By STEVE KRAH
North Central High School of Indianapolis competes in a conference and sectional loaded with baseball talent.
The Panthers — with Phil McIntyre as head coach — take on opponents in the mighty Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, Pike and Warren Central). North Central is grouped in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional with Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Westfield.
“Our kids play at a very high level,” says McIntyre, who enters his 13th season on East 86th Street in 2017-18. “I think we play in the toughest sectional.”
The MIC plays 14 home-and-home conference games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Panthers are also in the 16-team Marion County Tournament, which takes four wins to earn the championship — something NC did in 2016. Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis — site of the IHSAA State Finals — plays host to the championship games for the county and city tournaments. Being inside or outside the I-465 corridor determines the tournament for Indianapolis area teams.
“It’s almost tougher than winning a sectional,” says McIntyre of the county tournament. “(The tough schedule) that just gets our kids motivated. All our kids have the goal to play college baseball.”
And that’s not all.
North Central is renowned for its high academic standards and was one of the state’s first to offer an International Baccalaureate program. School policy dictates that all athletes must carry at least a 2.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale to be eligible.
NC baseball regularly posts a of 3.4 or better and has many academic all-state honorees.
“There’s a lot of opportunities,” says McIntyre, who teaches health and physical education in addition to his coaching duties. “We have more (Advanced Placement) courses than (many schools). It makes (our athletes) well-rounded.”
“Coach Mac” has built his program on the principles of respect for the game, selflessness and mental toughness.
“Our kids work very hard in what they do,” says McIntyre. “It’s a lot of fun to see their growth.”
The Panthers emphasize things like the hit-and-run, sacrifice and quality at-bats.
“They do that without having to be told,” says McIntyre. “It’s been a growing process when it comes to that.”
McIntyre is also proud to see alums come back to support current players.
“That shows something about our program,” says McIntyre.
North Central had a proud baseball moment this summer when outfielder Roy Thurman III was selected as MVP of the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Muncie. The 2018 series will be played in South Bend at Four Winds Field.
In his role, former association president McIntyre heads up the Junior Showcase at the all-star series and helps form and facilitate committees. Among those are North/South All-Star Series, State Clinic, Academic All-State, Media Relations, Top 10 Polls, Districts (there are 16 of them) and Umpire of the Year.
McIntyre enjoyed his experience with the American Baseball Coaches Association (which will hold its 2018 national convention Jan. 4-7 in Indianapolis) when he was an assistant to Bret Shambaugh at Marian College (now Marian University) and Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).
When McIntyre entered the high school ranks as an assistant to Steve Strayer at Boone Grove, he became acquainted with Bill Jones, the executive director and one of the IHSBCA founding fathers. He became hooked on the fellowship and the cooperation in the association.
“I just love being around coaches and learning,” says McIntyre. “It just means something to me — learning from those coaches and giving back.”
McIntyre gained passion for baseball while playing for head coach Charles Tait at Rensselaer Central High School. Phil graduated in 1990 and became the first in his family to go to college. He played for Shambaugh at Marian and got his degree in 1994.
“I learned so much about what I did not know (from Shambaugh),” says McIntyre. “(He is) why I wanted to be a coach.”
Shambaugh taught lessons about fundamentals and discipline which McIntyre still uses.
After a year at Boone Grove, McIntyre spent nine seasons as a varsity assistant for Wayne Johnson and then Pat O’Neil at Brownsburg. He was there when the community send teams to the Little League World Series in 1999 and 2001 and when the BHS Bulldogs had future major leaguers Lance Lynn, Drew Storen and Tucker Barnhart.
Brownsburg went to three straight IHSAA state championship games — finishing as runners-up in both 2003 and 2004 and going 35-0 as champs in 2005.
McIntyre took over a North Central program that had been struggling and won a sectional crown the first season (2006).
Getting the Panthers ready for 2018 will be McIntyre and his coaching staff of Scott King, Gabe Hoffman, Chad Cunningham, Nick Birch, Seth Hoffman, Tim Short and Katie Cluver. With Philip Webb leaving the staff to become head coach at Western Boone, McIntyre is sorting out roles. He has named Cluver as NC’s head freshmen coach.
“It’s a great opportunity for her,” says McIntyre of Cluver, the daughter of a coach who went to high school and college in Illinois. “The association has been very supportive.”
One season into the new IHSAA pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days), McIntyre has a few observations.
“It was a learning experience this year when it came to our pitch count rule,” says McIntyre. “Some teams had to take players out of (tournament games) because they reached their pitch limit. But that’s part of the game.”
McIntyre, who would like to see the IHSAA lengthen the season and add games (right now teams play 26 plus a tournament) and have championship series rather than a single-game title contest, says arm care is the most important thing and the rule forces teams to develop pitching depth.
“I kind of like that myself,” says McIntyre. “It really effects JV and C-team during the regular season. They have (a lower pitch limit and) more games in a shorter amount of times and need more pitchers. Do you have enough arms at the smaller schools? It becomes a numbers game.”
The number in the McIntyre household is four. Phil and wife Marlene have two children — Grace (17) and Ty (14).
Phil McIntyre is the head baseball coach at North Central High School in Indianapolis and assistant to the executive director for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association.