Category Archives: High School

Norwell’s McClain passing along work ethic, enthusiasm

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Andy McClain is part of a chain.

McClain has connected with people along his baseball journey and intends to do his part to keep the links coming.

Entering his 26th season as a high school coach in Indiana in 2017, including his 11th as head coach, McClain counts it a privilege to have played for and coached under Bill Tutterow at Martinsville High School and formed so many relationships and friendships through the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of great coaches through the years,” says McClain, the longtime emcee at the annual IHSBCA State Clinic who his also going into his fifth season as Norwell head coach. “It’s my responsibility to pass along what I know to the other young guys.”

McClain will be sharing things he absorbed from IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tutterow, who passed away in 2015.

“He was a big mentor,” says McClain. “He really taught me the game.”

Tutterow showed McClain what it meant to work hard and be competitive and enthusiastic and those qualities have been hallmarks at each of his stops.

“I love baseball and I love the kids who play it,” says McClain. “It’s fun to work with them and grind things out. Whether you’re a player, husband or father, I show them that hard work is going to pay off for you.

“I’m still enthusiastic about it and my kids feed off that a little bit.”

Norwell has won 15 sectionals, six regionals, three semistates and three state championships as a program. In his first four seasons, McClain helped contribute two sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state title. But for him, it is about the young men on the diamond and not the man making out the lineup.

“Don’t think you know it all and don’t let your ego get in the way,” says McClain. “Put the game and the kids before yourself.”

McClain played at Manchester University and was a part of Tutterow’s staff for eight seasons — the last seven being semistate appearances for the Artesians.

LaVille High School presented an opportunity to be a head coach and McClain served the Lancers in that capacity for three years while also soaking up plenty of diamond knowledge from another Hall of Famer as an instructor at the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp.

McClain returned to central Indiana at Indianapolis Arlington, where he worked for three seasons — the last as head coach.

Brebeuf was McClain’s baseball home for seven years, the last two as head coach. In his final season of 2012, the Braves lost 8-1 to Western in the IHSAA Class 3A championship game.

At that point, McClain was planning to join John Zangrilli’s staff at Zionsville. But when Zangrilli left the Eagles (he is now pitching coach at Carmel) and Kelby Weybright stepped down as head coach at Norwell, the Knights hired McClain to run the show.

“Coach Weybright started this program on the right track,” says McClain. “It was an easy mesh. He’s a mentor.”

Weybright now serves as a vice principal at Norwell. Junior Garrett Weybright, Kelby’s son, is expected to be the starting second baseman for the Knights this spring.

With Kelby Weybright as head baseball coach, Norwell won two 3A state titles (beating New Palestine 3-1 in eight innings in 2003 and topping Evansville Mater Dei 5-0 in 2007) and was a 3A state runner-up (losing 13-13 to Jasper in 2006).

In McClain’s first season as Knights head coach, San Diego Padres minor league-to-be Josh VanMeter (14-1) bested L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner Nick Gobert (9-1) in a pitchers’ dual and Norwell edged Jasper 2-1 for the 3A title.

“(VanMeter) is an incredible leader,” says McClain of a player who won more games on the mound as a Norwell senior than future Major League Baseball pitcher Jarrod Parker before going pro as a middle infielder. “He’s one of those kids who is talented but also works hard.

“It was an honor and pure coincidence that the Padres drafted him and he got to spend that time in Fort Wayne (with the low Class-A Midwest League’s TinCaps in 2014 and 2015).”

Thanks to a trade following the 2016 season, VanMeter is now in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Jasper head coach Terry Gobert, another IHSBCA Hall of Famer, is among McClain’s many mentors.

“He’s just a class act,” says McClain of the man who has earned five state crowns with the Wildcats. “When I was at Martinsville, Coach Gobert owned us.”

McClain prefers a small coaching staff. He has assistants at Norwell — Dave Goodmiller (pitching) and Jamie Feldheiser (junior varsity).

In looking at the new pitch count rule for 2017, Goodmiller and McClain went back over 2016 games and found out they would never have violated it even one time.

“It’s a lot of common sense and good things for pitchers,” says McClain of the limits put in place for the health and safety of young athletes. “I don’t see it as a hinderance or a problem.”

He has noticed a few schools have canceled JV games, fearing they might rack up too many total pitches.

“I would hope schools would let it run its course for a year,” says McClain.

Feldheiser was a senior pitcher/third baseman on the 2006 Knights team.

“You can have too many voices,” says McClain. “That hurts kids more than it helps them.”

When McClain went to northeastern Indiana, he also quickly formed a baseball bond with Mark DeLaGarza, founder of the Summit City Sluggers travel baseball organization. McClain knows that many players from the ’13 state championship team at Norwell enjoyed plenty of travel baseball success with the Sluggers the previous summer.

I joined them and I have an understanding of their organization,” says McClain. “If (a travel baseball group is) trying to help kids and promote the game, let’s figure out how we can do it together.”

McClain, who had coached summer collegiate players in Indianapolis, has been doing the same for the Sluggers the past few summers in a league that has also included the Fort Wayne Panthers, Northeast Kekiongas and Twin City Bankers.

Norwell plays in the Northeast Eight Conference. The schedule calls for the Knights to meet each other NE8 member — Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Huntington North, Leo and New Haven — one time each.

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Andy McClain (right) and Josh VanMeter won a state championship at Norwell High School in 2013. (Norwell Photo)

HSE, Henson looking to play the best to prepare for the postseason

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Take a look at the 2017 Hamilton Southeastern High School baseball schedule.

