Former Angels minor leaguer Azarias Corbeil now coaches third base for the Florida Southern College Moccasins. The “Mocs” are ranked #1 nationally in NCAA Division II baseball.
“Now batting for the Quakes, Number 19, the Real Deal, Azarias Corbeil!”
That was my fantasy introduction for Azarias Corbeil, a catcher-first baseman in the Angels’ minor league system from 2001 through 2003.
Azarias — who went by “Al” although he was also called “Az” — finished second in the Pioneer League batting average race in 2001, hitting .359 with an on-base percentage of .463 and a .525 slugging percentage. He was playing for the inaugural Provo Angels, managed by Tom Kotchman, who as a scout signed Al out of Florida Southern.
Al advanced to High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2002 and hit .252. He returned to the Quakes in 2003 and hit .254.
With two catchers named Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli ahead of him on the depth chart, Corbeil was released in spring training 2004. Except for two games in the Cubs’ system in 2005, he spent the rest of his career in independent ball, retiring after the 2007 season.
What’s with the “Real Deal”?
When Al got to Rancho, and couldn’t repeat his hitting success with Provo, he seemed a bit forlorn.
Corbeil with the Quakes in 2003.
To hopefully build his spirits, I jokingly suggested that what Al needed was a marketing campaign.
A friend and I came up with the slogan, “The Real Deal!”
Whenever we saw him, we called him “Real Deal.”
I tried to talk the Quakes’ front office into having the P.A. announce him as “The Real Deal, Azarias Corbeil!” but got no takers.
But one night when the Quakes were playing in San Bernardino, Al was at-bat and I heard a fan yell, “It’s the Real Deal!”
I’d hear from Al in e-mail over the years, but as usually happens with pro ball everyone drifts off to their own lives.
As most of you know, I moved to Florida last June, where I started a second web site SpaceCoastBaseball.com. This last weekend, I was over in Lakeland to cover a three-game series between two nationally-ranked NCAA Division II teams, #1 Florida Southern and #15 Florida Tech.
As Florida Southern’s starting lineup was being announced, the P.A. concluded with “… and assistant coach Al Corbeil.”
The “Real Deal”?! Could it be true?!
I headed over to the Southern dugout to take photos, and sure enough the third base coach was Azarias Corbeil.
After the inning was over, I called out “Azarias Corbeil!” He looked at me, a bit puzzled at first, then recognized me. We shook hands and agreed to talk after the game.
Click here to see Al’s current bio on the Florida Southern web site. It mentions that he was drafted by the Angels.
He stays in touch with Kotch, as do many of Tom’s draft picks.
My next close encounter with an Angels minor league alumnus will be March 26, when Florida Tech hosts the University of Tampa. The Spartans’ head coach is Joe Urso, a popular infielder for Lake Elsinore in the mid-1990s who went on to coach and manage in the Angels’ system before returning to Tampa to manage his alma mater. Lake Elsinore was an Angels affiliate from 1994 through 2000, when it switched to the Padres.
Urso was so popular with the Storm, he was called “the Mayor of Lake Elsinore.” His #7 is one of only two numbers retired by the Storm. The other is Jake Peavy.
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