Sondheimer: Four years later, Josh Springer is Corona's comic book hero

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It’s time to make Corona High catcher Josh Springer a comic book hero. For four years he has done superhero things, such as starting every game at a position where bumps, bruises, aches and pains keep occurring from balls striking his body despite wearing protective gear.

“It’s kind of a joke in our program that I get hit every single game,” he said. “That’s who I am. I battle through it.”

Legs, fingers, thighs, shoulders — they’re all in the danger zone. Springer is like a stunt man put out front and center to take the punishment. He’s armed with a padded glove, mask, helmet, chest protector, throat protector and shin guards.

Springer’s value to the No. 1-ranked Panthers (28-3) is clear. Coach Andy Wise has allowed him to call most of the pitches since his freshman season in 2021.

“We were coming off COVID. Times were different,” Wise said. “We weren’t even sure we were going to play that first year, so I let him run with it and he did a great job and I loved watching him grow with it.”

Springer has hit well through high school, though a slump in his junior season made him spend the summer tinkering with his batting technique. He’s batting .394 this season with 39 hits.

“I changed my swing a little bit, being more short and simple and it has progressed my game,” he said.

Having Springer as the catcher gives confidence to Corona’s stellar pitching staff that includes Ethan Schiefelbein (UCLA commit), Seth Hernandez (Vanderbilt) and Sam Burgess (Texas Christian). Springer thrives on catching their 94-mph fastballs or curveballs in the dirt. It’s preparing him for the future, whether that’s at Oregon, where he’s committed, or in professional baseball.

“They’re draft arms. It makes me better as a catcher,” he said.

Watching Springer play game after game and inning after inning is like a survival of the fittest. He goes down in his crouch and keeps getting back up even after collisions with the ball.

“Early in his career, I’d try to take him out of games and his mom and dad would get mad at me … as I’m trying to take care of their baby boy,” Wise said.

Catchers have become good candidates to be future coaches or managers, and Springer fits the mold because of his personality.

“He’s able to garner respect without having to flap his chest,” Wise said.

Wise says he believes Springer will one day be a catcher in the majors.

“Absolutely,” Wise said. “He has the eye for the game, the type of athlete he is, the body he has and his extreme competitive nature. He’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever had.”

As Corona faces a Southern Section Division 1 semifinal game Tuesday against visiting Huntington Beach, Springer is the one player the Panthers cannot lose. He’s the real Iron Man prepared to let his body take the hits and keep on playing.

A comic book hero for 2024.

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