With 18 games in the always ultra-competitive Hoosier Crossroads Conference (three-game series vs. Avon, Brownsburg, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville), non-conference games against perennial powers like Brebeuf, Carmel and Roncalli and out-of-state encounters against Louisville (Ky.) Ballard, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity and Metamora Township (Ill.), there are no breathers for the Royals.

And that’s the way fifth-year head coach Scott Henson and the HSE diamond community want it. A stacked regular season can only help come postseason.

“(Our players) truly believe they’re more prepared for the sectional than any other team in the state,” says Henson. “You have to be prepared or else you’re going to be taking an early exit.”

As is Henson’s habit, he is taking his Fishers-based team for an early-season test when the Royals play April 6-8 in the Super Prep Series in the Louisville area (HSE was there two years ago and was rained out at Cincinnati Moeller in 2016 when both teams were atop their respective state polls).

Ballard features All-American outfielder/right-hander pitcher Jordon Adell who may be drafted this spring before ever stepping on the field for the University of Louisville. HSE junior left-hander Carter Lohman has committed to U of L.

“This gives us a measuring stick early in the season,” says Henson. “We also get to stay in a hotel and have some team bonding.”

Henson says he wishes the IHSAA would back off its travel rules which limit teams from going more than 300 miles from the border or playing any teams outside that radius.

“We’ve talked to the Louisville organizers,” says Henson. “We can’t play certain teams.”

This spring will mark the third season of a conference format that more closely reflects a college-like schedule and many HSE players do have aspirations of playing college baseball.

“That three-game series is pushing us to the next level,” says Henson, noting that the HCC has been represented in the Class 4A IHSAA State Finals two of the last three seasons (Noblesville winning in 2014 and Zionsville finishing as runner-up in 2016). “We think we’re the best baseball conference in the state.”

While they want to beat each other between the lines, the coaches in the HCC are also friendly and are known to get together for gatherings or seek each other out at clinics.

Henson says the three-game series forces teams to develop pitching (there were 17 NCAA Division I pitchers in the conference in 2016) and really think about strategy.

“You’re getting a better sense who is the best overall team,” says Henson. “That’s the nature of baseball. You’ve got to do it more than just one night. That’s why the World Series is seven games. They want to see who the best team is over time.”

Entering his 15th season as a high school baseball coach, Henson spent two seasons as head JV coach at HSE before taking over the top spot. Before that, he was the hitting coach for four years at Northern Nash High School in Rocky Mount, N.C., after leaving coaching and going into the business world.

Henson was an assistant for four seasons (1995-98) at his alma mater, Pendleton Heights, where he worked for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt.

“Coach Stoudt had a pretty big influence on my life,” says Henson, who played baseball and football for the man at Pendleton and graduated in 1991 before going on to play college baseball at the University of Indianapolis and IUPUI and one season of pro ball with the independent Frontier League’s Richmond Roosters. “It seems he was always in my ear.”

Henson just went through cuts at HSE and usually gets a call every year from Stoudt telling him how this time of the year is both the greatest and the worst.

“I’ve got to tell these kids they don’t get to come and play ball anymore,” says Henson. “It’s tough sometimes.”

At a school of 3,200 students, Henson had 97 try out for 50 spots his first season. Since then, he’s had to cut 25 to 30 players each spring.

“I start preparing the guys for this back in October or November,” says Henson. “I tell them, I’d like to keep all of you. You have a passion for the game.’”

The reality is there are only so many spots.

Henson has seen some players cut once or twice and come back and make the squad.

Through it all, there’s a lesson.

“You are going to go through life with things that are tough,” says Henson. “If you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up and make the best of situations. You rely on your teammates and buddies to put you in a good spot.”

The emphasis at HSE is daily improvement. A coaching staff that includes Kory Seitz, Ken Seitz, Curry Harden, Jeff Mendenhall, Tyler Underwood, Seth Story, Jake Straub, Seth Paladin and Matt Nash reinforces that mantra with varsity, junior varsity and freshmen squads.

“We want to get better everyday,” says Henson. “Work to be your best when you need to be your best.”

The Royals have won 14 sectionals and all of them are represented on the current staff. In their tenures as HSE head coach, IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Seitz claimed nine sectionals, Harden took three and Henson has two (2013, 2015).

Henson has a few other ideas about how to make Indiana high school baseball better.

“I’d love to see us have access to the kids a little more,” says Henson. “Right now, there are periods when we can only work with two kids at a time per coach. There’s a reason travel baseball is becoming more and more important. (Those coaches) have unlimited access.

“I understand the idea behind the rule, but it’s antiquated. We’re missing opportunities.

Henson says the experience could be a little bit better.

“Seeding the tournament would go a long ways,” says Henson. “And we get too caught up in making things geographically feasible.”

If getting the best competition means traveling a few hours, so be it. That’s what it was like in North Carolina, where they do not have an all-comers postseason like Indiana and play a best-of-three championship series.

It’s all about making baseball better.

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Scott Henson is entering his fifth season as head baseball coach at Hamilton Southeastern High School in 2017.

Hisner’s been a hit in decade at Whitko

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Plate discipline is something Erik Hisner carried into the batter’s box with him as a player and it’s a concept he teaches his hitters as head baseball coach at Whitko High School.

