KIRKLAND – One season was all Will Corn needed to carve his name into Hiawatha baseball lore.
Over time, names can be attached to unique signatures of a baseball park. The Green Monster and Pesky Pole – aptly named after Johnny Pesky – are staples at Fenway Park in Boston.
After peppering the Hiawatha greenhouse in right center field during his freshman baseball season this past spring, a protective net has been installed to protect the panes of glass from further damage. It’s since picked up a catchy name, too.
“Boston has the Green Monster,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “Hiawatha will have the Will Corn net.”
That’s not the only mark Corn is looking to leave on the Hiawatha baseball program.
At a recent exposure camp with players from Joliet Catholic, Mount Carmel, Lincoln-Way East and other premier programs in the state, Illinois Prep Baseball Report ranked Corn the No. 1 player from the Class of 2015 at the event.
Even though Corn grew up with the goal of one day hitting the greenhouse in right center field in Kirkland, he’s since set his sights higher. He wants to play NCAA Division I baseball. Corn wants his name to reside with current Detroit Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont, a Hiawatha alumnus, when his career is over.
“I think it is important for me to look at his career,” Corn about Lamont, who was the Tigers 13th pick in the first round of the 1965 amateur draft and has managed the Pittsburgh Pirates and White Sox before his current post with the Tigers. “It’s proof that someone can make it big out of a small school like Hiawatha.”
As the team MVP and Little Ten All-Conference selection as a freshman, Corn lived up to the hype that Donnelly has heard about for years.
He hit .585 with five home runs, 37 RBIs, 10 steals and 29 runs scored for the Hawks. Corn will spend this summer playing for Hiawatha and his travel team, the Northern Illinois Reds.
Time spent playing against elite players has matured Corn well beyond his age.
Donnelly didn’t inherit a wide-eyed freshman this spring.
Instead, the Hawks got a player with developed baseball instincts that soaks up instruction like a sponge.
“He has the ability to put his name up there with Gene Lamont as the best baseball player to come out of Hiawatha,” Donnelly said. “Gene was an unbelievable multisport athlete at Hiawatha and has been to the World Series.
“Will has probably played more baseball games at this point in his life than I did. It’s been a great experience and has helped him to mature. His attitude and ability to deal with the highs and lows of a season really rubbed off on the other players. We only had two seniors, but there was no jealousy on the team because he was easy to coach and a great teammate.”
This summer Corn will nail down a position and work on his speed. He’d like to shave .03 from his 60 time and run it in 7 or 7.1 seconds. His baseball savvy and athleticism allowed him to play first base, outfield, catcher and pitcher.
Because he has a strong arm and it will help the team, Corn will work on his command this summer on the mound. But there’s something special about hitting.
“I usually compete against 17-18 year olds and want to play a their level consistently,” Corn said. “I watch how they play so I can see the mentality it takes to be a college baseball player. As a hitter I like to hit the ball hard every time. If I’m having a bad day there’s nothing that feels better than hitting a baseball.”
If history is any indication, the “Will Corn net” will get plenty of inbound baseballs over the next three seasons.