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Curtis lands job as North baseball coach

Hiring baseball coaches hasn’t exactly been a prominent theme in the 33-year history of North Medford High but the Black Tornado made news Tuesday with the hiring of Kerry Curtis as only the third head coach in school history.

Curtis takes over for Brett Wolfe, who resigned his role earlier this fall after 25 years of guiding North Medford.

“It’s not an easy position to fill, that’s for sure, but we feel with coach Curtis that he’s going to take us in the right direction,” said North Medford athletic director Patrick Grady, “and our next step is kind of filling in the rest of the coaching staff to help him with his needs.”

Curtis is a former three-sport standout at North Medford High, helping the Black Tornado to a football state title in 1993 and nearly capping his senior year with another state crown in baseball before falling short in the 1994 championship game.

Curtis was part of the final class of players under legendary coach Jim McAbee, who stands eighth among Oregon’s all-time winningest baseball coaches at 566-230. McAbee coached Medford High from 1968-86 and then remained at North Medford when the school debuted in the 1986-87 school year until 1994.

“To me it’s just a great opportunity to be a part of the Black Tornado baseball team again,” said Curtis. “The last game I played in was the state championship game and just to be back involved in it is really exciting for me. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Wolfe was a former Medford High pitcher and later pitching coach under McAbee before taking over the reins from his mentor. Wolfe helped make North Medford a leading contender in the state each spring, earning nine conference titles in his 25 seasons to go with state championships in 2007 and 2014 and a runner-up showing in 2000.

Wolfe wrapped up his North Medford career with a 494-198-1 record, putting him 12th on the state’s all-time list.

“Coach Wolfe was one of my coaches and I know the things that he’s done with this program have really been incredible,” said Curtis. “I know I have big shoes to fill and really I’m just looking to gain that trust from the players and make sure they know that I have a ton of respect for coach Wolfe and really hope to do the best I can to fill those shoes.”

Curtis was among a host of applicants eager to take over the baseball program, and Grady said the 43-year-old lieutenant in the Medford Police Department impressed the five-person hiring committee during interviews for the six finalists.

“I think we liked where he was looking to take the program,” said Grady of what made Curtis stand out. “Obviously trying to fill the shoes of a legendary coach like Brett Wolfe is going to be a very, very tall task indeed, but when it came down to it with everybody, we looked at what the bonuses are with everybody and we just all felt as a committee that he was our guy.”

Curtis gained considerable recognition as a running back at North Medford and saw the single-season touchdown record of 25 he shares with Ryan Folsom (2005) tied last Friday by Devin Bradd. Curtis ran for 141 yards and two key touchdowns on 14 carries and added 71 yards receiving in a 27-24 win over Ashland in the 1993 championship game.

In baseball, Curtis set a single-season record of 44 hits during his senior season at North that has since been surpassed. The standout shortstop was also a key figure during the summer for the Medford Mustangs, leading them to three straight American Legion AAA state titles during his tenure. He later served as assistant coach with the Mustangs in 1997 under Sandee Kensinger.

“I don’t like to live in the past a whole lot,” said Curtis, “but those times I had being a Black Tornado were very special to me and I’m just really excited to be back as a part of it and back with the kids. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

“My time has come and gone,” he added, “and now it’s really about creating an environment where these kids can enjoy some of that same kind of success themselves.”

After high school, Curtis played baseball for a year at Portland State University, then a season at Chemeketa Community College in Salem before hanging up his spikes and enrolling at Southern Oregon University.

More recently, Curtis has served as president of the Medford American Little League and remained active in the youth sports community through work with the Medford Youth Baseball program, AAU basketball and Pop Warner and Hedrick Middle School football.

“I love coaching,” said Curtis. “I have a passion for working with the kids and being part of their athletic lives, being a mentor and just a good role model for them.”

“I’m going to be drinking from the firehose and I know that this year is not going to come without challenges,” he added. “Once we get the full staff put together and we can all work through those challenges together, it will be a great experience. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I know I’m ready to put that time into it.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry