Corey Phelan's impact on those around him was clear on Wednesday as hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects to the 20-year-old who died last week.
Phelan, from Greenlawn, was pursuing his dream of pitching in the major leagues after signing a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in August 2020. After reporting to spring training in April, Phelan collapsed in the shower after feeling tightness in his chest. A CT scan revealed a nine-inch mass pressing on his heart. He died on Oct. 12 after a six-month battle against acute lymphoblastic leukemia, his family said.
Larry Bowa, a senior adviser for the Phillies who played in the major leagues for 16 years, visited Phelan often in the hospital and was fighting back tears talking about the impact Phelan had on him.
“This kid affected me more than anything in my life,” said Bowa, 76. “He touched my life in a way that I don’t think anybody ever could. I respected his fight . . . and toughness. I loved his courage and spirit. We talked baseball all the time."
Family, friends and teammates lined up at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Centerport, struggling to come to terms with Phelan's death.
Pallbearer Logan O'Hoppe, of Sayville, was a teammate of Phelan in the Phillies organization and made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Angels in September. O'Hoppe, 22, singled in his first major league at-bat and said he immediately got a congratulatory text from Phelan.
"It meant the world to me," O'Hoppe said. "The fact that he was able to sacrifice time and congratulate someone else for an achievement while he was going through what he went through was a testament to who Corey was as a person and friend. He was a special young man who will be missed forever."
Pallbearer Nick Fanti, 25, who played at Hauppauge High School and was drafted by the Phillies, said Phelan was like a little brother to him.
“When he was a 12-year-old, I gave him and his brother Connor pitching lessons," Fanti said. "We reconnected and got close when he signed with the Phillies. He needed someone to help him make a smooth and seamless transition from high school to professional baseball when he arrived at our minor league complex in Clearwater [Florida]. There’s usually a tough adjustment there, but not for Corey. He became one of the guys right away.”
Phelan's senior season at Harborfields High School was canceled because of the pandemic, but he was signed by the Phillies as a free agent.
“He had traveled to the Dominican Republic with us in February of 2020,” said Sal Agostinelli, the international scouting director for the Phillies. “He got bigger and was hitting 90-92 miles per hour. . . . This kid was special.”
Phelan, a 6-2 lefthander, appeared in five games in 2021 with Philadelphia’s Florida Complex League affiliate, pitching 9 2/3 innings and allowing one run.
One of Fanti’s favorite memories came in Phelan’s rookie year.
“He had no idea that we took our laundry to the clubhouse guys,” Fanti said. “He went to the laundromat and had socks and shirts tucked under his arms and everywhere. He then runs a mile to Target and comes running back and carrying a hamper. It was so funny — it was Corey.”