By STEVE KRAH
Dick Alter has coached baseball in central Indiana for nearly four decades.
He has been around some talented players and coaches and helped mold young minds in dugouts and classrooms.
Since 2005, the former North Central player and assistant coach and former Manual head coach has made an impact at Indianapolis Lutheran High School, an IHSAA Class 1A member on the city’s southeast side.
The Saints won the eighth sectional title during Alter’s tenure and extended their streak of sectional championships to six in 2017. Lutheran went on to take the first regional crown in program history.
After beating Bethesda Christian 16-0 and University 5-1 to win the Sheridan Sectional, the Saints topped Edinburgh 10-1 and Rising Sun 6-1 in the Morristown Regional before losing 6-2 to eventual 1A state champion Lanesville in the Jasper Semistate.
What propelled Lutheran in ’17?
“Chemistry,” says Alter, who is also chairman of the school’s social studies department. “It was certainly not the best team we’ve ever had here. But those boys put it together better than the other teams did when it counted. We had unified players that played together and wanted to win.”
There are not that many 1A schools in the Indianapolis area. The smallest school in the Indiana Crossroads Conference (which also includes Beech Grove, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis Scecina, Indianapolis Park Tudor, Monrovia, Speedway and Triton Central), Lutheran benefits from its strong regular-season schedule come postseason time.
ICC games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and there’s the test of the Marion County Tournament.
Ritter won the 2017 Class 2A state title. The Saints also squared off with 4A’s Lafayette Jeff and Perry Meridian (three times) and 1A powerhouse Hauser. In recent seasons, 4A’s Columbus North and 3A’s Bishop Chatard and Guerin Catholic have been on the slate.
“We play a very competitive schedule,” says Alter. “We go out of our way to play good schools. We don’t have the depth these 4A schools have, but on any given day we can play with them.”
Sophomores Matthew Alter (Dick and Karen Alter’s only child) and Noah Wood and freshman Bradbury Aiden — all right-handers — did the bulk of the mound work for last season’s Saints. It was the first campaign of the IHSAA’s new 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).
The coach is not a fan of the new rule.
“It severely limits a 1A program,” says Alter. “We really have to plan and be judicious with our pitchers. I like the old rule — 10 innings every three days. That made a lot of sense to me. It worked for me. If you are an experienced coach, you’re not going to hurt your kids’ arms by overthrowing them.”
Alter has heard the response of those like him who oppose the new rule.
“You can say ‘go develop more pitchers.’ But that’s easier said than done,” says Alter, who notes that many schools have players who grew learning to be pitchers. “We’re developing kids who can throw and hopefully they throw strikes. I understand the concept, but in practicality you’re not going to get a lot of good pitchers out of it.”
The Saints play games on their Arlington Avenue campus. Land-locked in a residential area, the field has relatively short dimensions.
“There’s one house we regularly hit in left field,” says Alter. “Any home run to the right side is going into somebody’s yard.”
Since Alter’s arrival, the field located in a residential area has received upgrades like a new backstop and dugouts and netting instead of a fence. Windscreens have been added and the home plate area and mound have been re-done.
Alter graduated from North Central in 1973. His coach was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Tom Bradley, who was the original host of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. Alter played one year on baseball scholarship to Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., Alter transferred to Indiana University, earned a degree and began his professional life in marketing research.
In 1979, he began running the summer baseball program at North Central and later served as an assistant to Bradley.
He decided to change his profession to teacher and wound up coaching baseball and basketball at Manual. For a short time, he was head coach for both sports.
Alter led the Redskins on the diamond 1994-2004 then went to Lutheran when Matthew was 5.
Nephew Jared Broughton was a freshman on the 2005 Lutheran team. He went on to be a Junior College All-American at Vincennes University, a starter at the University of Dayton and is now associate head coach at Piedmont College, an NCAA Division III school in Demorest, Ga.
Alter coached Caleb Hougesen, a third baseman who was selected in the 46th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
“He was a great player,” says Alter.
What feeds the Saints program?
The high school typically gets most of its students from four Lutheran K-8 schools on the southeast side of Indy. Almost all of the Saints have a travel baseball background.
As Lutheran plans for 2018, Tom Riensche (former Warren Central head coach) and Ryan Baglow are back as varsity assistants. Zach Akers has been a junior varsity coach.
The Saints normally have a JV team, but low numbers in some years and one available diamond mean they only field a varsity squad.
A veteran of nearly 40 years as a high school baseball coach, Dick Alter has been head coach at Indianapolis Lutheran since 2005. The Saints won their sixth straight sectional and advanced all the way to the semistate in 2017. (Indianapolis Lutheran Photo)
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