Colin Curtis Regains Confidence At The Plate (EV Tribune)

Feb. 18, 2005

By Dan Zeiger
East Valley Tribune

Arizona State assistant coach Jay J. Sferra first discovered that Colin Curtis had the guts of a burglar when the then-high school standout attended a summer baseball camp at Packard Stadium four years ago.

'He was 15 or 16, and he had that look in his eye,' said Sferra, the Sun Devils' outfielders coach and recruiting coordinator. 'The kind of look that says, `I've overcome a lot, and I can do anything I put my mind to.' '

Surviving cancer creates the kind of determination that makes baseball hurdles seem unimposing. Curtis brought that resolve back to ASU to play collegiately, and the sophomore has become the team's leading hitter and spark plug at the top of the lineup.

The center fielder has a hit in nine of the Sun Devils' 11 games this year and is batting .391 (18-for-46) with a team-high 12 RBIs.

'I feel confident out there, and I'm not getting myself out,' said Curtis, who was diagnosed with and recovered from testicular cancer while a high school freshman.

'I'm waiting for pitches that I can do something with. Everyone in college baseball is talented; it's those that are comfortable out there that succeed. That's the biggest thing.'

Curtis also started fast as a highly touted freshman in 2004, when coach Pat Murphy tabbed him an openingday starter. But his production slowed when opposing teams developed a book on how to pitch him, which led to some frustrating games.

'Last year, I had a bad day and felt I would have to spend a couple hours in the (batting) cage,' Curtis said. 'I just wasn't relaxing like I always have. I was pushing and grinding, and that's not the style of play that suits me best, and it's not best for the team.'

Things changed, Curtis said, when he remembered how precious each at-bat and each game is, especially for a young man whose baseball life was placed in peril by cancer.

The surgery Curtis underwent two days after the diagnosis was extensive. One of his testicles was removed, and -- to decrease chances of the cancer spreading -- so were some veins reaching as far as his stomach.

While recovering, Curtis received a gift from Lance Armstrong, a six-time Tour de France champion who also beat testicular cancer: an autographed copy of his book.

'The challenges you face (in baseball) are a lot different, and they're not nearly that serious,' Curtis said. 'Players get wound up about making an out and losing a game, but for me, it's a privilege to be out there. I think I forgot that for a while.'

Despite his struggles, Curtis ended last year with a .300 average with five home runs and 36 RBIs and was honorable mention All-Pac-10.

'It was a tough year for him, probably the toughest of his baseball life,' Sferra said. 'Up until last year, things came easy for him. He has a lot of talent, and in high school, you can get away with a lot of mistakes when you are that gifted. At this level, it's a different game.

'He hit a lull like a lot of freshmen do, but that competitiveness got him through it, and he ended up having a very successful year.'

And Curtis, whose biggest hit this season is the gamewinning single with two outs in the ninth inning for an 11-10 victory against New Mexico State on Feb. 7, is confident his best is yet to come.

'It feels good to come out and play like I think I can play,' Curtis said. 'I think I have a lot of room to improve. I feel I have a lot to learn about the game. And physically, I just turned 20, so the sky is the limit there.'

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