Freshman pitcher Corey thriving through pain to lift Phoenix

Phoenix Firebirds pitcher and batter Ty Corey before a recent varsity baseball game at John C. Birdlebough High School. Josh St. Croix/Johnson Newspapers.

PHOENIX — Before he could master his fastball or any breaking pitch, Ty Corey first learned how to take command of his body through persistent pain.

The Phoenix-John C. Birdlebough High School freshman has excelled as the ace pitcher and a key batter for the Firebirds varsity baseball team despite dealing with chronic ankle discomfort caused by Hemophilia A.

The birth condition prevents blood from clotting properly which can attack the joints in various ways, and for Corey, that led to repeated joint bleeding that has deteriorated cartilage around his ankles and causes frequent pain upon exertion.

Corey has still thrived in his second varsity season through his own diligence monitoring his health, and the help of Phoenix coach Chuck Chawgo and several administrators who recently took action to ensure Corey can keep chasing his college baseball aspirations.

“I want to play baseball as long as I can and I love playing, and I just want to make that go for as long as I can,” Corey said.

Corey started communicating that he felt pain in his feet and ankles around the age of five, according to his mother, Beth Corey-Munger. He is the only member of his family known to suffer from the ailment. Soon after his diagnosis, they tried different shoe inserts, braces, and medications, but have discovered that the best treatment is to monitor and mitigate impact.

About halfway through his inaugural varsity season last spring, the pain intensified to the point where Corey had to sit out full games. They met with doctors prior to this season and established a plan to complete the campaign.

Corey runs as little as possible throughout the year. He avoids exerting too much energy in pre or postgame activities with teammates, and during offseason conditioning, he will ride a stationary bike as his teammates run sprints, for a few examples. He regularly ices the area after games and practices.

Corey will pitch and bat in games but is lifted for a pinch runner each time he gets on base. He has also built a trusting relationship with Chawgo and they are in constant contact regarding his daily status.

“There’s only so much of a lifespan that he’s going to be able to play this, and his ultimate goal is to play in college, so for me now, it sometimes changes the way I approach a game,” Chawgo said. “Like I’ve said to Ty, we could be in the sectional finals and if he’s got to come out, he’s got to come out.”

Chawgo also tries to limit Corey’s time in the field, often utilizing him as the designated hitter on days that he isn’t on the mound pitching. He also plays first base on occasion.

“It’s tough, I don’t like telling coach that I can’t play but I know that I have to when I feel like I can’t play,” Corey said. “I just have to be honest with him.”

The 6-foot-1 and 185-pound left-handed pitcher and batter gained an added layer of relief earlier this season.

Chawgo approached officials from Section 3 and the NYSPHSAA to seek a rule exemption allowing for unlimited use of a courtesy runner for Corey, aiming to minimize the impact of running the bases and stay in the game after recording multiple hits.

The rules currently allow for use of a pinch-runner just once before the player being removed is no longer eligible to return.

Chawgo sent a letter from Phoenix athletic director, John Jeffries, and was approved with an official exemption by the NYSPHSAA for the duration of Corey’s varsity career.

“The (NYSPHSAA) showed that they’re really about the kids, they did this for a kid who was at a disadvantage and they’re still giving him the opportunity to be a student-athlete,” said Chawgo, who pitched at Hobart College.

“For me I thought, there’s a big breath, because now we can help him get to college,” he added. “The way he’s playing right now as a freshman, I’d like to think by the time he gets there, he’ll have various choices.”

Chawgo keeps a copy of the exemption, dated April 11, to share with umpires and opposing coaches before each game.

The key points listed ensure Corey can be removed for a pinch runner an unlimited number of times and return to the game. Players who participate in the game in any other capacity are not eligible to serve as courtesy runners and the player who runs for Corey can not be inserted for any other player in that half inning.

The umpire-in-chief is expected to record courtesy runner participation and announce it to the opposing team. The exemption is in place for the duration of Corey’s high school career.

“I don’t think they had to do that if they didn’t want to, and I really appreciate all the help that they’ve given me, just helping me play for as long as I can,” Corey said.

Corey-Munger added: “That has been a lifesaver for Ty this year. Now every game that he plays, he’s able to get through the whole game, he’s able to pitch as much as he can within the pitch count, he has pitched complete games and had all his at-bats, it’s been life-changing for him.”

Corey first started playing baseball around age five in T-ball and progressed into travel teams such as CNY Elite, Fulton Fury, and now plays with the Sports Zone based in Syracuse.

He also tried youth hockey and played goalie until the promising lefty opted to devote his time to his favorite sport, baseball, to develop as a potential collegiate pitcher.

“He always loved to be active and loved to play sports, and he was kind of limited on what sports he could play,” Corey-Munger said. “Football was out of the question, track was never going to be his sport, so we got into baseball, and he just fell in love with it.”

Corey entered the week with 49 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched while sporting a 3.37 earned-run average this year. He has hit for a .382 batting average to go with nine runs batted in, according to stats reported to Syracuse.com.

The Firebirds opened the week with an 8-7 overall record and have already qualified for the Section 3 Class B Tournament with Corey as one of four freshmen in the regular starting lineup.

“I think we’ve been pretty good on the defensive side all year, pretty good at hitting recently, and I think it’s all coming together and we’re starting to put runs on the board,” Corey said. “We’ve come a long way as a team this year.”

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