What kind of social life can a 15-year-old, carrot-topped high school freshman with an Opie Taylor face full of freckles, a toothy grin and a pair of perpetually grimy sneakers on his feet expect to lead?
He can’t drive a car.
He can’t be out after 10 p.m.
He can’t even attend an R-rated movie unless accompanied by an adult.
Alas, poor Ted Corcoran, a ninth-grader at Chaminade High, is smack in the middle of adolescence--that gut-wrenching, emotionally turbulent time of life when the whole world seems to be bossing you around. Nothing seems to fit.
Small wonder where Corcoran’s social priorities lie.
“Right now,” he says, “I just want to play sports. And watching sports kinda takes up most of my time.”
To heck with the older crowd and bring on ESPN. Maybe even shoot a few extra baskets before dinner. For Corcoran, a self-proclaimed “sports nut,” life seems to fit just fine.
Although barely old enough to shave or date, Corcoran, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and still growing, already is a three-sport varsity athlete and a reluctant big man on campus.
Corcoran, the first Chaminade freshman to play three boys’ varsity sports, has spent his first year at the West Hills school living “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Two weeks past his 15th birthday, he started at middle linebacker in a second-round playoff game. Two months later, Corcoran was ordered off the bench and thrust into the San Fernando Valley League basketball race.
And currently, Corcoran, a hard-throwing left-hander, is 2-2 as a starting pitcher for the Eagles (11-14), who finished third in the San Fernando Valley League and enter the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs this week.
For Corcoran, however, the best years may be yet to come.
“He’ll earn 12 varsity letters,” said Rich Lawson, the school’s football coach. “Who knows, someone might throw him into a track meet and he’ll earn another varsity letter. With Teddy Corcoran, who knows how good he’s gonna be?”
Mike Lynn, Chaminade’s athletic director and basketball coach, ventured to guess.
“By the time he graduates,” Lynn said, “he might be the best athlete to have ever emerged from Chaminade.”
Quite a standard to live up to, but the last thing on Corcoran’s mind is what he might become.
“That’s saying a lot ,” Corcoran said of Lynn’s laudatory words. “I have a lot of years left here. You never know what could happen.”
Corcoran talks as if his senior year is light years away--which, to him, it probably seems so. He just wants to fit in with the guys, sweat himself silly and enjoy.
“I went out for all sports because I enjoyed playing all of them,” he said. “Even on the weekends, I’ll end up playing. Playing baseball was my main goal. Basketball, I just enjoy playing, and I needed something to do in the winter time.”
Corcoran, a delight to coaches and teammates, can hardly walk through the school’s gymnasium without engaging in a good-natured shoving match or planting a headlock on a schoolmate.
“He gets along with everyone,” said senior Greg Baumgartner, who played quarterback and is also a starting pitcher. “The age difference, you really can’t tell.”
Corcoran chuckles readily when he hears something funny--even if he is the butt of the joke. “Sometimes I get a little ragging from the team,” he said. “It’s just a big joke because I’m a freshman. It’s all out of fun.”
He unabashedly talks about “being shelled” against La Salle, which twice has chased Corcoran from a baseball game. He grins broadly when recalling the fright of being inserted into a football playoff game.
“What made it even worse,” he said with a laugh, “is that the first play I was in, they scored a touchdown.”
As for his reserve role when he’s not on the mound, Corcoran candidly cracked, “I ride the pine.”
“Oh, I don’t mind it,” he added. “We have a pretty good time there. The guys that are with me are fun to be around. Everyone has to go through it sometime.”
But when the conversation turns to himself, Corcoran becomes bashful. He looks away when he talks and rubs one smelly sneaker atop the other.
“The team is really good about having me,” he said. “They don’t put any pressure on me and they don’t say I have to live up to certain expectations. The only expectations I have are the ones I put out for myself.”
Chaminade coaches consider Corcoran’s attitude, rather than his rapidly improving athletic ability, his best attribute.
“He’s a great kid,” said Steve Costley, the school’s baseball coach. “He motivates himself and that’s always nice for a coach. I can count on him.”
Said Lynn: “The difference between Ted and the average ninth-grader is his emotional maturity. He could teach some of the varsity kids in the league a thing or two as far as attitude goes.”
Corcoran didn’t plan to see varsity action at all this year, let alone in three sports. He began each season with the junior varsity but was elevated because of varsity needs or injuries to varsity players.
He made his football debut in the second half of the Eagles’ 35-14 first-round playoff win over North Torrance. The following week, Corcoran started at middle linebacker in a 19-15 loss to Santa Maria.
“I figured, ‘Let’s see what he can do,’ ” Lawson said. “I wasn’t in the stands, but my wife was, and she kept hearing the public-address announcer saying, ‘Tackle by Corcoran. Tackle by Corcoran. Corcoran in on that tackle.’ He made a definite impact.”
Corcoran leaped into varsity basketball action when a thumb injury to Nick Siciliano left the Eagles in need of a physical forward.
“I needed a guy to bang and he banged with the big boys pretty good,” Lynn said. “I was really impressed with the fact that he was not afraid to get in there and mix it up with the big kids.”
Corcoran, of course, already is a big kid. And Lawson is considering giving the red-haired left-hander the big job--starting quarterback--this fall.
“We went outside one day and played catch with the football,” Lawson said. “And I asked him, ‘You ever played quarterback before?’ He said no, but his eyes kind of lit up.”
Corcoran says that he would welcome the challenge. “I think it would be fun,” he said. “But it’s not something I have my heart set on.”
The object of Corcoran’s affection is baseball. And he already has established a Division I baseball scholarship as his goal.
He joined the varsity the last week of March and later pitched a two-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 9-2 nonleague win over Santa Clara. Corcoran also defeated Bell-Jeff with help from the bullpen.
Through 30 2/3 innings in nine appearances, Corcoran has 33 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 2.96 earned-run average.
As for his performances against La Salle, Corcoran thoughtfully remarked, “Every pitcher gets shelled sometime--at every level. There will be another day.”
Being roughed up, Costley said, has benefitted the young pitcher.
“He’s had some rough outings, but he’s got great composure for a 15-year-old,” he said. “And he hates to lose.
“He could go down as the best pitcher who ever pitched at this school.”
There again is that monkey that everyone keeps trying to strap to Corcoran’s back. He may not be remembered as Chaminade’s greatest athlete. Then again, they might name the gym after him.
Until then, there is only hard work, three years and nine seasons of competition left and one thing to remember.
“I like it, anybody would,” Corcoran said of the attention. “But you just gotta take it in stride and not let it get to your head. The worst thing I could do is become a prima donna as a freshman.”