Father of 4 and so much more
In professional football the Manning name carries more weight than any other. Archie Manning made the name famous in the late 1960s at Ole Miss and throughout the 1970s with the New Orleans Saints. Then his sons, Peyton and Eli, made the Manning name legendary.
For Rutherford County baseball, the name Snethen is much like the name Manning in football. When a Snethen is mentioned, a baseball reference is more than likely to follow.
According to The Daily Courier photographer Garrett Byers, it's nearly impossible to take a picture at a baseball game without a Snethen in it somewhere.
Curtis Snethen, the man that started it all, is the Post 423 Athletic Director, Junior Legion head coach and R-S Middle head coach. But more importantly, Curtis is a father to four boys that all turned out to be pretty good ball players. Cas, 27, and Keith, 24, were key legion players in the past and Cameron, 14, and Kael, 12, are sure to make names for themselves on the diamond very soon.
However, baseball is much more than just a game to Curtis and the Snethen family.
"I wasn't fortunate enough to have a girl and be involved in dance, so baseball was my avenue to be involved with my boys," Curtis said. "For my boys, baseball has allowed me to teach them to become responsible individuals."
Every year he teaches dozens of boys how to become better hitters, better pitchers and better defenders, but he also teaches them to be better men.
"He expects a lot on the field but for him it's more about what baseball teaches you off the field and in life," Keith said.
"He's a real firm believer in doing what you say and doing it 100 percent," Cas said. "He instilled that in all of his sons and he definitely instills it in all of his ball players. He knows how to get the best out of them."
Curtis' impact on his sons has spread to any player that's had the chance to play for him. It's never taken long for players to respect him and parents to entrust him with their sons for entire summers.
Curtis, 49, is a coach that values hard work, dedication, respect and desire — traits he learned at a young age.
As a young man growing up in California, Curtis watched his father battle with alcoholism until his parents divorced when he was 16. But before the split, Curtis absorbed his father's competitive spirit.
"My father spent his entire life breaking and training thoroughbred race horses which is probably where I got my competitive nature from," Curtis said. "I grew up on race tracks."
Curtis's father's love for the track and alcohol made it hard for the two to develop a healthy father-son relationship.
"I realized there were a lot of things he didn't get a chance to do with me as a dad because of his alcoholism," Curtis said. "As I got older I learned and accepted that it was something he didn't have any control over because it's a disease. I didn't understand it at the time but it led to the divorce."
Curtis' mother remarried and his new stepfather moved the family to North Carolina along with Curtis' grandfather and three aunts.
"Having went through that when I was 16, I told myself that I was going to be the best dad I could be," Curtis said.
Even with that promise, Curtis found himself struggling to keep it as a young father fresh out of the United States Navy. That was when baseball changed everything.
"I can remember starting my business when Cas was playing t-ball and my wife pointed out that I was spending so much time at work and not enough time with Cas on the t-ball field," Curtis recalled. "I can remember, vividly, that even though I wasn't into alcohol or drugs, I was following the same path that my dad did. He was always working. He was always busy. That's when I decided to change what I was doing. From there I just got into baseball."
And from there Curtis raised two boys, took a break and started with two more. According to his older boys, not much has changed from there time as boys compared to their younger counterparts.
"He's older," Keith pointed out. "He's not so strict, but at the same time he is. He's learned a lot from teaching me and Cas to grow up that it's only helping Cameron and Kael as people and ball players because they're twice the player me and Cas were."
"It's a very interesting dynamic," Cas added. "Not a lot of people get to see what Keith and I view as far as your parents raising kids like they raised us. It's fun. Keith and I sometimes have to play father-type roles for them and a lot of that is molded after our dad."
Curtis, however, notices a few slight differences in his parenting.
"Cas obviously got more whippings," Curtis said. "When the next two came along I was a little more laid back and let things go a little bit more. This time around I probably communicate a little more than I did. With Cas and Keith I was pretty quick to get after them."
One thing all the Snethen boys have in common is their height, or lack there of if you ask them. But that's what makes them Snethens.
