Matt Curtis is a first-year student on the Ithaca College baseball team who has been starting as designated hitter since the end of March. He ascended into the starting lineup after delivering two RBIs on a big hit in extra innings against the University of Rochester on March 26 after head coach David Valesente subbed him into the game as a pinch hitter.
Curtis continued his impressive rookie campaign with consecutive games with multiple hits, both of which included at least one double and a home run. Since his debut at Rochester, the team has recorded an impressive record of 11–5 with Curtis tallying hits in 11 of those games. With his humility and work ethic, Curtis’ and the team’s success are sure to continue.
The team will next travel to Saratoga Springs on May 11 where it will rematch Rochester in the first round of the double-elimination Liberty League tournament.
Contributing writer Michael Vecellio sat down with Curtis to talk about his collegiate debut, his breakout season and what baseball means to him.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Michael Vecellio: What were you feeling when your coach sent you to the plate at the top of the tenth at Rochester?
Matt Curtis: I just thought, ‘You have to put the ball in play.’ I think it was bases loaded, so you have to hit the ball. I felt pretty confident. I had gotten a few at-bats before that in blowouts and I hit the ball hard, so I just wanted to put the ball in play and hit it somewhere hard.
MV: You’ve had multiple plate appearances in 10 games since then. How does it feel to be trusted with such a significant role as a first-year student?
MC: It definitely feels good having the trust of the coaches. You feel important. In the fall, it’s tough because there are so many of us trying to get work in, so to be able to be trusted by coaches feels good. There’s definitely a lot of stress too, because you want to perform and as a [first-year student] there are a lot of expectations if you get put in so early.
MV: How did it feel to find out that you are on d3baseball.com’s Team of the Week for the week of April 10–16?
MC: I didn’t know it was a thing until [it was announced], but yeah, that’s really cool. A lot of hard work kind of comes together, and I know I had a good week, so it was just cool to see that other people saw that too.
MV: What were your goals coming into the season?
MC: I didn’t have many. If I had an opportunity, I just wanted to do my thing. I’ve always been big on hitting, so I just wanted to make sure I hit well. In the fall I would hit every day, so my goal was just to hit the ball hard and whatever happens happens.
MV: What does baseball mean to you?
MC: It means everything. My whole family plays baseball. My older brothers and younger brothers play baseball. My dad played baseball. My friends play baseball. It’s all I’ve ever known. For me, it’s about being with friends and family and having fun.
MV: How has the team environment, coaching staff and your personal habits and qualities allowed you to have such a successful season?
MC: In the fall I didn’t want anybody to outwork me, so every day I saw people hitting, I would go hit. Same with the weight room. The coaches are really trusting, so if they see that you’re doing well and feeling good about yourself, then they’re going to give you an opportunity. With my teammates, everybody’s behind everybody. The seniors say all the time [that] they’d take bullets for us. I think it means a lot and it helps you to know that even if you struggle, they’ll still be behind you.
MV: What goals remain for you for the rest of the season?
MC: Keep putting together good at-bats and hit the ball hard. I like to win a lot, so I want to see how far we can get in regionals and just keep winning.