The Mets signed Cory Vaughn in the 4th Round of the 2010 June Amateur Draft from San Diego State University. In 2007, he was initially drafted out of high school in the 43rd Round by the Philadelphia Phillies, but chose to attend college instead. At San Diego State, he played for Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who has also been a big influence in his life, “Tony Gwynn helped me a lot, and to be able to work with him and his son Anthony has been a blessing,” says Vaughn.
That same summer, he started his pro career in Brooklyn and in 72 games, he batted, .307/.396/.557, with 14 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs, 56 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in 313 plate appearances. He shared his experience playing in Brooklyn, “Leaving the dorms that we stayed at in an academy in Brooklyn and taking the subway all the way to Coney Island to the stadium, was honestly the best experience I had. With the culture out there; it’s fast paced, the tempo is different and just hopping on the subway, and going to Coney Island in front of all those fans, was great. Plus you have a lot more fun when you’re playing well and that was a great year I had also. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world and I had a blast,” says the standout prospect.
In 2011, he was promoted to Savannah and then moved on to St. Lucie and in 131 combined games, he batted, .255/.362/.402, with 22 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 59 RBI, 10 stolen bases in 538 plate appearances. In 2012, he played a full season with St. Lucie and in 126 games, he batted, .243/.351/.463, with 73 runs, 25 doubles, three triples, 23 home runs, 69 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 535 plate appearances.
In 2013, he was sent to Binghamton and in June he injured his right elbow and was forced to miss about a month of baseball, “I was real nervous as soon as I got injured, it was cold, and I knew exactly what I hurt in my elbow, that Tommy John ligament,” says Vaughn. “I just had to take it for what it was, I couldn’t panic, and I couldn’t change anything about it. I had to go down to Florida to rehab, trying to get the elbow right, I didn’t want to rush it. I wasn’t going to go back out there and hurt it again, and miss the whole entire year. I had the mindset to take it day by day and just try and get my elbow better. During that time I could throw and swing a bat without pain, so when I was coming back, I just had to trust the guys who were helping me recover, and thank God it worked out. It was pretty stressful.”
Upon his return, he was sent to the Gulf Coast Mets for a few weeks and then to St. Lucie, before making his way back to Binghamton in early August. With having to miss time and then making his way back, he played in 92 combined games, and batted, .252/.348/.400 with 11 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 54 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 383 plate appearances. Clearly the injury caused him to miss significant opportunities to continue on his journey, but it didn’t keep him from following his dream.
After the season was over, he took some time off, and then participated in the Arizona Fall League. It took him a bit to get his timing back, “As soon as the season ended, I hadn’t seen live pitching and I only took some batting cage sessions; no excuses, but taking some time off and then going out there and the pitchers are throwing 95-96 mph with good secondary stuff, and my timing being off, I was starting to panic and press a bit,” shares Vaughn.
“I finally had to just take a step back and just go out there and have fun. I knew it would come back to me, and it was a blessing to just be able to play there. When I was able to look at it that way, I started to enjoy it and not panic or press, then it all started to happen for me. During the end of the AFL season I started to hit the ball hard and play better and also meeting some guys that I played against but never met on a first hand basis, made it a blast.”
In Arizona, he played in 22 games, and batted .250/.320/.375, HR, 9 RBI, eight stolen bases and was tied for first with three triples, in 88 at bats.
Vaughn, the son of Greg Vaughn, who is a 15 year MLB vet, also shared how his parents were very important in his development and growth to becoming the baseball player he is today, “My mom was huge, and even though my dad was away playing baseball, I’d talk to him on the phone and I’d see him in the summer time, but my mom was really the one in the trenches,” says the outfield prospect. “She would help me, by taking me to practice, and when I pitched as a kid, she would get the gear on and catch me. When I started getting older, and threw too hard for her she would set up a paper bag on the fence and I’d try to hit that. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my mom. She raised me and my sister while my dad was playing ball. Later on in my career, especially now, my dad has been a huge help, but it was my mom early on.”
Even though the elder Vaughn was on the road 7-8 months out of the year, he was a proud father to a boy that was growing up quickly, and when the Mets signed his son to a professional contract, the younger Vaughn shared how important the day truly was for the family, “I remember this vividly, I was at home, and I was nervous, I was getting phone calls from people, like the Phillies, who called and said that I would go in their next pick in the 4th round, and I was cool and didn’t tell anybody. But then I was contacted by the Mets and was told I was going in their next pick, which was prior to the Phillies. So we were in the house watching the TV, and I didn’t say anything to my parents and family, and when the screen said, The Mets Take Cory Vaughn, my family just went nuts. My dad was excited, he was crying, and even though growing up he was pretty macho, and always the general on the teams he played for, there was never really an emotional side that I saw in him. That was the first time I had ever seen him cry. It was pretty special.”
When you read his story you get a glimpse that this is truly a special athlete, one that was born to play baseball and along the way was given the tools to succeed. The one thing that most fans do not know about the outfield prospect, and something not many could possibly figure out, but it’s what he wants everyone to know, “I feel that a lot of people don’t know that I am Type 1 Diabetic. That’s always something that catches people by surprise; they look at me and say that I’m in good shape and not overweight, but with Type 1 Diabetes that’s not always the case. It can happen to anybody. I like to put that out there, because there are a lot of kids that have juvenile diabetes, and to know that they can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it.”
