CORBIN, Ky. (FOX 56) – High school sports just mean more in a small town.
“It’s almost like a college feel in a lot of situations, kids get a lot of support and small town notoriety I guess,” Corbin High School head baseball coach Cody Philpot said.
Out in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Corbin High School has some small-town tricks to get their kids pretty good at baseball.
“Kids learn to hit rocks that’s what they do and actually when I was growing up you would take soup beans because it was cheap, you’d buy a bag of soup beans and throw them to a kid to teach hand eye coordination,” Corbin baseball hitting coach Chad Estep said.
“You find a pattern in kids from the mountains, we have to kinda figure it out on our own if we want to get better it’s on ourselves and very few people,” Corbin baseball alum Chase Estep said.
Chase learned that lesson early on and reaped the benefits from it, committing as a freshman to play college baseball at his favorite school: the University of Kentucky.
“I came up here and I loved the campus I’ve come up here 100 times to watch them play already and to kinda go from a kid in the stands that was watching and wanting to be one of them to finally getting the opportunity to do that was something that I’ll never be able to thank them enough for giving me the opportunity,” Chase said, who is a junior for the Wildcats.
After committing to Kentucky he tore the cover off the baseball for the Redhounds, winning two region championships, and had a special senior year when his dad, Chase joined the Corbin baseball coaching staff.
“It was very fulfilling we got to see the weekends and the nights and the batting gloves that were torn and the blisters and all that so it’s rewarding not just my kid but any kid that puts in the work it’s rewarding to see that,” Chad said.
“Obviously there were times where I needed a chewing and he gives it and then we’re cool again so it didn’t change too much it was just during the game he could help me rather than after the game and watching him help other kids was a big thing,” Chase said.
Their father-son bond also stretches up to Lexington. Chase isn’t the only Estep to don the Kentucky threads.
“My cousin was C. Estep and he wore 24 and I was C. Estep and I was 24 so I thought for sure when Chase got there he would be the 3rd C. Estep 24, when he went on his visit he met another player that wore number 24 and he wore 12 in football so he called and said Dad I got number 12 and I was like that’s great but deep down I’m like really,” Chad said laughingly.
“When you can talk about Kentucky everyone’s face lights up a bit more as much for them knowing they played here and I had a chance to come here it’s about how close I’d be to home I can go home and see them and they can come see you know I’m the small town kid I love going home,” Chase said.
He loves going home so much that his old head coach, Cody Philpot catches him in the Corbin hitting cages all the time. He still comes down here to train, sometimes instead of training up at UK.
“He’s around the program a lot anytime he’s off up there he’s taking swings down here these kids can reach out and text him or call him get advice whether it be about baseball or life from a kid that’s playing at that high a level,” Philpot said.
His presence means a lot to these kids, seeing someone who was in their shoes go on to accomplish something as big as playing SEC baseball.
“I think kids here are at a bit of a disadvantage so they work harder this is a blue collar area a lot of families here are involved in coal and construction so kids see their parents go to work so the work ethic starts from a young age here,” Chad said.
“After talking to him you could just tell how much he loved Kentucky and I don’t know how he couldn’t with his dad being here and his uncle being an All-American here and I know this I was happy when we got the call saying he was coming,” Kentucky head baseball coach Nick Mingione said.
Just a kid from Corbin, living out his dream, inspiring his hometown.
“I mean he could go as far as he wants he’s that talented you just go through his tools the run, the hit, the field, the throw, the power he’s just checking a lot of boxes right now and as long as he keeps progressing I don’t see why we’re not gonna be watching him in the big leagues one day,” Mingione said, who helped recruit Chase when he became the head coach in 2017.
“You just gotta self reflect and look at what you need to do to get better to make it to the next level I’m just blessed at the opportunity to continue to play and I’m gonna keep working as hard as I can until it’s my time to be done,” Chase said.