Inside the CIF-SS

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REV survived its Rocky moment to rise to the challenge

By Martin Henderson

Spectacle, debacle and certainly a PR nightmare for those involved: A baseball and football star with a bright future ahead of him, a coach intent on teaching that there are bigger issues than talent.

But the cut wasn’t clean. Tyler Shreve was dismissed from the baseball team and when told of the news, in a meeting with several adults including his parents, allegedly attacked his coach, James Cordes.

Messy, messy, messy.

Fast forward almost three months and it looks like REV has cleaned up. The baseball team could have imploded, but instead blossomed.

The popular story circulating is that Shreve, who is 6-4, 225, had simply wrestled Cordes to the ground, but the team picture taken that same day suggests otherwise. Cordes has a swollen eye.

Cordes has refrained from talking much about “the incident.” That’s what he calls it. Asked about it as the season wound down, he preferred to take the high road.

Shreve was 18 at the time, so the mulligan of youth didn’t count. Last Thursday he pleaded not guilty to one count of misdemeanor battery on a school employee; he has a pretrial hearing on May 27. The young man had previously told media he was kicked off the team because Cordes “said I wasn’t going to class and I wasn’t respecting the coaches. . . .” To that, Cordes does have a response: “If that was all there was, that isn’t enough to dismiss someone from the team.”

One feels compelled to believe him. Determining that Shreve no longer fit into the framework of a team wasn’t like getting rid of a bench player or a banjo hitting second-baseman. This kid really was a star. He was the quarterback of the football team – 22 touchdowns, two interceptions, a 48-yard scramble on the last play of the game to beat Orange Lutheran – and the starting shortstop on the baseball team. He possessed a fastball that busted 90 mph. Coaches don’t make such decisions lightly about players of his caliber.

Let’s put it this way: Shreve is talented enough that the Utah football program is still hanging with him pending resolution of his legal issues.

There is such a thing as addition by subtraction, but it’s a tricky calculus. It takes a deft hand at coaching to get it right, to swing for the fences by squaring to bunt.

Credit Cordes for having that hand, and the backbone to do what he felt was right. Shreve’s reaction and subsequent justification to the media, “if you were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars you wouldn’t be too happy either,” seemed to point in a direction that Cordes knew what he was doing.

And so Redlands East Valley has arrived at these Southern Section Toyota Championship Division II playoffs as one of the best teams in one of the best divisions.

Without Shreve.

The Wildcats (23-5) are seeded third and begin play on Friday against Bellflower. REV has a team earned-run average of 2.45, and a team batting average of .395. Not bad for a squad that began the season without a stud pitcher and one of its biggest sticks.

Cordes deferred credit. He said the day of The Incident that his three senior captains called everyone together. Not a team meeting, but program meeting. Maybe that’s where Cordes’ value as a coach came shining through, the actions of team captains Brad Burcroff, Michael Delcid and Griffin Murphy. Their reaction was a reflection of their coach, both in faith and in deed.

People wonder about the value of athletics? Well, there is certainly the element shown by Shreve. But there is also the leadership shown by REV’s seniors, as well as the players who rose to the occasion. Instead of letting the loss of an extraordinarily talented teammate demoralize them, they didn’t blink. Instead of falling behind, they stepped up.
And the man with the swollen eye said the way he got through it was with the players, and his own support group.

“I have a great coaching staff, and a great group of friends and family, and you just move on from that point,” Cordes said. “My goal going into that meeting was to get the team that I wanted. We got the team, and then we moved on and started improving from that point on. As long as you just focus on baseball, that’s how you get through it.”

Just focus on baseball. Focus on coaching, focus on teaching, focus on playing.

Don’t focus on the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Focus on doing what’s right.

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