He came from a small town in Ohio, persuaded by a high school friend and teammate. He walked on to Coach Ken Dugan’s baseball team, starred in one NAIA National Championship, and won another as an assistant coach. He translated his Bison Baseball days into a rural teaching and coaching career that he’s now passed down to his son. Find out more about Curtis Putnam in his visit this week with Lipscombsports.com.
What years did you compete for Lipscomb, and who coached you?
I played in 1974 for Ken Dugan and I was one of his assistant coaches from 1978 until 1980.
What teammates were most memorable?
Bo McLaughlin comes to my mind first because we were teammates and friends since the age of 13. We went to the same high school in Amelia, Ohio and were teammates there. He was the main reason we were so successful at that level. He had a pitching mound in his backyard where he practiced with his dad. As he got older and began to throw harder, I had to start catching for him because his dad said he couldn’t take it anymore -- my hand and thumb were constantly bruised from his fastballs. Who would have known back then that I was catching for a future major leaguer?
Kevin Stanforth was another teammate who was a very important influence in my life. He was my roommate the second year at Lipscomb, and he was the person who ultimately led me to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
What degrees have you earned?
I graduated from Lipscomb in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree, and I earned a Master of Education from Tennessee State University in 1979.
Why did you attend Lipscomb?
After we grew up together, Bo (McLaughlin) came to Lipscomb his freshman year in the fall of 1972, and I went to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. I really wasn’t that happy in Missouri because it was so far away from home. I intended to try out for the baseball team there, but by the spring I was so depressed I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
The next summer, in 1973, Bo and I were playing on a team together, and he knew I didn’t like going to school in Missouri. He thought I could make the team at Lipscomb if I would try out for outfield. I had always played second base, but Lipscomb had no fence in the outfield and needed some fast outfielders to track down fly balls. Running fast was one thing I could do well, so that summer I practiced playing outfield and that fall I headed to Nashville with Bo in hopes of walking on at Lipscomb.
I had never met Coach Dugan and I didn’t really know much about the school except what Bo told me. He said I had to go to chapel everyday and take a Bible class each quarter, and that was fine with me. I had missed being a part of a team the season I sat out in 1973, and I loved baseball and wanted to get back into it. I was so eager for a fresh start that I slept on the floor in Bo’s dorm room for the first week of school because I had enrolled so late there wasn’t a room for me yet. But I had a pretty good fall tryout and luckily I made the team as a walk-on. I think I was the only one, and it was truly the best year of my life as far as baseball goes.
What is your favorite athletic memory at Lipscomb?
My favorite memory was playing in the NAIA National Tournament in St. Joseph, Missouri. That first night was just incredible. I had my best game that night against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In my first at bat I hit a line drive to centerfield for a base hit. Two pitches later I stole second base, and when the ball got away from the shortstop, I popped up and headed to third base. I did a headfirst slide into third and the crowd went wild. I scored later that inning to put us up 2-0.
The score stayed that way until I came up again in the 8th inning with the bases loaded. I hit another line drive to centerfield that drove in two runs and put us up 4-0. I scored the sixth and final run of the night later that inning, and we won the game 6-0. Bo pitched a complete game shutout while striking out 13.
Another big memory was hitting my first home run in college against Calvin College. I hit four that year, which was the most home runs I ever hit in a season. I should probably mention only one of them – at Trevecca – went over the fence. The other three were hit at Onion Dell where there was no fence, and I was able to get all the way around the bases before they got the ball back in. You know, speed kills.
Then of course, winning the NAIA National Championship in 1979 while I was the assistant coach for Coach Dugan was just so amazing, especially after we were eliminated in the Area 5 championship game and thought our season was over. We got a special invitation into the tournament after Grand Canyon College stepped down, and we went from an at-large berth to winning the whole thing. The tournament was hosted in Nashville at Greer Stadium, so the crowds were great throughout the whole tournament. They really inspired us as we played and gave us a big boost.
Who influenced your athletic career at Lipscomb?
I did not know a lot about the history of Lipscomb baseball before I got here, but people always were comparing me to Ted Jamison – we both played centerfield, we were both pretty fast, and neither one of us was very big. Because of the comparisons and the fact that everyone spoke so highly of him, I tried to find out about him and learn who he was. It was quite an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as him. Really, he was a much better player than I ever was, so except for speed, there weren’t any viable comparisons. I actually got to meet him for the first time recently at a luncheon at Lipscomb, and I was honored to finally meet him.
What do you remember about Lipscomb campus life during your time here?
Baseball for me felt like a full-time job, so most of my campus time was spent in the library studying or in the student center hanging out after chapel. I enjoyed going to the basketball games in the winter, but baseball and studying occupied most of my time.
What are the most valuable lessons you learned in your time at Lipscomb?
There are so many lessons that I learned in my time at Lipscomb, but the most important one is the importance in serving others. I feel strongly that we’re placed here to serve, not to be served.
I was taught at Lipscomb the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself. What a better world we would have if everyone would live by these two commandments.
And finally, I believe a life is not important except in the impact it has on others.
Who were your favorite professors?
I always thought a lot of Professor (Eugene) Boyce and Coach Tom Hanvey. They were both men of high character and integrity. They were men after God’s own heart. They were great teachers and highly thought of in the Lipscomb family.
What do you do now?
After 36 years of teaching and coaching, I retired in 2015. I spent 32 years in Williamson County, just south of Nashville, and 29 of those years were at Fairview High School. Over the years I taught Algebra, Geometry, Lifetime Wellness, and Physical Education. I coached football, basketball, and volleyball at times, but I coached baseball all 32 years. I occasionally do some substitute teaching now at Fairview, but I spend most of my time taking care of my grandchildren.
Tell us about your family:
I have been married for 37 years to my wife, Susan (Cassetty), whom I met while teaching at Lipscomb. She played basketball for Frank Bennett in the early 1980’s. She is the bookkeeper at Westhaven Elementary School in Franklin, and we have three boys, Matt (33), Luke (32), and Caleb (30). All three played baseball for me at Fairview High.
Matt followed in my footsteps and got into the teaching profession. He took over as the baseball coach at Fairview High when I retired after serving as my assistant for three years. He’s married and has two girls, ages 3 and 1, and is expecting a boy in March. Luke works for ForceX L3 in Nashville as a contract administrator. He is single and played baseball for four years in college, two at Columbia State Community College and two at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Caleb works at Nashville Golf and Athletic Club in Brentwood. He has one son, age 6, and two step-children – a boy, also age 6, and a girl who is 7.
- Favorite food: Lobster
- Favorite TV show or movie: Seinfeld and The Notebook
- Favorite Bible scripture: Rom 8:38-39 – “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to seperate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Favorite sports teams: Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees
- Pet peeve: Those who don’t finish what they start
- Person I most admire: My father
- Favorite season of the year: Fall
- Pick one – salad or dessert: Dessert
- Dream vacation spot: Yellowstone National Park
- Early morning or late night person? Late night
You can reach Curtis by email at firstname.lastname@example.org