Chad Corona (02) Emergency medical technician in Escondido

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Former Santa Fe Christian athlete eager to teach youngsters how to wear different uniforms with pride

By Gigi Alford
UNION-TRIBUNE

August 20, 2006

Respecting the uniform is one lesson Chad Corona will be able to teach the youth baseball team he plans to help coach in the fall.

The San Diego State baseball alum, currently an emergency medical technician in Escondido, has worn his share of uniforms. Athlete or public servant, Corona said the uniform commands respect, and with it, responsibility.

“You’re representing the community,” Corona said. “People watch you. Kids look up to you, admire you, watch your mannerisms.”

The opportunity to be a positive role model in kids’ lives has Corona excited about becoming involved with the North Coast Cannons, a competitive club team for 9-and 10-year-olds that blends learning baseball fundamentals with community service.

Corona first learned about the team’s philosophy from his fiance, Natalie Sande, who met Cannons coach Andy Hoang on a volunteer trip to orphanages in Thailand and Cambodia in 2005. A chance to help drew Corona to the team, and Corona’s passion for baseball and the community made a believer of Hoang.

“He exemplifies all the values that the Cannons team is about,” Hoang said. “He believes in the community service aspect of it. As competitive as he is, he’s also a good mentor to teach life lessons that parallel baseball.”

Coaching youth ball is one of many projects in Corona’s life. Planning a wedding, becoming a firefighter and training for professional baseball are a few others.

His share of the preparations for the wedding, set for May 26, 2007, include finding a DJ, picking out music and taking care of the bar, said Sande.

Corona credits his fiance, who played volleyball at SDSU and will coach the Santa Fe Christian JV in the fall, with giving him the assurance he needed to pursue a firefighting career and give pro ball another try. They said the decision on which direction to follow will be left up to God.

“I’m passionate about both the firefighting and baseball,” Corona said. “If the baseball works out, I’ll have a chance to go play my first love. It’s a win-win situation for me. Whichever works out, that’s the one for me.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Corona was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 16th round after graduating from Santa Fe Christian in 2000. He was selected in the 46th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2003 as an SDSU junior.

After a knee injury and surgery his senior year, Corona said he had the opportunity to give the draft another go but “wasn’t 100 percent right then.”

Two years later, Corona feels as if he’s in the best physical shape of his life. He’s been working out with Santa Fe Christian baseball coach Chris Ardis, taking ground balls and seeing live pitching.

More importantly, Corona feels he’s more prepared mentally to play at the next level than he had been in college.

It took him a while to learn to trust in his skills, Corona said, and SDSU baseball coach Tony Gwynn played a big part in that lesson.

“His big thing with me was the confidence,” Corona said of Gwynn. “ ‘You have the skills. They are all right here,’ he’d tell me, then point at my head. ‘Your problem is up here.”

Now he wants to pass along that valuable lesson to the Cannons.

“I want to impress on these kids that physically you can be ready,” Corona said, “but you have to be there mentally.”

Corona also wants to teach the Cannons that people are always watching, and the boys should carry themselves accordingly.

“If you do something bad,” Corona said, “it could come back to haunt you. Or if you take the extra step, people will see it.”

At ages 9 and 10, youngsters on the Cannons will be learning lessons that many of their professional role models have forgotten: how to wear a uniform with honor.

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