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July 5, 2003

Journeyman takes Pride in pinstripes

From: Middleton Times Herald Record, NY - Jul 5, 2003

By Michael Kruse
Times Herald-Record

New York – Curtis Pride tried on his new ball cap early yesterday afternoon.
"Have a 7¼?" he said to the equipment manager responsible for him.
"Little tight?" the kid said back. "I'll go stretch it."
He received the rejiggered headwear a few minutes later, cupped and curved the bill and took a look at the logo.
Curtis Pride was a New York Yankee.
The 34-year-old outfielder got the call to the Bronx when the Yanks sent pitcher Brandon Claussen back to Triple-A Columbus yesterday.
"It's a tremendous honor," Pride said in the clubhouse before yesterday's game here at the Stadium. "It's a surprise for me."
For him?
Everybody else, too.
Pride, after all, started this season out of even the minors – with the Nashua, N.H., franchise of the independent Atlantic League.
The big-league journeyman – he's been with four teams in parts of seven seasons since 1993 – hit .344 with 25 RBI in just 16 games there in May.
Yanks scouts took note, signed Pride to a minor-league deal and sent him to Columbus.
And he hit .314 – including .529 with runners in scoring position – in 25 games for the Clippers.
Which prompted yesterday's promotion.
Try this: He was born 95 percent deaf after his mother, Sallie, fell ill with rubella during her pregnancy.
Pride, who wears a hearing aid and reads lips, grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and graduated from John F. Kennedy High in 1986 with a 3.6 GPA.
He was good enough in basketball to earn a full scholarship to William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where he started at point guard for four years.
The Mets drafted him in the 10th round of the '86 draft.
But his best sport, believe it or not, was soccer, in which he was a junior national team member in the mid-'80s.
He chose to pursue baseball, though, and made it to the big leagues in September '93 with Montreal.
In '96, he became the first deaf person to play a full season in modern major-league history, hitting an even .300 in 267 at-bats for Detroit.
His last stop in The Show – at least before yesterday – was a 76-game stint two years ago with the Expos.
But putting on the pinstripes was certainly an unexpected highlight – especially at this stage of his up-and-down career.
"I never thought I'd be picked up by the Yankees," Pride said. "I'm excited to be here, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help."
Team honchos said yesterday that'd probably involve pinch-hitting and pinch-running more than anything else.
"He's another body off the bench," manager Joe Torre said – and his speed is considered his biggest asset.
"Nothing new to me," Pride said.
Even if the logo was.
"I've only heard good things about him," Torre added. "Every stop he's made, he's been a class act."

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