Buckhead resident Bo Curtis’ ties to baseball date back to his time as a student at Riverwood High School, from which he graduated in 2003.
While attending Riverwood, Curtis had the opportunity to try out for East Cobb Baseball (ECB) when he was 14.
ECB was founded in 1985 by Guerry Baldwin, a former player and coach for Buckhead Baseball at Frankie Allen Park. The East Cobb program has won 252 national titles in its history, including five in 2019. It has produced several standout players with ties to Buckhead Baseball as well, including Westminster and University of Georgia alumnus Gordon Beckham, who currently plays professionally for the Detroit Tigers; Kell High graduate Michael Demperio, another Georgia alum who was a 25th round draft pick by the Anaheim Angels in 2009; and Lovett alumnus Todd LaRocca, who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1994 MLB Draft after playing for Stanford.
The program has also produced success stories on the executive level, as Lovett and Vanderbilt University alumnus Carter Hawkins is the assistant general manager for the Cleveland Indians.
“When I was playing, East Cobb was the most elite travel team in the country, especially in Georgia,” Curtis said. “There are others now but ECB was the best and still is. We have the top teams every year. Back then if you were playing elite baseball, you wanted to be at ECB.”
Curtis matriculated to the University of Mississippi but didn’t play on the baseball team due to ineligibility.
“That’s one of my biggest things with the 18-year-old players,” he said. “I love to keep them on the right track because any opportunity given to you can be taken away. That’s the biggest reason I keep coaching and giving back to the kids.
The summer before his senior year at Ole Miss in 2006, Curtis had an opportunity to give back on the baseball field as the coach of a 13-year-old team at ECB. It began his path of helping young men reach the goal of playing collegiate baseball.
“Back when I played at ECB, all of my buddies that were good got offers to play in college,” Curtis said. “That has changed. The schools now want the kids to have different playing tools, good backgrounds, good family and grades are the top thing now. The recruitment process has changed. It keeps us on our toes and we love it, but it’s a different ballgame, especially at the Division I level.”
Curtis has grown with ECB and is the program director for the Colt 45s, which has a youth team for each age ranging from 14 through 18. He serves specifically as the head coach of the under-15 and under-18 teams.
“It’s become more competitive every year at the older age groups within Georgia,” Curtis said. “I’m happy how ECB is still the pinnacle of travel baseball. I have my hands on every single team and know every single kid, so that when they start with us at 13, I like to see them move all the way to 18 and help them get that college scholarship.
“Our top goal is to get our players recruited. Wherever we travel, we’re calling local college coaches to see our kids play. The pipeline to get schools to see us has grown. (At) every single game we have at least one or two scouts or coaches watching our kids.”
Josh Alterman played with Curtis at ECB and Riverwood and has served as his recruiting coordinator and assistant coach for the Colt 45s the past eight years
“I fell in love (with) the style that Bo brings and the kids that are out there,” Alterman said. “Part of the reason I like to coach is hanging out with Bo. He has dedicated his life to the kids and does things the right way. He’s an old school coach and a disciplinarian but also fun. He’s a loyal guy, been through adversity and fought through it.
“It’s not just a game, it’s about how you grow. There will be a day someone will take baseball from you. Bo’s the most loyal guy I’ve met in my life. If you’re Bo’s friend, you’re his friend for life. He’s a good baseball guy and cares more about life than baseball.”
Curtis also connected his ties to the community on the business level with his relationship with Play It Again Sports, a sporting goods store with branches throughout Georgia, in 2007.
“After graduating college, I was coaching at Northside Youth Organization and walked into the Play It Again store in Buckhead,” he said.
Curtis proceeded to begin work at the Roswell branch, eventually helped open the location in Snellville and ultimately purchased the Buckhead location in 2014.
“it’s great because you have Buckhead Baseball, Northside Youth Organization, Murphey Candler Baseball as well as the private and public school athletes looking for gear,” he said. “We’re the neighborhood sports store. They all see each other, the dads hanging out talking about games. It’s a fun and cool environment. It’s not a job. We talk about the local sports and the customers buy some gear while we’re at it.”
Zach Zillweger played for Curtis at ECB and proceeded to play at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. He has returned to Atlanta and works as an assistant manager at the Play It Again location in Buckhead.
“I met Bo when I was 17 and made the team,” Zillweger said. “Here in Georgia, college baseball is huge, and I had little looks in high school. But when you’re playing at tournaments with ECB, you get more looks. He provided me with a platform to show my skills. He also helped my baseball skills.”
The relationship extended beyond the ball field.
“He offered me a job at the store,” Zillweger said. “I wasn’t happy with my coaching job with another team, so he (also) offered me a job at ECB. He’s given me an opportunity and has been my mentor because he’s gone through a lot of it, and I can rely on him and ask questions. We get to talk sports all day, and it’s an awesome community spot that everyone can come to. It’s a great way to speak with the young kids and parents.”
The central location of the Play It Again Sports location in the Buckhead Court shopping center on Roswell Road helps build the camaraderie of the community while also providing an opportunity for Curtis to help athletes interested in pursuing baseball.
“it’s great having all of the schools around here,” he said. “It’s cool the kids looking for baseball equipment may also be looking to play in college, and I can recommend ECB for them. It’s a good thing and a lot of fun.”
East Cobb Baseball and the Colt 45s will return to the field for tournaments from September through November, while Play It Again Sports is in full swing with fall sports in activity.