“We talk a lot about being selectively aggressive,” says Hisner, who enters his 11th season with the Wildcats in 2017. “I want guys to be aggressive on fastballs early in the count if it’s their pitch. The times we’ve gotten in trouble we’ve been almost passive.

“Understanding (baseball) situations is something we continue to work on.”

Whitko, which has moved from Class 3A to 2A, shared the Three Rivers Conference title in 2016 and have been state-ranked in recent seasons. The Wildcats advanced to the sectional championship game for only the second time in program history in 2009.

Hisner, who still holds career offensive records he set at Goshen College where he was a one-time NAIA All-American and NAIA all-region honorable mention selection and three-time all-conference pick from 2002-05 (.419 average, 211 hits, 161 runs batted in, 85 walks), comes from a baseball family.

Grandfather Harley Hisner played in the Boston Red Sox organization. His claim to fame is one mound start in the final game of the 1951 season against the New York Yankees. Harley struck out Mickey Mantle twice and gave up Joe DiMaggio’s last regular-season major league hit (a single). Harley appears in “Once Around The Bases (Triumph Books, 1998).”

Red Sox slugger and Hall of Famer Ted Williams and his “The Science of Hitting” book were respected in the Hisner household and those ideas were passed down to Harley’s son, Randy, who went on to play college baseball and coached his sons — Erik, Ryan, Shane and Gavin — at the Little League, Sandy Koufax or high school level.

In 2015, father and sons played on the same Fort Wayne-based adult league team managed by Erik.

The Hisners are also a family of educators. Randy teaches English at Bellmont High School (where he is also head boys cross country coach). Mother Cheryl teaches first grade at Southeast Elementary School in Decatur.

Erik, 34, is a 2001 Bellmont graduate. He represented the Braves in baseball and basketball four years and tennis for two. On the diamond, his senior year featured conference and sectional championships along with all-conference, all-state and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star honors. He began his teaching career in Fort Wayne and now is a physical education instructor and athletic director at Whitko Middle School.

Ryan, 33, teaches science at Adams Central Senior-Junior High School (where is also an assistant track coach).

Shane, 28, teaches English at Japan.

Gavin, 26, teaches social studies at Bellmont (where is also an assistant boys cross country and track coach).

Besides his father, Erik Hisner also counts his college coaches — Brent Hoober and Jayson Best — among those who taught him the game.

“(Hoober) taught me how to structure and put your program together,” says Hisner of the man who was his head coach his first three collegiate seasons. “He was really good at letting guys play and not over-coaching. He wasn’t a micro-manager with players.

“Sometimes us coaches have to bite our tongue.”

Hisner said he learned much from conversations with Best, who went from pitching coach to head coach at GC in Hisner’s senior year.

“I learned how to manage a game and the the little things that go into it,” says Hisner. “I learned about thinking one or two plays or one or two batters ahead. (Best) played professional ball and had a lot of good stories and insight.”

Hisner was an assistant in Josh Keister’s first season as Maple Leafs head coach in 2006 and was going to be an assistant at Fort Wayne Northrop when the opportunity came up at Whitko.

Having been involved in his fall camps for a few years and because he knew his grandfather, IHSBCA Hall of Famer Bill Jones went to bat for the young Hisner.

“He got my foot in the door” says Hisner.

Two days after taking the job leading into the 2007 season, Hisner found himself among top Indiana baseball minds. There was (Hall of Famers) Jones, Chris Stavretti, Jack Massucci, Jim Reinebold and Ken Schreiber.

“You talk about the legends of Indiana high school baseball,” says Hisner. “It was like a $25 clinic at a facility in Fort Wayne. You can’t miss that one.”

Hisner has made many connections in the IHSBCA. Former Churubusco coach Mark Grove among his best friends in the profession.

Since Hisner did not have the benefit of an off-season when he started at Whitko, his focus was staying positive and working on a few little things.

“I’m a hitting guy so we talked a lot about approach,” says Hisner. “We’d make sure we knew what we were looking for in certain counts.”

While Whitko had been winless the previous season, it was not as grim as it seemed. The Wildcats had learned plenty of baseball from Lance Hershberger and those players were back to greet Hisner.

“(Hershberger) did a good job here.” says Hisner. “It wasn’t as bad a situation as the numbers might say. It wasn’t a situation where I had to come in a teach them how to throw and lead off.

“The thing about that year is I actually learned a lot from he kids by watching them play. To play for Lance, you’ve got to be pretty tough and pay attention to detail.”

The first Whitko win that season, snapping a long losing skid, was a one-run game against Heritage. Coach Dean Lehrman’s Patriots went on to be Class 2A state runners-up to South Spencer.

After that first year, Whitko took pride in its off-season work. The Wildcats played 25 to 30 games each summer in Hisner’s first few seasons.

“We got that family feel,” says Hisner. “We were kind of in the trenches together. It was nothing fancy. We just played a lot of baseball and got them experience.”

The evolution of travel baseball has limited or helped eliminate summer schedules at many high schools and the number of summer games for the Wildcats has dropped to 15 or 20, but still sees it as a good way to develop players.

Some get a chance to play travel ball and Hisner is all for it if it’s going to benefit the player.

“My parents have been pretty good about asking questions and making sure its a good fit,” says Hisner. “We’ve had good luck with teams like the Indiana Chargers, Summit City Sluggers and others who are doing it for the right reasons. It’s about development and not just playing games.”

