By STEVE KRAH
Bill Nixon is a member of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The diamond where Plymouth High School plays baseball is called Bill Nixon Field.
But the former Pilgrims head coach who won 714 games at PHS from 1970-99 did not talk much about the sport with Benji Nixon when his grandson was a young boy.
“He told me to take care of my classes and grades,” says Benji Nixon. “He knew I had passion to be the best I could in baseball. He wanted to make sure everything else in my life was important to me.”
The young Nixon was a consistent honor-roll student through his elementary school years.
When Benji reached high school, grandpa began dishing out more baseball advice.
“We’d talk about my swing or how to get rid of the ball better (as a middle infielder),” says Benji. “It was a bunch of tips that helped me grow to be a successful player.”
Benji started at shortstop in every one of his team’s games and was good enough on the diamond to be receive honorable mention on the IHSBCA Class 4A all-state team.
He was also chosen for the North squad in the 2018 IHSBCA All-State Series, which is this weekend at Four Winds Field in South Bend (practices and banquet Friday, July 20, noon doubleheader Saturday, July 21, and noon wood-bat game Sunday, July 22).
“It’s a great way to cap everything off at Plymouth and my high school career,” says Benji, who plans to study business at Indiana University and is undecided about trying to walk on for the Hoosiers. “When I talked with my grandfather about it on the phone, it one of my better moments in 18 years on earth.”
Bill Nixon is planning to travel up from Florida to take part in the festivities.
Taking that early academic advice into high school, Benji graduated with a grade-point average around 3.5 and took six Advanced Placement classes his last two years.
“I had relationships with all my teachers,” says Benji. A couple that he maintains contact with are Curtis Nordmann, John Johnson and Scott Michel.
A three-sport athlete, Benji is grateful for his three head coaches — John Barron in football, Ryan Bales in basketball and Ryan Wolfe in baseball — for different reasons.
“Coach Barron wants us to be more than just a football player,” says Benji, a receiver, running back and defensive back on the gridiron. “He wants us to be be active students and (attend other extracurricular events).
“What I’m going to miss most (about football) is my teammates. We’ve created bonds we’ll have the rest of our lives I would hope.”
The 5-foot-10 Nixon played guard for the Pilgrims and credits his coach with helping him control his emotions.
“I was a hot head my freshman year,” says Benji. “Coach Bales did a nice job my last two years of highs school making sure I could stay calm during tough situations.
“I learned how to keep my cool.”
Wolfe encouraged his baseball players to be good students and good citizens, getting involved with the community.
“He’s all about giving back,” says Benji of Wolfe. “Life is about more than just sports.
“It’s about being there for other people.”
The team did volunteer work multiple times this past year.
Rusty and Maggie Nixon have five sons — Jake Kelly, Elijah Nixon, Nate Nixon, Benji Nixon and Zephan Nixon. All played baseball at Plymouth. Zephan is heading into his junior year at PHS.
Rusty Nixon works for WTCA-AM 1050 radio and the Plymouth Pilots News newspaper.
Maggie Nixon is the managing editor at The Post & Mail in Columbia City.
Benji describes his relationship with his parents.
“(My father) knew I was a lot like him,” says Benji. “He knew when I was frustrated. He let me handle my own problems, which helped me a lot as a person.
“My mom was my support system. She was always there for me. She encouraged me after bad games and kept me going.”
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES
(At South Bend)
Friday, July 20
Junior Showcase (Four Winds Field), 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
North practice (Four Winds Field), 1:15 to 3 p.m.
South practice (Four Winds Field), 3 to 4:45 p.m.
Banquet (Great Room at Century Center), 7 p.m. Keynote speaker is Greg Kloosterman (former Elkhart Central High School and Bethel College standout who pitched in the Milwaukee Brewers organization and now runs the Game Changers travel organization in Canonsburg, Pa.). Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for 10-and-under.
Saturday, July 21
(Four Winds Field)
Pregame with South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and posthumous tributes to IHSBCA founders and Hall of Famers Jim Reinebold and Ken Schreiber, 11:35 a.m.
First pitch for doubleheader, noon. Admission is $5. Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10 and $15 apiece depending on size.
Sunday, July 22
First pitch for single wood-bat game, noon. Admission is $5. Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10 and $15 apiece depending on size.
Note: This year marks the fourth time the series has come to South Bend. It was staged at Clay Park in 1976, Coveleski Stadium (now known at Four Winds Field) in 1989 and Notre Dame in 2008 … The North leads the all-time series 65-61, dating back to 1975.
Benji Nixon takes time during the Plymouth (Ind.) High School prom to stop by Bill Nixon Field for some baseball fun. Nixon was chosen to participate in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 20-22 in South Bend.
Benji Nixon, a 2018 Plymouth (Ind.) High School graduate, was chosen to participate in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 20-22 in South Bend. Grandfather Bill Nixon is an IHSBCA Hall of Famer.
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