By STEVE KRAH
“The Ball Park Is Calling And I Must Go.”
Joe Rademacher logged countless hours at the baseball diamond behind Barr-Reeve High School.
Coming to the Daviess County school in the fall of 1976 after a playing career at the University of Evansville, Rademacher threw himself into all things baseball. Not only did he coach high school players, he was also in charge of the summer program for kindergartners through eighth graders. He performed field maintenance and called on sponsors around Montgomery.
He enjoyed teaching the game, doing that well enough to win more than 400 games.
The 1972 Holland High School (consolidated after his senior year with Huntingburg to form Southridge) served two separate terms as Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association president, building statewide relationships and gaining satisfaction from the rapport between the coaches and the IHSAA.
But all his baseball responsibilities were physically taxing. After 33 years, Rademacher stepped away.
“I was worn out,” says Rademacher.
Away from all those duties, he had more time to spend with wife Anita and daughters Abby and Amber and to root for his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.
Nathan Lester took over the reins of the Barr-Reeve varsity and held that post for six seasons. Along the way, the field shared with youth baseball and adult slow pitch softball leagues finally put grass around the mound.
“We had one of the last dirt infields in the state,” says Rademacher.
When Lester decided he wanted to see more of his own kids’ games, players ages 6-12 went to the Chuck Harmon Little League in Washington and Rademacher’s teaching job changed from the classroom to physical education sessions without the papers to grade, the Hall of Famer answered the call back to the ball park.
Lester stayed on as an assistant coach and Rademacher began his second stint as the man in charge with the 2016 season and the Vikings won their first sectional crown since 2010.
The 2017 coaching staff also includes Kraig Knepp, Dean Scott, Josh Swartzentruber and Ryan Graber. For more than 20 years, the Vikings have played a junior varsity schedule separate from the varsity.
Junior high players at Barr-Reeve played in the spring and early summer, sharing the same diamond used by the varsity and JV.
“The field takes a beating in April, May and June,” says Rademacher.
A trip to a baseball game — be it in St. Louis or wherever — as an educational experience by the veteran coach.
“What can I learn today?,” says Rademacher, who has also gleaned plenty at clinics. “I watch what other people do. I try to incorporate those things. I played for good coaches (Wayne Ransome at Holland, Wayne Boultinghouse and Bob Hodges as a pitcher at Evansville) and picked up some things from them. I grew up 15 miles from Jasper and I’m now 25 miles from there. If you don’t learn something, you are not paying attention.”
Boultinghouse was a Rockport product who played in the Cardinals organization. Hodges is the brother of former major league, Saint Joseph’s College and Princeton High School star Gil Hodges. Rademacher is proud to say the Holland also produced U of E and pro basketball standout Don Buse.
Barr-Reeve baseball is built on solid pitching, but Rademacher also pays attention to hitting.
On a recent afternoon, the Vikings got ready for a home game against Vincennes Lincoln with indoor tee and cage work in the gym.
“Some of our players were too close to the plate and they were jamming themselves,” says Rademacher. “We wanted them to get back off the plate and diving into pitches better.”
Baseball, teaching and family life have kept Rademacher hopping this spring. The reveal for Abby’s first baby was staged around a weekend with the Cardinals.
By the way, a baby boy is due in August.
Barr-Reeve plays in the Blue Chip Conference (with Loogootee, Northeast Dubois, North Knox, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial).
Joe Rademacher, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, is in his second stint as head baseball coach at Barr-Reeve High School. Beginning in 1977, he coached 33 years. He took six off and came back for the 2016 campaign. (Steve Krah Photo)