UB softball's Alexis Curtiss begins the next chapter of her life
Eleven-year-old Alexis Curtiss was “the featured presentation” on her prestigious, county championship-winning baseball team, according to her former teammate Callan McClurg. Players on opposing teams “bowed down” to her in unworthiness, and chanted her name when they were not playing.
Not only was she the only girl on the team, she was the only girl in the league. And yet, she batted third and started at catcher.
Nearly 12 years later, Curtiss is about to graduate from UB as the softball program’s career leader in hits (198) and as a two-time All-Mid-American Conference team member for the Buffalo softball team.
But no matter how successful an athlete is in a sport, all of their time comes to an end eventually.
After the Bulls’ season finale last Sunday, Curtiss is done playing competitive sports, but her competitive nature is still present. Curtiss’ life after competitive sports is about to begin. But no matter what she does, it will be heavily influenced by her time in sports and what she learned about herself while playing.
“I’m probably one of the most competitive people,” Curtiss said. “I love to win, I love to just compete against others and compete against myself. I think it’s always been in me to compete. I want to be the best. I strive to be the best. If I’m playing a team and the girl in the other dugout gets a hit, I go out there with the mindset like, ‘Well if she got a single, I’m gonna get a double. You did a good job, but now I’m gonna outshine you. I’ll show you why I’m the best.’”
The former field hockey, soccer and softball athlete was left speechless when asked what the biggest moment in her life was outside of sports. She yearns for a new outlet. And she may have found it.
But unlike her past, her new passion won’t include a ball. It will, however, include a new uniform on a new team.
“I’m thinking about going into the Air Force as an officer,” Curtiss said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do my entire life. I have a lot of military in my family. I just love the fact that it’s structured, all about discipline, kind of like what I’ve been used to for the past four years.”
Curtiss said she loves the set-up of the military, and thinks her time as an athlete has prepared her for it.
“Obviously it’s different, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction towards [the military],” Curtiss said. “We get up at 6 a.m., we have weights, then we have practice and we’re up all day not getting the chance to go back home and sleep. Practices are tough; it’s not soft. It’s pretty intense, so I would say it’s obviously gonna be different, but I think this has definitely prepared me for that.”
Curtiss grew up in San Diego, California and decided to play baseball before high school instead of softball. She started for the San Diego Buccaneers, a team that toured the country playing in and winning tournaments. The team was so dominant while she was on it that the city of San Diego now has two days they recognize as “San Diego Buccaneers Day.”
“I don’t think there was enough competition for her in softball,” said Bill McClurg, her coach on the Buccaneers. “She wanted to compete against the boys and really push her talent to the limit.”
McClurg and his son, Callan recalled a game when a big kid on the other team ran her over at home plate and screamed, “baseball’s for boys, not girls.”
She was brought in to pitch the last inning of that game. Curtiss retired the first two batters faced and called timeout to speak to McClurg at the mound.
Curtiss wanted to show the kid that she wasn’t an average girl. Curtiss agreed to intentionally walk the next person she faced to get the opportunity to face the kid that insulted her at home plate. Curtiss hit him in the ribs with her “trademark fastball,” according to Callan, and knocked him to the ground and out of the game.
“Sometimes, I don’t think female athletes get the respect they deserve,” Callan said. “And she’s the perfect example of a girl not letting anything or anyone stand in her way at all.”
Her father, Tim, played football and baseball in high school, and now owns a surfboard factory. Her mother, Penny, is a personal trainer. She has always been around sports, and her father said she “grew up in a surfboard factory.”
And like her parents, she always had a knack for competition, even in the most miniscule moments.
“We were always playing catch when she was little, always hitting whiffle balls” Tim said. “And it would always turn into some sort of argument between the two of us. She was so competitive; always has been.”
Curtiss, a three-time league and county champion in high school at University City High School and two-time high school Division-III Player of the Year, has excelled at nearly every level of competitive sports. During her senior season of high school, she batted .504 and was a co-captain on her championship-winning team.
Her competitiveness fostered itself off the field as well, accumulating in a 4.0 GPA in high school before going on to major in psychology at UB.
“When you had to have somebody set an example in practice because people aren’t working hard, she was the kid I always used,” said Mike Fox, her high school travel softball coach. “You want somebody to lay out for a ball, dive for a ball, jump three feet in the air for a ball. She’s the kid that would do it. She just had no limits.”
Her competitiveness, toughness and skills culminated when she arrived at Buffalo in 2011-12. She hit .379 as a freshman - the third highest batting average in school history at the time and tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI’s. She became just the third player in the history of the program to be named All-MAC first-team, and did it as a freshman.
During her junior season, she struck out just four times and committed zero errors despite leading the team in defensive chances.
But her first three seasons shadowed her impressive senior season. According to Curtiss, her final year as a Bull was her best year of competition.
As a senior, she hit .429 - the second highest batting average in team history and ninth highest in the history of the MAC. She set a program record with 22 doubles, second in conference single-season history. She also tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI’s despite batting leadoff for most of the season. Most satisfying to her, she had 72 hits, exactly the amount she needed to break UB softball’s all-time hits record after a broken hand set her back her junior season.
Her 52 career doubles are also a Bulls record and is now fourth on the all-time MAC list. Her .358 career batting average puts her second in the history of Buffalo softball. She has accumulated more walks (34) than strikeouts (29) in her time at UB.
“I think I had a great career. I left it all on the field. I have no regrets,” Curtiss said. “I’ll definitely miss it, but knowing that I left it all on the field, it’s easier to deal with … I just feel like all my hard work from high school, before that, throughout these four years, all the extra hitting it just finally paid off.”
Curtiss arrived at UB with promise, and finished her career as one of the most impactful players in program history. For a person whose life has been structured around an intense schedule of sports, college was easy.
The hard part is what comes next.