We're sitting in a side room off the main visitor's room of Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Mich., which is roughly equidistant between Ann Arbor and Toledo.
Yes, religion and discipline have always been his calling cards: He told his students at one high school that he went years in the majors without once eating dessert or drinking soda.He never drinks alcohol, and he never swears: "Rid yourselves of ..."I'm uncomfortable but I don't say anything, 'cause in my head I'm going through all the talks he gave in class about how he was such a Christian guy, and so I was like don't -- you know -- don't think there's something happening here that's not. -- Chad Curtis didn't tell his lawyer that he's doing this interview, he admits with a sly smile.Obviously, she'd be angry, because he's appealing his conviction, and talking to a reporter is likely not in his best interests.Several people described the area to me as "The Bible Belt of the Midwest." At Lakewood, a consolidated public school drawing its students from four tiny towns, roughly 35 minutes east of Grand Rapids, religion and sports are pillars of identity.
And no teacher could validate such an identity quite like Mr. He was clean-cut, handsome and charismatic, his eyes framed by a perpetual furrow that conveyed his moral seriousness. They and their six children all had first and last names starting with the letter "C." Discipline and undeviating faith in God had led him all the way to a 10-year career in the majors, to Yankee Stadium.
That's why, he believes, he has sat in prison since October on a seven-to-15-year conviction for molesting three teenage girls at the rural Michigan high school where he volunteered.
Curtis, 45, says he could have taken a misdemeanor plea, served a year and a half in county, and been home with his wife and six kids by now.
But he's an innocent man in his own mind, so he couldn't bring himself to swear on the Bible -- which he quotes frequently and encyclopedically during our two-hour interview at the Harrison Correctional Facility -- and admit to a crime he didn't commit.
As a major league baseball player, he wore a bracelet that said, "What would Jesus do?
He cuts a similarly classic figure in state blues as he did in Yankees pinstripes.