Curry’s comeback has Eagles flying high

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

Porters Chapel second baseman Aaron Curry prepares to field his position in an Eagles’ win this season. Curry and the Eagles will play at Riverdale on Tuesday, then return home on Thursday for the second and third games. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/28/03]Aaron Curry drifted back for the lazy fly ball during batting practice, jogging toward the fence and tracking it across the clear blue sky just like he had done countless times before.

He never saw the small hole in the outfield grass, and when it swallowed his ankle and spit it back out it took a moment for the pain to set in. As he collected himself and looked at his right leg, a cold chill went up his spine that had nothing to do with the February breeze.

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For a moment, there was silence. Then his scream pierced the afternoon air, burning its way into the memories of everyone on the field that day.

“It didn’t hurt right off, until I actually looked at it and saw the bone poking through my sweat pants. Then the pain set in, then I started screaming,” Curry said. “I’ve broken my collarbone three or four times, and none of them have felt as bad as that hurt.”

His Porters Chapel Academy teammates and coaches rushed to his side as the screaming continued. One by one, they took a look at his grotesquely mangled leg, saw the bones straining to break through the skin, and turned away in horror.

Along with genuine concern for Curry’s well-being, everyone on the field that day shared the same thought the senior second baseman’s baseball career was over.

“When I first saw the injury at practice, I started thinking in my mind how to move people around because I didn’t think there was any way he was going to play baseball again,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “It was nasty. Looking at his knee, I didn’t think there was any way he was going to play baseball again.”

Curry was taken from the field on a stretcher, screaming in pain the entire time. At one point, through the pain, he even yelled at a school administrator who touched his leg.

He was taken to a hospital and sedated so the leg could be put back in place. A couple of days later, he had an MRI to check the full extent of the damage.

After seeing how bad his leg had looked, Curry was prepared for the worst. No one, least of all Curry, was prepared for the results of the exam, though: No broken bones, no torn ligaments. Just a dislocated kneecap and a torn meniscus. Instead of missing his senior year and facing months of rehab time, doctors said he would be out 6-to-8 weeks.

“That was a big relief, because all I heard from the guys in the ambulance was, It’s over. I’ve seen these hundreds of times and nobody comes back from them,'” Curry said. “I was really surprised, because they were telling me it was 6-to-8 weeks and the season was fixing to start in four weeks.”

Given a second chance at his senior season, Curry has made the most of it. He was back on the field for PCA’s season-opener, a black knee brace the only sign of the injury, and has enjoyed a breakout year at the plate and in the field.

Within a week, Wright moved him from the No. 9 spot in the order to leadoff, and Curry went on to lead the team in hitting for most of the season.

Despite a minor slump recently, he’s still hitting .407 110 points above his .297 average in 2002 with 23 RBIs and 30 runs scored. His totals for hits (30), runs, RBIs, and even stolen bases (nine) are already above last year’s. He has also contributed big hits, knocking in the game-winning runs in victories over No. 2 Simpson and Conference 5-A rival Deer Creek.

His increased production has often gotten the Eagles started early in big wins, and he is a major reason they are a favorite to win the Academy-A state championship.

“He’s started off a lot of baseball games for us with hits in the first inning. He’s not a typical leadoff hitter that’s taken a lot of pitches and started games with a lot of walks,” Wright said. “I never expected him to be this good. I knew he was a very solid ballplayer, but he has taken it to a whole new level this year.”

As good as Curry has been at the plate, though, his work in the field may be even more impressive.

As a first-year starter last season, he had trouble controlling his throws to first. The problem was so bad, Wright jokingly tagged him with the nickname “Sax” a reference to former Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax, who also had trouble throwing to first.

The nickname is still there this season, but that’s the only sign of his yips. Curry has developed into a silky-smooth fielder, gobbling up every ball hit his way and turning double plays with ruthless efficiency. Only two errors mar his resume this season, both in the win over Simpson.

“I noticed last year he tried to just throw it over. Now he puts a little behind it,” PCA first baseman Andrew Embry said. “When it’s hit to him, I know he’s going to get it. All I do is go over and wait on the bag.”

Curry credits his turnaround in the field to an increase in confidence.

“I feel like I’m way better than I was last year. I’m more confident on my throws to first,” he said. “I try not to let things bother me too much. If I do, I start to get excited and mess things up.”

Keeping an even keel is just fine by Wright. Curry isn’t one of the Eagles’ more vocal players, but his contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s not a rah-rah guy. He just goes about his business and gets the job done,” Wright said.

Curry has come a long way since his junior year, which he admits “wasn’t such a good season.” He’s come an even longer way since the first week of practice this year, when no one thought they’d see him on a baseball diamond again.

And after this season, Curry may not step on a baseball field again. Several junior colleges are interested in him, but he said he’s not sure if he wants to play. If he can finish off his great season, however, he can leave with his head held high and a championship ring on his hand, a reminder of what he almost missed.

“He’s done an outstanding job for us all year long,” Wright said. “We probably wouldn’t be where we are right now without him, and I don’t think we can win a state championship without him continuing to do the things he’s been doing all year.”

The Eagles begin their quest for that state championship Tuesday afternoon against Riverdale. The Rebels pounded Trinity in the first round, scoring 23 runs in a two-game sweep.

PCA has the homefield advantage for the series Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3, will be at PCA on Friday but that won’t mean much if the Eagles aren’t sharp, Wright said.

“They hit the ball extremely well. They absolutely pounded the ball,” said Wright, who scouted Riverdale during Game 1 of the Trinity series. “Seventeen runs in a playoff game is impressive to me.”