Playing with PRIDE and Purpose
by Kyla Baldwin|
The life of a professional baseball player can be full of more twists
and turns than the plot of a daytime soap opera. Just ask Curtis Pride. Pride, an 18 year veteran of the pro ranks, began
the 2003 season playing for the Nashua Pride, ironically, of the independent Atlantic League. Two months later, he found himself
in Yankee stadium receiving a standing ovation.
"It's been an incredible year for me," Pride said of the 2003 season.
"In the off-season, I didn't get any offers, so I played independent ball, put up good numbers, and hoped a team would recognize
that. I never lost confidence in my abilities to get back to the big leagues. I played hard and hoped something good would
After hitting .344 with 5 HR and 25 RBI in 16 games for Nashua, Pride was picked up by the Yankees organization
in May and assigned to Triple A Columbus. He continued to swing a hot bat at Columbus, and was called up by the Yankees on
July 4 to bolster their injury-riddled outfield.
It didn't take long for the journeyman outfielder to earn a place
in the hearts of Yankee fans. On July 6, Pride's pinch hit home run sealed a victory over the rival Red Sox, and the crowd
of 55,000 responded with a standing ovation. "It was an incredible feeling to hit a pinch hit home run at Yankee Stadium and
to get a curtain call," Pride explained. "It was an emotional moment for me."
Pride's stay in the Bronx was short
however, as he was sent back to Columbus on July 23. "I kind of expected it," Pride said of the demotion. "I knew that (first
baseman) Nick Johnson was supposed to come off the DL (disabled list), and that I would be the odd man out. That was fine,
but hopefully I'll get called back up."
During Pride's well traveled professional career, he's played in over 1,000
minor league games with eight different organizations. His motivation to keep going is simple, "The love of the game (motivates
me)," the 34-year-old explained. "I think I can keep going for a few more years if I stay in shape, work hard, and take it
one day at a time."
In 353 major league games with the Expos, Tigers, Red Sox, Braves and Yankees, Pride has posted
.253 average and hit 19 home runs. His best season came in 1996, when the outfielder hit .300 with 10 home runs in 96 games
Despite all he has accomplished on the field, Pride is most well known for something he can't do very
well. 95% deaf at birth, Pride has had to answer questions about his disability, which often overshadow his accomplishments
on the field, throughout his career.
The Maryland native however, accepts and understands the situation. When asked
if he gets tired of the questions about his disability, Pride said, "Not really. I've been doing this for 18 years and
have had to deal with it. I look at myself as a role model for other people with disabilities and take pride in that. The
main thing that I, and others with disabilities want, is to be treated like everyone else."
Pride, who is able to
speak effectively, wears a hearing aid and has mastered the art of reading lips. He communicates so easily and casually with
his teammates, that you leave with the feeling that he is just one of the guys.
Pride's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
Simply Baseball Notebook