Former Mater Dei baseball player, on a path to promising college career, changes course

By Dan Arritt     4/5/2019

As the 2019 Major League Baseball season comes to life, a certain t-shirt with a simple logo is gaining popularity inside locker rooms and around batting cages. 

Cory Hahn is the inspiration behind this latest trend. 

It’s called Project 34. 

The backstory behind Project 34 sounds like a Hollywood script. 

Hahn was one of the best high school baseball players in California during his senior season at Mater Dei in the spring of 2010, but on Feb. 20, 2011, three games into his freshman year at Arizona State, he fractured a vertebra in his neck and was paralyzed from the chest down. 

What followed were months of intense rehabilitation followed by three more years at Arizona State, where he finished his pursuit of a degree thanks to the help of his father, Dale Hahn, who quit his job in Orange County and became his son’s full-time caretaker in Arizona. 

Hahn completed his degree in 2014 and went to work scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has since become their coordinator of professional scouting. 

His roommate at the time of his injury was Trevor Williams, a left-handed pitcher from San Diego who played travel ball with Hahn before they arrived at Arizona State. Williams felt lucky to be roomed with Hahn, mainly because he was such a solid person. 

After Hahn was paralyzed, Williams became one of his biggest supporters during the early rehabilitation process and when he returned to Arizona State. Williams promised Hahn if he ever made the major leagues, he would wear No. 34, the number Hahn wore for the Sun Devils. 

Williams was drafted in the second round by the Miami Marlins in 2013 and was later traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his major-league debut toward the end of the 2016 season, and then became a full-time member of the starting rotation in 2017. 

No. 34 was already worn by another player when Williams arrived in Pittsburgh, but that player departed after the 2017 season, allowing Williams to make the switch to No. 34. 

Williams came back with an even stronger season in 2018, posting a 14-10 record and 3.11 ERA in 31 starts for Pittsburgh. 

In the middle of last season, Hahn and Williams announced the foundation of Project 34, a non-profit dedicated to helping those with spinal cord injuries by assisting them with the purchase of medical equipment and the costs of physical therapy.  

Hahn sees Project 34 as the beginning of a long-term partnership for he and Williams, something they build for years to come. Hahn definitely doesn’t view Project 34 – or the t-shirts worn by players this spring — as just a fad or trend. 

“The one unique thing about Project 34 is the name itself,” Hahn told the Arizona Republic after a home run derby that served as a Project 34 fundraiser in January. “This is always a project. We don’t have an end goal. We want to keep pushing as far as we can. The one thing you look at is being able to impact as many lives as you can. If that means we’re able to reach out to the entire community then we will.” 

“This is going to be a life-long passion for us and a project we’re always going to strive to be better at. This is just the start.”