Hisner’s coaching staff for 2017 features Travis Bradford, Mark Fisher, Tim Planck, James Stoddard and Seth Patrick. Bradford is a Whitko graduate and former Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne hurler, is the pitching coach. Stoddard and Patrick played for Hisner at Whitko.

“(Patrick) is probably the smartest player I ever coached,” says Hisner of the former Wildcats catcher. “We didn’t call the pitches when he was (a player) here.

“He was one of those program guys, a scrapper type.”

Baseball has long been a strength in the Three Rivers Conference (now containing 10 members), which has produced state champions (Wabash in 1986, Northfield in 2001 and 2012, Manchester in 2002) and a state runners-up (Northfield in 2013).

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Erik Hisner enters his 11th season as head baseball coach at Whitko High School in 2017.

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The Hisners (from left): Shane, Ryan, Randy, Gavin and Erik.

Mishawaka’s Huemmer keeps it positive, reaps rewards

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Affirmation from the top and leaders choosing not to listen to the naysayers can lead to memorable accomplishments.

Just ask John Huemmer.

Keeping upbeat thanks to their head coach and led by a senior class intent on “proving ‘em wrong,” the 2016 Mishawaka High School baseball team took the program’s first IHSAA sectional championship since Huemmer took over the program in 2005.

The Cavemen beat South Bend Clay 3-2 (nine innings), LaPorte 10-9 and Plymouth 5-1 to reign at the Class 4A South Bend Clay Sectional. It was Mishawaka’s first title since 1997.

“The most important thing is to stay positive,” says Huemmer, who enters his 13th season at the Northern Indiana Conference school in 2017. “It’s not good to beat down a kid. You want to raise them up. That makes a big difference. If you keep encouraging, you’re going to get the most out of a kid.

“That kid’s going to buy into what you’re saying and they’re going to give everything they’ve got — not just for the head coach but, more importantly, for their teammates. If the kid is giving effort, then you have nothing to complain about. Mistakes are going to happen.”

If a player is striving to the best of his abilities, Huemmer tries not to dwell on a mistake. He just works to correct it and moves on.

The Cavemen were able to turn a negative in 2015 to a positive in 2016.

When Mishawaka bowed 9-8 to Plymouth in the semifinals of the ’15 Plymouth Sectional after letting momentum get away, Huemmer assembled his seniors-to-be and challenged them.

“What do you want for next year?,” says Huemmer in repeating a question he addressed to ballplayers in the Class of ’16. “I think that really set the tone for what we wanted to accomplish.

“Our record wasn’t what we wanted, but the pursuit of success and trying to win every game was there. The kids wholeheartedly wanted to do well last season. We came together at the right time and won the sectional.”

With his seniors leading the way, Huemmer hopes 2016 will feed 2017.

“We’re going to try to build on the momentum from last season,” says Huemmer, whose coaching staff includes Jim Shively as varsity assistant, Mark Bell and Andy Namisnak at the junior varsity level and Matt Went and Neal Hickle guiding the freshmen. “I wanted the guys to get a taste of what it’s like to win sectional. I knew if they got that taste, they’re going to want more.

“After we lost in the regional to Penn (4-3 in the semifinals), I heard ‘I want to do this again.’ That makes me feel great that they want to do it. Every year, I put the challenge on the seniors to do better than the previous year.”

Huemmer expects his seniors to be leaders, playing on their sense of urgency and reminding them that it is their final prep season.

“They’re the older kids,” says Huemmer. “They’re the ones that set the example. It goes with the thought: How do you want to be remembered at Mishawaka High School?”

The idea is that when seniors take ownership of the team, they want it more than being dictated to by the coaching staff.

“(The seniors of 2016) were just bound and determined to succeed,” says Huemmer. “To them, winning sectional proved everybody wrong.”

Huemmer enjoyed a long playing career. A right-handed pitcher, he graduated from Marian High School in Mishawaka in 1991 and played at Indiana State University for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Warn through 1996 then spent the summer of 1997 with the Lafayette Leopards of the independent Heartland League. He also pitched for 17 or 18 seasons in amateur leagues around South Bend with two summers in Grand Rapids, Mich.

At the same time, Huemmer had gone into the business world. He was lured into coaching by then-South Bend Adams High School head coach Joel Reinebold (now head coach at South Bend Clay).

The pitcher had been recruited as a high schooler by Reinebold when the latter was assistant to Brian Buckley at Hillsdale (Mich.) College.

Huemmer and Reinebold spent three seasons together at Adams then both moved over to be on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Greg Dikos at Penn. Huemmer coached Kingsmen pitchers for four seasons (2001-04; the first was a Class 4A state championship year for Penn).

When Gregg Minegar resigned at Mishawaka, Huemmer interviewed for the head coach position and was hired.

He welcomed the opportunity to make final decisions and implement the program he wanted to run.

“The biggest challenge is to get everybody to buy in to what I as a head coach want to instill as values, what I believe is correct for behavior,” says Huemmer. “It’s important for us as coaches to communicate those expectations. Then you have to act on it.”

Huemmer is careful to send a consistent message and not play favorites. If any player — starter or reserve — is not hustling, he needs to check that behavior.

“If a kid comes to me asking why I haven’t addressed that with someone who’s doing the same thing (as them), that ruins my credibility,” says Huemmer.

Part of Huemmer’s coaching philosophy was also shaped by his coach at Marian — Ray Lentych.

“One of the main points of emphasis for Coach Lentych was do the little things,” says Huemmer. “The little things add up to big things. It’s not just the one big thing that happens but everything that goes on throughout the game.”

