BY STEVE KRAH
Cal Curiel came through in the clutch at the 2022 Northern League All-Star Game.
Batting with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning, righty-swinging Curiel singled to right field to drive in the tying run. The East went on to beat the West 5-4 in 10 innings July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind.
Curiel, who started at third base and hit third in the East lineup in the All-Star Game, is on the first-place Lake County CornDogs (24-8), which plays home games at Legacy Fields in Crown Point, Ind.
“I love Coach (Steve) Strayer,” says 2021 Crown Point High School graduate Curiel of his Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame head coach. “He’s a great guy and a great coach, too. He knows what he’s doing.
“We always have good teams at Crown Point and he’s fun to play for.”
Curiel hit .324 with 13 runs batted in and 23 runs scored in 2021.
Spending his whole life in the seat of Lake County, Curiel played Little League there and for the Morris Chiefs (now the 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs) from 14U to 18U. That’s when he got to play for Dave Sutkowski.
“Bush is awesome,” says Curiel of Sutkowski. “He is one of my favorite coaches ever. He’s always about the players. You could always talk to him in the dugout during the game. He’s going to try to win the ballgame. He’s just awesome.”
The Chiefs managed to play about 60 games during the summer of 2020.
“(Sutkowski) was finding teams to play around here when we couldn’t get into big tournaments because of COVID,” says Curiel. “It was a great time.”
Curiel was one of only two players to appear in all 50 games for NAIA Crossroads League member Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.) in the spring of 2022.
Utility infielder Curiel made 37 starts for the Lancers and hit .333 (54-of-162) with 51 singles, 18 RBIs, 31 runs and 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts. His on-base percentage was .388.
“We could have been a little better,” says Curiel of Grace’s 17-33 record. “We look like we’re going up (in 2023). I like the team we have coming in.”
The Lancers head coach is Ryan Roth.
“Roth is also a super-positive guy,” says Curiel. “He’s super-approachable and you can always talk to him. You can tell he cares about his players.”
Through 26 Northern League games with the CornDogs, Curiel was hitting .299 (26-of-87) with five doubles, 19 RBIs, 20 runs and 11 stolen bases.
“I’m looking to hit a ball hard early in the count,” says Curiel of his offensive approach. “I’m going to look for my pitch. If I don’t I’m probably going to take or foul the pitch off.
“I’m not a huge power guy so I try to take the ball where’s it’s pitched.”
Curiel did not play last summer. He took the time to get his body prepared.
“I was a pretty skinny kid coming out of high school,” says Curiel. “So I ate a lot and worked out. I tried to put on 10 or 15 pounds so I could compete in college.
“I was 18 going into the college season competing with fifth- and six-year players. I had to get physically ready to play.”
The 6-foot-2 athlete went from 170 pounds to about 195.
Exercise Science is Curiel’s college major. It’s his goal to be a physical therapist.
He explains why he chose that path.
“I got like super into working out,” says Curiel. “I just like trying to live healthy. I wanted to take a lot of courses on that.”
He can use that knowledge to help himself and others.
Cal is the son of Mike and Christine Curiel. Sister Ella Curiel is heading into her senior year of high school.