Consider Aaron Curfman the 1-B all-Cascade Conference catcher selection.
Officially, Curfman made first team all-league as a utility player and Archbishop Murphy’s Alex Galgano was the first-team catcher. The Falcon senior who spent practically every game over a four-year varsity career behind home plate laughs at the idea of classifying himself a utility player. Yet, he is a utility player in the game of life. Curfman, a 3.8 GPA student at South Whidbey High School, was a letterman in football and baseball, a metalworks artist, graphic designer, active young member at Island Church of Whidbey (formerly Langley CMA) and kind of a gearhead in the shop.
When it comes to baseball, however, Aaron Curfman is a catcher, a knight of sorts for South Whidbey’s frequently win-challenged baseball team. When he suits up, it’s like putting on armor: the cleats and shinguards his greaves, the chest protector his breastplate, the facemask his helmet.
“Definitely the gear,” said Curfman of what drew him to the catcher’s position as a 6 year old. “It’s my niche.
“It gives you a different personality. You can be whoever the field sees you as.”
Once Curfman donned the suit and stepped behind the plate, he became the Falcons’ field general. Posed between home and the pitcher’s mound, Curfman remarked he didn’t care for the view. Back behind home plate, he raised his arms toward the foul lines, showing how he watched nearly 100 games unfold. This season, he counted only four runners who stole a base on him.
“It’s been a pleasure to be a catcher,” he said.
In his four-year career on the varsity team, he’s stopped wild pitches from hurlers like Craig “The Hawk” Hawkinson during his freshman season, and more recently Cameron Wildes as a junior and even teammates Colton Sterba and Brent Piehler, all of whom Curfman said could throw in the high low 80s. Hawkinson, however, had little control over his heat, so the then ninth-grade Curfman became less of a catcher and more of a backstop, blocking the wild throws with any part of his body he could. He remembers his first start behind the plate, it was a road game against Sultan, it was raining, the field was muddy, and he went home with his Falcon blue shinguards covered in brown slop.
“I was a freshman playing varsity, it was a big deal,” Curfman said of his first-start nerves as a 14-year-old. “I was just hoping I don’t drop the ball.”
Putting his body in harm’s way is part of a standard day as the catcher. First, he has to work with the pitcher, calling out the throws and placement. Then Curfman tried to sell the pitches to the umpire by positioning his glove. With a ball in play, he had to know where the fielder should throw, line up any cutoff throwers, all while monitoring any base runners who may head home.
That’s when Curfman loved his position — a runner rounding throw, the ball coming home, collision imminent. As a two-sport athlete, Curfman also played linebacker for the Falcon football team, so he knows a thing or two about center of gravity and resisting an oncoming force.
“Catching is the only position you can really dig into someone,” Curfman said. “You don’t want to be the receiver; you want to be the enforcer.”
Evidence exists from one of his last home plate crashes. In the final playoff game of his high school career against Charles Wright Academy, Curfman waited at home for a throw from center fielder Jake Sladky. He caught the ball, covered the plate with his legs and waited for the runner, forcing the runner wide and tagging him out, but not without a cleat to his shinguard. Curfman repaired it a few days ago with a little stitching.
“Play with a big heart,” Curfman said of his approach to stopping big boys from bowling him over at the plate (even though they’re supposed to slide). “If you see someone trucking down the line, you have to know you’re going to win the battle.”
He’s also a slugger. Curfman finished the season with a .361 batting average and 18 stolen bases, making him South Whidbey’s all-time leader in steals with 56 bases. At three-inches high each, if stacked one on top of the other they would be more than twice as tall as Curfman.
Off the field, Curfman is a throwback to the days of “Grease.” In four years at South Whidbey High School, he has taken five different shop courses with Chad Felgar that have produced a hot rod, a mini-monster truck, metal art, bird baths and mast brackets for his 30-year-old 10-foot sailing boat. He credits his dad, a parts specialist with Boeing, for the tactile strengths of metalwork and woodwork.
Curfman’s mom, however, gave him his artistic side. His mom’s grandfather was an artist, and he followed suit by creating various pieces out of metal and spray paint as a graffiti artist, though not a vandal.
“They’re two abstracts that come together,” Curfman said of his multi-faceted nature as an athlete, a shop guy and an artist.
Then there’s his faith. An active Christian, Curfman chose to accept a baseball scholarship at Simpson University, a small Christian liberal arts college in Redding, Calif. Curfman will follow in the footsteps of his mentor and youth pastor at Island Church, Mike Berry, who also attended and played baseball at Simpson University, and pursue a degree in youth ministry.
“Every little kid wants to be a pro baseball player,” Curfman said. “I’m going to let it take me as far as it can.”