Simply hustling and putting the ball in play can make the difference between winning and losing.

Following the National Federation of High School Associations’ edict, the IHSAA is putting a pitch count rule in place for 2017.

Huemmer welcomes it.

“Proper pitching mechanics are important in preventing arm injuries,” says Huemmer. “Also, having the pitch count rule is important to allow pitchers the proper amount of time to recover after pitching. Some programs will struggle with the new rule because they will not have pitching depth.”

Teams will be required to record pitch count totals on MaxPreps.com so the IHSAA will have a record.

Huemmer notes that communicating with a pitcher about how they’re feeling during an outing is key. It’s also important to note that pitchers might be able to go deeper into games later in the season and that factors like adrenaline in tournament situations can’t be discounted.

Mishawaka has been tracking pitches all along, using a tendency chart for opposing batters and a feedback chart for pitchers that shows ball-strike percentage on each ball-strike count (ie. 65 percent of strikes on 0-2 count).

MISHAWAKACAVEMEN

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John Huemmer enters his 13th season as head baseball coach at Mishawaka High School in 2017.

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Noblesville baseball culture foundation is program-first

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Justin Keever didn’t start the baseball culture at Noblesville High School.

Millers baseball has a storied tradition. Men like Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers Don Dunker and Dennis Kas had the ball rolling before Keever arrived on campus.

The former Twin Lakes High School and Butler University player left coaching and teaching jobs at Avon High School to become Noblesville head coach in the summer of 2004 and logged his first season in 2005.

In 2014, the Millers hoisted an IHSAA Class 4A state championship trophy. In Keever’s first 12 seasons, Noblesville has won four sectionals, three regionals and three titles in the “meat grinder” Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

With baseball assistants Kevin Fitzgerald, Caleb Small, Quinton Miller, Ben Yoder, Eric Slager and Gene Marinacci plus strength and conditioning coach Brian Clarke enforcing the same message, Keever has kept Noblesville among the best big-school programs in Indiana with a set of core values.

“We have really good staff,” says Keever. “They love kids and hold them accountable.

“It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Members of the program — coaches and players — talk about investing in each other and the good of the whole.

“When you can create that ownership in the program, you have something special,” says Keever. “When you have authentically invested in your teammate, they will be more receptive … they know you care.”

It can be expressed in a straight-forward equation — fitting in that Keever’s classroom job is math teacher — Program > Team > Individual.

Adopted from the Butler Way (Keever hit for a school-record average of .426 as a junior for the Steve Farley-coached Bulldogs in 1999), The Miller Way “demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self.”

Noblesville follows the S.T.U.P.H. method.

Servanthood — makes teammates better, lead by giving.

Thankfulness — learn from every circumstance.

Unity — do not divide our house, team first.

Passion — do not be lukewarm, commit to excellence.

Humility — know who we are, strengths and weaknesses.

Keever said its the team-first philosophy that drives all three squads for the Millers — varsity, junior varsity black and junior varsity gold.

Is it a perfect system?

No.

“You’re dealing with teenagers,” says Keever. “There will always be push-back. We’re dealing with human beings here — coaches included.”

But with older players modeling behavior for their younger teammates, it becomes self-policing program and rules violators generally step back in line in short order.

“You learn the most from your peers and teammates,” says Keever. “They speak your same language.”

Keever expects a total buy-in and players striving for the high side of the “C” scale.

“If you’re resistant or reluctant, you are not going to be part of our program,” says Keever. “You can be compliant (do the minimum), committed (go above and beyond) or compelled (go above and beyond and bring people with you).”

To make the Millers better and allow for team bonding, Noblesville has been going on a southern trip (Kentucky in 2008 and Tennessee since 2009). This year means an appearance March 30-April 1 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Conference games will again for played as three-game series.

“It’s a blast,” says Keever of the format. “It’s the college model, how baseball should be played. Our league is able to do something like that. We finding out who has the best team, not just who has the best pitcher. (Indiana high school) baseball needs to get off the basketball model and onto the baseball model, especially in the state tournament.”

Keever notes that in basketball you are pretty much the same team each time out. In baseball, it makes a big difference who is on the mound.

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Noblesville High School head baseball coach Justin Keever is a 1996 Twin Lakes High School and 2001 Butler University graduate. The 2017 season marks his 13th of leading the Millers.

New Haven baseball top dog Bischoff paying it forward

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dave Bischoff first barked out baseball commands for the Bulldogs of New Haven High School as an assistant coach in the early 1980’s.

Since the 1985 season, Bischoff has been the top diamond dog.

Taking lessons learned from some of Indiana’s top high school baseball minds, Bischoff has been successful enough at this East Allen County institution that he has been directing those commands at a facility renamed in 2009 as Bischoff Field.

“It should probably be named for my wife for putting up with us all these years,” says Dave, referring to Kristen, whom he married in the fall of 1984, himself and the two sons who played for him — Matt and Kyle (both who went on to play at Purdue University for Doug Schreiber). Matt is now his father’s pitching coach. “Matt says he’s my consultant. With that title, he can offer free advice at all times. He chose the job description.”

The current New Haven coaching staff also features former Bulldog players Mike Snyder and Brandon Pease and former Fort Wayne Concordia High School head coach Beach Harmon. The New Haven pitching record book is full of entries with Brandon Pease and Matt Bischoff.

