Conway’s Chris Curry, a volunteer assistant coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks the last two years, is headed back to a feeder root of his baseball career.
Curry will be formally introduced Friday as the head baseball coach at Meridian Community College in Mississippi, where he played for two years before becoming a standout catcher for Mississippi State. It will be the first head coaching job for Curry, who was a finalist for the University of Central Arkansas position ultimately filled by former Southern Arkansas coach Allen Gum.
"It’s my first opportunity to run my own program and I am excited," said Curry during an appearance Wednesday on "Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly," a statewide talk show on KABZ, 103.7 The Buzz. "Meridian has a great tradition of winning. It is an SEC feeder-type school.
"There are only a handful of community colleges I would want to go to as a head coach. And Meredian has a special place in my heart since I played there."
The Eagles, who were 32-19 and regional runners-up last season, have made seven appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series since 1993 and have won 14 conference titles and 10 regional championships during that period.
While at Meredian, Curry caught Major League All-Star Cliff Lee, actually helped recruit him. "The coach asked us to be on the lookout for other palyers and I told him there was a pitcher at Benton High School that we could hardly ever beat," Curry said.
Curry went on to play at Mississippi State, where he was the top defensive catcher in the Southeastern Conference in 1999. He was a ninth-round draft choice that year and played in the San Francisco and Chicago Cubs organizations, reaching the AAA level. He was also an all-star catcher for the Gary (Ind.) Railbirds of the Independent League.
"A catcher has to manage all of the game and has to be very strategic-minded; a catcher has to know everything about the game" Curry said in the radio interview. "That’s why I think catchers sometimes make the best coaches and managers."
After his professional career, Curry served as an assistant coach at Hendrix College and Arkansas Tech before joining Dave Van Horn’s staff at the UA, where he coached first base for the last two years and helped with the catchers and hitters.
"I think my professional career helped prepare me to be a coach as far as the knowledge of the game," Curry said. "My experience at Arkansas prepared me for the day-in and day-out management and decision-making. I learned about handling people in both negative and positive situations. I learned a lot about recruiting and relationships with players and seeing how decisions are made in regard to somebody who doesn’t think he is getting enough playing time or trying to decide whether to turn pro. I’ve learned the importance of scouting and how to make out a lineup and make decisions like whether someone should bat second or in the eight-hole. Last season, I learned about handing things like how bad is Zack Cox hurt and how much should he play or should Brett Eibner play in the SEC tournament. It’s learning the thinking process that allows you to work through a lot of situations."
While at Conway High, Curry set 10 school hitting and catching records from 1994-96.