By STEVE KRAH
Houston Dillman is looking for players to be engaged and accountable as he leads them into his first season as Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School head baseball coach in 2021.
“For us to get where we want to be there has a be a lot of commitment,” says Dillman. “No one player or coach is more important than the program.
“We’re all in this together.”
The latter is a quote from former Evansville North High School head coach Dan Sparrow and Dillman has used it with every team he’s ever coached.
“He took care of his players,” says Dillman of Sparrow, who died in 2014. “He taught us a lot of life lessons.”
A 2008 North graduate who played for Sparrow, Dillman began coaching right after high school with one year as Huskies freshmen coach before moving up to junior varsity coach/varsity assistant. He was on the staff of Sparrow and then current North head coach Jeremy Jones.
“With Coach Jones, it’s about being on time, being a good teammate and always hustling,” says Dillman. “He’s a player’s coach.
“There’s never a time he doesn’t think about baseball. The attention to detail he puts into his practice plans like no other.”
Dillman, who works for Lamar Advertising in Evansville, has also coached for the former Ironmen (now part of the Louisville Legends) and Indiana Spikes travel organizations.
Hired at Harrison in October after the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period window, Dillman went about meeting his players and establishing his coaching staff.
Keith Ayers and Shane Holmes are varsity assistants. Harrison graduate and former University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana player LaWan Rollins is junior varsity coach.
When the Limited Contact Period window re-opened in January, the Warriors worked on building their arms and conditioning while the new head coach got to know his athletes even better.
“They’re all new to me,” says Dillman. “It’s a fresh start. There’s a new guy and a new system.
“We want to make it a baseball school again.”
Harrison (enrollment around 1,100) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Evansville Memorial, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz, Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln).
While SIAC teams may play each other more than once during the regular season, only one designated game counts during the conference standings.
The Warriors are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. Harrison has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2016. The Andy Rice-coached Warriors were 4A state runners-up in 2000.
Rice poured much into the Harrison program, including the Warriors’ home field that is located two miles west of the school near the National Guard Armory, Roberts Park (former site of Roberts Stadium) and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.
In the spirit of taking responsibility, Dillman encourages players with a driver’s license to get players who don’t to practices and games at the field.
Harrison counts combined seventh and eighth grade Cub teams at McGary Middle School and Plaza Park International Prep Academy as part of the feeder system. Cub teams play Sunday afternoons in the spring against schools feeding into SIAC high schools.
“We want (middle schoolers) involved in our weight and throwing programs,” says Dillman. “That will make the transition to high that much easier.”
Evansville East Youth Baseball and Evansville South Youth Baseball has 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12 leagues and many end up going to Harrison.
Besides Rollins, a recent Harrison graduate in college baseball is Aaron Beck who went to Olney (Ill.) Central College then committed to Indiana State University. Andrew Cope played for USI’s 2014 NCAA Division II national champions.
Getting attention at the collegiate level are junior catcher Zak York and senior middle infielder/pitcher Alex Griffin. Both have been varsity regulars since their respective freshmen years.
Evansville is scheduled to be the site of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game June 23 at USI and IHSBCA North/South Series June 26-27 to the University of Evansville — and perhaps — historic Bosse Field. That’s the week after the 2021 IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis.
Houston and wife Taylor Dillman have been married three years. They are the parents of daughter Kennedy (2). Taylor Dillman is a second grade teacher at Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation’s Glenwood Leadership Academy.
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