Chad Curtis

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Chad Curtis
Outfielder
Born: (1968-11-06) November 6, 1968 (age 49)
Marion, Indiana
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 8, 1992, for the California Angels
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 2001, for the Texas Rangers
MLB statistics
Batting average .264
Home runs 101
Runs batted in 461
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Chad David Curtis (born November 6, 1968) is an American former outfielder in Major League Baseball and a convicted sex offender. He played from 1992–2001, for the California Angels, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and Texas Rangers. Over his career, Curtis compiled a .264 batting average and hit 101 home runs.[1] Curtis was convicted in 2013 of sexually assaulting three underage girl students while he was a volunteer weight-room strength trainer at Lakewood High School, in Lake Odessa, Michigan, and is serving seven to fifteen years in prison as a felon.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Marion, Indiana, Curtis was raised in Middleville, Michigan, and Benson, Arizona.[4][5] He attended Benson High School, where he played baseball and junior varsity football, but was kicked off the basketball team for being "too fiery" and becoming involved in fights.[6] He then attended Grand Canyon University, Cochise College, and Yavapai College, playing baseball at all three colleges.[7][5]

Baseball career[edit]

California Angels (1992–94)[edit]

Curtis was drafted in the 45th round of the 1989 Major League Baseball draft by the California Angels, the 1,155th player chosen.[4][8]

He made his major-league debut in 1992, playing in 139 games at all three outfield positions. He compiled a .259 average with 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in, also stealing 43 bases, but was thrown out 18 times (2nd in the American League).[9]

In 1993, Curtis hit .285 with 6 home runs and 59 runs batted in, but led the league with 24 times caught stealing.[9] He also led all AL outfielders in errors, with nine.[9] In the strike-shortened 1994 season, Curtis played in 114 games, batting .256 while hitting 11 home runs with 50 runs batted in. During the season, Curtis had an argument with batting instructor Rod Carew, after which Carew said Curtis was selfish and "uncoachable."[10] In the off-season, Curtis had a shouting match with General Manager Bill Bavasi about Curtis's contract.[10]

On April 13, 1995, the 26-year-old Curtis was traded to the Detroit Tigers for 36-year-old utility player Tony Phillips.[8][10]

Detroit Tigers (1995–96)[edit]

During his first season as a Tiger, Curtis hit .268 with 21 homers and 67 runs batted in, while leading the American League with 670 plate appearances. In 1996, Curtis played in 104 games, hitting .263 with 10 home runs and 37 runs batted in. The Tigers, who had planned on releasing Curtis at the end of the season, traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 1996, for relief pitchers John Cummings and Joey Eischen.[9][11]

Los Angeles Dodgers (1996)[edit]

Curtis played in 43 games with the Dodgers, hitting just .212 with only 9 runs batted in. During the 1996 postseason, Curtis was 0-for-3 in his only game played. That season his salary was $2 million.[12] On October 15, 1996, he became a free agent.[8]

Cleveland Indians (1997)[edit]

Curtis signed with the Indians on December 18, 1996.[8] In 1997, Curtis played in only 22 games for the Indians, hitting .207 (6-for-29) with three home runs and five runs batted in.[9]

In May 1997, after Curtis objected to lyrics of a rap song teammate Kevin Mitchell was playing in the clubhouse, and shut off the clubhouse stereo, he exchanged punches with Mitchell, who threw him over a ping pong table.[13][14] Curtis sustained a bruised right thumb in the fight, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.[15]

The Indians traded Curtis to the Yankees on June 9, 1997, for pitcher David Weathers.[8]

New York Yankees (1997–99)[edit]

In 1997 with the Yankees, Curtis hit .291 with 12 home runs and 50 runs batted in. In the postseason he went 1-for-6 with 3 walks and 1 strikeout. In 1998, Curtis hit .243 with 10 home runs and 56 runs batted in during the Yankees' 114-win regular season. In the 1998 American League Division Series, Curtis was 2-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base. In the 1998 AL Championship Series, he was 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. He did not play in the 1998 World Series, but still received a World Series ring.

