A major contributor in three sports in one of the toughest conferences south of Chicago, Edwardsville High senior Drew Curtis is finally ready to focus on just one of them.
Voted the Belleville News-Democrat Large-School Baseball Co-Player of the Year by area coaches, Curtis will play baseball for the St. Louis University Billikens.
"I definitely took pride in that, being one of the few guys to be able to do that and to be able to excel in those three," said Curtis, a starter and all-Southwestern Conference performer in baseball, basketball and golf who also ranked in the top 10 percent of a senior class of more than 500. "Being able to do three sports at a high level and maintaining a good standing in academics was hard, but I took a lot of pride in it."
Curtis earned all-state honors in golf and baseball and was a starter on Edwardsville's basketball team that reached the Class 4A state tournament. He also competed at state in golf and received a coveted vice-presidential academic scholarship at SLU.
"It's kind of refreshing to have a player that's able to play all those different sports today," Edwardsville baseball coach Tim Funkhouser said. "To be able to thrive in three of the sports and bounce right into the next one...it's great. I'm sure he'll still go out and hit the golf ball and find a game to play some hoops.
"But I think he'll be able to flourish a little more physically and be able to hone some of his skills in baseball."
Curtis had a .396 average this spring that included 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He also scored 37 runs and had a .511 on-base percentage.
The 6-foot-5 slugger hit a combined .379 over the last four years with 28 doubles, 21 home runs and 119 RBIs. The 21 homers is tied for third all-time at Edwardsville and the 119 RBIs is tied for fourth.
On the final night of his high school baseball career, Curtis deposited a blast into Big Mac Land in the upper deck of Busch Stadium. He was competing in the home run derby prior to the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase, eventually losing to fellow News-Democrat Co-Player of the Year Keaton Wright from Triad in a tiebreaker round.
"It's funny because I was using his bat that he brought and he had a crack in it," said Curtis, who grew up playing with and against Wright. " I got the ball back, so that was pretty cool."
Curtis jokingly thought about finding a way to even the score with Wright.
"I should have just snapped it over my knee so he couldn't do anything with it," Curtis said, laughing. "I've got nothing but respect for Keaton and everything he's been able to do at Triad. He's a great player."
Curtis had Division I recruiting interest in golf and Division II and Division III interest in basketball. His father, Sean Curtis, is the women's golf coach and intramural sports director at Division III Washington University in St. Louis.
"I had some attention for basketball from some D-II and D-III schools, but if I was going to do that I would have played at Washington U. in St. Louis and played two sports," said Drew Curtis, who had Division I baseball offers from Indiana State, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Eastern Illinois and Bradley and heavy interest from Illinois, Missouri and Northwestern.
Curtis thought about narrowing his sports schedule a few times, but was having too much fun.
He won the Southwestern Conference golf tournament at a junior and was leading the Class 3A state tourney his senior year after 12 holes thanks to a pair of eagles on the front nine. He eventually finished eight strokes back just several weeks after suffering a severe head injury when he was hit in the head with a line drive during summer baseball.
In basketball, Curtis was part of three regional championships, two sectional titles and a trip to the Class 4A state tourney this season on a 31-3 squad that finished third.
He averaged 5.8 points, five assists and a team-leading 9.2 rebounds this season for the Tigers.
The furthest playoff advancement in baseball was his sophomore year, when the Tigers lost in the super-sectional.
"It was definitely an in-season thing, whatever season I was in I was really enjoying it," Curtis said. "I always wanted to play the other two while we were in that other season. That led me to not be able to quit any of them because you're enjoying them all so much...the different games, the different people and different coaches."
Curtis' trademark versatility extends to baseball, where he has played first base, shortstop, third base, outfield and also pitched.
"We could have played him anywhere," Funkhouser said. "He's just a ballplayer and worked to improve his skills daily. It was fun to see him have success and benefit the team."
Funkhouser said he saw a lot of improvement in defensive consistency this season. He also felt Curtis was able to hit for massive power without sacrificing the same line drive stroke that made him one of the region's top hitters.
"He's got legitimate power and he really didn't have any cheap home runs," Funkhouser said. "What he did with the bat the last few years was pretty impressive."
Curtis first met SLU baseball coach and Granite City native Darin Hendrickson when Hendrickson was officiating SWC basketball games his freshman year.
Hendrickson had him in other basketball games throughout the years, but now will get to spend a lot more time with one of Edwardsville's most versatile athletes in some time.
Curtis hopes to earn quick playing time at SLU at third base or in the outfield. The Billikens reached the NCAA Tournament this season.
"The power numbers this year, you've got to be happy with that," he said. "I've always been able to hit the ball a long way, but I haven't been as consistent. This year when I caught one it was going to go and hopefully I can continue that in college."