Talk Story: Dallas Correa

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file photo

    Dallas Correa, left, then an assistant baseball coach at Hawaii Pacific University, talks to young players surrounded by Kaeo Aliviado, Kai Alquiza, Koa Alquiza and Ky Yamamoto during the Garden Island Baseball Clinic at the Lihue Baseball Park in this 2016 photo.

  • Photo courtesy Hawaii Pacific University Athletics

    Dallas Correa

Since he ended eighth grade, life for Dallas Correa has been nonstop.

The Hanapepe native moved to Oahu to attend school and play baseball at Saint Louis School in Honolulu.

After his time at Saint Louis, where he was a two-time all-league catcher, he went on to play Division I baseball at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

After graduating in 2015 he returned to Hawaii and went to Hawaii Pacific University, where he worked toward getting his master’s degree while he was a graduate assistant with the Sharks baseball team.

For two summers while he was a grad assistant, he was a coach for college summer ball club Marysville Gold Sox in Marysville, Calif.

He got his master’s degree at HPU in 2017, and weeks later was hired to teach seventh-grade science at Niu Valley Middle School in Honolulu.

Coincidentally, two of his students are players for the Honolulu Little League team currently competing at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

And just about two weeks ago, he was hired as HPU’s baseball head coach.

His life is a constant whirlwind, but that’s how he prefers it.

“I love it. If I’m not busy, I feel like I need to be doing something,” Correa said in a phone interview. “Always working, and I really love what I do. So to me, it’s not work.”

Correa spoke with The Garden Island on Wednesday and talked about his whole journey in baseball, from when he played in the local youth leagues to now being a college head coach at just 25 years old.

Coach, it’s been a while since you were named head coach at HPU. Has it sunk in yet?

I’m kind of just continuing on with what needs to be done. It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been fun so far. It’s what I want to do. It’s something I’m passionate about, and I’m happy to be in the role.

Have you gotten comments from people because you’re just 25 and you’re already a college head coach?

It’s always going to be the case when you’re young. I still think of it as, I haven’t done anything yet. I might have gotten this role, but I have to be successful in this role. It’s my next step.

When going about that, what are some of your philosophies?

The Xs and Os are the easiest part of the baseball side. I think I’ve surrounded myself with good people on my staff that know the Xs and Os on their position. It’s just basically us as a staff coming together and aligning our beliefs together so that when we present it to the players, we’re a close-knit unit and you guys also need to be a close-knit unit.

We just had a staff meeting. This was the stuff we just talked about. I want to set the tone of building that family culture, and yet making sure we’re doing everything we can to be good people in the community, the classroom and on the field.

So, you’re from Hanapepe.

Yup, born and raised.

What got you into baseball when you were a kid?

I always played. It was a sport that I loved. It’s mentally challenging to me. I love going through adversity and seeing how well I could do through it from a young age. Being able to make that happen, constantly continue to grow and learn the game, it’s been awesome.

I just continually set goals — to go to Saint Louis, to be one of the kids from Kauai to go to Saint Louis, to be one of the kids from Saint Louis to play Division I ball, and continue on from there.

Who were some people who influenced you growing up as you learned baseball?

I would definitely say my dad had a big role in it. My dad’s friends, I think they had a huge influence on us being better people and better baseball players from a young age. They really pushed our group to continue moving forward. I think that’s what it was. It wasn’t just my dad. It was his friends and his network of people around him that made us all better.

You were always a catcher?

Yes. I always played catcher.

Did you play any other positions growing up?

When I was in Pinto at Kalawai, I played shortstop and whatnot. Even during Pinto, I always wanted to suit up and catch (for) the coach. That was always my thing.

And, I had a chance to work with coach Larry Ephan from small. That drove me to wanting to be a really good catcher. I just continued growing and growing from there.

And for people who don’t know, Larry Ephan, he coached at Waimea High School. And, he played pro for a little bit, right?

Yeah. He went to Lewis and Clark State. He got drafted, and he played for the Texas Rangers for a bit. … That was always something I looked forward to — working with him. I was I believe 8, 9 or 10 years old already working out and doing his drills daily. That sparked the catcher side of me. I always wanted to continue learning and getting better.

How did you end up attending Saint Louis?

I’d like to say I was brainwashed from (when I was) young to go to Saint Louis, my family being all Saint Louis guys. Everybody in my family went to Saint Louis, all the guys. So, it was something I grew up with — flying up here to watch the Prep Bowl before, watching Saint Louis play Kahuku and whatnot. I always wanted to attend Saint Louis from small.

What was it like playing up at Saint Louis?

I had a chance to play intermediate football, which was a lot of fun. Ended up playing intermediate for (Layton Aliviado), who was the Little League World Series champion coach for Ewa Beach. He was my JV coach back then. It was fun. It was competitive. You had to come out and prove something every day if you wanted to play.

I think that’s what Saint Louis is built off of — that competitive nature that we have within us as brothers, and we strive to get better and better. Having great guys on your team allows you to push yourself and elevate your game even more. That experience from Saint Louis was super memorable. Those are my best friends until today.

That reminds me. We got a Hawaii team at the Little League World Series right now. Any thoughts on the Honolulu Little League team?

The funny thing is, I’m a teacher at Niu Valley Middle School up here. I’m a seventh-grade science teacher. Two of my students are actually on that team. Taylin Oana is one of them, and Jace Souza is another one. That’s kind of funny.