In 1999, Curtis played in just 99 games, hitting .262 with five home runs and 24 runs batted in. In the 1999 American League Division Series Curtis played in all three games, and scored one run despite not recording any hits.[9] In the 1999 American League Championship Series, he scored a run and stole a base, again without recording a hit.[9]

Curtis played all four games of the 1999 World Series in left field. He is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in Game 3 of the series against the Atlanta Braves; it was his second home run of the game.[16] When, immediately following the home run, NBC sportscaster Jim Gray sought to conduct an on-field interview with Curtis, Curtis refused to talk with him. He indicated that this was in response to Gray's earlier, pointed interview on gambling with Pete Rose, a former baseball player who had been banned from involvement with MLB because of his gambling history.[17][18] Curtis told Gray: "I can't do it. As a team, we kind of decided, because of what happened with Pete, we're not going to talk out here on the field".[19] Then-Yankees manager Joe Torre later said there was no such unified effort to snub Gray from either Yankees players or front office staff, and that Curtis had acted alone.[19]

During Curtis' playing time in New York he was known "more for his aggressive proselytizing and capacity for moral reprobation than anything he did on the field".[20] He publicly scolded his teammate Derek Jeter, in front of teammates and reporters both near the dugout and at Jeter's locker in the clubhouse, for fraternizing with then-Seattle Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez during an on-field fracas between the two teams, telling Jeter he did not know how to play the game.[21][22][23] He also persistently solicited Jeter to attend chapel, after Jeter had already declined.[20] Curtis said: "If I have something that I believe is the truth and it's necessary for other people to come to some type of a recognition or grip of that truth, then I want to share it."[20]

On December 13, 1999, the Yankees traded Curtis to the Texas Rangers for pitchers Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek.[8] A Yankee official said: "Chad just couldn't stay around any longer because that act gets tired. Once he became comfortable here, he became a preacher, and it ran its course."[20]

Texas Rangers (2000–01)[edit]

During the 2000 season, Curtis became the first right-handed batter to hit a home run into the upper deck in right field at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.[24] Curtis played in 108 games that year, hitting .272 with 8 home runs and 48 runs batted in. He was second in the AL among left fielders in errors, with five.[9] That season his salary was $2 million.[25]

In April 2000 Curtis had a heated confrontation in the clubhouse weight room with teammate Royce Clayton that nearly came to blows, after Curtis insisted on turning off rap music that Clayton was playing whose lyrics Curtis objected to. Curtis also turned off a television show in the clubhouse that he disapproved of his teammates watching.[20][13][26][27] During that season he also told outfielder Gabe Kapler, his Jewish teammate, that Kapler was going to hell if he didn't believe that Jesus Christ was his lord and savior.[28]

In 2001, he hit .252 with 3 home runs and 10 runs batted in just 38 games. That season he earned $1.9 million.[29] On November 5, 2001, Curtis was granted free agency.[9] He retired from professional baseball after the 2001 season.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Curtis is married since 1990 to his college sweetheart, the former Candace Reynolds, and has six children.[20][30] He views himself as a "Bible-believing Christian",[20] and says he never drinks alcohol and never swears, quoting from the New Testament (Colossians 3:8), and says he has never cheated on his wife.[20] As a major league baseball player, he chastised teammates for missing chapel, listening to explicit rap, or watching The Jerry Springer Show on television.[20]

After retiring from Major League Baseball, Curtis earned a teaching certificate at the evangelical Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[20]

Curtis then worked for two years as a physical education teacher and coach at Caledonia High School, outside of Grand Rapids.[20]

Starting in the fall of 2006, he was employed as the athletic director and weight training instructor at NorthPointe Christian High School in Grand Rapids, a fundamentalist Baptist school.[20] He helped construct a weight room at the school.[31] He was fired without public explanation, in the late fall of 2009.[32][33]

