FWST: TCU first baseman slims down to become heavy hitter
Posted 09 April 2010 - 05:12 AM
TCU first baseman slims down to become heavy hitter
By STEFAN STEVENSON
Doug Curry figured he'd give it a shot. He had a few minutes of down time during a pool-building job in August 2006, so he took out the business card someone had passed along of Britt Smith, the head baseball coach at Howard College in Big Spring.
His son, Matt, a first-team All-State first baseman with a .566 batting average, had graduated from Red Oak High School just a couple months before.
But no college, it seemed, was interested.
"I was just sitting there and thought, 'Well, shoot, I'll just call him and talk to him because Matt had no place to go,'" Doug Curry said.
Matt was playing for the Arlington Heat, a select summer-league team. But it was now August and he had yet to receive any college invitations.
Smith told Doug Curry that he knew about Matt, but figured a school had already picked him up.
"I said, 'No, he's looking for a place to play,'" Doug Curry recalled. "He asked where he played next. I said at [Dallas Baptist University] on Thursday night. He said, 'I'll have someone there.'"
Howard coaches saw Matt Curry knock three doubles off the fence that night. The next week Curry made the five-hour drive to Big Spring, which sits out on the West Texas prairie between Abilene and Midland on Interstate 20. He hit a bucket of balls for the Howard coaches and "it was a done deal," Doug Curry said.
Hitting was never an issue.
Matt Curry could always hit. In fact, he was always a very good all-around baseball player. Looking back at it now though, it seems obvious to both dad and son why he was left off the radar of so many college coaches: his weight. At his heaviest at TCU, Matt Curry weighed 248 pounds and looked more like an offensive lineman than a first baseman.
That realization has likely sunk in even more since Curry dropped almost 40 pounds last summer at the request of TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle. Schlossnagle had seen the vast improvement of Matt Carpenter two years ago when he dedicated himself to a strict diet and obsessive workout regime that helped him lose about 45 pounds.
"Schloss saw how it helped him a lot," Matt Curry said. "So when I came in for my meeting after the season, and I was looking to play first base this year, he told me I needed to get in better shape and have a little more mobility over there."
Curry was on board with the weight-loss program. But he wasn't prepared for the second part of the instruction.
"I told him to get away from baseball, at least for 45 to 60 days," Schlossnagle said. "At-bats are not what you need. You don't need to be working out all day and then going to play and then you're starving late at night. You know how you eat when it's late and nothing is open and you're scrambling to get home."
Reluctantly, Curry agreed to forgo summer baseball and begin a five-day-a-week program with TCU strength coach Zach Dechant in mid-June. In about a month Curry had lost 20 pounds. A month later, he was down to 215.
"It really came off me once I started," said Curry, who now weighs 210 pounds. "I missed playing, but he wanted me concentrating on the weight loss."
He did it with the help of his dad and mom, Glenda, in Red Oak.
"We grilled a lot of chicken," she said. "We went from whites to wheats. We didn't eat late. No fried foods."
"It really changed Matt," Schlossnagle said. "The No. 1 thing it gives you is confidence. You feel better, you look better in your uniform. And that was part of the reason, too. If you want to get drafted, or drafted higher, you have to look the part. He didn't look the part, I didn't think, last year."
Curry wasn't drafted last June after batting .315 primarily as the Horned Frogs' designated hitter. Matt Vern, who led the Frogs with 17 home runs as a senior, had earned the starting spot at first base. Curry struggled to produce extra-base hits, finishing with just three homers and 10 doubles.
"He went through some adversity for the first time," Doug Curry said. "He never really had any in high school or at Howard."
Curry was drafted in the 37th round after his All-America second season at Howard. His numbers then (.451 average, 20 home runs and 90 RBIs) were also garnering the attention of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas A&M and TCU. TCU, which was looking for another first baseman in 2008 in case Vern turned pro as a junior, won the recruiting battle, in part, because it allowed Doug and Glenda Curry the best chance to see their son play with only a 45-minute drive from Red Oak. The chance to compete for a championship at TCU also was a big selling point.
"He didn't have the year he thought he would have," Doug Curry said of last season, in which Matt was a DH for the first time in his career. "For a power hitter he needed to put up some numbers. Not getting drafted last year kind of got his attention a little bit."
A carrot in August
As a reward for his diligence during the summer, Schlossnagle allowed Curry to play the last couple of weeks of summer ball in August. The change in his game was immediately noticeable to Curry. Most of all, base-running was now fun, and his improved agility at first base was obvious.
"It's kind of awesome now. I love to get on the bases and run now, it makes me want to play harder," Curry said. "It helped me clear my hands a little bit better, and definitely helped with my agility at first base."
Said Schlossnagle: "He always had good feet for a big guy, and an accurate arm. But it was always about moving those feet around, carrying the weight that he had. He has dramatically improved his ability to get those balls out of the dirt and get around the bag."
Curry has made several sparkling plays at first this season and has committed just two errors in 26 games. He dove to his left to snag a line drive against Dallas Baptist on March 22 and dug a throw out of the dirt against Rice on March 7 that saved a run. Last week he made two stellar plays in a game against San Diego State.
"Getting his body right has given him more confidence," Doug Curry said. "This game is all about failure, so the more things you have in your favor to give you confidence and take the fear away, it gives you more opportunity to excel."
As the Frogs' cleanup hitter this year, he's batting .347 with nine home runs (including two in a suspended game at Air Force) and 31 RBIs. Curry also has 13 doubles after hitting 10 all of last season. His emergence is a huge reason why the Frogs are ranked in the top 15 of four national polls. Maybe Curry would have put up those types of numbers still weighing 240 pounds. It's possible, because he's always been able to hit. But now he has the look of a future pro baseball player.
"One thing they look at is your physique," his father said. "Most of the scouts are going to project by what a player's body looks like. A lot of times that means as much as how talented they are. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't look like a baseball player, sometimes they pass on you."
TCU at Houston
Radio: KTCU/88.7 FM
First of a three-game series.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Posted 09 April 2010 - 06:03 AM
Finish strong Matt!
Posted 09 April 2010 - 06:30 AM
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Posted 09 April 2010 - 08:53 AM
Posted 09 April 2010 - 10:25 AM
same thing with me, I even asked my Brother in law if he was the same Matt Curry that played for us last year
Great Job Matt
Posted 09 April 2010 - 10:55 AM
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