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St. Laurence alum overcomes childhood setbacks to start career leading freshman baseball team
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Orland Park

St. Laurence alum overcomes childhood setbacks to start career leading freshman baseball team

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Orland Park’s Joe McCormick is proud of his younger brothers, Matt and Kevin.

Matt is the most decorated baseball player at St. Laurence High School and won the Gatorade Illinois Baseball Player of the Year twice. After playing two years at the West Virginia University, he will be heading to the University of Tennessee with hopes of a pro career.

Kevin graduated this year after helping the Vikings to a third-place finish in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A state tournament and entering the Final Four of the tourney hitting .411 with 16 extra base hits. He will be playing at the University of Evansville.

But the two stars also have reason to be proud of Joe. Though Joe’s career at the Burbank school consisted of a couple of innings of pitching here and there, he began his coaching career as the Vikings head freshman coach at age 22 last season.

McCormick has overcome a lot to get where he is; he had skull reconstruction when he was 4 months old to treat craniosynostosis.

“I can tell you, I wouldn’t wish that on any family,” his father, Mike, said.

Joe underwent a 6-7-hour surgery, Mike said, and wore a helmet for two years with an ear-to-ear scar remaining on the back of his head.

It has led Joe to become a key voice in the Jorge Posada Foundation. The retired New York Yankee star has a son with craniosynostosis.

With a love for baseball and an even bigger love for St. Laurence, Joe turned his attention to coaching and mentored young players in the Top Tier Vikings baseball program, starting in high school and continuing while he was obtaining a sports management degree from Marian University in Wisconsin.

With the guidance of varsity pitching coach Adam Lotus and head varsity coach Pete Lotus, Joe became a rising star in the coaching ranks, culminating in coaching the freshmen in 2021, a major first job.

“He was great when he was a student,” Pete Lotus said. “He didn’t get much playing time, but you could tell he really loved the game. He loved being around and learning. When he was in high school, we knew he was probably going to end up coaching somewhere.”

Lotus said the Vikings went 18-5 in Joe's first season. Joe saw being a younger coach was an advantage.

“I think being close to the kids’ age helps me,” he said. “I think they like having a young coach. I’ve been in their spot. I know what they are going through. Being younger and closer helps.”

When it comes to the cards he was dealt in life, he said he is grateful to see the day that he is coaching at St. Laurence.

“I’m both unlucky and lucky,” he said. “It’s unlucky that I’ve had to go through it and having the scar. But I’m lucky to survive a major surgery. I might not be here if it wasn’t a successful surgery.”

He is Matt and Kevin’s No. 1 fan.

“I’ve been going to their games, and I coached Kevin’s team when he was 12, 13 and 14 and that was fun,” Joe said. “I’ve seen them play all of my life. They are both very successful, and they know what it takes to be successful. They work hard and that’s going to help then going forward.”

Matt admires Joe’s talents.

“He’s gone through a lot — more than I can think of or know because when everything was going on, I wasn’t even born yet,” Matt said. “Growing up, we would go to certain places for him, and I didn’t even know what we were going for. I learned more when I was growing up.

“We knew that when we were playing in the backyard that he was going to be a coach.”

Joe also is going to be an assistant to Athletic Director Tim Chandler.

Joe said he can’t wait to get back to coaching again in 2022.

“I love it. Just being around the kids everyday is great,” he said. "I went through the program, and I’m coaching with the program, and nothing has changed. It’s a lot of hard work and you can always see the kids getting better after every practice and every game.”

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