Powerful, moving and inspirational! A great read!
5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –
Kurt Varricchio redefines the meaning of a difficult childhood in his intimate memoir, “Behind in the Count: My Journey from Juvenile Delinquent to Baseball Agent.” Whether it was trying to fill his empty stomach with one last scoop of Ovaltine, getting tied to a tree, being punished with a wrench, or sleeping on the rooftops of local strip malls, Kurt’s survival is nothing short of miraculous. After losing his father at two-years-old, his childhood commenced in a dilapidated home where physical and emotional abuse ran rampant. So, Kurt did what he had to do to survive: run. And steal. After several trips to juvenile hall and group homes across the state of Florida, law officials, prison guards, and even his own family thought his fate was sealed—right behind those impenetrable bars. Kurt was ultimately removed from his family and placed in Florida’s Foster Care System just before his 12th birthday.
SD: What was most challenging for you when writing your story?
KV: Most challenging was recalling what happened. Some of the details I remember like they happened yesterday. Some things you will never burn them out of your mind. I did write about some painful things, but it was very therapeutic for me. I knew I would take some emotional hits during the writing process, but I knew the outcome would only be greater.
SD: Reflecting on your life and story, what has helped you cope with, and heal from, the effects of your childhood?
KV: I have an insatiable appetite to be successful and to continue to press forward and prove people wrong. Whenever someone would say “You’re just a juvenile delinquent” I took it as fuel to do better. They meant it as a personal attack and I took it as one. I knew there was something more important in my life than what I was doing. When I started accepting responsibility and accountability for my actions, I was able to make changes.
SD: How did education become so important to you?
KV: Education creates opportunities. Growing up, education to me was going to school to get a free meal. I really didn’t care about learning. As many times as I missed school, I would take a test and would actually do well. Once I went to my foster care family, they pushed me to put more effort into learning. When I did, I started being recognized for it and I loved that feeling. All my life, people took stuff from me, but my education was the one thing no one could take away from me.
SD: Did your foster family help you get on the road to success?
KV: They were very instrumental for sure! I write in the book that there were moments where they would discipline me, but it was never physical. I thought that was neat, because I have never experienced punishment without physical discipline. They always used positive reinforcement, never negative. My foster mother always fought for me. No one has ever done that for me so I thought I better do what I can to do my best. Positive reinforcement really works!
SD: Giving the lure of the bright lights and fame that comes along with being an athlete, how have you been able to influence the athletes you represent?
KV: There is no substitute for experience and I think sometimes people think experience has to be directly related to your field, but it doesn’t. There are universal concepts. One of them is resilience. Baseball requires that. You are not always going to hit a homerun. You have to get used to bouncing back. If you worry too much about the things that you can’t change, you will never move forward in life. I always tell my guys that “Life is about bouncing back, keeping focus, and moving forward.”