Another thing is their coaches, the Odas, were my JV coaches at Saint Louis. It makes it more personal, and I’m rooting for them so much. They just got a good crew and even better coaches.

Any words of advice or encouragement you’d like to say?

Have fun and enjoy the moment. That’s a dream to be able to play on that stage. Some of my best friends had a chance to play on that stage, and they still talk about it. So, enjoy everything about it.

How did you end up at Pacific?

I was lucky enough I have parents that allowed me to go to different showcases that I got invited to on the Mainland. What happened was, I was still looking for a place to play going into my senior year (of high school). Coach Keith Komeiji, who was the former hitting coach for Hawaii for about 10 years, he was actually the volunteer assistant at UOP.

I kind of knew (former HPU baseball head coach Garett Yukumoto) through them. Coach Komeiji, they’re super close. They were talking. I was looking for a place. I really wanted to play D1 ball somewhere and have that opportunity. Coach Komeiji saw me play when he was able to come back on-island. And it all fell into place from there.

Were you offered a scholarship?

I walked-on at the beginning, and I had the opportunity to gain some money throughout. Every single year, I had a chance to play. Two guys in front of me got hurt my freshman year, and I played about 10 to 15 games when I shouldn’t have played any. Then moving on the next two years where I played, maybe, 20 games total. And then my senior year, finally, I got the chance to really be the guy behind the plate, to start and have that role of playing every day. … It was a good experience. I loved it. I love Stockton.

What was it like going through that? Having to wait in line until you got the job your senior year?

I think it’s been like that for me always. Every single step, I’ve had to prove myself along the way — do the right thing and fight for the job that I want. I always accepted the role I was in as a good teammate, but I’d always fight for the role that I wanted. That got me through Saint Louis, chipping away and chipping away until I got that role. The same thing at UOP — you keep grinding and fighting for what you want. If you want something bad enough, you’re going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

It takes me through the coaching role at the same time. You got to keep chipping away and keep grinding. You got to meet people, get the right guys in your program and build a name for yourself. Even now, you got to keep doing that, and nothing’s changed. Just because the title has changed, it doesn’t mean the fight or the role in me has changed.

During your time in college, did you have aspirations of playing pro?

For me, I always wanted to coach. Even going through college, a lot of people have that aspiration to play pro ball. For me, it was more the fact that I was able to play at this level and learn the game from some of the best names in the game. Really try to figure out how to make it work and get into what they’re doing for a living. That was always the goal. I did want to play, but in my big picture, it was always to become a coach.

Do you get the itch sometimes? You’re still young.

Not anymore. Actually, not at all. I really enjoy teaching. Teaching is what I love. I get that same rush from when I played (now) seeing another guy, who I get to be a part of his life, be successful.

When did you graduate from Pacific?

In 2015.

What did you study?

I studied biochemistry. I was going to become a pharmacist. That was the first plan if I couldn’t do coaching. The coaching world opened up because I wasn’t able to get into a graduate assistant role at UH-Hilo. I don’t think they offered that. The pharmacy program at Hilo just opened up. I wanted to pursue that, but I couldn’t.

HPU called. Coach Yukumoto called and offered me that position while I was still playing in the spring. I had to chose between nursing or education, as far as a master’s degree. Nursing, I wouldn’t be able to do coaching. I had to chose education, which I felt was still along the lines of coaching. And, now I’m teaching because of that.

So you jumped from graduating at Pacific right into being a grad assistant and studying for your master’s at HPU?

That’s how it’s been for the past eight years. … I love it. If I’m not busy, I feel like I need to be doing something. Always working, and I really love what I do. So to me, it’s not work.

You got your master’s already?

I did. I finished a year ago. 2017, I got my master’s in secondary education. Right out of that, I was lucky enough to be hired a month after I got my master’s.

When you were officially offered the head coaching job at HPU, do you remember what you were thinking in that moment?

I was shocked at first, honestly. I write down my goals on an index card that I put in my pocket every morning. I’ve been writing this goal of becoming the next head coach at HPU for about three years now. When it finally happened, you feel this sense of thankfulness, that all the hard work was starting to come along. It was a cool feeling. Then, it was straight to work after that.

You’re only 25. Are you surprised you became a head coach in college this fast?

For me, I try to set up everything that I do with a certain purpose. If I do everything the right way, I’m going to reach the end, which was to be a head coach. Every little step or every notch I was able to get along the way, I think, has set me up to be where I’m at now. And like I said before, I might be a head coach at 25, but I still got to be successful as a head coach.

For me, the age doesn’t matter. It doesn’t define leadership to me. What does matter is how I’m going to get these 41 guys and my six staff and getting us in the right direction, moving to be successful this year.

Do you get to visit home much?

It’s usually very short. I got to go out on the road recruiting. I was with the Gold Sox for two summers. Every chance that I’m home, I treasure it just a little bit more. This summer, I got to be home for two weeks, and it was amazing.

Going to the beach. Going to dinners. My sister just graduated (from Waimea High School). They had a grad party, so I was able to get to that. It’s been fun being with family and being closer to home now.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

I think this position wouldn’t come without the people I grew up around on Kauai. I’m really thankful for the knowledge and the wisdom and the friendships that I’ve got from Kauai. They’ve made me into the person I am today. I can’t be more thankful for being a Kauai boy.

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