It was also Matt who sent out a survey a few years ago to 100 of his father’s former New Haven players. The response was tremendous and some of them even focused on baseball.

The 2017 season will be Dave Bischoff’s 33rd season at New Haven. In the previous 32, the Bulldogs have won 586 games, 10 sectionals and three regionals while making three IHSAA Final Four appearances and taking four titles in a traditionally baseball-rich conference, which has morphed from the Northeastern Indiana Athletic Conference to the Northeast Eight Conference.

Bischoff Field, which will be sectional host site in ’17, has been upgraded over the years with a covered grandstand behind home plate, wooden walls in the power alleys and a wind screen in center field.

The veteran coach, inducted by his peers in 2014 to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, is proud that he has sent more than 50 players on to college and two — son Matt as well as Dave Doster (who played two seasons in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies) — went on to professional ball. Around two dozen have gone on to coach at the high school level with a few coaching in college.

Dave Bischoff gets even more satisfaction knowing that the life lessons he was passing along as a leader and mentor — be on time, bring your best, show up — were absorbed by young men who went on to be successful husbands, fathers and business owners. There’s even been an FBI agent or two.

Baseball began for Bischoff in Adams County. Back in the 1960’s, Little League baseball meant a city league in Decatur and a country league in Monmouth. Young Dave played in the latter.

He also played in a plenty of non-organized games while making his way up through Pony League (teams were based in Decatur, Burns, Geneva and Monroe) with hopes of playing or Bellmont High School on the corner of Adams and 13th at Worthman Field.

“It’s probably over-stated, but we played a lot and were coached little,” says Bischoff of his formative baseball days. “We played a lot of pick-up games. We learned by trial and error. To get better, you had to make adjustments.”

By the time Bischoff reached high school, there were 30 freshmen — or about 20 percent of the boys in the class — trying out for baseball.

Dave was cut that first year.

Determined, he played baseball in Convoy, Ohio and fast pitch softball in a local church league.

“Playing fast pitch softball against men, you learn a lot that way,” says Dave. Bischoff’s reputation for bunting and slashing teams at New Haven stem from all the fast-pitch softball he pitched in high school and college.

As a sophomore, Bischoff made the baseball team at Bellmont, where he graduated in 1975.

After that, he got a chance to play college baseball at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, then an NCAA Division III program. He chose the school because it was close, the price was right, it afforded him a chance to play.

A history buff, Bischoff gravitated toward becoming a social studies teacher (he’s taught history and English since the fall of 1982) and he’d decided coaching was also for him.

While still in college, Bischoff began coaching Little Leaguers and was given a chance to coach Bellmont’s summer program by new Braves head coach John Cate.

“In a sense, he gave me my first shot,” says Bischoff of Cate. “John impressed upon me the organizational skills to put together a program. He did things first class. It was evident kids bought into what he was doing.

“I understood real quick those are the things you have to do if you’re going to be successful.”

Cate took Bischoff to his first IHSBCA State Clinic in 1980 and that’s where he first met Purdue University coach Dave Alexander, who is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. The clinic would become an annual ritual and Bischoff would get to travel to and from Indianapolis with Hall of Famers like Bill Jones (DeKalb), Don Sherman (Huntington North) and Chris Stavreti (Fort Wayne Northrop).

“It was like a got three clinics,” says Bischoff of his northeast Indiana-based travel companions. “They were great coaches and mentors. They would share anything with you.”

For two years after college, Bischoff served as a substitute teacher in East Allen County Schools and a baseball assistant to New Haven head coach and IHSBCA charter member Don Hummel before taking a full-time teaching position and baseball assistant job for two more years at Norwell Hugh School.

When Bischoff was established at New Haven and Jones stopped hosting his own coaches clinic at DeKalb, he encouraged the young coach to start one of his own. Jones hooked him up with Hall of Famers Ken Schreiber (LaPorte) and Jim Reinebold (South Bend Clay) as clinicians.

“I got to know those guys right away,” says Bischoff. “I feel fortunate that from a very early age I was being mentored by the founding fathers of the association. Those guys are professionals, organizers and icons. There are real good guys when it came to helping out a young coach.”

Bischoff was an IHSBCA district representative for 10 years and was the organization’s president in 2005-06.

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The Bischoffs (from left): Dave, Kristen, Matt, Casey (Kyle’s wife) and Kyle. (Family Photo Supplied)

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Coach, educator King winds way to success at New Castle

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sometimes career paths don’t follow a straight line.

There can be curves in the road.

Brad King knows this.

He didn’t set out to be a high school baseball coach and counselor at his alma mater, but that’s where he wound up and he’s glad it did.

Baseball has long been important to King. He was a third baseman, right field and pitcher for New Castle High School in Henry County. At one time, he held the Trojans’ single-season and career record for saves and five and seven.

After excelling on the diamond for junior varsity coach Ed Gilliland and varsity coach Harold Huffman, King planned to attend college with the aim of teaching elementary schoolers.

He found out he wasn’t ready.

“I wasn’t prepared for it,” says King decades later. “I was not mature enough or organized enough.”

King went to work in a print shop. After half way through that 13-year stint, he was called back to the diamond.

Gary Brown, who had been New Castle’s first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star, was now the head coach and he invited King to be the JV coach in 1995.

“It was a great opportunity,” says King. “We had three coaches total in the program and I had no assistants. I really enjoyed it.”

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that four years into coaching he decided to go back to college. But this time he would prepare to teach geography and psychology to high school students. He took classes at the Indiana University-East satellite campus in New Castle and at the main location in Richmond.

