Despite Heartbreaking Finish, Nauset Baseball Thrived Under First-Year Coach Curtin

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: School Sports , Nauset Regional School District , Baseball

Nauset’s first-year baseball coach Kevin Curtin, top right, looks on as junior Noah Clarke (18) bats against Dennis-Yarmouth on June 14 in South Yarmouth. The Warriors earned a 5-1 victory to finish the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. BRAD JOYAL PHOTO

Kevin Curtin grew up in a baseball family. His grandfather, Barney, pitched at Boston College and then coached Somerville High School for 17 years. His Somerville teams won four Eastern Mass. championships and three state titles during his tenure.

Then there was Curtin’s dad, Jim, one of the most successful high school coaches the state has ever seen. He coached Burlington High School for 52 years, and his teams won 612 games and a combined total of 12 Merrimack Valley League and Middlesex Valley League championships between 1960 and his last game in 2011.

“You can imagine with two generations of coaches what watching Red Sox games was like when you were 8 years old,” said Curtin, who recently finished his first year as Nauset’s head coach. “It was not just about ‘Can I get a new hat the next time we go to the game?’ It was ‘Why do you bring the infield in? Why do you keep the pitcher in that long?’ It was always a teaching moment.”

Curtin and his two brothers, James and John, each pitched for their dad at Burlington. James and Kevin went on to pitch at Harvard, while John did the same at BC. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1987, Kevin Curtin began working at Fidelity Investments and returned to his alma mater to aid his father as an assistant at Burlington.

After 29 years at Fidelity, he was ready to begin his next chapter. Coaching seemed natural.

“To me, it was always, ‘Wouldn’t that be a great thing to do?’” Curtin said.

In late January 2020, Nauset named Curtin head coach of its varsity baseball program. Although he had already garnered a life’s worth of baseball memories, Curtin had a lot of work to do after the Warriors went a combined 16-24 during the 2018 and ’19 seasons.

After COVID-19 canceled what would have been his debut season, Curtin and the Warriors took the Cape and Islands League by storm this spring. They rolled through the Cape during the regular season, finishing 12-0 and capturing the league title while earning the top seed in the Division 2 South sectional tournament.

In Curtin’s mind, the success the team experienced was a result of the work the players and coaches put in.

“It’s a cliché, but we really did just try to take it one game at a time and tried to just get better,” he said. “We made a contract with each other that we would just improve and get better and we were very fortunate that we were still winning games while we were making mistakes and learning things early, and we kept reminding that to each other.”

The season ultimately ended in heartbreak June 23 when Nauset fell to No. 8 North Attleboro, 17-9, in the sectional quarterfinals. The Warriors took a 9-7 lead into the seventh inning and were only one out away from winning the game when North Attleboro’s Gavin Wells tied it with a two-run single. When the game went into extra innings, the visiting Red Rocketeers’ bats came alive in the eighth while the Warriors went silent.

“It was extremely disappointing,” said Curtin. “We had a really high bar — being the number one seed, we thought we had our pitching lined up, we thought we had the athletes to go deeper. But the kids played well and we put ourselves in an opportunity to win, it just didn’t go that way.”

The loss came after Nauset blanked No. 16 Somerset Berkley 7-0 in the first round. Kurt Thomas and Max Dio combined for the shutout on the mound, while Noah Clarke went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs at the plate.

Over the course of the year, Curtin implemented a few key baseball philosophies that were passed down to him from his late grandfather and his father, who died in 2015 at the age of 78.

“Win the big inning. Try to get big innings when you can, not a ton of small-ball,” Curtin replied when asked about his family’s baseball outlook. “And then conversely, on defense, avoid the big inning. So, we want defense back early in the game, pitchers that can get swings and misses.

“Don’t get rattled if you don’t make a play,” he continued. “I want my infielders to be resilient. The idea is that if you can get a couple runners on, getting out with one run versus three, if you do that a couple times a game you could win 9-3 simply by being the more resilient team.”

Curtin quickly realized the differences between being a head coach and an assistant.

“The umpires are much nicer to the head coach than they are the assistant coach,” he said. “The day-to-day practice and instruction were very natural to me. I think the biggest thing was how much easier it is to establish relationships with players. When you’re the head coach you have many more opportunities to connect with them, whether it’s school conflicts or personal conflicts, and then certainly baseball and college. The dimensions of the relationships were much deeper than I was able to do as an assistant.”

Throughout the season, Curtin relied on his assistant coaches — Nauset graduate Dan Ho and Steve Boskus — to help run the team. And while the Warriors’ final game didn’t end the way they had hoped it would, Curtin believes this spring set the ground work for what should continue to be a successful stint at Nauset.

Although the Warriors lose a few key pieces to graduation — including Thomas, who was named league MVP, short stop Ethan Keeney and catcher Richie Corres — the Warriors will still bring back plenty of talent from this year’s squad that finished 13-1.

Whenever Curtin and Nauset reached a milestone this year, he’d send updates to his six siblings and his mother, Judy.

“I would send them updates because I felt it was something that they felt was a part of him,” Curtin said when asked about what this season would have meant to his father. “As far as his perspective, I’m sure he would’ve had all sorts of comments. We did incorporate a lot of philosophies that Burlington employed and made us successful, so I’m sure he would be gratified that what made him successful for 52 years still works.”

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com