Nothing since that night — since the phone rang and they raced to the car and drove like hell, only to discover their baby girl Tehya had died — has been normal. They now know statistics about SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, and have met parents like themselves, with losses new and old, nearly all of them still wondering, “Why us?”
They have endured the unspeakable pain of burying their daughter, of visiting her grave every day — family picnics sometimes, each parent alone with Tehya at others. And eventually, they made the bold decision to head east — east, for baseball — trying to hold together their life as Cordero tries, simultaneously, to hold together his career.
“I want to do it for her,” Chad Cordero said.
As he sat in the dining room at his family’s rented apartment not far from his new spring training home — in Dunedin, home to the Toronto Blue Jays — those words felt appropriate, not at all forced. The Corderos must figure out how to move on from all-encompassing grief while still honoring their daughter. Making it back to the big leagues, where Cordero hasn’t held a stable job since early 2008, would be one way, one small way, to accomplish that.
“It’s therapy for him,” said Edward Cordero, Chad’s father.
But this is not as simple as sports serving as savior. The image of Cordero from his Washington days — just 23, neither a husband nor a father — is so far removed now. In the District, he will always be associated with the summer of 2005, with baseball’s return, when he pulled on his flat-brimmed cap and fearlessly saved almost any game the Nationals asked, 47 by year’s end, more than anyone in baseball.
“Just happy go-lucky,” said his pitching coach back then, Randy St. Claire. “. . . Nothing ever seemed to shake him.”
He is shaken now. There are times during spring training when he heads to a bathroom stall at the Blue Jays’ complex, closing the door to cry. There will be times ahead — on a plane, on a bus — when he won’t be able to hold back.
“I’m gonna lose it,” he said. “I know it’s gonna happen.”
But there are things the Corderos want people to know: how Tehya smiled from her first days, how her dark hair covered her head, how Riley kissed her. They can smile at that. But just because the full-on, physically crippling breakdowns happen less frequently now — no longer round the clock, maybe not even every day — this remains impossibly difficult.