"We've always been the little guys and feel like we have something to prove," Curtis said, saying that his youngest is the best example. "Kael is the most tender-hearted but he's the one everyone thinks is the biggest and baddest. That's because he always feels he has to prove that he can take care of himself."
That need to prove himself and his background are what made Curtis the baseball coach he is today.
"I think the biggest thing for him is what he's come from," Keith said. "He didn't have a lot growing up and didn't have a great father figure. I think that itself is what makes him more of a father figure than a coach. His past is what really drives him."
"From watching all my family struggle with drugs and alcohol and what it did to them, it put me in a position to pull for the underdog and the kids that are going through difficult times like I did," Curtis said. "I found that through baseball I could reach kids that I otherwise wouldn't be able to. I know what some kids are going through. If I can reach them through coaching it's rewarding for me."
Even though Curtis has four sons of his own to worry about on a daily basis, he makes it a point to be more than just a coach to all of his players. He's been known to give rides to those in need, organize every detail of a trip like he did when his Intermediate 50/70 Little League team traveled across the country to play in the Little League World Series and even house players in need of a home.
"He's just always had a knack, not just for baseball, but for kids," Cas said. "He certainly fits the role of a secondary father figure for all these guys."
What makes it all sweeter for Curtis is the chance to coach his boys and even coach alongside them. Cameron is a key player on both the R-S Middle and Junior Legion teams while Keith is a Junior Legion assistant coach.
"I wouldn't be nearly as rewarding if Keith wasn't out here," Curtis said. "Keith doesn't have to be out here, but he cares about it. I know in the end it will make him a better father, a better friend and a better husband."
Curtis lets his son make the lineup and call pitches, but he isn't quite ready to give up coaching third base as he claims to still be a "controlling guy."
"I love coaching with him and sometimes I hate it," Keith said. "We get into it a lot but there's nobody else I'd rather do it with."
Watching his sons become better ball players and coaches is just more to add to Curtis' list of proudest moments as a father. He's watched one son be named to an all-conference team, another pitch in the Little League World Series and just this week Cas was invited back to his elementary school to give a speech to the fifth-grade class preparing to transition into middle school. And according to Linda Snethen, Curtis' wife and the boys' mother, Cas sounded just like his father.
"I guess he did listen all those years ago," she said.
In a family where a male-dominated sport such as baseball reigns supreme, it's the influence of the women in Curtis' life that has shaped him the most.
Curtis' mom dealt with divorce, the near death of Curtis' father, the death of her second husband and the recent death of her third husband. And to this day she's still a therapeutic foster parent.
"My mom is tough woman. She's seen a lot of things," Curtis said. "I get my strength, more than anything, from my mom. My dad was always a hard worker but he was never as smart as my mom."
As for Linda, who has fibromyalgia, Curtis and the four boys make it their mission to help her as much as possible.
"There's a lot of times where she wants to be on the field but her back and her health just won't let her. That's the toughest part," Curtis said. "Some moms take for granted how involved they can be and some aren't involved at all. It's unfortunate how much she would be but her health tells her she can't."
Through all the pain, Linda is as much a part of the Snethen baseball tradition as any of her boys.
"She's been a great baseball mom," Curtis said. "We always said we were going to have a girl and four boys later we realized we weren't going to. I wish we had a girl for her, but she says she wouldn't trade anything."
As the coming years go by, the Snethen name will continue to be in programs and pictures captions across the county and the impact that Curtis has on young men will continue to grow. And though it all happens on the baseball diamond, wins, loses, batting averages and RBIs mean nothing.
"He expects a lot, but as long as he knows I'm doing the best I can, I'm passionate about what I'm doing and I respect whoever I go through along the way, that's all he really cares about," Keith said.
As for Curtis, who made the promise to be the best father he could from a young age, never predicted that he would have the impact he's had on his four boys and so many others that have played baseball for him.
"If you had asked me when I got out of the Navy if I would be involved with kids, I would have said no. This is just the path life has taken me," he said. "There's no book on becoming a great dad, you just have to follow your heart."