Friday, August 1, 2008

Citrus Belt baseball suits Hailey’s James Cordes

Former WRHS star named coach in southern California

While attending graduate school at Boston College and student teaching at Boston College High School, Hailey’s James Cordes spent plenty of time at fabled Fenway Park, where he is pictured along the third base line before a Boston Red Sox game in early June. Photo by

Hailey's James Cordes grew up playing sandlot and organized baseball on the Nelson Field and Founders Field diamonds in Hailey. He played four years of college baseball in southern California.

Now he's a head coach in a California hotbed of prep baseball.

Cordes, 26, a 2000 Wood River High School graduate, has been chosen as the new head baseball coach at Redlands East Valley (REV) High School in Redlands, Ca., the school's athletic director Rhonda Fouch announced Wednesday afternoon.

He replaces Steve Hernandez, the longtime Wildcat coach who guided REV to the Inland Empire school's best-ever finish of 26-4 this past spring and a second-place finish in the CIF Division 2 state tournament.

The Wildcats, ranked first in many southern California polls for most of the spring season and a top-10 team in the Western Region national rankings, lost 7-0 to Lake Forest El Toro May 29 in the championship game at Dodger Stadium.

It was the best-ever state baseball tournament finish for the Wildcats since the school of 2,900 students located 65 miles east of Los Angeles was founded in 1997. In that respect it's a tough act to follow for a young man in his first head coaching job who won't be 27 until next April.

Cordes, an assistant coach to Hernandez at REV from 2004-06, said he's excited to have a job where he can develop young players and try to continue the REV winning tradition in the highly competitive eight-team Citrus Belt League featuring teams like Fontana, Rialto and Yucaipa.

He said, "We'll try to pick up where coach Hernandez left off."

Cordes, who will teach English at REV when school starts Aug. 13, added, "The biggest challenges will be establishing myself as a coach and putting in my own philosophy while assuming all the responsibilities of being a first-year English teacher.

"It helps that I'm familiar with our program and have worked with our coaching staff. I know the backbone of our varsity team because they were freshmen when I started coaching at REV."

The Wildcats just graduated 5-11 pitcher Tyler Chatwood (9-1, 95 strikeouts, ERA under 1.00), the "Player of the Year" in the San Bernardino area and a Los Angeles Angels first pick in the second-round of June's major league baseball draft.

But there is plenty of talent returning, Cordes said.

"We have two stud lefty pitchers, a couple of stud right-handers, some good, solid position players and a big powerful left-handed hitter in the middle of the lineup named David Andriese, a senior right fielder going to University of California-Riverside," he said.

Cordes said he wants REV to play aggressive baseball, get hitters' counts and go from first to third and second to home on the basepaths. He will oversee a staff of four varsity assistants, a junior varsity coach, and a freshman coach and assistant.

REV baseball plays a 10-game fall schedule from Sept. 13-Dec. 18 and starts its regular season of 22-26 games in March of 2009. It is one of the major sports at REV, in large part because of coach Hernandez.

Hernandez, 55, resigned as REV head coach June 12 after 26 years coaching in southern California. He broke into coaching in 1983 with San Bernardino Pacific and spent 16 years with Fontana High before moving to REV in 2001.

The outgoing coach, who will stay on as a REV health teacher, will devote more time to scouting with the Los Angeles Angels—a job he has held for six years—and working with the club's amateur development, according to the Press Enterprise newspaper of San Bernardino.

Cordes, whose first coaching job was in Hailey with the Wood River Babe Ruth 13-year-olds back in 2002, first met Hernandez in 2004 on a spring term community service project while a senior at the University of Redlands.

He stayed in Redlands for two years after graduating in 2004 and worked as an assistant coach for REV, advancing to the third base coaching position in 2006. Cordes moved to Boston to pursue and eventually earn his Masters degree in education from Boston College.

While studying and working in Boston, he was an assistant baseball coach with the NCAA Division 3 University of Massachusetts-Boston team.

He obtained his Masters degree and worked as an English teacher at Boston College High School. He also helped coach the freshman baseball team at the boys' parochial high school.

For the past three years he has attended the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) national convention, held in January of each year.

Cordes, son of Jeff and Diane Cordes of Hailey, was a three-sport athlete for Hailey's Wood River High School who went on to a career of four years playing college baseball for the University of Redlands, an NCAA Division 3 program.

He played midfield on Wood River's back-to-back state championship boys' soccer teams in 1998 and 1999, serving as co-captain of the 1999 squad. The point guard for three years on the varsity basketball team, he was the shortstop on Wood River's first district championship baseball team in 1998.

Cordes started at shortstop for NCAA Division 3 Redlands for three years from 2002-04 and compiled a career .300 average. He made the All-Tournament team of the California Invitational his senior year.

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