By John Philip Wyllie
San Diego State baseball fans know that when they hear the familiar strains of Santana’s “Oye Como Va?” blaring through the stadium P.A. system it can only mean one thing: Aztec home run leader, Chad Corona is coming up to the plate.
“With my Mexican heritage and my Dad’s folks all being from Mexico, I just decided to put a shout out to my family. But I especially picked that song because my Dad loves to play Santana,” said Corona, the Aztecs third baseman.
Corona credits his father Joe, a former minor leaguer with sparking his interest in the game at an early age. “My Dad has coached me my entire life, so in a way it’s hard for him now because here I have coach Dietz and Tony Gwynn coaching me. All the way through though, he has helped me out big time.”
Corona, the 6’2" 225 pound sophomore has done some “big time” hitting on behalf of the playoff bound Aztecs. A solid .333 power hitter, Corona has launched eight home runs out of various ballparks this season and has 13 doubles, two triples and 31 RBIs to his credit. Highly effective on the field, Corona has used his personality and easygoing manner to work with up and coming Hispanic stars of the future off the field.
“We had a camp earlier in the season where we had a group of kids come up from Tijuana,” Corona recalled. “There is some good talent down there and it was cool getting to talk with them a little bit.”
It was just one of several clinics the Aztecs held this season for the benefit of the local community.
Corona’s current focus is on the upcoming Mountain West Conference Playoffs. Should the front-running Aztecs be successful there, they may gain a berth into the NCAA Regional Playoffs. Having closed out their home season on Tuesday with a 4-3 victory over UC Irvine, the Aztecs will play the remaining six games on their schedule at the University of New Mexico and UNLV before taking on the Mountain West competition May 22-25 for the conference title in Provo, Utah.
In a season filled with many high points and a few bumps, Corona is been particularly excited about working with future Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn.
“I started watching Tony Gwynn when I was a little kid and he was always my favorite baseball player. When I heard he was coming here, I was amazed. With coach Gwynn, there are no dumb questions,” according to Corona. “He tells us to ask him anything we want and he tells us straight up.” Gwynn studies each player’s swing and analyzes it much like a scientist. By videotaping each at bat, he is able to diagnose mechanical problems and make the appropriate corrections. “You are able to see exactly what you are doing wrong,” Corona said.
With Gwynn set to take over the coaching reins from retiring long-time Aztec skipper, Jim Dietz, Corona will be seeing a lot of the eight-time National League batting champion and Golden Glover over the next two seasons. And that’s just fine with him.