Twins' Kevin Correia hoping that San Diego homecoming starts a turnaround

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 - 8:00 AM
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Kevin Correia had a steady 2013 in the Twins rotation, but this season he has a 6.80 ERA and hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in three of his past four starts.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

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Like a lot of major leaguers, Kevin Correia remembers how devoted, how totally absorbed he was by his favorite sport as a teenager. When school was out, he frequently rose before dawn to catch a 4 a.m. bus, or begged family members for a ride on their way to work, just so he could meet up with friends and spend 12 hours or more immersed in making himself better.

Before long, his talent was so obvious, sponsors signed him up, showering him with free equipment and betting he might someday turned pro.

He never did.

“I got really good,” Correia said. “But you’ve got to be on a whole other level to be a professional surfer.”

Yes, surfing — the sport of Pacific kings, and also a few generations of Southern California Correias. The Twins righthander returns home to face the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, just a mile or two from the beaches he once roamed with a surfboard, waiting for the most wicked waves. Baseball became his profession, but surfing remains a passion.

“There’s nothing like being out on the water,” said Correia, who grew up about 10 miles inland. “It’s just you and the ocean, and it’s different every time you’re out there. You’re not thinking about anything but the wave and getting a good ride. Everything else, all your stress, gets left behind.”

No place like the beach

Correia, 33, has lived with more stress than usual lately, enduring an up-and-down start to the season that has left him with a 1-5 record and a career-high 6.80 ERA. But on a road trip that will take him to the two ballparks he knows better than any others — San Diego’s Petco Park and San Francisco’s AT&T Park, which were his home stadiums for the first eight years of his major league career — Correia hopes that being home will help him on the mound.

He wouldn’t mind grabbing a board and paddling out to the breakers, either.

“I wish I could. But I can tell when I go out after not having done it for a while — you paddle for 10 minutes and your arms are like noodles,” he said. “It’s really a good workout for a pitcher — arms and shoulders and legs. I’ve never had an arm injury during my career, I’ve always been durable, and I think surfing has a lot to do with it.”

Correia first climbed on a board when he was 12, and he was hooked immediately. Within a couple of years, he said, he was surfing virtually every day during the summer, despite the difficulty of getting to Pacific Beach, or Mission Beach, or La Jolla — the latter his favorite, he said, “because the waves get really big there” — without a car of his own.

“We’d be catching buses to the beach before it even got light out,” he said. “I nearly drowned a few times, but I loved being out there.”

By the time he could drive, he got a summer job at South Coast Windansea, a well-known surf shop near the Crystal Pier on Pacific Beach, and entered a handful of amateur riding contests. And that’s when he realized his athleticism translated better to baseball, his other favorite sport, than surfing.

“When I went off to college,” first to Grossmont College and later to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Correia said, “I had to put baseball ahead of surfing.”

Not a bad decision, considering Correia has earned more than $20 million in the big leagues. He is 70-83 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 major league seasons, including 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA last year with the Twins, who gave him a two-year, $10 million contract that expires in November. Baseball has taken him away from the beach, however. Tuesday’s start is his first in his hometown since August 2012.

An extended family

He will have plenty of fans in the stands for the game. Correia comes from a prominent, and enormous, San Diego family of Portuguese descent; his grandparents, with whom he lived after his parents divorced when he was 15, had 10 children, more than two dozen grandkids and plenty of great- and even great-great-grandchildren now, too.

“I’ve got aunts and uncles and cousins, more than I can count,” Correia said.

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