By STEVE KRAH
Only three men in the last half century have held the title of head baseball coach at Bethany Christian High School.
Dan Bodiker led the program 1966-95.
Jason Leichty served 1996-97.
Brent Reinhardt has been in charge 1998 to the present.
Reinhardt, who took a teaching job at the private school on the south side of Goshen the same academic year he assumed baseball coaching duties, has announced that this spring — his 20th — will be his last season as head coach.
While he plans to stay around baseball as a summer youth coach and remain in his role as varsity assistant girls basketball coach, he is stepping away from his spring diamond job.
The father of four (Brent and college sweetheart Marla have BC graduate and Grace College freshman Alex, junior Brooke, eighth grader Mia and fourth grader Jacoby) took the time this week to discuss his baseball past, present and future.
Alex has played junior varsity baseball this spring for the Lancers. The two girls are both athletes and Brent plans to see them play for Bethany in 2017-18. He also intends to form a 12U team in the Boys of Summer League that will include Jacoby and other Bethany students.
Stepping down in the spring will also give him more time for at-home projects and taking care of his sheep.
Reinhardt says he could see himself returning to high school baseball coaching someday, but as an assistant. He would leave the administrative work to the head coach.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members who reach 20 years of service are designated as a “dinosaur” and receive a T-shirt declaring their jurassic credentials.
“It’s kind of interesting being a ‘dinosaur,’” says Reinhardt. “I just had opportunities earlier than most people did.
“But when you look around, there’s hardly anyone still around when I played (Reinhardt is a 1988 NorthWood High School graduate who played for Bob Riley and Dennis Myers before playing for DeVon Hoffman at Goshen College, where he met volleyball player and wife-to-be Marla Gerber).”
Bodiker and Hoffman are to be honored when Goshen visits Bethany at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 2. RedHawks head coach Josh Keister also played for Hoffman (who is also a former Goshen High head coach) at GC.
Even though Reinhardt is just 47, this is his 25th straight spring of leading teenagers with bats and balls. He was NorthWood’s head softball coach for five seasons before being hired at Bethany.
Why has he stuck around for two decades?
“I just love baseball and I love kids,” says Reinhardt. “I love the turning of winter into spring and the new life. That six to eight weeks just flies by.”
Reinhardt, a social studies teacher, has spread the game to non-players through baseball-themed Interterm/J-Term sessions.
One year, he took students to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Another time, he had them develop a minor league franchise where they had to pick the city, name the team, identify the ballpark food and construct a model of the stadium.
Reinhardt grew up a Chicago Cubs fan.
“It’s been a tradition in our family,” says Reinhardt. “Last year was pretty exciting.”
“I really like the way he plays and his leadership,” says Reinhardt. “I think he’s the face of the Cubs.”
This gives the Bruins chances to see what it’s like to face challenges and overcome adversity.
“There’s a lot of lessons in just going out there and fighting and scratching and clawing and, at the end of the day, saying you gave it your best,” says Reinhardt. “Those are good life lessons.”
Teaching the fundamentals has also been fun for Reinhardt.
“Sometimes I’ve really had to break it down because we had some really inexperienced players in some years,” says Reinhardt. “You see a lot of improvement from freshmen to senior year if they stick with it. That’s gratifying to see that.”
A small school like Bethany allows students to get involved with many activities. Reinhardt knows he will be sharing his players with choir programs and other athletic teams.
“That’s just the way it is,” says Reinhardt. “We want to develop balanced kids who can do lots of things.”
It’s all the educational experiences that count.
“I’d like to win sectionals and state titles and those sorts of the things. But I’ll look back on all those great kids and see what they’re doing now and how they’re changing the world.
“Hopefully, they’ll look back and say baseball was fun. One of my biggest hopes is to have them playing catch with their children, taking them to games and passing on the love of baseball.”
Brent Reinhardt has announced that 2017 is his 20th and last season as head baseball coach at Bethany Christian High School.