Forrest Cory is not supposed to be where he is. You could make the case that that statement is literal.
"I was supposed to go to the Cape Cod League after my sophomore season," Cory said in an interview shortly after he left work at the local NikeTown. He was in a rotation that featured Brad Lincoln and Greg Reynolds at William & Mary, and was looking forward to joining the top collegiate summer league, one where hitters proved they could use wood bats and pitchers proved they could get the best in the country out.
Instead Cory delivered a pitch late in the season and saw it come right back at him, saw it all too well. The ball hit him in the head, fracturing his skull and leaving him partially blind in his left eye. He was out for six weeks, and obviously didn't make the Cape League that season. Once he was ready to return, a team closer to home, the Peninsula Pilots, offered Cory a chance to pitch with them, and he took it.
"I needed to play, I knew it, I needed to get back out there and just throw. I had to get over what had happened."
Two or three times a year in the big leagues a pitcher takes a shot back up the middle and off his head. Often pitchers recover physically, but can't seem to mentally. Since Matt Clement took a shot off the head against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays he hasn't been the same. Cory never even considered the idea that he wouldn't come back strong.
"My first appearance I was standing there, facing the batter, and I realized I had to pitch. I didn't know anything else. It was never a question of if I could come back, there were no mechanical adjustments that needed to be made. It was just a matter of throwing the first pitch, getting the ball back and throwing the second pitch."
The mechanical adjustments comment comes from the fact that though Cory is partially blind because of the come backer, it is in not in his peripheral vision, allowing the right eye to compensate.
"When both eyes are open, my right eye compensates, and I can see everything fine. If I close that eye, things aren't the same, but I'm not closing my eye too often on the mound, just doesn't seem necessary."
The more metaphorical example of how Cory isn't supposed to be here, isn't supposed to be heading up the FutureBacks 50 at an alarming rate, isn't supposed to be pitcher of the year in Lo-A, comes when you consider the fact that Cory signed as an undrafted free agent.
"I went to William and Mary because they offered me a scholarship, and I got to stay close to home, and they have a great program. I got to throw right away, in my freshman year, and I became a weekend starter. My first two years there were really good, but my junior year was a little sub-par as I recovered. After my junior year I was invited back to the Cape Cod League."
Being a third starter in a rotation with two of the top four picks in the 2006 draft (Lincoln and Reynolds), as Cory was when he finally did get to the Cape Cod League, is nothing to sneeze at, which begs the question, why not stay in school for his senior season, and take advantage of the buzz that was building around the lefty.
"I had been rolling that entire summer," Cory said of the summer campaign between his junior and senior season, "and had some teams coming out to look at me. What was funny was that the D'Backs weren't even there to look at me, they were randomly out there working on a psychology profile, and they made me an offer. William & Mary was going through a coaching change, and because of it, I wanted to sign."
Though undoubtedly Cory gave up some major money by not waiting for the draft, he also knew he had the opportunity to start his pro career right away. While he doesn't want to open his financial details up to the entire world, Cory was happy with the offer the D'Backs made,
"It was better than a $1000 and a plane ticket."
Still, Cory is staying the course. He works at the local NikeTown during the offseason, something you can bet Lincoln and Reynolds aren't doing, and he's staying in shape, he knows he's moved to the next level, he knows he has to work that much harder to move up, and he knows he got exactly what he asked for.
"I knew success on the Cape could mean a chance to play pro ball, that's why I was going to go after my sophomore year, and that's why I went my junior year. I only lost one game that whole summer, and I was pitching on two days rest that outing. I went up there because I wanted to play pro ball, and the Diamondbacks gave me that opportunity. I couldn't be happier."
Part two of our interview with South Bend Silverhawks (Lo-A) Pitcher of the Year Forrest Cory will debut tomorrow.