Vaughn also shares that he has a pouch in his back left pocket, that people get confused about, “I take a pump, and I wear it in my left back pocket and people think that I have a cell phone or something in there, and to protect it, I slide on my right side.”
He talks about of how a certain element can cause a slight delay with his medication, “It does malfunction at least once a year; I remember when I had a game winning home run in Brooklyn, and my buddy Darrell Ceciliani dumped a water cooler on me and it went all in the pump, and it got fried up, and they over-nighted me one.” The fact that Vaughn understands the magnitude of his illness, but willing to go out there everyday and prove that anyone can follow after their dreams is priceless.
Growing up in a baseball home, most people would think that taking on the family business is almost absolute, so I asked Vaughn, if playing baseball has always been a dream, ” It’s in my blood, ever since I came out of my mother’s womb, I have pictures of me with the baseball bat, wearing Brewers stuff when we used to live in Milwaukee. The funny thing is when I was younger I didn’t realize what it was like to be running around major league fields, it was just a way of life for me, that’s all I really knew. I never took it for granted, but I was just a kid out there in the club house, eating the candy, talking with all the teammates, and running out there and having a blast. It was something really special. I’ve seen my dad play and it’s always what I wanted to do my whole entire life.”
While speaking with Vaughn I was very impressed with him and how he truly understands the game and what it will take to not only make it to the majors, but to be a very successful ball player. He shared with me what words of wisdom his dad bestows on him: ”I was talking with my dad, and he said that I got back from the AFL, I took a week off and now we were getting back into it; the swing won’t feel the way I want it to feel, but it’s a process, we have to think big picture here, we are not thinking short term,” shares the younger Vaughn. “If I just go out there with the mindset to try and get better every single day, I think all the goals will take care of themselves.”
Cory truly has been blessed with not only the right tools to be able to play the game he loves at such a high level, but also to have the many mentors, and people who truly want to watch him succeed and attain his dream of playing major league baseball.
I am thankful for the opportunity to share his journey, and even with the Rule 5 Draft looming in a few days, I feel confident that he will be with the organization for the 2014 season and beyond, but if for some reason, he is not, whatever team he may land on, will be lucky to have a player that knows how to play the game the way it ought to be played and has been taught by the best.
I asked Cory a few more questions and you can read his answers below:
David – What part of your game do you feel is your greatest asset?
Cory – I like to feel that I could do it all, but I would probably say my power/speed combo. I’m sneaky on the bases even though people look at me like I’m a bigger guy that probably moves alright, but I can cruise on the bases and I really like to go out and just run. You know just do it all, as my dad would tell me, if I’m a business owner am I going to hire someone that can do one thing and nothing else or am I going to hire someone that can do it all. That’s why I try to go out there and show off some speed, steal some bags, and I have a pretty good arm, and I can throw some people out.
David – Other than maybe your father, was there another player that you modeled your game after?
Cory – Growing up in high school I wanted to be like Matt Kemp, because he could fly, had some pop, and hit for average. So I really tried and people tried to compare me to him, and they also compared me to Derek Lee as well. But growing up I wanted to be like my dad, he hit 50 bombs in the big leagues, which is hard to do, and did it pretty much hit with power consistently. It’s tough to accomplish what my dad did.
David – On August 17, the Dave Clark and Disability Dream and Do visited the B-Mets and held the first-ever baseball camp with the team, what was your experience with the campers and did it impact your life in anyway?
Cory – That was one of the greatest experiences that I had, to see all these kids and how happy they were to be out there on the field, and playing games with us, it really put life into perspective. There were kids that didn’t have arms or hands, and they’re out there throwing the ball with their feet, and I am just sitting there amazed. You didn’t hear them complain about one thing; sometimes, as human beings naturally we are going to complain about stuff here and there, but these kids were just happy and excited to be out on the field and play catch with us. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. It was a great experience and all of us we all loved it. We all took pictures with the kids and right after we all put them up in our lockers, because that is how great the experience was.
David – What teammate has impressed you the most this season, and who should Mets fans be most excited about seeing in the future?
Cory – Definitely Cesar Puello, one of the greatest teammates that you would ever meet. Just a nice guy, he is not about himself, really cares about other people, has a lot of tools, and is really good. He is a big physical guy, goes out there and gives everything he has. I’d be really excited about him, he has it all.
David – Is there a Met manager or coach who has made an impact in your approach to the game and helped elevate your performance?
Cory – I would have to say Wally Backman. He was my first coach in pro ball, who was a hard-nosed player in his playing days, and that is how he coached, even if it meant going hard to home plate and getting the run in. He grew up playing the game with a bit of contact, even though now a days you see people shy away from contact, but that is how I grew up watching the game so that’s what is instilled in me. Also Benny Distefano, who was my hitting coach for a bunch of years, and every single coach I have had, made an effect on me here and there.
David – With the success you have had in your time in the minors; do you feel like you are on track with the goals you set for yourself? If so, what are you expecting for 2014?
Cory – My goals have always been to get to the big leagues, and be an everyday player. Regardless of what happens, I am going to have no regrets, go in and I put my work in, play the game hard, and have fun. I’m a good teammate and the goals are to just try and get better every single day.
David – Thank you Cory for taking the time to chat with me and share your journey with the fans. Wish you well and look forward to keeping up with you and following your career.
(Photos Courtesy of MiLB)