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AC alum takes the helm of Legion baseball team

MIDDLEBURY — This year’s Addison County American Legion baseball team will have a new look, both on the field and in the dugout.
Not only have eight players not returned, almost all because they no longer meet age eligibility requirements, but after more than a decade leading the program Coach Mike Estey and top assistant Jim Lutton have stepped down.
Taking their place, at least for this summer, is AC and Vergennes Union High School alum Cameron Curler, a member of both programs’ 2008 championship teams who then moved on to start at shortstop for Castleton State College.
Estey and Lutton said right at the end of last summer’s season they would leave their posts with the AC team, which they coached to that 2008 Vermont title, and they spoke to Curler not long afterward.
But at that point Curler was committed to his full-time job as the athletic director and baseball coach of Rutland’s College of St. Joseph.
But in August of 2018 the school learned its accreditation was at risk, and by late this past year Curler and the rest of the St. Joseph’s community could read the writing on the wall the school might not survive. This past spring, the news became official the school and his job would disappear.
At that point Curler agreed with Estey and Lutton to take the AC post on an interim basis, with two of his former 2008 AC teammates, Middlebury Union alum Dustin Fleming and Mount Abraham graduate (and Curler’s Castleton teammate) D.J. Detweiler coming aboard as assistants.
“I’d said to Mike and Jim all along, since the fall, I’d help any way that I can. I just wasn’t sure where I was going to be. Even if I was working at the college I’d be able to help some,” Curler said. “But things kind of worked themselves out where I’m working for what’s next, so I’m going to be around, so I might as well do it. Especially because Mike and Jim have put so much into it, and they want to see things keep going.”
Curler said he hopes the current AC players can enjoy the summer the same way he, Fleming and Detweiler did.
“I’m really trying to give them a similar experience,” he said. “Just having fun, learning to play the game the right way, playing with the best ballplayers in the county, guys who have the passion for the game to possibly go on and play in college.”
Curler believes he can help those who do want to continue their playing career learn to succeed at the next level, including by putting in the extra work and understanding time-management skills.
“I think that’s one thing I do have to offer. Guys who are serious about playing college baseball, I know what it takes. I can help push them the right direction. If they’re willing to put in the work I’ll do whatever I can for them,” he said.
Since an appearance in the 2014 Vermont final, AC has fallen short of the Northern Division playoffs with win totals generally in the six-to-eight range.
AC’s season started on Wednesday with a home game played after the deadline for this edition. It came after just three practices, and Curler acknowledged it was early for him to assess the 2019 Legion outfit.
But he liked what he saw.
“My goal is to get the best players in the area to come out for the team, and we’re pretty close,” Curler said. “Once we get the players to come out, once we get the guys pulling together and competing together and playing the game the right way, I think we have enough competitors, from what I’ve seen … If you can get the best competitors from each school to come out, I’m confident we can be competitive.”
AC did lure the top pitchers from each of the local schools: Wyatt Cameron from MUHS, Nolan Whitcomb from Mount Abe, and VUHS co-aces Jarret Muzzy and Tucker Stearns, although Curler said Stearns will probably not throw early on after a heavy workload that included two playoff starts.
Former Eagle Dustin Whitcomb, current Eagle Ryan Whitcomb, Tiger Hale Hescock and former Tiger Nick Kaufman round out the staff.
“We might have only one pitcher who is going to overpower guys at times (Cameron),” Curler said. “But I think we have enough guys who throw strikes that if we play good team defense and are sound defensively, then I think we’ll be all right,”
On defense, Commodore Jeffrey Stearns is the No. 1 catcher, with Tiger Devon Kearns backing him up and also being versatile enough to play in the field.
Many other AC players are also versatile, although Curler foresees Cameron as the No. 1 shortstop, with Hescock probably topping the depth chart at second base and moving to shortstop when Cameron pitches.
Tucker Stearns and Muzzy shared shortstop for VUHS, and Curler said both can “play anywhere on the field.”
Commodore Cooper O’Brien should get starts at first base, but Curler also likes his work in the outfield. Curler said the same thing about Dustin Whitcomb and third base.
Commodore Robbie Bicknell should see time at second base and outfield, while former Commodore Casey Kimball will see action at both corner infield positions, according to Curler.
Nolan Whitcomb will fill in around the diamond as well as eat up innings, while Ryan Whitcomb and Kaufman are likely to patrol corner outfield slots.
“From what I’ve seen we have enough athletes that we’ll be strong defensively,” Curler said.
Offensively, Curler hopes to pressure teams with aggressive baserunning.
“It’s tough for me to say what brand of baseball we’re going to play offensively, because I don’t have a full idea what we’re working with right now. But I know we’re going to run the bases,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve got guys who can steal bases. But you don’t have to steal bases to be a good baserunning team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
CAMERON CURLER WATCHES his charges run through a drill at the Middlebury College field on Monday. 
Independent photo/Steve James
ADDISON COUNTY
AMERICAN LEGION
BASEBALL SCHEDULE
6/12: AC at Barre ………………. 5:30 PM
6/13: OEC at AC……………….. 5:30 PM
6/15: AC at OEC (2) ………………. Noon
6/16: AC at Colchester …………….. Noon
6/18: AC at Essex ……………… 5:30 PM
6/19: AC at S. Burlington ……. 5:30 PM
6/20: AC at Franklin …………… 5:30 PM
6/22: Barre at AC (2) …………….. 11 AM
6/23: Montpelier at AC ………….. 11 AM
6/29: S. Burlington at AC (2) ….. 11 AM
6/30: AC at Colchester …………….. Noon
7/2: Colchester at AC ………….. 5:30 PM
7/6: Franklin at AC (2) ………….. 11 AM
7/7: Bulldogs at AC (2) …………. 11 AM
7/9: AC at SD Ireland …………. 5:30 PM
7/13 Essex at AC (2) …………….. 11 AM
7/16: SD Ireland at AC ………… 5:30 PM
7/17: SD Ireland at AC ………… 5:30 PM
7/20 AC at Montpelier (2) ………… Noon
7/27-31 State Tournament …………. TBD
Home games played at Middlebury College field.
 
AMERICAN LEGION
BASEBALL ROSTER
 
Coach: Cameron Curler
Assistants: D.J. Detweiler, Dustin Fleming
 
Robbie Bicknell 
Wyatt Cameron 
Hale Hescock 
Devon Kearns 
Nik Kaufman 
Casey Kimball 
Jarret Muzzy 
Cooper O’Brien 
Jeff Stearns 
Tucker Stearns 
Dustin Whitcomb 
Nolan Whitcomb 
Ryan Whitcomb  

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