Central New York at Citi Field

Francis_90By Bill Francis

A big league career that ends in Cooperstown means a plaque at the Hall of Fame.

But some major leaguers actually begin their path to stardom just down the road from Cooperstown, like All-Stars Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli.

Corbin is a native of Clay, N.Y. – a Syracuse suburb – and grew up 90 minutes from the Hall of Fame. He did not pitch in a high school baseball game until his junior year, and began his post-high school career at MohawkValleyCommunity College in nearby Utica, N.Y.  A little over a year later, Corbin was taken in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Angels.

Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli, both National League All-Stars, attended high school about 90 minutes from Cooperstown near Syracuse, N.Y. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli, both National League All-Stars, attended high school about 90 minutes from Cooperstown near Syracuse, N.Y. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefty shot through the minors and – after being traded to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal in July of 2010 – now finds himself on the 2013 All-Star team after going 11-1 for Arizona in the first half of the season.

“This is something I never could have thought at the beginning of this year,” Corbin said of his trip to the All-Star Game at Citi Field. “I visited the Hall of Fame a couple times when I was young, and we had a game there once but it actually got snowed out so we didn’t play.”

Grilli, meanwhile, grew up in Syracuse as the son of former big leaguer Steve Grilli. Jason was taken with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1997 MLB Draft by the Giants but battled injuries before finding success with the Pirates the last two seasons.

Steve already has his place in Cooperstown: He was the losing pitcher in the longest game in professional history, a 33-inning, 3-2 win by the Pawtucket Red Sox over the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. He donated his Red Wings cap from that game to the Hall of Fame.

“It’s unbelievable. A lot of people would take that as a negative, being a losing pitcher and that’s why he got in, but my dad’s great and I know that and that’s all that matters to me,” said Jason, who has totaled 29 saves for the Pirates this year en route to his first All-Star Game selection. “It used to be a tradition; we’d go (to the Hall of Fame) every year.

“I don’t know anybody that knows baseball more than my father, that’s for sure.”

And from Steve Grilli to Jason Grilli to Patrick Corbin, the Central York connection is still going strong – with a link now between Jason and Patrick.

“I actually played with (Jason’s) wife’s brother in high school,” said Corbin, who chatted with Grilli before Monday’s festivities at Citi Field. “It’s neat having some guys from (Central New York) – where they don’t get seen as much – make it (to the big leagues). It just shows you can find players anywhere.”

Sometimes, you find them right in the Hall of Fame’s back yard.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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