Hahn inspiring beyond baseball

BY foxsports • January 21, 2012

Placentia, CA- Cory Hahn made his way down the third base line of El Dorado Field to home plate with the assistance of his father, Dale, late Saturday afternoon.

The crowd at El Dorado High School greeted him with a standing ovation.

After all, he is the main attraction.

"He's a star now," said former Los Angeles Angels announcer Rex Hudler. "He's got a chance to encourage a lot of people – more than he would if he were a ballplayer."

The former Mater Dei baseball star was the guest of honor as a who's who of Orange County baseball sluggers took part in the 1st Annual Trinity Bat Company Home Run Challenge. Proceeds from the charity event were donated to the Cory Hahn Fund. High schoolers, minor leaguers and major leaguers, including Angels catcher Hank Conger and first baseman Mark Trumbo, attended. However, Trumbo didn't participate while still recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot.

The big leaguers are swarmed for autograph requests and so is Cory. He obliges from the seat in his wheelchair at home plate.

He holds a marker in his left hand and methodically writes his name on a baseball for a young fan.

He scripts his full name, in blue ink, one letter at a time: C-O-R-Y H-A-H-N. More legible than most signatures.

The autograph means the world to the kid.

It means more to Cory.

Being able to write anything is just one of the small wins he's attained over the last 11 months. It's on the list with being able to feed himself, doing his own homework, or being able to turn a page in a book.

Ever since February 20, 2011, Cory's life has been different.

He was in just his second game during his freshman season on the Arizona State baseball team. The Sun Devils were at home taking on New Mexico.

With a runner on first, Cory walked to reach base. A double steal was called. Hahn took off. The catcher elected to throw to second base. The throw was off line, taking the second baseman into the basepath. Hahn slid headfirst into the leg of the player covering.

He lay on the field motionless for minutes before being escorted to a local hospital with what they called, at the time, a neck injury.

It was much worse. It was a fractured vertebra in his spine. He was paralyzed from the chest down.

His life, forever changed.

Up until that point, baseball had been life for the former 26th round pick of the San Diego Padres and California State Player of the Year. It was a huge shock knowing he would never able to play again.

"Baseball was my whole life. That was all I ever thought about doing," said Cory.

Life now is different, not just for Cory, but his family as well.

"It changes your life in a way that you can't even really describe. The things that he has to go through and all the dreams and hopes and wishes that he had have changed, and now we have to find a new path," said Dale.

Cory's thoughts, formerly consumed with getting on base and driving in runs, are now on things as simple as being able to take his shirt off on his own before going to bed.

Cory, still unable to move his legs, has limited motion in his upper body, which allows him to wheel himself around in his chair – his biggest accomplishment since his accident 11 months ago.

The game of life is now something Cory and Dale try to master each day.

"Our wins, we get each day," said Dale. "Those little things that we take for granted are things that he has to learn and actually figure a system out and technique out and there's always something that he does during the day that will catch my eye."

Each day is a test for father and son, who both have moved to Arizona so Cory can resume classes at Arizona State this semester. Back at the Hahn residence in Corona is mom, Christine, and brother, Jason, who's a senior on the Mater Dei baseball team.

Cory rises at around 7:30 every morning at his apartment he shares with members of the ASU baseball team. Dale comes over and helps him get showered and dressed before they head to campus.

Once they get there, Cory's in his chair and he's off going from class to class able to wheel himself around Arizona State's "flat" campus. In the classroom, there are aides provided by the school who take notes for him.

While Cory's in class, Dale does whatever he wants to do.

"Sometimes I don't really know what he does," said Cory with a smile. "Anything he wants."

Although he's not taking classes, in a way, Dale's back in school some 26 years after graduating college.

"Sometimes I sit (on campus) and think that some people are probably seeing me with (Cory) going through the business department, (saying)'Who's the old guy?' ... It's been a little different," said Dale, who quit his job in sales to be able to assist Cory full time.  "It's kind of neat to be on campus and see the youthfulness of everything."

Dale is able to take in the ambiance of the Tempe campus, to an extent, because of the independence Cory is beginning to gain. A big part of that is Cory being able to get around campus on his own.

"Part of that is because I can get (from) class to class now," Cory said. "Being able to move myself in my chair, I don't have to rely on him and say 'Hey look, class ends at this time, be there,' so he can get me to my next class."

So, usually around 1:30 p.m., Dale and Cory reunite after classes. The day continues with physical therapy and homework. Cory always tries to squeeze in time for his social life before heading to bed at 11:30 p.m.

Saturday provided a break from school to be able to come back home for the first time since the semester started.

Just on the outskirts of foul territory on the third base side, he sat and watched those current elite high school baseball players, minor leaguers and major leaguers -- mostly from Orange County -- many of whom he played with, as they tried to send balls to the trees outside the El Dorado Field fence. He was OK with it. He's come to the realization he'll never play again. He's learned there's more to life than what's in between the lines.

"I realized, yeah, all these dreams have been taken away and basically gone, but I also realize that life goes on. I don't want be sitting in my house all day dwelling on what's happening when I could be getting better. I'm not playing baseball anymore, but I still get to live my life the way I want to. Now I realize that there's more to life than baseball, and that's been a real positive thing for me."

"It's an inspiration," said Trumbo. "He's a fighter. At the end of the day, he's going to fight for everything he has, and he's got some big challenges ahead of him, but you see his attitude and the way he carries himself and you only hope for the best."

Cory, a former slugger in his own right, posed for a picture surrounded by some of the players he once shared the same lofty goals with, like becoming a big league ballplayer. The goal has since changed from that to walking again -- something he's determined to do.

In the short term, he wants to start driving. There are vehicles he can drive that will allow him to use hand controls to accelerate the gas or pump the brakes. It's something he's already started to practice and enjoy.

"It's kind of like playing a video game, to be honest," said Cory.

The same dedication and drive he used to become a top flight baseball prospect is now being used to help get through day-to-day life.

His zest for life has allowed him to be celebrated by others. Hudler, the former Angels announcer, couldn't help but be impressed by his first encounter with Cory.

"This is the first time I've ever met him. I'm in awe," Hudler said. "He's not having a pity party ... Today is a great day of rejoicing, celebration and just being grateful for baseball and Cory Hahn."

As the sun began to set over El Dorado Field on Saturday evening, there sat Hahn on the baseball diamond. Just like most of his playing career, all eyes were on him.

To donate to the Cory Hahn Fund, make checks payable to: "Cory Hahn Fund" and mail to Mater Dei High School, 1202 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92707.

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