Along the way, he decided to go for his masters degree and become a counselor.

It took him seven years to get his degree. All the while he was still working, coaching and being encouraged by wife Kellie.

“Not any of my successes would be possible with that continued support,” says King, who has two boys with Kellie (New Castle graduates Conner and Spencer). Conner set school marks for average (.429) and career hits (141) before graduating in 2012, playing one season at Indiana Wesleyan University and getting a degree at Purdue University. Because of a knee injury, Spencer switched to golf. He got his high school diploma in 2016.

The Kings celebrate 26 years of marriage March 9.

There have been plenty of baseball successes to celebrate, too.

After the 1999 season, Brown left as head coach and Corey Van Skyock took over as NC head coach for three seasons. King became head coach in 2003, meaning that 2017 is his 15th as head coach and 23rd in the program. He has three 20-win seasons in 14 seasons. That had happened just once in the previous 82 campaigns at New Castle.

King, the school’s 20th head coach since 1907, is now the all-time baseball coaching victory leader for the Trojans at 219-171-1 with North Central Conference titles in 2005 and 2013 (New Castle left the NCC for the Hoosier Heritage Conference after the 2012-13 school year). Trailing King on the victory list is Huffman (who passed away in 2009) at 195-179-3 (1978-93) and Rex Brooks at 169-150 (1958-76).

King, an IHSBCA district representative, has coached five all-staters and four IHSBCA All-Stars (King coached in the 2014 IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series), including 2013 Indiana Mr. Baseball Trey Ball (a left-handed pitcher and first-round selection by the Boston Red Sox). Ben Smith (Class of 2003) was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and is now out of baseball.

The student-athlete is also emphasized for the Trojans. The American Baseball Coaches Association recognized three programs from Indiana for academics in 2015-16 — Andrean, Lafayette Central Catholic and New Castle (3.44 team grade-point average).

The program has also grown. There were 27 players in King’s last season as JV coach. When he took over the varsity reins, he asked for a third squad (then known as C-team) and he now carries 40 to 45 players per year and has seven assistant coaches — Wayne Graham, Tony Gregory, Clint Garrard and Matt York (pitching coach) on the varsity with Rob Chesher, Josh Barber, Kelly Rector and Frank McMahon at the lower levels.

King draws a line between counseling and coaching. The are both about motivating students to achieve. It might mean giving an incentive to raise a grade or getting a more batting practice time.

On the field, the Trojans operate by the mantras of “you control what you can control” and “maximize your potential.”

“Not every ballplayer is going to be Division I or drafted and you can’t control calls by the umpire,” says King. “And be the best you can be everyday.”

For New Castle in 2017, it’s about getting back to basics and fundamentals. The Trojans “Trust the Process.”

Just like their coach trusted the winding path he was on.

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Brad King enters his 15th season as head baseball coach and 23rd in the program at New Castle High School in 2017. The 1989 NCHS graduate is the school’s all-time wins leader.

Indiana baseball ‘dinosaur’ Jim Reinebold passes at 87

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

I can still seem him.

Leaning on a fungo bat on a crisp South Bend day and grinning from the ear to ear.

Jim Reinebold was in his element — on a baseball field.

I asked him more than once over the years, how many grounders and fly balls he had launched with his trusty club.

“A million?”

“Two million?”

He didn’t know the answer, but you were sure each was delivered with a purpose.

Reienbold, who died Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 87, insisted on doing things the way he thought was right.

Very quiet most of the time, but very intense when things were being done incorrectly or he thought the game was being disrespected.

J.R. was not going to stand for that.

Players wore their uniforms just so and they didn’t wear their caps backward — not in Reienbold’s dugout.

Reinebold was one of the first inducted into the first Hall of Fame class of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association in 1979, an organization he helped found in 1971.

That makes sense because No. 4 was an original.

Generally credited with starting the tradition of presenting a “dinosaur” T-shirt to 20-year veterans of the IHSBCA, Reinebold did not shy away from the prehistoric description when it was attached to him.

A “dinosaur” in Reinebold’s gleaming eyes meant “you’ve been around a long time.”

But that’s not all.

“They believe in discipline and respect for the game,” Reinebold once said of old-schoolers like himself.

Young men who wore the uniform at Greene Township and South Bend Clay high schools when South Bend native was on the bench knew his passion and his drive.

Those “Hot Dog Classic” classes between Reienbold’s Clay Colonials and Ken Schreiber’s LaPorte Slicers were doozies.

Reinebold’s teams won 646 games — at the time of his retirement from high school baseball the most in state history — with an Indiana High School Athletic Association state title in 1970.

Then came a long stint in professional baseball, which included coaching in the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics organizations.

One the stories he liked to tell was set in 1971 when he working for the A’s and managing at short-season Coos Bay-North Bend — the latter a remote seaside town in Oregon. This club was far down the chain and got hand-me-downs from he parent club in Oakland.

“They’d turn the pants inside-out and re-sew them,” recalled Reinebold.

One day, the team ran out of baseballs so J.R. got on the phone to Oakland and who answers the phone but owner Charles O. Finley himself.

When Reinebold told him about his baseball shortage, there was no shipment on the way from Oakland. Charlie O. just told him to go to the local sporting goods store.

Reinebold was a fixture around Coveleski Stadium (now known as Four Winds Field), a place where son Joel has the distinction of clubbing the first home run and being the groundskeeper for many years. Jim was a long-time coach for the South Bend White Sox and South Bend Silver Hawks.

