Corey Bird’s journey into professional baseball took him away from home for the first time. Now it has brought him back.
Bird, the 2013 Kanawha Valley Player of the Year for state champion Herbert Hoover and a mainstay in the Marshall lineup as a collegiate player, is back in Charleston this weekend as his Greensboro Grasshoppers visit the West Virginia Power for a three-game series at Appalachian Power Park.
It is a stadium the 21-year-old knows well, to say the least.
Bird played in two Class AA state championship games at APP with Hoover, losing 1-0 against Wyoming East in 2012 before beating Fairmont Senior 7-5 in the 2013 title game.
At Marshall, APP served as Bird’s home stadium for Conference USA games during his three seasons with the Thundering Herd.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Bird said of coming back to Charleston as a professional. “We were talking about it on the bus on the way from Greensboro to Charleston. I grew up watching the Power play, walking around the ballpark when I was in middle school and high school. It’s a blessing to be here and be at the professional level. It’s really hard to put into words what it will mean when I get to play in front of everybody.”
Bird, an outfielder, won’t get that opportunity until Saturday. He completed the last day of a seven-day stint on the disabled list Friday after a scare with his throwing shoulder that he described as “not as bad as I originally thought.”
He said he expects to be ready to go for the last two games of the series at the site of some of his most cherished memories.
“Winning a state championship for the Elk River, it was unbelievable,” he said. “I’m getting a chill just thinking about it. It’s real nice to be back and it’s really emotional. I won a state championship here and I got to play so many games here, it’s a blessing to be back here playing professionally.”
The Miami Marlins selected Bird in the seventh round of last June’s draft, making him the third-highest MLB draft pick in Marshall’s history. He spent last summer with the Batavia Muckdogs in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he posted a .237 batting average in 219 at-bats.
This season with in the South Atlantic League with Greensboro, Bird is batting .282 in 142 at-bats with 20 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases to go with six doubles and one triple. He has not played since May 27 against Kannapolis.
“[Professional baseball] is a different animal,” he said. “Obviously the competition is better. No one feels sorry for you here. You’re playing every single day. You might get a day off here or there, but it teaches me a lot about how to handle myself on my own — on the road, in an apartment, living away from home. How to manage failure and how to get through tough times. The competition you play every day. It’s a true grind.”
Bird said he would get some time after games to spend with friends and family during his short stay in Charleston. When asked the first thing he wanted to eat upon his return to the area where he grew up and hasn’t seen since spring training, he offered an unsurpising answer for a West Virginia boy.
“Mama’s cooking,” Bird said. “The kitchen. Some chicken, pasta — whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.”