During the 2010-11 school year, Curtis began substitute teaching and volunteering in the Lakewood High School weight room.[20] Along with coaching youth baseball, in 2011 Curtis coached the Lakewood Public Schools equestrian team, which included two of his daughters, with the team winning state Division D championship honors that same year.[34] Curtis also worked as a substitute teacher, high school weight-training coach, and head coach of the high school varsity football team.[35][36]

Criminal sexual conduct convictions[edit]

In May 2012, after several female students accused him of "inappropriate touching", Curtis resigned from his positions at Lakewood Public Schools.[37] In June 2012, Curtis was ordered to stand trial for five counts of criminal sexual conduct ranging from misdemeanors to felonies carrying a potential 15-year sentence.[38] In August 2012, Curtis was charged with an additional, sixth count of criminal sexual conduct.[38]

Curtis's criminal trial began on August 12, 2013, during which three of his victims and two others, all underage girls, testified.[39] Curtis according to testimony offered massages to some of the girl athletes at the school, but not to any of the boys.[40] Curtis was accused of touching the buttocks and breasts of and molesting two 15-year-old girls in 2012 when he was a volunteer weight-room strength trainer at Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa, Michigan, and touching, fondling, kissing the breast of, and sexually penetrating with his finger a 16-year-old girl in 2011 (he said it was the "most unfaithful he's ever been to [his] wife"[20]).[41][42] He gave the massages first in the school's weight room, then in a room next to the weight room, and ultimately in a windowless trainer's room.[20]

On August 16 Curtis was found guilty on all six counts, including third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a crime that involves sexual penetration.[43][44] Curtis in an hour-long address to the court accused all his victims of lying, spoke of how when he was playing for the Detroit Tigers he decided he wanted to become a servant of God, spoke of the people he brought to Christ through his example, and asserted that he was the one rebuffing advances from the girls.[41] The Barry County, Michigan Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt later stated that Curtis' sentencing statement "was the most selfish, self-serving, victim-blaming statement I've heard in my career as a prosecutor. ... It speaks volumes about his character, or lack thereof."[41]

On October 3, 2013, Curtis was sentenced by Barry County Circuit Court Judge Amy McDowell to 7 to 15 years in prison.[41][45] In February 2015, Curtis's criminal convictions were upheld by the Michigan state appeals court, in a 3–0 decision.[46][47] After pursuing an attempt in March 2016 for re-sentencing, Curtis later withdrew the request when the presiding judge signaled that Curtis faced the possibility of a longer term of incarceration.[48][49]

After Curtis's conviction for sexual assault on teenage girls, his former teammate Gabe Kapler wrote:

I'm floored that I misjudged the character of a man so horribly. Perhaps I was blinded with the mantle of righteous moral authority he always tried to wear and never looked deeper. ... Chad Curtis wasn't the first major leaguer to commit a heinous crime. I'm confident in my assessment, however, that he'll represent the last time that I allow the veil of religion and perceived moral high ground to impede my better judgment of another human being's fiber.[28]

Curtis was incarcerated at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan.[20] He will be eligible for parole on September 13, 2020.[50][51]

Civil case[edit]

In a 2014 federal civil lawsuit filed against Curtis by his three victims in the criminal sexual conduct case plus a fourth Lakewood High School student accuser with similar claims, Curtis was found liable for battery against the four girls by Janet Neff, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Michigan.[52][51][53][54] A former Lakewood Public Schools board member who had started a group ministry with Curtis, Brian Potter, revealed for the first time in a 2015 deposition that Curtis had admitted to him in May 2012 that Curtis kissed one of the victims and had been "inappropriate," but that Potter had not reported the conversation to authorities.[55][56] In June 2017 Curtis' victims settled a civil lawsuit against Lakewood Public Schools for $575,000.[57]

In September 2017 Curtis settled a federal civil lawsuit with three of his four victims.[58][59] The fourth victim took Curtis to trial, and in October 2017 was awarded a $1.8 million judgment against Curtis.[60]

References[edit]

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