By STEVE KRAH
Rob Denbo is entering his first season as head baseball coach at Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School in French Lick, Ind., in 2019.
But the 1989 graduate of the school wants his Blackhawks to know it’s not his team.
“I want to empower the kids,” says Denbo. “I want them to feel like it’s their team.
“I want them to have fun.”
Springs Valley has 13 players in the program — four seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen.
“We have a pretty solid core,” says Denbo, who looks for lefty senior pitcher/first baseman/center fielder Christian Tucker to be the team leader. “They’ll all play at some point.
“We’re going to play a lot of freshmen. I’m looking forward to playing from the youngest to the oldest. When we come together and we’re going to be really hard to beat. I’m really excited for them.”
Denbo played baseball for the Blackhawks for four years — the last two for head coach Larry Pritchett.
“He was always very even-keeled,” says Denbo of Pritchett. “He was always excited for us, but he kept his emotions in-check.
“He also had a very dry sense of humor. He had a way of keeping the practices light. We all enjoyed playing for him.”
Pritchett did not believe in fancy plays and neither does Denbo.
“We won several games by keeping it simple,” says Denbo. “I try to do that as well.”
Denbo was a Springs Valley assistant coach the past two years under brother-in-law Bob Greger.
“They’ve bought into a new way of doing things,” says Denbo of the current squad. “I’m looking forward to watching them.”
Denbo, who is assisted by Henry Cruz, Seth Dickey and Broc Warner, has incorporated a good deal of drill work into Blackhawk practices.
“We get a lot of reps in the cage,” says Denbo. “We encourage good habits and create some muscle memory.
“The best way to do it is to have a drill that reinforces the right way to do something. They need to feel it.”
Denbo has noticed that his players are developing the ability to find their own flaws and correct them.
“I don’t have to say anything,” says Denbo. “They can self-correct. It’s not because I’m telling them to.”
Springs Valley (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference (with Crawford County, Mitchell, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central and West Washington).
Conference opponents play each other twice, but only the first meeting counts in the standings.
Non-conference foes include Barr-Reeve, Cannelton, Crothersville, Eastern (Pekin), Northeast Dubois, Salem, Scottsburg, Shoals, South Central, Trinity Lutheran and Wood Memorial.
The Blackhawks are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Tecumseh and Wood Memorial. Northeast Dubois hosted the sectional in 2017. It moved to Cannelton in 2018. It is to be at Tecumseh in 2019. Springs Valley has won 17 sectional championships — the last in 2004.
SV home games are played on-campus on a field that was overhauled two years ago.
“We bulldozed the entire infield under and completely re-did it,” says Denbo. “We’re in really good shape.”
The field has lights, which comes in handy for twilight doubleheaders.
A junior high team of about 18 players also uses the field in the spring. Made up mostly of seventh and eighth graders with a few sixth graders, they play about as many games as the high school varsity.
Springs Valley Youth League and travel baseball organizations, including the Lost River Posse, are also feeders for the high school program.
Denbo played baseball for four years and football for two at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. His head coaches were Ed Meyer (baseball) and Nick Mourouzis (football).
After graduating in 1993, Denbo went into journalism and later switched to the hospitality business. He is internal communications manager for French Lick Resort.
Rob and Stacy Denbo have been married 21 years and have three daughters — Andi (19), Emma (17) and Alayna (14).
Members of the 2019 Springs Valley High School baseball team attend a game at Indiana University in Bloomington. Rob Denbo (third from left) is the head coach of the Blackhawks.
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