It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Colin Curtis was stepping out of the home dugout at Yankee Stadium to acknowledge the greatest accomplishment of his career.
It was just two years ago — July 21, 2010 — that 47,521 fans demanded that Curtis take a curtain call after hitting a pinch-hit home run, his first in the big leagues. The memorable blast, in which he pinch hit for an ejected Brett Gardner in the middle of his at-bat, made the outfielder the talk of the town for the next few days.
Fast forward two years, and the now-27-year-old finds himself at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ, making his debut in the independent Atlantic League. So where did it all go wrong? On the 40-man roster and very much a possibility to be called up again during the 2011 season, Curtis never got that far. He injured his right shoulder making a diving catch during spring training and was out for the entire year.
“2011 was big,” Curtis said.
“I kind of felt like I was starting to figure it out. I made it to the majors, and then I kind of took a big step back not being able to play for a whole year. It was tough, both mentally and physically, watching guys and trying to get ready. I just never got it going again.”
He came back healthy this season, but never got his bat going and was released after struggling to a .220 average in 71 games with Triple-A Scranton.
“I could kind of seeing it coming, things never really got going for me this year,” Curtis said.
“I just kept tinkering with stuff and never really figured it out. I wasn’t really playing much, and they brought in some new guys. I was kind of looking forward to going somewhere and getting a chance to play. But I spent a lot of time with that organization, and they were always good to me. I enjoyed everything there, but I’m just trying to start a new chapter and start something new.”
Curtis wasn’t interested in heading back to Double-A, and couldn’t land a Triple-A job, so his agent called and landed him in Somerset, who were in desperate need of outfield help after several players had retired or been signed.
“I’m happy to be here and play and just want to get some at-bats and play and get myself back in a comfort zone with my own self,” he said.
“I’m not here to try to get out of here as fast as possible. I don’t think it’s going to be that different. It’s the same game, they’re all going out there trying to compete just like I am. They’re good players, so that I don’t know most of them isn’t going to be a big issue. They’re trying to win just like I am.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com