By STEVE KRAH
Josh Brock is approaching two years as lead assistant baseball coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III program in North Manchester, Ind.
Brock, 40, came back to the Spartans full-time in January 2021. He had been an assistant a different times since 2013. He played for Manchester for four years (2001-04).
“I feel extremely fortunate to be around someone like Coach (Rick) Espeset,” says Brock of the longtime head coach and director of athletics.
Playing four seasons for Espeset and then being on his staff has impressed Brock about how the coach thinks the game.
“He has a level of baseball savvy,” says Brock. “He’s also preparing players for life after baseball.”
Putting it in football terms, Brock describes himself as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator while Espeset is defensive coordinator.
“I do the majority of the hitting and baserunning and work with outfielders since I played that position,” says Brock. “Espy works with the defense and makes all the strategic decisions.”
Brock also does the bulk of the recruiting.
The summer (roughly mid-May through August) is where Manchester coaches spent most of their time on the road. There’s also digital resources and the coaching network.
“There are alums and people in the baseball world who know and respect Coach Espeset (that recommend potential recruits),” says Brock.
Fall and winter is the time recruits are encouraged to visit the campus and to follow up on referrals.
The team conducts four weeks of fall practice (basically the month of September).
“We assess players and get the new guys acclimated,” says Brock. “Guys have a baseline they can use to transition into the off-season.”
At the end of the fall, players meet individually with coaches to receive an assessment and guidance on how they can develop.
NCAA Division III rules limit the contact time for coaches and players so there is no practice until it gets closer to the spring season.
What separates Manchester from some D-III program is that the offseason is truly “off.”
“We’re hands-off,” says Brock. “(Players) can just be a student and not worried about baseball obligations.
“Some of our guys are going to be in the weight room and the indoor cages all winter long. Some don’t pick up a baseball or bat again until (after Jan. 1). That’s their decision to make.”
Josh grew up close enough to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., to have his father — Jerry Brock — take him to Generals’ batting cage on a regular basis.
There he met Wayne head coach Dave Fireoved.
“I was in awe of him,” says Brock. “He was always so good to us and a high-character guy. He loved the game and he loved his players.
“I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play for him.”
One of the coach’s sons — Mitch Fireoved — was the same age as Brock.
After four seasons at Wayne (1997-2000), outfielder Brock chose to play college baseball at Manchester.
There was a buzz around Espeset and his program after the Spartans won 70 games in his second through fourth seasons (1998-2000) with a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in 1999.
Espeset and assistant Shawn Summe were regulars at Brock’s travel games. Two of his Fort Wayne Marlins teammates — Jared Kurtz (Fort Wayne South Side) and Brian Minix (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) — signed with the Spartans as did Ryan Carr (Norwell) and Eric Screeton (New Haven) of the rival Fort Wayne Indians.
Kurtz went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization. Screeton became a coach, including leading the program at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
Brock’s last season as a player was 2004 — the year Manchester won a HCAC regular-season championship and advanced to the D-III World Series.
He earned a Business Administration and Management degree from Manchester in 2005 and entered the professional world.
Along the way, Brock decided to change career paths and got a Masters in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne as well as a Transition to Secondary Education and Teaching certificate from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 2013.
It was also 2013 that Brock was junior varsity baseball coach for Steve Sotir at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
When Espeset needed help at Manchester, Brock served as lead assistant in 2014 and 2015 and was a volunteer in 2016 while teaching at Summit Middle School, a part of Southwest Allen Schools as is Homestead High.
In two of the next three years, Brock was an Homestead assistant to Nick Byall while taking one year off to focus on his studies. He earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2019.
“I’m grateful for my experiences and the accreditations I’ve been able to achieve,” says Brock.
He is hopeful his schooling makes him a better coach, educator and person.
Brock began teaching at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., in the fall of 2019. He helped out with Manchester baseball in the spring of 2020 and taught at Norwell through the fall semester of 2020.
When a full-time position came up at Manchester, Brock went back to the school as a full-timer.
Always looking for new ideas and things that will help players, Brock appreciated going with Espeset to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention (the 2023 event is Jan. 5-8 in Nashville).
“It’s Candyland for baseball coaches,” says Brock. “I enjoy talking to other coaches.
“The ABCA is very giving group. (Members) are very giving with their time.”
Last winter, Brock spoke about middle infield play for a coaches clinic hosted by the Summit City Sluggers.
Brock is not married and has no kids.
“I’m the cool uncle,” says Brock, whose niece and nephew live with older brother Jeremiah in Hawaii.
Their parents — Jerry and AeSun — live in Fort Wayne. AeSun Brock was born in South Korea.
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