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Bittersweet year

Posted: May 18, 2008 1:40 a.m.
Updated: July 19, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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• Four two years, Josh Corralles battled to become a pitcher that colleges wanted. Now he's facing an even bigger challenge.

April 16 was a big day for Valencia High's baseball pitcher Josh Corralles. The team faced Hart on Bud Murray field in front of a bevy of scouts who were there to see Hart's preeminent pitcher Michael Montgomery. Corralles had yet to be offered a college scholarship, but he knew that this could be his opportunity. He pitched a complete game that day holding a potent Hart lineup to one run on six hits. A week later the scholarship offer came. But getting that call from Long Beach State was bittersweet as just three weeks prior his father, Robert Corralles, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, or AML.

The disease, which is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow, blindsided the 56-year old employee of the Sheriff's Department and his son.

While on an eight-day cruise with his wife and friends, Robert fell ill and after advisement from the ship's on-board medical staff, he was immediately sent back to California via medical evacuation.

But his transport back to the states didn't come easy. Robert was told that it would cost $40,000 to convoy him off the ship.

Some of Robert's friends who were with him on the cruise bargained with the aircraft staff to lower the cost and after compromising on a more reasonable figure a friend of Robert's handed over his American Express card to take care of the bill.

After three hours of being held up at the airport waiting for the medical evacuation, Robert arrived at Burbank Airport to a waiting ambulance and was carted off to the UCLA Medical Center.

Prior to the vacation, Robert had visited a doctor for flu-like symptoms and was given antibiotics. Little did he know it was a lot more than just the flu.

"I had the same symptoms of some of my coworkers," he said. " I had a fever, a cough, and runny nose. The doctor gave me antibiotics and sent me home".

Robert, his wife, and four sons arrived at the hospital on April 3 around 2 p.m., and by 11 o'clock that evening was given the grim news that he had cancer. Robert wouldn't return home for 30 days as he immediately went into treatment.

With the news of Robert's illness, friends, family members, parents, and players from around the community rallied together to raise funds in order to relieve some of the financial burden on the family.

Robert has been involved with baseball in Santa Clarita for many years, having coached many of the notable players in the community today.

A foundation in Robert's name has been established by friends to raise funds for his treatments along with numerous fund-raisers and blood drives to benefit his charity.

On May 7 Saugus High school played Valencia on the Centurions home field and proceeds from the concession stand went to the Robert Corralles Foundation.

For Robert, the outpouring of support came as a surprise.

"You expect that usually it's just your family there to support you, but in my case I don't think I have enough time left in my lifetime to thank everybody that has sent me a card, helped me out financially, prayed for me and sent e-mails," he said. "It's overwhelming."

After learning of his father's diagnosis, Josh gained a whole new perspective on the baseball field.

"I used to not listen to my dad (when he would be in the stands) and would blow stuff off and now I try to work hard and do my best for him," he said.

Josh's work ethic improved and he became more focused.

"His whole game changed," said Valencia head baseball coach Jared Snyder. "He started to work harder every inning, every game was important. He has really matured through this process."

Preceding the game against Hart on April 16, Robert told his son to seize any opportunity that may be presented to take his career to the next step.

"We had worked so hard to get him to the next level," Robert said. "Nobody was contacting him and we thought there's got to be a defining moment where somebody sees you and you have to show them that you have that little extra."

That defining moment came when Josh was in front of scouts at the Hart game.

Josh knew that he had to rely on his mental toughness to get him through the game, a game which he and his father had been preparing for.

"His strong point is his ability to focus on what he has to do." Robert said. "I told him, you go out there show them you can handle the situation with your father in the hospital fighting cancer, put everything on the back burner and just concentrate on the game and show them that you have the mental toughness to focus on what you're doing now."

The Vikings walked away with a 1-0 loss and Josh immediately doubted anything of great benefit would come to him.

His father consoled him and assured him that something positive would in fact happen for him.

"I told him you did win, you're going to see," Robert said. "One of them is going to notice that you did something special and that you set yourself apart from the rest of them."

Sure enough, something did happen.

In the stands that day was a former LBSU coach. The coach called the 49ers staff and told him about Josh. A week later the pitching coach from LBSU came to the Vikings practice and offered him a scholarship on the spot.

Robert and his family continue to remain optimistic. Although he will still be receiving treatment throughout the summer, he has a lot to look forward to and the biggest event on his calendar is Josh's graduation on May 29.

"I cherish every moment that I have with him," Josh said. "He's going to be walking out of the hospital and I'm going to walk out with him."

Robert's ultimate goal is to live a long and fulfilling life, and as is the wish of any parent, to see his children prosper into healthy, active adults.

"You have to believe that you're going to beat it or it's going to get the best of you," he said. "I have a lot to live for. I want to see my boys get married and have families of their own."

Robert' biggest support comes from his wife, who was by his side every day while he was in the hospital.

"For every good man there is a good wife behind him. We wear the pants, but they tell us what color," he said.

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