When opportunity comes knocking at your door, you have to be willing to step up and answer that calling. Brooklyn native Daniel Corona has answered his calling and then some. How many kids can say they got to close out a World Cup game for USA Baseball’s 12 and under team?
Daniel secured Team USA’s gold medal victory in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Cup. He is a 12-year-old shortstop/pitcher who plays travel team baseball for the Brooklyn Blue Storm. He is the first amateur player from the Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance (GNYSAA) to play for Team USA’s National Team. GNYSAA president Victor Feld expressed his gratitude to Daniel for the accomplishments that he and his team have made.
“Incredible gratification to see a young man who’s got ability progress and take it to another level and make a national team like the USA team,” said Victor. “I think that’s phenomenal.”
This is an outstanding achievement, considering the fact that former professional ballplayers like John Franco and Willie Randolph grew up playing baseball in this organization. Daniel was selected for Team USA after participating in the National Team Identification Series (NTIS) in North Carolina. Blue Storm head coach Matt DiGrigoli says that there is plenty to like about Daniel.
“What stands out as a player is his competiveness,” said coach DiGrigoli. “In the classroom, he’s a 90 plus student. He fits the model of a student-athlete.”
Coach DiGrigoli has coached Daniel since he was seven years old. They have shared a great relationship, competing in baseball tournaments all over the country and outside the U.S. in places like Puerto Rico. He is really proud to see how far Daniel and his team have come.
“For me, it’s special,” said DiGrigoli. “He created a buzz for a lot of kids in our area. Danny’s like a second son to me. It’s an unbelievable feeling to watch my son who’s a catcher, get excited and congratulate Danny for his achievements. They share a special brotherhood.”
According to their home website, the Blue Storm’s mission is “to teach, develop, and prepare our kids to play baseball at the highest levels possible by providing them professional instruction and academic guidance so that they can continue to play the sport when they get to High School and College, and hopefully Professional baseball.” Coach DiGrigoli has been the manager for this team since 2010 and he works to instill each of these qualities in his players.
“The first thing that I want to accomplish is that they understand the game and respect the game—to have a high baseball IQ and respect for your opponents,” said DiGrigoli. “You need to have fun, but you need to be mentally tough.”
As for the future of baseball in Brooklyn, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming years for young ballplayers like Daniel.
“I can see him making pro ball,” said DiGrigoli. “This is the best 12-year-old team that I have seen in 25 years. I believe that there’s five or six of them that have a shot. It’s about who is willing to work the hardest.”
Daniel’s maturation process at such a young age is something that also stands out about him. He understands that there’s major sacrifice involved when it comes to being successful both on and off the field. Coach DiGrigoli described this as “the discipline factor that has to take place.” He also stated that Daniel has learned to “block out the noise” as well.
Coach DiGrigoli explained that early on, Daniel thought it was impossible for a player like him to compete with the best youth ballplayers in the world. When Daniel was selected to Team USA, coach DiGrigoli asked him, “Is it still impossible?”
Now that Daniel fully understands his talents and what he’s capable of doing, he holds the torch for youth baseball in Brooklyn and the rest of the Northeast. He and his team have created a large platform for them to stand on.
“He opened the door for Northeastern kids,” said DiGrigoli. “The dreams are possible, we witnessed it last year. There’s going to be more in the future that will eventually make the team.”
Victor Feld also has confidence in his organization to accomplish more great things in the future. He feels that ballplayers in New York can compete with whatever the baseball world has to offer.
“We know that our kids can play with anybody in the country,” said Victor. “Texans, Californians, kids from Florida—all we need is a look, all we need is some exposure, and all we need is the opportunity.”
This year, the GNYSAA will host Development Camps and Cup Tournaments for USA Baseball. As one of the largest organizations in the country, GNYSAA have been affiliated with elite baseball leagues like the National Amateur Baseball Federation, the American Amateur Baseball Congress, and the Eastern New York Connie Mack League. Wherever this organization takes these ballplayers, coach DiGrigoli wants all of his players to become student-athletes and well-rounded kids.
“I want to teach them to dream and to be realistic,” said DiGrigoli. “I want to see them grow up to be good [model] citizens, to give back when they’re all grown up, and see them excel and maximize their talents.”
Only time will tell where Daniel Corona’s gifted arm will take him. One thing’s for sure: you can expect to hear more players like Daniel making a name for themselves in Brooklyn and in the Northeast. This is the only the beginning.