Brady Corless still could be donning that striking Spanish Fork red and black. He could be toeing the rubber in southern Utah County, dominating 3A and 4A hitters the way he did during his time in the Dons’ rotation. He could be the face of the program, aiming for a fourth state championship in five years.
But Brady Corless wears blue these days, representing a college and group of baseball Bruins at Salt Lake Community College. He graduated a year early to test his lively right arm against some of the top juco talent in the nation.
“I could go back there and throw up 15 strikeouts a game pretty easily, but I wouldn’t be getting better,” he said, forecasting what he thinks his senior year at Spanish Fork would have been like. “For stats, it might have been better, but as a player, I just want to keep pushing myself.”
The reality for Corless is that to be a rising pitching talent — and pass those initial expectations — you need to face hitters who can turn on your fastball, adjust to your slider or predict when your changeup will be the latest pitch out of the arsenal.
SLCC coach D.G. Nelson never has had a high school athlete approach him about graduating early and wanting to be an integral part of the program as a 17-year-old hurler, no matter how talented he was.
“We didn’t recruit him to do this,” Nelson said from the seat in his office at Cate Field in West Jordan.
After Spanish Fork’s season ended on May 19 last year, Corless and his family looked at the possibility of him graduating early and enrolling at SLCC. They made the decision two to three weeks later, and he began the process of becoming a pitcher in Bruin blue.
So far, it’s working like clockwork.
Corless is one of the best options the Bruins have on the bump at this point in the season. He has more wins (five) than any other starter on the team, leads the team in innings pitched (45) and strikeouts (38) and has held opposing batters to a .238 average. His ERA sits at 2.60.
“The thing I worried about the most has kind of turned into his strength,” Nelson said. “He is way more mature than his years. The way he views the game, the way he views situations … he never gets rattled.”
Now as an 18-year-old leader on a team full of 18- to 22-year-old baseball talents, Corless still is learning how to adjust to hitters who know how to get to a pitcher in that next at-bat.
“I think my stuff is as good as anyone out there, and I think I can compete,” he said. “I take pride in my composure on the mound. I feel like I’m a pretty tough kid to break down.”
While his freshman season at SLCC has been successful to say the least, the man who coached Corless in high school, Jim “Shoe” Nelson, said he initially was caught off guard by the decision to forgo the senior season.
“Surprised, shocked, whatever you wanted to call it,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good pitchers. He’s one of many.”
Jim Nelson said Corless played varsity as a freshman and cracked the rotation his sophomore year — the same year the Dons won the Class 4A title — but said he believes Corless eventually will lament his decision.
“He’ll regret not playing his senior year with these guys for the rest of his life,” he said.
That remains to be seen, but Corless is making the most of his opportunity, and he made sure he was ready to do so coming in. He worked throughout the summer to graduate early and faced some stiff competition in summer leagues.
“No,” Corless smiled.
SLCC’s D.G. Nelson said he initially approached this season with a bit of uneasiness with the amount of pressure that comes with coaching a player as young and talented as Corless, but those feelings have evaporated. The two have a connection. Nelson says Corless is a guy he’ll never have to settle down, and if he takes that stroll to the mound to ask for the ball, he’ll be on the receiving end of a steeled glare.
“I’ll talk about what we want in a player, but it’s hard to find,” Nelson said, “Brady has it.”
Brady Corless is draft-eligible for the next four years, starting with 2013. His dream? Not hard to guess.
“Play in the show,” he said. “Hopefully play as many years until they tell me to hang up my cleats.”