Friday, January 13, 2012

By Brian Waller - Feature Writer

If you are a relatively new fan of the Angels you may not remember Chad Curtis. It’s understandable; after all he only played three seasons with the Halos. Curtis can be described as somewhat of a journeyman, having played for six teams in ten seasons. Curtis was never the biggest, the strongest or the most skilled player on the diamond but a case can be made for him being one of the most dedicated. In fact, he was so dedicated to the game of baseball that in 1990, while playing for the Class A Quad City Angels, he got married in his baseball uniform and played 30 minutes later in Davenport, Iowa. From the beginning, Curtis never attracted much interest from college baseball recruiters, much less pro scouts. He paid his own way to junior college and three years later was drafted in the 45th round of the 1989 amateur draft. Curtis made his Major League Debut in 1992 and put up solid numbers batting .259 with 10 home runs, 46 runs batted in and stealing an astounding 43 bases. During his three years with the Angels Curtis batted .267 and compiled 27 home runs, 155 runs batted in and 119 stolen bases. Despite relative success at the major league level, the Angels were looking for veteran leadership and they viewed Curtis as the piece to acquire it. On April 13, 1995 Curtis was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Tony Phillips. Trading away a quality outfielder is never easy but Curtis’ departure would provide a young Jim Edmonds the chance to become the everyday centerfielder for the team and put him on the path to becoming one of the game’s best ever defensive players.

After leaving the Halos, Curtis bounced around between the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians before finally winding up in New York Yankee pinstripes during the 1997 season. From 1997 to 1999, Curtis embraced the role of occasional starter / bench player. Despite not being an everyday player during his entire tenure with the Yankees, Curtis was an important part of the Yankees World Series teams in the late 1990’s. It was during game 3 of the 1999 World Series that Chad Curtis had perhaps the biggest game of his career, hitting two home runs, the second one a game winner. Curtis’ heroics helped lead the Yankees to their third championship in four seasons.

Curtis was never one to bite his tongue. During his playing days he had notable disagreements with several of his teammates. While with the Yankees, during a 1999 brawl with the Seattle Mariners, Curtis became upset when teammate Derek Jeter was acting nonchalantly off to the side with Mariners then shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who at the time was a close friend of Jeter’s. Curtis felt Jeter should not have fraternized with an opponent like Rodriguez, especially during an on field scuffle.

Curtis later confronted Jeter near the dugout and in the clubhouse. With teammates and reporters watching, Curtis scolded him. Curtis told Jeter he was a good player, but that he did not know how to play the game. The confrontation understandably angered Jeter and coincidently, Curtis was traded at the conclusion of the season to the Texas Rangers. The “honeymoon period” in Arlington didn’t last long though as Curtis’ lackluster on-field performance and strong personality wore thin on many in the Rangers’ organization. During the 2000 season, Curtis had a verbal altercation with teammate Royce Clayton over music that was being played in the clubhouse. Clayton would later take his feud with Curtis public claiming Curtis had too much self pride and did not respect others in the clubhouse. Clayton further insinuated that since Curtis had arrived in Texas the team chemistry had diminished. Although the two never became friends, Clayton and Curtis were able to co-exist with one another for the remainder of the 2000 season. Perhaps the most important topic Curtis candidly addressed was the topic of steroids in baseball, something the rest of Major League Baseball was comfortable ignoring. It was in 2001 that Curtis vocalized his concerns during a preseason meeting with Player’s Union boss Donald Fehr. Curtis took the opportunity to explain to Fehr that the use of steroids was becoming rampant throughout the league and created an unfair advantage for players that were using. Despite Curtis’ concerns falling on deaf ears, he was one of the few during that time that openly discussed the use of steroids in Major League Baseball. Curtis continued to speak openly about steroid use in baseball during the 2001 season and even claimed that he believed that 85% of players used performance enhancers. At the conclusion of the 2001 season, Curtis was granted free agency and retired from the game of baseball.

For those wondering whatever happened to Chad Curtis…After retiring from Major League Baseball in 2001 Curtis decided to refocus his attention on completing his college education in an effort to become a teacher. Curtis returned to Michigan and began teaching and coaching athletics. In 2004, Curtis began teaching at Forest Hills Eastern High school as a physical education (PE) teacher. In 2007, Curtis was hired as the Athletic Director and weight training instructor at NorthPointe Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Curtis immediately reorganized the school's football program and after only two seasons under Curtis’ direction, the newly formed varsity football team advanced to its first ever playoff game. In addition to the success of the varsity football team the school’s equestrian team won state championship honors. As we saw in the previous Tony Phillips article, old habits sometimes die hard. In the case of Chad Curtis, he again found himself in a situation where he couldn’t resist speaking out and voicing his opinion. In fall of 2009, despite the success of the athletic department, Curtis was removed as the Athletic Director. Although school officials offered no explanation to the public, Curtis explained he did not see eye to eye with school superintendent James Hofman. Curtis further explained he was treated dishonestly and he was let go because he was looking at other professional opportunities. He said the school tried to paint him as "unethical" and asked him to quit. Following his departure from NorthPointe, Curtis accepted a job with Lakewood in the Michigan school district where he currently coaches an equestrian team as well as youth baseball.
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