Corona baseball produces record number of Division I commits
February 26, 2019 by Jason Krell, Arizona State University
Corona del Sol’s baseball team displays “uncommon” proudly across the backs of their shirts, which represents the team’s values.
It’s also uncommon that the team has so many Division I commits this year.
Head coach Dave Webb said he’s never had six players on a single team already committed to D1 universities, though other graduating classes did reach those numbers after some time spent on junior college teams.
How did he manage to find so many talented players at the same time? According to Webb, it has to do with those team values.
“I just think we produce great kids,” Webb said. “We have super-high standards with grades. We press character and being good human beings above all, and I think we know how to coach.”
Webb stressed how much his staff focuses on their players’ behavior off the field by pointing out that the team’s average GPA was 3.5 last year. The year before that, the class valedictorian played on the team. Webb added that while these successes don’t seem to have anything to do with baseball, the work ethic transfers well.
Not everyone believes in that philosophy, according to Webb. He said he’s noticed other coaches don’t take such a vested interest in what their players do outside of the team. In a way, Webb said Corona’s insistence on character makes them “rebels.”
“We’re rebels because we don’t accept that our kids are going to go out on the weekend and drink and do drugs,” Webb said.
When fostering future college players, it also helps to have two coaches in the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame — former Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich and Webb’s predecessor at Corona, Ron Davini. Webb said he gives them, and all his coaches, a great deal of freedom to handle players how they want. When the coaches are as decorated as Corona’s, Webb said he doesn’t have to micromanage.
Shared history, shared success
Corona’s uncommon qualities don’t end with its coaching staff or their philosophies. Four of the six D1 commits, plus other juniors on the varsity team, share a common history that stretches back to age 10.
According to Bryan Webb, the head coach’s son and a Grand Canyon University commit, he grew up playing club baseball with about nine other players on Corona’s current varsity team. He said that time together gives them a huge advantage in team chemistry.
“No one else probably has that,” Bryan said. “Originally, we were just all on the same team and didn’t really know each other. But as we got closer, we decided we wanted to stick together and keep playing in the future. It just brought us closer.”
Cade Verdusco agreed that his team’s chemistry is uncommon. He said that while playing with other D1 commits on other teams during fall baseball, he learned most other players cared more about their personal success than the team’s. He said that’s never the case at Corona.
“With this team, if you’re not doing your best, someone will be there to pick you up and you’re still going to be in the game,” said Verdusco, another GCU commit.
As for why the players think there’s so much success concentrated in one team, the answers were relatively the same. Many players pointed to their shared history as one factor, but all of them spent more time giving credit to their coaches.
Senior Brian Kalmer said Webb’s core philosophies clicked during his sophomore year, which is when he started to get truly serious about playing baseball at a higher level. Internalizing those lessons about strong character into his life helped him reach the point, as a player, where Arizona State offered him a scholarship.
“It really helps to develop not only as a player, but as a man, too,” Kalmer said. “We live by those rules on and off the field to where it’s almost like a lifestyle, to where it’s second nature.”
The only other thing the players have in common is their dedication to baseball outside of Corona. They all grew up playing on club teams, and later participated in various camps that college scouts often attend.
Some stuck to the West Coast, but Daniel Sotelo traveled to places like Chicago, Georgia and even Puerto Rico at ages as young as 10-years-old. As the team’s other senior D1 commit, Sotelo will head to New Mexico State.
Still one team
Webb said he doesn’t let a player’s commitment status change the way he treats them, especially considering how the recruitment process is different for every player. Some, like Oregon State commit Hunter Haas, were recruited as a freshman. Others, like Northwestern commit David Utagawa, were recruited less than two weeks ago.
“I’m so about not fracturing the team and making sure the cohesion stays together,” Webb said.
In the end, all a player’s commitment status does for the team is provide encouragement for the other players to reach those same heights. At the same time, Webb did mention that the last time he had so many talented players on a single team, Corona won the 2009 state championship.