Zac Curtis played baseball at Hendersonville High School where he was a two-time all-region honoree and was named to the all-district tournament team twice. Curtis signed with Volunteer State Community College in 2011 and posted a 4-2 record with a 3.80 ERA and went on to win conference Pitcher of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection. Collecting 54 strikeouts while walking 23 in 42.2 innings, Curtis made seven starts, including three complete games and one shutout as a freshman at Vol State. Curtis signed with the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders in 2013 and he believes going the JUCO (junior college) route went a long way into making that happen.
"I definitely think the JUCO route helped me. It was the perfect blend between being away at college and getting smaller class sizes to get through those prerequisite classes but at the same time get the competitive baseball needed to keep moving forward," said Curtis.
Although it's been five years since he played at Vol State, Curtis accomplished something there that he will remember forever.
"I'd say my favorite memory at Vol State was either my freshmen year when I won Pitcher of the Year, or my sophomore year when I threw a no hitter against Calhoun junior college," said Curtis.
Curtis started 14 games in his first year at MTSU and finished second on the team with 80.1 innings pitched. His 5-4 record tied him for first in wins on the season and his 74 strikeouts led all Blue Raider players. In 2014, Curtis became the fifth highest MTSU player to be selected in the MLB draft being selected in the sixth round (180 overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Curtis was a First Team All-Conference USA selection his senior year posting a 9-3 record with a 1.89 ERA, which was ninth all-time in a single season. His 136 strikeouts led the nation and are the second most in a single season in MTSU history. His 210 career strikeouts at MTSU are eighth all-time and he is tied for ninth all-time with a .208 opponent batting average.
Curtis made his professional debut in 2014 with the Hillsboro Hops and was called up to the majors for the first time on April 30, 2016, and made his major league debut that night for the Arizona Diamondbacks. On November 23, 2016, Curtis was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Seattle Mariners. He made his debut with the Mariners on May 11, 2017 against the Toronto Blue Jays. On September 4, Curtis was designated for assignment and was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies on September 11, 2017.
Although he is living out his dream of playing professional baseball, Curtis had a long Journey to start out as a kid playing at Hendersonville High School to now playing for the Philadelphia Phillies.
"My journey from Hendersonville to where I am now is long but very enjoyable. I started at Hendersonville and from then even until now I was told I was too small or didn't throw hard enough but I didn't let that affect how I worked and how I competed. I love competing and will stand toe to toe with anyone. After high school, going to Vol State to me is where I really gained my confidence I needed and built the foundation of where I am now. Vol State gave me the chance to continue playing at the Division I level where I went to MTSU and fell in love with the town, the school and the program. But at MTSU my junior year I had to learn the hard way that what you did the year before or in the past didn't matter and you had to really work to get better each day. In 2016, I went to Visalia California for High A Ball and it was there that my world got turned upside down. I was getting dinner one evening when my pitching coach told me to come back to the field that my manager was mad at me. I hustled back to the field and my manager and all the other coaches were sitting in the manager's office with a chair in front of them. He began by telling me how he knows this season hasn't gone the way that I wanted to yet but that I had opened some eyes and that I'm being promoted. I thought I was going to Double A but he told me that they would fly me out in the morning and meet the team in Phoenix. At first, I was confused but then he turned and looked at me and said, 'you are going to the big leagues.' I was lost and didn't know what was going to happen. I went outside and cried my eyes out because I never thought that it was actually going to happen," said Curtis.
If you started off playing at a small high school or JUCO like Curtis and you have dreams of maybe one day going pro, whatever you do, don't give up.
"Don't give up and don't let anyone tell you where you can go or what you can do. You hold the limits to yourself and no one else does. If you put in the time and work, good things will come. It might not be right away. But, they will come and you will be thankful when it does. And also, always know that it's a game meant to be played by kids so don't get too down or too high because we are all adults playing a kids game so smile and just get after it," said Curtis.
Curtis is currently pitching for the Tigres del Licey in the Beisbol Dominicano Winter League to gear up before reporting to spring training for the Phillies. The regular season finale for Licey is on December 21st. Curtis currently boasts 12 strikeouts to 2 walks in 7.2 innings for Licey this winter.
Written by Nathan Kaly