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.
It would’ve been easy to quit, but this isn’t Kurt. Even as a child, he knew he didn’t want his broken past to define him. He persevered, focusing on his academic and emotional development. After graduating from high school with a 4.0 grade point average, Kurt received a full ride to Florida State University, then continued his education at the University of Texas at Austin, receiving a Master’s in Education. In search of a “new normal”, Kurt understood that education was paramount. Eventually, Kurt obtained his law degree and has been working in professional sports since 1995, first in the NFL and MLB, then as a sports agent. Providing a first-hand glimpse of what it takes to transform a chronic juvenile delinquent into a productive member of society, Kurt reflects on his childhood with a poignant examination of the hard work required to battle when the odds are against you. No matter how behind you are in the count, Kurt reminds us that you can always mold yourself into the person you want to be.
Targeted Age Group:: 15+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My inspiration in writing this book was based upon a desire to make an impact on our youth. I wanted to provide proof that we can all overcome our obstacles with the right combination of perseverance, commitment and education. This is one of those "I've been there too" books and I'm hopeful it will continue to serve as a source of inspiration.
In the fall of 1980, I was a soda-bottle-collecting nine-year-old. I scoured streets, open fields, and garbage cans, collecting glass soda bottles to cash in at the local Winn Dixie Supermarket. Often, I would make up to $12 at a time.
One afternoon, I was walking next to a 7-Eleven at the corner of 66th and Stirling Road. Inside the store, fluorescent lights lit up mouth-watering treasures: Twinkies, Doritos, Kit-Kats, and all kinds of healthy snacks for a growing boy. Crumpled newspapers and wrappers from a tipped trash can littered the cracked sidewalk.
As I dug into the garbage, an older gentleman approached.
“You collect bottles?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I proudly held up my bag as proof. “It’s an easy way to make money.”
“Well, you know, there’s quite a few bottles in the field over there. Follow me, I’ll show you.”
I had seen this guy a few times outside the shop and around the area so I figured it would be safe to follow him. We walked away from the 7-Eleven, crossed Stirling Road, and started trekking down toward a field littered with dense trees. Venturing further into a clearing, I could no longer hear cars buzzing nearby. After a few more minutes, I looked back as the entrance into the field grew more distant.
“Are we there yet?” I kept asking, scouring the dirt as I did the street, looking for more bottles.
“Almost there. Just follow me.”
At last, we reached a dense patch of trees in the center of the woods. Garbage was strewn everywhere. Empty cigarette packs and beer cans covered the ground. It looked like this area had been used by homeless people, prostitutes, drug junkies or anyone else needing somewhere to crash. Misunderstanding the situation’s gravity, I became annoyed. I hadn’t seen any bottles I could actually use.
“Well, where are they?” I asked.
I will never forget the man’s answer. He turned to look at me with evil in his eyes. “I’m going to kill you.” He flashed a devilish grin. “But first I’m going to f**k you.”
As soon as he approached, I screamed so loud I was sure people back at the convenience store could hear me. No one did. The trees swallowed my yells, the sounds dissolving into the mud.
He grabbed my shaking arms with his long, clawing fingers as he undressed himself. Terrified, I cried out more, begging for help. No one came. He held me down to undress me next. I struggled, flailing to get loose.
And then a strength I never knew kicked in. Adrenaline surged through me. I broke free from his grip and dove through trees, tripping over tree stumps. I could have outrun a cheetah at that moment. I escaped the clearing, suffering only minor scratches and bruises. 7-Eleven’s peeling paint had never looked so comforting as my feet smacked pavement seconds later. I spotted someone getting out of a car in the parking lot. They could save me if the man returned.
I changed my mind. I wasn’t sticking around. I curved around the building and onto the nearest side street. I had dropped my bottles but I didn’t care. I raced home with rubbery legs, one eye peeled behind me, wondering if he was still after me.
Once inside my house, I latched the door shut, then sat on the kitchen floor with my back against a cabinet. I stayed there panting with the image of his evil grin stuck on repeat.
I didn’t tell anyone about the incident. I was too embarrassed. Instead, I plotted my revenge. In my neighborhood, you always sought vengeance on those who wronged you, or tried to wrong you. I wanted to kill this guy, so I packed a butcher’s knife and headed back to the clearing the next day. This guy was mine.
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