Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman
It is the last day of Major League Baseball’s All Star Youth Classic (ASYC) and Andrew Cortor strides toward home after a hit by one of his teammates. Although he’s in no immediate danger of being tagged out, he still chooses to slide into home plate. It’s what he likes to do.
“I prefer to be in the field,” he said with a smile. “I can get dirtier.”
Andrew was the only Coast Guard child to play for the San Diego Destroyers, a team comprised entirely of children belonging to military families, during the 2016 ASYC. At 10 years old, he was also the youngest player on a team that is normally comprised of 11 and 12-year olds.
Playing in the ASYC was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one which Andrew does not take for granted. While he has many accomplishments, including a .660 batting average and nine stolen bases during this past season playing for the Carmel Mountain Ranch Little League Minor Orioles, Andrew says the highlight of his young baseball career is making it onto the Destroyers roster.
Despite having to try out for the team at the age of 9, Andrew’s confident nature allows him to say it was a given he would make the team. He is used to playing with older kids, a trend that started when he began playing at 4 years old. In 2011, he attended a baseball camp hosted by Logan Morrison, who played for the then Florida Marlins. Andrew was at least half as old as most of the campers since the program was meant for 8 to 18-year olds.
As it turns out, America’s favorite past-time is also Andrew’s.
“I like playing baseball because it’s really, really fun,” Andrew said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”
Andrew’s father, Chief Warrant Officer Mark Cortor, stationed at the Coast Guard Afloat Training Organization San Diego, instantly knew baseball would continue to be a huge part of his son’s life.
“He immediately had the passion for the game that keeps you there,” Cortor said of his son.
In a surprising twist, the Cortor family is generationally tied to the Morrison family. Morrison began LoMo’s Camp for the Cure in honor of his father, Thomas Morrison, who had succumbed to lung cancer in 2010. Like Mark Cortor, Thomas Morrison was also in the Coast Guard and was a gunner’s mate. When Cortor was at the beginning of his Coast Guard career, he was instructed and influenced by none other than the late Chief Petty Officer Thomas Morrison.
“His dad taught me a little bit early in my career, so then to see Logan teach him has been pretty cool,” Cortor explained.
Andrew admits that being a military child is not an easy thing to cope with. He cites the frequent moves associated with a military career as the biggest obstacle he’s had to overcome in his young life. He credits baseball and the friendships he develops as an extension with helping him adjust to life in new places. That still doesn’t mean it’s not challenging.
“It’s hard to leave and scary to start over in a new place,” Andrew explains. “It’s been difficult to adjust in new places because I have to meet new friends, go to new schools, new churches and new baseball leagues.”
Dana Cortor, Andrew’s mother, sees the struggle with every move and is proud of the way Andrew handles them. She’s also proud he’s found an accepting team in the Destroyers.
“Considering some of the other teams he’d played on, always having to battle to be taken seriously because he’s always the new kid, it was really cool to see him picked up for an older team and taken seriously,” she said.
Usually most of his teammates have been playing together since tee-ball. Humbled by the opportunity to play in the ASYC but confident in his abilities, Andrew found a shared bond with his Destroyers teammates, who also have similar experiences moving from place to place due to their parents’ military lifestyle. It’s a connection he feels gave the team an advantage over the competition.
“We all know how it feels so we work better as a team,” Andrew said, describing the camaraderie of the team.
“They’re all from different branches but all from the same background of having to start over,” Dana explained of the usual uphill battle for acceptance. “They definitely had that in common. It wasn’t fighting to be friends with these kids or saying, ‘I have to be better than these kids.’ It was ‘Hey, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all brothers and we’re all going to play for our teammates.’ He’s definitely got friends for a lifetime from that team.”
In addition to helping him break down those barriers every time he moves, Andrew’s determination and confidence have given him high hopes for the future. He hopes to make it to the MLB and play for his father’s hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
But that’s not enough for him. At a baseball clinic earlier this spring, Andrew met baseball legends Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. He proceeded to tell them that he would beat Smith’s tally of 13 Golden Gloves as well as break Ripken’s record of 2,632 consecutive games played.
His father’s response? The same as any supportive parent’s would be: “You’ve got to dream big.”