By STEVE KRAH
Grant Bellak jumped into his job as head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College with both feet.
Hired to his first head-coaching position on June 1, a few days later the former Franklin (Ind.) College assistant was already recruiting at an event in Cincinnati and spent the next few weeks looking for student-athletes.
Bellak says he expects to have 32 players in the fall and have recruiting classes of 10 to 12 players the next few seasons.
“I felt comfortable with the recruiting area,” says Bellak, who was the recruiting coordinator at Franklin. “Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college program.
“I want athletes who are big and strong. Power bats and power arms play. Power bats can change the game with one swing. Power arms give you more room for error. You don’t have to be perfect.”
Bella, 32, prides himself in finding value where others miss it.
“I plan on bringing that to Hanover and developing that over four years,” says Bellak. “We want mid-major Division I’s calling asking us to play.”
With the Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville areas as a base, Bellak already has contacts he developed at Franklin that he can use at Hanover. Both are members of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference — an NCAA Division III circuit.
As a D-III school, Hanover (enrollment 1,100) does not give athletic scholarships. The liberal arts institution places a premium on academics.
“The thing I’ve been preaching on the recruiting trail is that fit matters,” says Bellak. “This is not for you if you are not 100 percent Panthers. You have to fit the academic profile, campus profile and athletic profile.”
Almost all of the seniors in his last three recruiting classes at Franklin had job offers prior to graduation.
Bellak is looking for young men coming to Hanover who want to be more than ballplayers. They have aspirations of pursuing careers as CEOs, lawyers, politicians etc.
“Here at Hanover, our focus is wanting guys who want more,” says Bellak. “What is your ‘why’?’
“We want difference makers.”
The Shayne Stock-coached Hanover Panthers went 8-25 overall and 5-12 in the HCAC.
“You can win a lot here,” says Bellak. “The rest of athletic department, that’s what they’re doing.
“It’s one of those opportunities I felt I couldn’t pass up.”
Hanover got Bellak’s attention the first time he arrived on the southern Indiana campus as a Franklin assistant.
“It’s got that ‘wow factor,’” says Bellak. “It’s the way it is back in the woods overlooking the Ohio River and the architecture. There’s lots of green space.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Dick Naylor Field at K.T. Young Ballpark, with its natural grass surface and old trees surrounding the outfield, is also picturesque.
At Franklin, Bellak served on a staff with veteran head coach Lance Marshall.
He saw the behind-the-scenes things that it takes to be a head coach — being an administrator and mentor.
“It’s a different mindset,” says Bellak. “Hours are not just devoted to player development, but developing a program as a whole.
“It’s more than just hitting fungoes and throwing BP. You’re engaging the alumni base and fundraising. It’s all the extras, things the outside world doesn’t see.”
Before Franklin, Bellak was a volunteer assistant at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill., in 2010 and 2011.
A 2004 graduate of Aurora (Ill.) Christian High School, the Big Rock, Ill., native played two seasons at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., and two at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.
Bellak was sixth in the National Junior College Athletic Association in stolen bases in 2006 at Waubonsee.
Webster, coached by Bill Kurich, came within six outs of going to the 2008 NCAA D-III World Series.
In 2009, Bellak worked as a student assistant to Kurich.
“Bill knows what it takes to win,” says Bellak of Kurich. “He has the unique ability to get the most out of you.”
Bellak coached three summers with the Prospect League’s Dubois County Bombers in Huntingburg, Ind., in 2009-11 — the last as field manager. One of his players was future major league pitcher Sean Manaea.
In 2009, Bellak graduated from Webster with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He earned a masters degree in leadership and management from Liberty University’s online program in 2013. The latter is a precursor to a Masters of Business Administration.
“(The leadership and management masters) helped me take a different perspective to coaching,” says Bellak. “The business world isn’t that different than a team.
“The way a CEO motivates someone in the office is not much different than how a coach motivates someone on the field.”
Grant and wife Natasha Bellak have a daughter — Bexley (2).
Grant Bellak is now the head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College after seven seasons as an assistant at Franklin (Ind.) College. (Hanover College Photo)
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