On Feb. 9, California scored its first win of the 2016 season, even without having played a game: Top catcher Korey Lee out of Vista (Calif.) pulled the trigger and committed, completing the 2016 signing class. You could say that his commitment went into extra innings, especially after he took his official visit to Cal back in November.
"The past couple months have been rough for me," Lee says. "In the mix were UCLA, Nevada-Reno and Cal. I went to an official at Nevada, and then I was jsut talking with UCLA, and then I took the official visit to Cal. That was my last official. I thought it was a good experience, to be with all the guys that I'd be playing with, and, basically, the wait, for me, was because of the first situation."
That first situation was a 10-month-long commitment to Arizona. After the Wildcats coach of 14 years, Andy Lopez, announced his retirement in May, his successor -- Jay Johnson -- told him that they had oversigned, and that there was no more room in the class.
"Three months in, he called my mom and said, 'We can't do it, I'm sorry,' basically," Lee says.
2017 Cal commit Sam Wezniak -- a shortstop out of Sage Creek (Calif.) -- got a call from recruiting coordinator Brad Sanfilippo, and Wezniak told his future coach about Lee's situation, then, gave Sanfilippo his number. It was a match made in heaven.
Lee went to a camp at Berkeley in the fall, then toured the campus and got his offer, which was "really, really relieving for me, because I knew I had a place, and I knew that I would fit in," Lee says.
Next up was the official visit, with all of the other 2016 commits, which, in the back of Lee's mind, sealed the deal.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1610962-cal-baseball-signs... "You could say I was gunshy, and I was hesitant, because that doesn't really happen to anyone," Lee says. "I wanted to pick the right place, where I would fit in, and where I would develop as a player, and as a student, too."
So, Lee waited until after the Bears had signed their lot for 2016, and until he had been admitted to school.
"That was a hard thing for me, because I didn't do so well on the ACT and SAT, but my grades helped me a lot," he says. "I didn't want to pull the trigger, and all of the sudden, I can't get into school, so I'd basically be done again. I didn't want to do that to myself, so my family and I, we said that we were going to wait until I got into school, and we're going to see what my decision is, basically. Once I got into Cal, that's when things went upward with the whole committing process."
Lee found out that he was going to be admitted at the end of January. His cumulative GPA is a 3.6, which helped his SAT score of 1310. He also got an 18 on the ACT, but took it again shortly after committing.
"I got the text from Flip (Sanfilippo), and he said, 'I've got good news for you,'" Lee says. "He said, 'We got you in,' and the only thing was, I have to come up to summer school, and honestly, I want to, so I'm coming up to summer school with the Summer Bridge Program."
Between when he visited officially in November, and now, of course, the program's perception has changed, drastically. Cal started the season as a top-10 team in three of six preseason polls, and have since dropped to No. 11 in the Baseball America rankings and from No. 8 to No. 13 in the D1Baseball.com rankings after losing two of three in walkoff fashion to Duke, but are still widely considered a sleeper favorite to get to Omaha.
"It fired me up," Lee says of the preseason polls. "My family and I, we saw that, and I was like, 'I can't wait to be a part of that.' Coming from my brother, my brother was on a winning team in college, and he said that winning was one of the best things that he'd ever done. I feel like that's going to lead to success. That's what I'm hoping to contribute to, with Cal baseball."
When Lee first committed to Arizona, he had offers from Nebraska, UCLA and the Wildcats, with interest from Cal State Fullerton. After Arizona fell through, and the Cornhuskers and Titans had already filled their classes, Lee got offers from the Bears, the Wolf Pack and San Diego State, with the Bruins in the process, but, Lee says, "they weren't able to get me into school, so they found another guy."
Lee's older brother -- also a catcher -- played at UC San Diego, and still is a big influence on him.
"He played at a JC for two years, and then he went to UC San Diego, and the two years he was at UC San Diego, they went to the [Division II] College World Series, and one year, they finished eighth, and he said that was one of the best moments of his life, just being on that team and being with the guys and being successful," he says. "He is living up in Santa Clara, and he's still in baseball. He works on the psychological side of it -- he's interviewed with some Major League teams, and he's trying to get into that side of baseball."
A 2015 Perfect Game Underclass All-American, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Lee has very fast hands at the plate, and hit .311 as a junior, with three doubles, two home runs, 23 RBIs and 15 runs scored. Defensively, he is a very refined catching prospect with a quick, strong arm.
"Probably the top thing with my game is, I love to throw," Lee says. "I love throwing to bases, I love back picking, I love all that."
His pop time -- the time it takes him to get a ball to second base from when it hits his mitt (from pop of mitt to pop of mitt) averages 1.9-2.0 seconds -- right at the average Major League pop time.
"Watching my brother, he's 10 years older than me, so watching him grow up through his baseball career made me think, 'Wow, I want to be a catcher, too,'" Lee says. "My sophomore year in high school, we had a catcher, but we didn't have a third baseman, so I played third all sophomore year and caught three games. Ever since, honestly, Little League, I've wanted to be a catcher, just like my brother."
Lee is trusted enough by his coaches to call his own games, which is a rarity at the lower levels, and even at the college level. It was notable during the College Station Regional in 2015 that then-Cal pitching coach Mike Neu trusted Mitchell Kranson enough to let him call ever game.