Alex Cora’s success hasn’t surprised Miami Hurricanes baseball coach Jim Morris.
Cora, according to numerous published reports, is about to become the next Boston Red Sox manager and the first former Miami Hurricane to manage in the majors.
“Alex was fortunate that he grew up in Puerto Rico in an environment in which a lot of great baseball people taught him the game,” Morris said of Cora, a middle infielder who played on the coach’s first three Miami Hurricanes teams, from 1994 to 1996.
“He told me he learned from people such as Luis Aparicio, who was one of the greatest shortstops ever.”
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Cora, 42, was selected in the third round of the ‘96 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he went on to have a 14-year playing career.
As of Friday morning, he was the bench coach for the Houston Astros, involved in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.
NBC Sports Boston on Thursday quoted a source as saying of Cora and his chances of becoming the new Red Sox manager: “Not a doubt it’s him.”
Cora, who is good friends with Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia, has been praised for his ability to connect with players and has given numerous talks over the years to Hurricanes athletes.
As a kid, Steve Ishmael wasn’t trying to be the best football player in Miami Dade County — just the best athlete in his family, which, in a way, was the same thing.
His brother, Trevor Ishmael, was a starting safety at Western Michigan. Another brother, Kemal, is in his fifth year as an NFL safety, playing for the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.
But as good as Trevor was and Kemal is, Steve is better — at least according to the coach who directed all three of them at North Miami Beach High.
“Steve was just hungrier than all of them,” NMB coach Jeff Bertani said Thursday. “You had to force him to go to school dances or prom because he was so focused on football. That was his priority, and I always knew that his drive was going to pay off.”
It has so far this year — Ishmael is the go-to receiver at Syracuse, which visits the Hurricanes on Saturday.
A 6-2, 185-pound senior, Ishmael leads the nation with 62 receptions, and he ranks third with 802 yards.
But Ishmael wasn’t always so highly regarded.
As an eighth-grader, he got cut from the North Miami Beach Optimist team, which, Bertani said, is where the proverbial chip was forever embedded in Ishmael’s shoulder.
At NMB, Ishmael had a huge senior year with 70 receptions. He also started at cornerback and ran back punts and kickoffs, rarely coming off the field.
Even so, Bertani, in a motivational ploy, would constantly tell Ishmael: “They don’t think you’re that good. They’re not talking about you.’ ”
They’re certainly talking about him now, especially after Ishmael helped Syracuse shock defending national champion Clemson, 27-24, last week. Ishmael caught six passes for 73 yards in that game, including a 30-yard score that put Syracuse ahead in the third quarter.
On Monday, Ishmael was named to the Associate Press’ Midseason All-America team. He was one of two wide receivers named to the second team.
Ishmael has one touchdown in each of his past four games and ranks third in Syracuse history in receptions (176) and yards (2,346). He is also on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best receiver.