Scout Hahn an inspiration through courage
Paralyzed during headfirst slide, member of D-backs' front office maintains positive outlook
PHOENIX -- The story of a former college baseball player getting a job in scouting with goals of working his way up the organizational ladder is a common one. But the story of 23-year-old Cory Hahn certainly isn't common.
"I definitely think about it all the time, whenever I'm watching a game," Hahn said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't actually think about 'What if?' or 'What would I be doing now if I'd never gotten hurt?'"
Like many, Hahn was a standout athlete with dreams of playing professional baseball. What is unusual, however, is the way that the end of Hahn's playing career -- Feb. 20, 2011, during the third game of his freshman season at Arizona State University -- shaped the rest of his life.
Darting to second base on the back end of a double steal, Hahn slid headfirst into second. The catcher's throw was offline, pulling the second baseman away from the bag. The second baseman's knee collided with Hahn's head.
Hahn fractured the C5 vertebrae in his neck and was paralyzed from the chest down.
As difficult as it may be to imagine, Hahn has chosen to view his life from a positive viewpoint.
"You just realize, 'OK, things are different,' and trying to cope with that the first few months was definitely difficult," Hahn said. "As time goes on, you start to learn more; you start to see more value about yourself over time. You start to get that positivity back and realize that you can still have a fulfilling life."
Some would have stepped away from baseball, looking to avoid all memories and reminders of such an accident, but that's not who Hahn is.
"Being a baseball kid through and through, I wanted to stay in the game as long as I could," Hahn said, "so the front-office side of things, the baseball-operations part, was the next best thing."
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Hahn wanted to get back in the game, and the Arizona Diamondbacks afforded him that opportunity as an assistant in the Scout Ahead Development Program.
"I wanted to be involved in baseball operations," Hahn said. "I wanted to be involved in the front office of an organization, and in that regard, I think through my experiences in baseball throughout my career, my knowledge of the game, I felt that I could be a good asset to this organization."
So far, the organization agrees.
"Cory picks things up super fast," said Brendan Domaracki, the D-backs' assistant director of scouting. "He's got such a well-rounded background in the game, having played for Team USA, having seen a lot of the young men he's coming up playing with have success and failure at the professional level. He's seen guys succeed and fail, and can draw on those experiences. He loves the game and has a passion for the game."
However, working in baseball does have its unintended consequences. Constantly watching baseball and being around the game can often serve as a harsh reminder of what could have been.
"I naturally think, 'What if I was out there playing rather than doing what I'm doing now?' It's just, the bigger thing is, I realize at the time I have a job to do," Hahn said. "I have responsibilities that I do need to focus on, so when it comes down to it, it's easy to translate back to being inside the work mode."
That "work mode" now includes daily administrative duties as well as going out to watch games and scout players.
"His energy is tremendous," Domaracki said. "He's always asking me for more stuff to do. He's really been anxious and hungry for knowledge and exposure to different things. His attitude and his outlook and his positivity are pretty contagious."
The D-backs offered Hahn a job once he graduated from the W.P. Carey School of Business in 2014.
In late September, Hahn took part in an invitation-only scouting school put on by the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau that he described as "two of the tougher weeks I've had."
Hahn's work is just beginning, and he knows he has a long road ahead, but his dream job is in his sight. After all he's been through, it's hard to imagine anything getting in his way.
"My ultimate goal is to one day be in a position of power -- a position of power to help bring a World Series to an organization, and more specifically, to the Diamondbacks organization," Hahn said. "That's my ultimate goal, to be able to reach that point where I played an integral part to bring a championship back to Arizona."
It's certainly a big goal, but considering all that Hahn has already overcome, there's no reason to count him out. Those who know him sure don't.
"I don't think there are any limitations to what he'll be able to do, and that's been eye-opening for all of us here," Domaracki said.
Perhaps Hahn's most lofty goal is the one written in his Twitter bio: "Inspiring the uninspired."
With each passing day, that's exactly what Hahn is doing.