By STEVE KRAH
One of the younger minds on the Indiana high school baseball coaching block is enjoying success early in his career.
Royce Carlton, who turned 25 in January, has racked up 48 victories in his first three seasons as a head coach.
As a University of Indianapolis junior, Carlton was hired as an assistant at his high school alma mater — Morristown. The next spring (2014), the Yellow Jackets went 19-7 with Carlton in charge a season after going 12-13. The ’14 Morristown team hit .378 with Quality At-Bat percentage of 61, a .458 on-base percentage and 3.15 earned run average).
After graduating UIndy, Carlton got a job and a fresh start on the western side of the state. At Attica, he is head baseball coach, head boys tennis coach, strength and conditioning coordinator and teaches health and physical education. He was also coaching basketball when he first arrived at the Fountain County school.
“It’s been a very enjoyable experience so far,” says Carlton. “It’s a very tight-knit community and there’s a lot of support.”
On the diamond, Carlton took a team that was around .500 the year before he arrived to 14-10 in 2015 (.351/45/.446/3.56) and 15-8 in 2016 (.312/45/.407.2.25). Opponents hit .207 against Red Ramblers pitching last spring.
Drawing from his many influences and conducting plenty of research, Carlton is making Attica better on the diamond. Attica will be out to earn its eighth overall sectional title and first since 2010.
The foundation of what Royce does comes from his parents — Roger and Elaine Carlton. Roger stole 72 bases in a season for Morristown in the late ’70s and base stealing has been a major component for Royce’s teams (Morristown swiped 98 in 2014 while Attica pilfered 95 in 2015 and 67 in 2016, all with a success rate of over 85 percent).
The enthusiastic coach is always talking with people in the baseball community and applying that knowledge to his program. He will take this from a college coach and that from Major League Baseball manager.
Some of what Carlton knows about base running comes from Mike Roberts, professional and college coach and the father of former American League stolen base champion Brian Roberts (who took 50 for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and 285 for his MLB career).
To be successful on the paths, Carlton says his players must be “aggressively technical.”
“You have to commit at the right time,” says Carlton. “You have no time for a second thought.”
Grandfather Paul Goble, a highly-respected track and cross country coach at Morristown, and great uncle Charlie Nugent (who hit .299 with five home runs and 28 runs batted in as a first-team all-Indiana Collegiate Conference first baseman at Ball State in 1965) have also shaped Royce.
Royce played for Tim Hancock at Morristown and credits head coach Gary Vaught and assistant Al Ready for teaching him a lot of baseball in his two seasons as an Indianapolis Greyhound.
He is thankful to the athletic directors who hired him — Craig Moore at Morristown and Fred Unsicker at Attica. Moore continues to be a professional mentor to the young Carlton.
Carlton saw that Oscar Jimenez (a former Kansas City Royals prospect, Little League World Series star and native of Panama living in the Lafayette) did not have a job in baseball and added him a coaching staff which also includes Rod Crist at the varsity level with Nick Burris and Chris Ferguson running Attica’s two junior varsity teams.
With 34 players, Carlton said he has to the biggest numbers in the Wabash River Conference (a league of Class 1A and 2A schools).
“That’s unheard of for a school our size,” says Carlton. With two JV teams, players will be moved around as needed. The head coach is not yet sure about the quality of pitching in his freshmen class.
A few ways that he helps his pitchers — really all players — is by the use of the DriveLine Baseball training methods as well as the Motus sleeve, a device which includes a ulnar collateral ligament workload monitor which is touted by the company as “the first tool aimed specifically at combating UCL tears that lead to Tommy John Surgery.”
“The kids see all the technology and see how changing an arm slot reduces arm stress on the elbow,” says Carlton.
Pitchers throw from their natural arm slot and if Carlton sees any issues with the data he gathers, he might change their motion a little bit.
Ramblers senior ace right-hander Eli Merriman was converted from overhand to a sidearm delivery and found to have less stress that way.
“It’s not one size fits all,” says Carlton. “You’ve got to adapt to each kid. Not every kid can throw sidearm.
“In the past, coaches wanted each pitcher to be a cookie cutter (and all throw with the same delivery). It’s not that way anymore.”
Following a two-week spring break, the Ramblers are scheduled to open the 2017 season Tuesday, April 4 by visiting the Cornjerkers of Hoopeston (Ill.).
“I am very excited to see how all of our players contribute to having a successful season and a deep tournament run,” says Carlton. “I am looking forward to having our best season yet lead by not only my strong senior class but also our freshman, sophomores, and juniors.
“I want us to be “uncomfortable” this season. We know we have the pieces but we need to stay on a continued path of growth each pitch of every game and not get comfortable with success.”
Royce Carlton is entering his third season at Attica in 2017. He has led the Red Ramblers to 29 victories in his first two seasons. He turned 25 in January.
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