Cory Sullivan Quietly Gets The Job Done

April 18, 2000

Gold Rush Front Page

By Jay Reddick

You can tell a lot about athletes from the players they look up to. Tim Duncan, one of the best passing big men that ACC basketball has ever seen, enjoyed watching Magic Johnson. Alisha Mosley, the women's basketball team's scoring lead guard, calls Dawn Staley, a player with similar strengths, her favorite sports figure.

And Cory Sullivan, the Deacons' junior centerfielder, always idolized Shawon Dunston, who played many years with the Cubs and plays in St. Louis now.

The two don't seem so similar...until Sullivan explains.

"Dunston was not a blue-chip player," Sullivan said. "He was always an underdog. But he had a cannon for an arm and was good all-around."

That's Sullivan in a nutshell. The player has made his living playing well but staying clear of the spotlight since he was an honorable mention All-American at North Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh.

First, he went to Cypress Junior College in California, best known to Deacon fans as the alma mater of 1999 centerfielder Scott Daeley. He had an outstanding career there, earning junior college All-America honors last season after hitting .429.

But when he came to Wake Forest, Sullivan was just one of several new faces in the starting lineup for the two-time defending ACC champions. Some called him the next Daeley, but he shrugged those comparisons off.

"That just made me work harder and push a little more to step out of that shadow and show more of what kind of individual I am," Sullivan said.

He's done that, batting .381 through March 30.

But Sullivan still shuns the spotlight.

"I just get on base and score runs," Sullivan said. "Everybody's doing a great job now, including those driving me in. I don't think it's me, it's them."

Deacon coach George Greer says Sullivan has played a big part in the team's success so far this season.

"Cory has given more to this team than I thought he would," Greer said. "He's got experience, knowledge, all the basic skills and good leadership qualities in the outfield. And he keeps improving his game all the time."

Sullivan credits his Little League coach with teaching him the finer points of baseball after his family moved to Pittsburgh from Chicago when Cory was 10.

"My dad taught me at home, and then Bob Luthultz coached me for seven summers in Little League," Sullivan said. "He taught me all the fundamentals. He wasn't just my coach, we were best friends, and that made it even more special."

Sullivan then went to Cypress to prepare himself for baseball at the Division I level. And once recruiting started, the decision to attend Wake Forest was sort of made at a breakfast table in Winston-Salem.

"I came on my visit during the weekend of the Virginia Tech series last year," Sullivan said, "and I was really impressed with the camaraderie of the whole team. They were all real close, they ate breakfast together every morning, and I really liked that."

As it turned out, Sullivan fit in with the team very well.

"Coming to summer school helped," he said. "There were five or six guys here for that, and I got close with them. From there, it was easy to work my way in."

Fitting in on the field has been even less of a struggle. Sullivan stepped right into the roles as starting centerfielder and leadoff man that Daeley inhabited last season. Even though he's a different kind of player, his presence has provided a kind of continuity.

And the great thing is, he's still getting better.

"Since I've gotten here, I've really learned to hit the inside pitch," Sullivan said. "I came here as a backside hitter, which I've done well with, but I learned I couldn't be a complete hitter that way. So coach Greer has taught me to hit the inside pitch a lot better."

Hopefully, his improvement will mean an improvement for the Deacs in the postseason.

"The guys stressed the tradition we've made the last couple of years when I got here," Sullivan said. "But even more than that, they stressed the next step. Even more than ACC, more than super-regionals, we're focused on getting to the College World Series."

Maybe this is the year for underdogs like Sullivan and the Deacons. After all, Dunston hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season.

So maybe Sullivan will finally get the spotlight he deserves.