Randy Curtis was twice selected in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, achieved a lifelong dream by signing a letter of intent to play baseball at Arizona State, made the New York Mets’ 40-man roster and came this close to playing in the big leagues.
All that, and football was his best sport as a teenager.
Curtis was a star wide receiver at Norco High School in Southern California’s Inland Empire, snagging touchdown passes with regularity for the powerhouse program. As for baseball, well … “As a senior I hit .250, which isn’t spectacular,” said Curtis, who is the owner and president of the Claremont, Calif.-based Amateur Baseball Development Academy.
College baseball coaches were hardly frothing at the mouth at the prospect of signing Curtis, who wasn’t much of a prospect at all coming out of high school. He landed at nearby Riverside Community College, and his freshman year coincided with the arrival of new coach Dennis Rogers in 1990. Rogers had previously managed in the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league organizations, and he came to Riverside as a coach out of the highly successful Cal State Fullerton program.
The timing couldn’t have been better for both Curtis and Rogers. As a raw player still honing his baseball skills, Curtis was groomed by a highly acclaimed instructor in Rogers, a manager who knew what was required to reach baseball’s highest levels. Curtis said he found a mentor in Rogers.
“He was the first person to give me instruction,” Curtis, 44, said. “Before that, we just played.
“The biggest thing he taught me was preparation. Dennis was all about having a plan. So I had a plan.”
There was a lot of grit - G R I T - to his play. He was not giving an inch in any circumstances."
- Riverside Community College coach Dennis Rogers on Randy Curtis
Meanwhile, Rogers had a player in Curtis who would chew thumbtacks and drink battery acid if such actions would benefit the team. Of course, nothing quite so extreme was required. Curtis’ “football mentality” was ideal for a first-year manager trying to create a winning culture.
“There was a lot of grit – G R I T – to his play,” Rogers said. “He was not giving an inch in any circumstances. It didn’t matter how many we were ahead or behind by, he always played the same way.”
After a stellar freshman season at Riverside (the team finished second at the state junior college tournament), Curtis was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the seventh round of the 1990 MLB draft. Rogers recommended Curtis stay in college for another season, and Curtis followed the advice. After another strong season, Curtis received the scholarship offer from Arizona State and was picked by the Mets in the eighth round of the 1991 MLB draft.
This time, Curtis chose to turn pro. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound outfielder was named the Florida State League Player of the Year in 1993 when he batted .319 and stole 52 bases while playing high-level Single-A ball for the Port St. Lucie Mets.
“He was a lefthanded hitter who could hit lefthanded pitching,” Rogers said. “And he became a great defender.”
Name: Randy Curtis | Age: 44
Resides in: Norco, Calif.
Family: Wife, Kristi; daughters Kaylee, 12 and Kaye, 8
Job: Owner and president of Amateur Baseball Development Academy
Interests: Family, golf
Curtis played football and baseball at Norco High School in the Riverside, Calif., area. He starred as a baseball player at Riverside Community College, and was twice selected in the MLB Amateur Draft. He played in the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians farm systems before focusing full-time on a career as an instructor/coach with ABD Academy. Curtis met his wife while coaching a 13-year-old team that included his future brother-in-law, C.W. Pyles, as one of the team's players.
Curtis was placed on the Mets’ 40-man roster in November of 1993, and it seemed inevitable he would see some big league action the following year. Coincidentally, while he was in high school, Curtis filled out a questionnaire that asked about his future career goals. He had stated that he planned to play left field for the New York Mets. That dream was dashed in December he was traded to the San Diego Padres in a multiplayer deal.
Curtis went to the Padres’ big league camp in 1994, batted .270 with 12 stolen bases in 59 games at Double-A Wichita and was called up to Triple-A Las Vegas for 30 games. The major league season was shortened that year, and there were no playoffs, ending any hope Curtis had of being called up to the Padres when rosters expand at the end of the year.
He missed the entire 1995 season after suffering serious injuries in a boating accident (five surgeries were required). He rehabbed in 1996 in the Padres’ minor league system and played in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system in 1997.
Curtis, who had lost significant speed because of the injuries associated with the boating accident, had been dabbling in player training and development since 1992. He had been giving lessons to a traveling team of 13-year-olds during each offseason, and by 1998 he was ready to become a full-time instructor.
Curtis, a self-described perfectionist, has handled most of ABD Academy’s operational tasks over the years, including running the organization’s websites.
Development is the third letter in our name, and we're anchored on that."
- ABD Academy owner and president Randy Curtis
“The technology has really changed,” Curtis said. “Back to (1992), ’93, ’94 we used to have a hotline where parents and players would call in to get the practice schedule, get the game schedule. And then that evolved into our first website, which was I think maybe in 97ish or 98. We have come a long ways.”
Curtis said he trains all of his coaches on how to post content.
“What I like about our site is that it is saving me time to be able to work on ABD, it has brought me a lot of freedom,” Curtis said. “I remember being up to 2 and 3 in the morning working on the website. Things that used to take me a half hour literally take me 3, 4 or 5 minutes now.”
Competition is fierce among baseball programs looking to attract top amateur players, especially in Southern California. Despite what can be a “vicious” landscape as described only half kiddingly by Curtis, his singular focus never has wavered. Not even when other academies are created mostly as all-star traveling teams looking to haul in as many trophies as possible.
“Development is the third letter in our name, and we’re anchored on that,” Curtis said. “We really try and bring information to these kids that they might not ever get. We take a lot of pride in that.”
ABD spends a lot of time teaching its players intangibles, or what Curtis calls "the sixth tool." Off-the-field preparation for games is a big part of the instruction. ABD training includes Dr. Bill Harrison’s Slow the Game Down instruction that, in part, trains players on how to see the ball better.
ABD players are also taught to have an awareness of how use social media, to pay attention to who they are surrounding themselves with, to look at their strength training routines and eating habits and how to try to balance school and baseball and religion and family.
“We try to teach them how to manage all of that and not be overwhelmed,” Curtis said.