• Comment

McCollum's Column: From Albert Pujols to Buck O'Neil, Chris Curry has seen a lot

Posted: July 4, 2014 - 12:52pm

As a student of baseball, Chris Curry learned long ago that you can’t score unless you get on base.

This week the former Conway High star, after being named new Arkansas-Little Rock baseball coach, established a base with about every media outlet in the area.

Along with a wealth of baseball experience, he’s got the marketing and promotion down.

He’s been preparing for the chance himself for years, almost from the time he learned at the feet of Conway High’s Noel Boucher and Barry Lueders.

When the UALR positioned opened, Curry was the first potential coach who came to mind. It’s no big secret that when University of Central Arkansas Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Teague was faced with choosing a new baseball coach to succeed Doug Clark, the top two candidates were Allen Gum and Chris Curry.

Two power hitters. And Gum has worked out pretty well.

Curry is cut from the same cloth as far as the teaching of fundamentals and character.

I expect Curry to do for the UALR program what Gum has done for UCA.

He’s a home run hire because Curry has coached at every level in the NCAA (Division III, II and I) plus junior college. He’s coached in the College World Series.

He’s played under legendary coaches at Meridian Community College and Mississippi State.

He knows what it’s like to have multiple stops in the minor leagues chasing a Major League dream.

He’s an outstanding teacher of the fundamentals of the game. He welcomes the role of a mentor.

He understands the modern college athlete and can relate to them.

He’s seen the evolution of college baseball and has seen the adjustments, particularly Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn, has made to it.

He remembers when college baseball, with aluminum bats, resembled slow-pitch softball.

“I came up in the ‘gorilla ball’ era, which was all about power and sometimes 20-18 games,” he said. “It has changed, maybe too much the other way. Nowadays, you’ve got to be able sometimes to score a run without getting a hit whether that’s a walk, a hit by pitch or error.

“Every coach still wants guys who can drive the ball over the wall. But you’ve got to be multi-dimensional and do the little things that can turn a game around your way. You’ve got to be able to manufacture runs.

“You prepare yourself to win and that’s by recruiting and practice.”

During his stops in the minor leagues, Curry has caught such Major Leaguers as Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior.

He’s been behind the plate when Albert Pujols was a terror in the minor leagues.

“I used to tell our pitchers, it probably doesn’t matter what you throw to him, that he’s probably gonna hit it out of the park,” he once quipped.

Buck O’Neil, a former Negro League Star who was featured in Ken Burns’ baseball series, was granted a special exemption to have an at-bat in a minor league all-star game in Kansas City in 2006. He was 94 and the special appearance was so O’Neil could play professional baseball in eight decades.

Behind the plate for O’Neil’s monumental at-bat was Chris Curry.

From the young phenoms to young legends, Curry has witnessed a lot.

Those experiences should serve him well.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

  • Comment