Matt Curtis, who spend the last 10 years as part of a Fresno State program that won the 2008 College World Series title, accepted the head baseball coaching job at Cal State Northridge, the school announced Tuesday.
Curtis, who turns 36 on Saturday, was the Bulldogs’ recruiting coordinator, pitching coach and third-base coach the last several years for head coach Mike Batesole, the former CSUN head coach who hired Curtis upon his arrival in Fresno prior to the 2003 season.
Curtis replaces Steve Rousey, who spent the last eight years at the CSUN coach compiling a 169-278-1 overall mark and 48-129 in the Big West. Rousey, who was let go in June, had been an assistant under Batesole at CSUN in 2001 and ’02.
With the ability to have sounding boards in both Batesole and Cal State Bakersfield coach Bill Kernan, who guided CSUN from 1989 to 1995, Curtis says he goes into this new job with eyes wide open.
“(Batesole) was behind me in pursuing this and a great asset for me in shedding light on the department and the school, on how to have to success — as was coach Kernan, who has really become a good friend of mine,” said Curtis, a Visalia native and two-time All-Western Athletic Conference catcher at Fresno State who played with and against former CSUN standouts Adam Kennedy and Robert Fick, both of whom made it to the big leagues.
“I’m well aware of the history of the program, going back to my days as a player. And I know resources are tight, but that’s the nature of college athletics anywhere you go, and I’m ready to take that on.”
Drafted in the 28th round by the Angels in ’96, Curtis spent five years in the minor leagues, reaching Double-A, before he came back to Fresno State as a student assistant, then volunteer assistant in 2000. He got an accounting degree from the school in 1998 and a masters in business administration in 2001.
“I really get a sense of excitement from the administration, that they’re behind the baseball program,” said Curtis. “The challenge, and opportunity, is playing the Big West Conference. There’s a lot of name recognition there with the location and the campus. It’s a great area to recruit and there are a lot of great things to offer given the chance to compete.”
CSUN athletic director Rick Mazzuto said his search to replace Rousey included “a number of first-class candidates,” including former Dodgers pitcher and UCLA pitching coach Tim Leary, but added that the hiring committee “and I felt Curtis possessed the experience and energy needed to help the baseball program become one of the most successful teams in the Big West.”
Aside from having a core group of players returning, Curtis sees potential in strengthening the facilities around the baseball program as a priority to attract players on a year-to-year basis.
“Every job has its challenges, and from a facilities perspective, we’ve got some work to do,” said Curtis. “The playing surface is in great shape. Of course, you’d love to have lights, and bleachers and a clubhouse, but we’ll see what happens over time. It’s not a prerequisite to playing winning baseball, but we’ll bring some people together who can provide us with resources for the needs of the program and welcome any movement in that direction.”
More from Curtis on:
== Finding players in Southern California to join the Northridge program, which competes with UCLA, USC, Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine, LMU and Long Beach State:
“Southern California is rich in baseball, and we want to pull in players from not just the San Fernando Valley, but the San Gabriel Valley and Ventura County, keep them around and let the people who followed them in high school see them go to the next level.”
== On the players he inherits:
“There’s a nucleus there that wants to be successful. I’ve visited with some of them over the last couple of days. They’re good kids to build a program around. There’s a depth of pitching I’m anxious to see come back after some of them had injuries. The returning outfield is strong but we need guys up the middle to make it work. I do think it’s an older group and more than anything they have a desire and a passion to play in a system that we’ll have in place. With the right effort and discipline, and keeping everyone healthy, I don’t believe we’re going to give any years away. We’ll compete every year and qualify for post-season play. Without having seen any of them with my own eyes — Fresno State hasn’t played Northridge since 2008 — I can’t say if the talent is there, but I know they’re hungry and ready to go to work.”
== On fundraising:
“Unless you’re in a school that might be in the SEC, or in a BCS conference, baseball isn’t a revenue-generating sport so you have go be creative in ways to be successful. We faced that at Fresno; all the programs in the Big West face that. It’s the reality of the situation. We have to dig in and get the community energized. You’ve got a limited number of scholarships but you have a roster, with walk-ons, that we’ll settle on at about 30 to 32.”
== On how to build a roster:
“At any level — from Northridge, to Dodger Stadium — it’s pitching and efense. Northridge is known to have an offensive park, but we need to recruit athletes with Division I arm speed and foot speed, build up the middle, and weigh the scholarships we give out on the mound and behind the plate, at shortstop and center field, and move from there. To be honest, there’s not many guys who’ll turn down first-round pro money. Each program has to build to its structure and take advantage of the area they’re in and not try to imulate any one else’s program.”
== Curtis’ bio at the Fresno State Website (linked here)