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Jermaine Curtis and Pros Cave Want to Save Youth Sports: Part Two

Interview with the man behind the life-changing movement

MLB: Oakland Athletics-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

(Part one of my Jermaine Curtis feature and his work to help save youth sports with Pros Cave can be found here.)

Now that you know about the cause, let’s get to know the man behind it all. The 10-year baseball professional was briefly called up during the 2013 season with the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s one heck of a tale from a guy full of them.

In five plate appearances, he reached base twice. Until his next call-up, he sports a shiny OBP of .400. His minor league journey began with the club that drafted him in 2008’s fifth round. After eight years in the St. Louis Cardinals system, he moved on to the Cincinnati Reds for two years, where he befriended Donald Lutz and Steve Selsky, supporters of Pros Cave.

2017 now sees him with the Oakland Athletics. The clubhouse presence of Curtis has already rubbed off on the talented youth and fellow minor league veterans in the A’s farm system, as seen here with catching prospect Beau Taylor.

With all that said and you in-the-know about Pros Cave, let’s hear more about the man of the hour: Jermaine Curtis. These responses echo the type of uplifting, encouraging content that he sends to youngsters in his letters.

Photo Credit: Bill Greenblatt

When did you know you wanted to be a pro baseball player?

Jermaine Curtis: “Five years old. This story always runs through my house. My dad was watching the Yankees and the Angels with his friends. They’re having a good time, just a lot of positivity. I just say “I want to play baseball on TV.” Everyone is laughing and stuff but that was the beginning. My dad loved baseball so when you admire your dad you practice with him. That was our bonding. We would go out in the front yard with wiffle balls and just hit. Practice and joke and go to the fields. He would hit ground balls and it was just father-son bonding time.

“He passed in 2015 but those are the things that I cherish the most. Those little interactions that made me love baseball. I was five, six, seven years old and he’d be like 10 feet away from me with wiffle balls saying ‘I’m Roger Clemens, I’m John Smoltz, don’t let me strike you out.’ He would do the wind-ups just like them and I had my little bat and I would pressure him to strike me out. It was all fun and games and we’d do that every Saturday. Once I got older I started playing travel ball. This was a journey he invested in me and it kept me away from all the distractions and here I am today, Still playing and still having a blast.”

Let’s talk about your MLB debut in 2013…

“It was great getting that phone call. So I’m playing in the old Nashville stadium and I was having a good two or three weeks. (By the way, this is one of the stories I share in my letters.) I had a situation where there was a runner on second base, the guy is throwing sinkers and I can drive the guy in to pretty much win the game. I ended up getting too excited on the pitch, opened up and hit a ground ball to third base. I’m jogging to first base, he kind of bobbles it and they get me out. I didn’t even think about it but the rule is with the Cardinals: it doesn’t matter about stats, just play the game hard. That play I was just so frustrated because I wanted to win the game that I didn’t go hard. I’ll always remember that and remind myself: play every game hard. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

“After the game my coach brings me into his office and says ‘hey man, on that play you gotta run hard’ and I knew he was gonna chew me out but he was like ‘no, that’s not why I brought you in here. Tomorrow you have a flight from Nashville to St. Louis, you’re going to the big leagues.’

“I said ‘man, stop playing with me!’ but he said ‘nope, you’re going to the big leagues. Congratulations, you deserve it. You did everything right. When things weren’t going your way, you came to the field with a smile on your face and played the game the way it’s supposed to be played.’

“It didn’t even hit me. I was in shock. I came out of the clubhouse and all my teammates were waiting for me. On ESPN (they saw St. Louis Cardinals player) Matt Adams got hurt so they knew somebody was getting called up to the big leagues. Everyone asked me if I got called up to the big leagues and I was like ‘yeah.’ Inside, you’re excited but we lost so I didn’t want to put that out there but everyone gave me a hug and congratulated me.

“I got my phone and went outside to call my dad, mom girlfriend, everyone. No one answers the phone. So I’m walking in centerfield just waiting and waiting. Finally, my girlfriend called and I told her. Then my dad calls and I said ‘dad, what are you doing?’ He said ‘nothing, good game today. You were almost there, almost got that hit. It was fun to watch.’

“I said ‘don’t worry about that’ and he said ‘what do you mean?’ and I said ‘can you pack your bags? You’re coming to St. Louis. I’m going to the big leagues tomorrow.’ He shouted ‘oh my god!’ He got super excited. He was in more tears than I was!

“The first day I get there, it’s unreal. My locker was in between Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. So I got to listen to them and talk about hitting. I was just like ‘wow, this is it right here.’ It didn’t really hit me until I had that first at-bat. That’s when it hit me. I put on that jersey and went out there.

“When I went to the field, the GM (John Mozeliak, now Cardinals President of Baseball Operations) was there waiting. He told me ‘hey I know you have great stats and stuff but I called you up because you did a lot of things right. You’re a good person, a great clubhouse guy and everyone says a lot of good things about you.’ That was the moment I realized you also have to be a good person in this world because people want to help you when you’re a good person.

“That’s one of the stories I share with kids. At the end of the day it’s about working hard and doing what you need to do. There’s a lot of players that got weeded out because they were upset, played the victim. I just always said ‘hey, I’m playing baseball, having fun and am gonna play until I can’t play anymore.”

Photo Credit: Joe Ullrich

“Know what your ‘Why’ is”

“(Author) Simon Sinek basically talks about this. ‘Know what your why is. Why do you do what you do?’ Everyone should know why you’re doing something before you do it. Because if you don’t know your why, then you’re going to lose interest. My why for baseball is I love baseball, I love playing. I wouldn’t be doing anything else honestly. My dad, my family. There’s so much on that field that I take with me and it keeps me going even when times are tough.

“This has been a tough year for me. A really, really tough year. I had to dig deep down and say ‘okay, why? Why do I keep going?’ I’m in Double-A now. I haven’t played in Double-A in five years. Why do I keep going? Because I know that I can get (back) there, to the big leagues. I know I can help a Major League team. That’s my why. I know deep down that I’m not fulfilled yet with this career.”

When Jermaine Curtis speaks, you just sit around the campfire and take in his amazing stories. The honesty and pinpoint detail of his past makes for some incredible insight to the journey of not only a professional baseball player, but someone who wants to help change the world.

His goals with Pros Cave are to grow into something that is integral to the revival of youth sports. It’s just beginning now and starting to gain steam and he knows it can and will be more than just him.

In between laughs and anecdotes, he sums up his efforts in one breath. “I dream to influence as many people as possible.”