Command is an attribute most pitchers need to succeed at the college level.
The command that Kurtis Hultz possesses, however, extends far beyond the baseball diamond.
Hultz, a Daniel Boone grad and senior at Kutztown University, takes the student-athlete role one step further.
A business management major, a right-hander on the Golden Bears’ PSAC Eastern Division squad and a Sergeant in the 111th infantry division of the Pennsylvania National Guard, Hultz is the rare student-athlete-soldier.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” said Hultz, whose great-grandfather William Butman saw action in World War II. “Ever since I was a little kid, I looked forward to the opportunity to serve.”
Hultz was a three-sport athlete (baseball, basketball, soccer) at High Point before transferring to Boone, where he played volleyball as a senior due to concussion issues.
He first joined the Guard in early 2013 during his time at Cecil (Md.) Junior College, and took a hiatus from school to head to Fort Benning, Ga., for a four-month basic training stint.
While with the Maryland National Guard, 175th infantry division (an attachment of the Pa. infantry), Hultz ran emergency weather missions and was part of the deployment in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots in 2015.
“That was interesting, to say the least,” Hultz said.
Hultz’s college baseball career began to take off during his final year at Cecil in 2015, when he posted a sub-2.00 ERA in nearly 40 innings for the Seahawks and was named to the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference and all-region teams.
As the 6-3, 205-pound Hultz was throwing in the conference all-star game, he caught the eye of Kutztown coach Chris Blum, who encouraged him to consider giving the Golden Bears a shot. After deciding to check out the campus, Hultz was sold.
“Halfway through my visit, I fell in love with it,” he said. “I realized that being closer to home to play was the most important thing to me, so my family could come out and watch.”
After spending most of his junior season getting acclimated to the rigors of one of the elite conferences of the Division II level, Hultz has hit the ground running this season for the Golden Bears (8-5 entering Wednesday). With Kutztown on its seven-game Spring Break trip to Wilson, N.C. March 10-15, Kultz carries a 1-1 record in three appearances. He has 13 strikeouts over 11 innings.
On Feb. 24, in the Golden Bears’ second game of the season, he struck out seven in four shutout innings to pick up the decision in a 7-0 win over Apprentice School in Hampton, Va.
“I’m not sure where I am in the rotation at this point,” said Hultz, throws a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s to go along with a curve, slider and change. “But honestly, the only thing I’m really concerned about is doing whatever I can to help us win some baseball games.”
“Kurtis has worked harder than anyone to get himself ready for his last year of college baseball, and early signs are showing that all the hard work is paying off,” Blum said. “He’s not going to leave here wondering, ‘What could I have done if I worked harder?’”
Hultz has also continued his Guard commitment, and currently serves as a Vehicle Commander for Charlie Company of the 111th. Prior to last season’s PSAC East doubleheader at East Stroudsburg, Hultz was one of three people honored on what was dubbed Military Appreciation Day.
“Kurtis is incredibly respectful and responsible in all aspects of his life,” said Blum, who entered this season 38 wins shy of 500 for his 15-year tenure. “He has his priorities in place. He is always keeping me informed of his military demands and making up whatever he misses at practice. I know I can always call him with something that needs to get done, and he will get everyone in line and have the job done.”
“The military has taught me a lot about the importance of precision and resilience,” Hultz said. “And being in charge of people has also taught me how to be an effective leader.”
Enhancing Hultz’s “veteran” status is his age – he turned 25 last week, making him the dugout’s de facto voice of experience.
“A lot of my current teammates were in 7th and eighth grade when I graduated high school,” Hultz joked.
“His military background spills right over to a leadership role in the dugout and amongst his teammates,” Blum said. “He pushes them to be better, train harder and stretch themselves to fight harder in a game.”
For now, Hultz is happy to juggle a busy schedule that includes classes, practices, games – and Guard duty that encompasses one weekend a month and two-to-three weeks over the summer.
As his college career winds down, Hultz relishes every chance to pitch in and help the Golden Bears (ranked ninth in the latest NCBWA Division II Atlantic Region poll) try to return to conference title contention after a couple of atypical sub-par seasons.
“It was pretty fun to be out there in a high-intensity situation,” Hultz said of a senior mound debut worthy of a salute.