By STEVE KRAH
Baseball has taken Kyle Neal away from his home and it’s brought him back.
Neal is in his first season as head baseball coach at Attica Junior/Senior High School in Fountain County. He also teaches physical education and strength training.
The Neal family — Kyle, Christie, Carson (7) and Krew (9 months) — live in Veedersburg. That’s about 10 miles from the school.
The past four years, Neal has been making a commute of more than a hour each way to teach and to be head baseball coach — first at North Newton Junior/Senior High School in Morocco and then Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers.
Neal coached North Newton to 20- and 18-win seasons in his two seasons leading the program (2014 and 2015). The Spartans were put out of the IHSAA sectional both years by Lafayette Central Catholic.
In two seasons of guiding the Frontier Falcons, Neal saw the team win 15 and eight games.
As the Attica Ramblers get ready for the Class 1A Rockville Sectional, they look back on a 7-14 regular season. Attica and Rockville are paired in the first game of the sectional Wednesday, May 23. Other teams in the field are Covington, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke and Turkey Run.
Attica is in the Wabash River Conference (along with Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke, Seeger, South Vermillion and Turkey Run).
Neal grew up in Ladoga in Mongomery County. His earliest baseball experiences came at Ladoga Little League.
Between his eighth grade and freshmen year, he played for the traveling Montgomery County All-Stars and also for the Southmont High School summer team.
Neal learned fundamentals from Mounties coach Jerry Long and logged a few innings on the mound as a freshman, gleaning much from a senior catcher.
In 1998, Neal was part of a Southmont team that lost to eventual 2A state runner-up Evansville Mater Dei in the semifinals of the Richmond Semistate.
His last two high school years, Neal attended Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg. At the time, the school was not affiliated with the IHSAA.
But Neal picked up plenty of know-how from coach Bill Sampen, a former major league pitcher.
“He was a huge part of my growth in baseball,” says Neal of Sampen, who runs the Indiana Expos travel organization and Samp’s Hack Shack training facility. “He was real big on thinking the game of baseball. He’s just a smart guy.
“We still talk today and share ideas.”
In the summer between his freshmen and sophomore years, Neal played more for Southmont plus the Indiana Vipers and Crawfordsville American Legion Post 72.
The next summer, he switched to the Indiana Bulldogs and also played for the other two squads.
Leading into his junior year at Bethesda Christian, he again played for the Bulldogs.
He attended many camps before his senior year and wound up with a baseball scholarship to NCAA Division I Southeast Missouri State University. He was primarily a reserve second baseman in his one season in Cape Girardeau.
“The coaches there were real supportive of a freshman in Division I baseball, where the speed of the game excelerates tenfold,” says Neal. “I learned to play at a higher pace and saw different kinds of pitching.”
“I learned perseverance and more on the spiritual side of things,” says Neal. “I learned how to handle myself on the field. It was a great experience.”
After his playing days, Neal spent a year gaining knowledge about the coaching profession as an IWU graduate assistant.
He then went into the work world for about seven or eight years, all the while teaching private lessons to stay involved in baseball.
Along the way, he got his teaching degree from Indiana Wesleyan, served three seasons as a Southmont assistant and then took his first head coaching gig at North Newton.
Kyle Neal, the head baseball coach at Attica Junior/Senior High School, shares a moment with sons Krew (9 months) and Carson (7).
The Neal family: Kyle and Christy with sons Carson (7) and Krew (9 months). Kyle Neal is in his first season as head baseball coach, physical eduction and strength training teacher at Attica Junior/Senior High School in Fountain County, Ind.