Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering, honoring Kuna's Dustin Curtis

Last week, I had the honor of serving on the selection committee for the second annual Dustin Curtis Memorial Scholarship. Last year was the inaugural year for the scholarship named in honor of Dustin Curtis, a standout Kuna varsity baseball catcher who was killed in a car accident near Idaho City in June 2007 just before his senior year. I was humbled to have been asked to serve on the committee last year, and I was very pleased to do it again this year. For me, the scholarship is a great way to honor the memory of Dustin, described by a friend as “an all-around good guy.” The family of Dustin Curtis and Kuna American Legion Baseball created the scholarship, which is meant to recognize young men who love the game of baseball and play with dignity and respect for their fellow teammates and competitors on and off the field, as Dustin exemplified. On a personal note, Dustin’s accident had an impact on me. At the time, I had been the owner and editor of the Kuna Melba News for just a few months. I had come to Kuna from Rochester, N.Y., where I had been the police editor for the large metro daily in that city. Rochester had about 50 homicides per year, and we would routinely have to cover fatal car accidents or acts of violence. Each time, I was the editor who would assign a reporter to go out there and find friends and family to talk about the deceased. The victim was always a stranger, and as the editor, I never came in direct contact with the friends and family affected by the tragedy. This time, though, I had covered the varsity baseball season. I watched Dustin play, watched how he interacted with the other players, shot photos of him playing. I had spoken with his coach, Brian Graves, about him. I remember talking to Brian at the end of the season about what a star Dustin was already as a junior, how much of a leader he was, his likely prospects for playing baseball in college and how promising his future was. Just a couple of weeks later, though, I would be talking to Brian again, under more somber circumstances. He related a story to me about how Dustin had stayed an hour after practice one day to take extra batting practice. He agreed to give a younger player a ride home — as long as he took extra batting practice, too. In Dustin’s last game, he went 2-for-5, drove in two, scored one run and threw out two would-be base stealers. Yet, he wanted to figure out why he didn’t get a hit his other three at-bats, Brian told me. Among the tangibles, those are the kinds of qualities and character traits I’ve been looking for when selecting the scholarship recipients. This year’s recipient will be announced before tonight’s varsity baseball game, around 4:30 p.m., at the Kuna High School baseball field. Last week’s selection committee meeting was emotional. It was also a difficult choice, as we had excellent, excellent candidates. But I am very happy with this year’s recipient. He turned in an excellent application, wrote a great essay and I think exemplifies best those intangible qualities that Dustin had. The winner will be in next week’s issue. He will receive $500 toward his post-secondary education. Last year, the committee selected two recipients, Heath Curtis, who is Dustin’s brother, and Cameron Packham. Kuna American Legion Baseball also has been talking about launching an annual baseball tournament in Dustin’s name. While that has proven to be more challenging, the good news is that Kuna has been selected to be the site of the 2012 American Legion Single A All-Star Game on July 14. The name of the event is officially being called the 2012 American Legion Dustin Curtis Memorial Single A All-Star Game. Usually this game is rotated around to different cities, but it would be fantastic if this became an annual event in Kuna. It would be great if the community came out to support this game and helped raise money for the annual Dustin Curtis Memorial Scholarship. Put it on your calendars, 5 p.m., Saturday, July 14, Kuna High School baseball field. It’s a great way to remember a great kid.

1 comment:

Karley Roxanne said...

Thank you Scott for all you have done for this! I miss him everyday these last 5 years have been tough but I know he is always watching.