opposing second baseman, fracturing his C5 vertebrae. As he lay motionless on the field, he asked ASU coach Tim Esmay if he was on the base. Informed he was safe on the attempted steal, Hahn replied with what became a rallying cry for the Sun Devils.

“Damn right I’m safe,” Hahn said as paramedics removed him from the field. ASU players still wear wristbands bearing the phrase.

Hahn has gone through vigorous rehabilitation to accomplish even the smallest of tasks and has achieved some big ones, too. He drives a van customized for his wheelchair and lives on his own with ASU teammates as he coaches and attends classes.

Though Hahn won’t man his old position in the outfield for the D-backs, Hall said the team wants to make its selection of him more than just a gesture.

“We want to make this permanent,” Hall said. “We don’t want to make it just about the selection and about him being a draft pick but about working here in full-time employment with the Diamondbacks. Hopefully we’ll make that come to fruition for he and his family here soon.”