Over at Sports on Earth, Greg Hanlon has a disturbing and comprehensive report on former major leaguer Chad Curtis, who's currently serving seven-to-15 years in prison. And it's hard not to see echoes of the Curtis who was convicted of molesting three teenage girls in the Curtis who was one of the worst teammates in baseball.
Curtis defines himself by his religion—he doesn't drink, he doesn't swear, and he actively reproved teammates who did. It's that same fervor that comes up again and again in his court testimony and his interview with Hanlon, Curtis waving away the allegations against him in biblical language: When one student became upset when he penetrated her vagina with his finger, he told her they were both being "tested." By way of making his victims feel complicit in their abuse, he would tell them the real enemy was "temptation." He believes the girls will recant their stories, and he is prepared to offer them his "forgiveness."
Chad Curtis was a hardnosed ballplayer good enough to play 10 seasons in the majors—and divisive enough to bounce through six different teams during that time frame. It was always his belief that he was the sole arbiter of morality that made him so unlikable in the clubhouse. One such incident was triggered by, of all things, Sisqo's "Thong Song," and Curtis's objection to the lyrics.
Until one day in April, when Royce Clayton, the team's African-American shortstop, was playing the song, and Curtis walked over to the stereo and turned it off. Clayton turned it back on; Curtis turned it back off. The two got in each others' faces and nearly came to blows.
"This shit happens 20 times a year in a major league clubhouse," Clayton told me recently. The difference this time, he said, was that reporters saw the confrontation and took an interest — and Curtis took an interest in explaining his side.
"He decided to keep talking about it," Clayton said. "He decided to go to the media and self-promote about how good a Christian he is. And the media bought into it, and I knew why: It was because we're in the Bible Belt, and here was a black dude he could go after, saying, 'He was listening to profanity in front of kids.'"
The incident was one of many during a career in which Curtis was known more for his aggressive proselytizing and capacity for moral reprobation than anything he did on the field. In Texas, his teammates complained that he'd turn off Jerry Springer when they watched it in the clubhouse before games: "We'd be like, 'Whoa, what are you doing?' And he'd be like, 'This isn't good for you to watch,'" former teammate Frank Catalanotto said.
In New York, Curtis would throw away the porn some players kept stashed in the bathroom. When management suggested that Curtis keep an eye on second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who they feared was partying too hard, Curtis took the assignment to its mall-cop extreme, yelling and banging on Knoblauch's hotel room door to make sure he was there. He clashed with Derek Jeter, chastising him in front of reporters for fraternizing with then-friend Alex Rodriguez during a bench-clearing brawl between the Yankees and Mariners, and offending him by persistently soliciting him to attend chapel after Jeter had already turned him down.
After retiring from baseball in 2001, Curtis found himself bouncing around Michigan high schools as a substitute teacher, coach, and trainer. Two of those jobs ended quickly and for unknown reasons, though Curtis claims was dismissed from one after fighting with the administration over the school's dress code—specifically, one female student's cleavage-showing top, to which Curtis objected.
Curtis ended up at Lakewood High in 2010, where he became varsity football coach and spent his days volunteering in the weight room. That's where he would find his victims, and the story of each is remarkably similar. He would fixate on one female student, invariably athletic and attractive. He would invite them down to his windowless basement trainer's room for special care, including athletic massage. He would gradually test his boundaries as massage sessions progressed, his hands moving up a girl's leg or under her sports bra. With one victim, he went so far as to penetrate her vagina with his finger before she told him to stop, and broke down crying.
Kayla* [real names have been changed] asked Curtis what he was going to do, and he said he was going to talk to God, and keep it between himself and God. Then, just as Kayla was getting ready to leave and ponder the most difficult decision in her life, a decision with nothing but horrible outcomes on both sides, Curtis asked her to pray with him. "I didn't want to say no," she said. "Prayer is always good."
Curtis was convicted of six counts of criminal sexual conduct related to the molestation of three students. Upon his sentencing in October, when he received the maximum allowable, he was given a chance to speak on his behalf. He responded with a nearly hourlong speech that the prosecutor called "the most selfish, self-serving, victim-blaming statement I've heard in my career."
He said Jessica invented "fake-type injuries" and added, "I didn't touch Jessica for my sexual purposes. I tried to touch Jessica mentally and emotionally for her benefit and physically for her benefit."
Jessica left the courtroom at hearing this. Curtis said after her, "I hope that's hard for her, and I hope that from that hardness she says what is true."
When Kayla returned, Curtis said that in order to maintain proper boundaries between the two of them, he had recruited her older brother to coach a sixth-grade football team with him. "Having [him] around a little bit more would be good accountability for her and myself," he said. "It was something that needed to be controlled. We came to the conclusion that we needed to stay out of a situation where we could be tempted to fall into a situation that wouldn't be good for either one of us."
Curtis continued, saying he hoped he and Kayla "could write a book together some day, and it would be to the positive benefit of millions of people."
In his jailhouse interview with Hanlon, Curtis strikes the same tone. He compares his victims to the show Pretty Little Liars, and maintains that God will have them recant their false accusations. He says he prays for them every day to do the right thing.
As for why he himself has to suffer for what he insists are the sins of others? That's nothing new to Chad Curtis. "Jesus lived the perfect life," he says, "and that got him crucified."
Sins of the Preacher [Sports on Earth]