All that wisdom was shared in a new setting when Jim and Joel (who is now the head coach at Clay) started the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993. Instruction was — and still is — the hallmark of the annual gathering of players from around northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

Games were often stopped in the middle when J.R. saw something that needed to be addressed on the spot and the there was some yelling involved.

Reinebold was tough. Just ask wife Evelyn and the rest of his family. He was a fighter. Doctors and nurses who attended to him in frequent hospital visits in recent years.

But this is also the guy who could be soft-spoken and talk with you for hours about any subject. Catch him at the ballpark and would insist on getting a hot dog for himself and for you.

Yes, they don’t make them like No. 4 anymore.

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Jim Reinebold works one of his fall baseball camp sessions. The Indiana baseball legend dies Feb. 8 at 87.

South Bend Washington’s Buysse stresses details, routines

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Discipline.

Structure.

Attention to detail.

These are the building blocks of Doug Buysse’s South Bend Washington High School baseball program.

Entering his third season as Panthers head coach in 2017, Buysse wants his players to do things a certain way.

“We talk a lot about details and routines,” Buysse said. “Baseball is a very routine-oriented sport.

“We talk about how to wear pants, stirrups, how to wear the jersey right so it doesn’t come untucked. It’s all or nothing. We all have to look the same.”

On game days, Buysse insists that shoes are clean and old-school stirrups are worn just so.

When Washington takes the foul line for the National Anthem, the coach wants them to sport a uniform look.

“Not only does that give us a sense of community,” Buysse said. “It also says that if a team spends that much attention on the anthem then everything we do is important. How we conduct ourselves is important. That’s lost on kids today.”

Buysse took his team to a two-day tournament in central Indiana and when it was time to go for a meal, he saw his players come the lobby wearing sweatpants and flip flops.

“I said, ‘No!,’” Buysse said. “We’re representing Washington High School so you should look like someone who got dressed with a purpose. It’s not, I had 5 minutes so I just threw this on.”

Buysse posts a daily practice schedule so his players know that day’s drills and routine.

“Without the schedule, they’d lose their minds,” Buysse. “They need structure.”

Buysse grew up around the Washington program when his father, Jeff, was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski. “T-6” insisted on doing things the right way.

A 2005 John Glenn High School graduate, Doug Buysse was a catcher for John Nadolny and helped the Falcons take four conference, three sectional and two regional titles. Glenn made two semistate appearances during that span with a State Finals appearance in 2002, Buysse’s sophomore season.

Buysse said he picked up his many of the routines he uses as a coach from his coach at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer — Rick O’Dette. Buysse hit .351 as a back-up catcher for the Pumas.

After his playing days at St. Joe, Buysse was on O’Dette’s staff for two seasons then was junior varsity and pitching coach at South Bend Riley High School for two seasons and JV coach at Glenn for one. His first season in charge at Washington was 2015.

Coming from a family of educators, Buysse was in the class room until a recent career change. But even though he is no longer in the school building during the day, he is able to log in and checks grades twice a week.

“If a kid’s struggling, I’ll highlight it and bring it to practice,” Buysse. “I say, ‘bring the grades up first and then we’ll worry about baseball.’”

The Panthers play in the traditionally strong Northern Indiana Conference.

“It’s become very, very competitive,” Buysse said. “There’s not a fluff game.

“We’re going to be young (this spring). We’re going to have a lot of sophomores and it’s going to be a learning curve for them.”

A new wrinkle for all Indiana high school teams is the new pitch-count rules, regulating the number of deliveries and dictating a certain amount of rest.

“The last two years, we’ve only had a couple kids approaching the (what is now the) limit,” Buysse said. “If a kid gets close to 75, we start looking to get somebody up in the bullpen.

“I’m not worried about it. It’s been my rule that if you threw 100 pitches, you’re not going to throw until next week anyway. I try to give them at least five days off.”

In the high school off-season, Buysse has served as an instructor at the South Bend Cubs Performance Center and has traveled throughout the Midwest to work at Silver Spikes, Top 96, and College Coaches Skills Camps.

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South Bend Washington coach Doug Buysse

Renowned ‘Defiance Way’ helps arms add velocity

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“I think there’s a 90 mph arm in every school in the country. I’m not sure there’s not one in every class.” — Tom Held, head baseball coach, Defiance (Ohio) High School

In the northwest corner of Ohio, they are developing hard throwers and a Buckeye (Held) and a native Hoosier (Kevin “Scoop” Miller) are playing a big part.

Sometimes known as the “Defiance Way,” a system of throwing progressions and long toss has added 17 members to the 90 mph club since 1999.

Among DHS products are big leaguers Jon Niese (now with the Mets) and Chad Billingsley (most recently with the Phillies). A four-county area (Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Williams) of small schools typically has eight to 12 pro pitchers active each year.

“We throw a lot — more than most people throw,” Held, who has spoken at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic and many other seminars and camps in his Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame career. “We don’t baby the arms. We throw three days a week all winter.”

That off-season program has players throw into a net with tennis balls, softballs and baseballs. They go two sets with each and throw as hard as they can for 72 pitches.

“It seems to have a big impact,” Miller, who is entering his ninth season as pitching coach at Defiance College after a successful baseball and basketball coaching career at Archbold (Ohio) High School (leading the Blue Streaks to the Division 2 state baseball crown in 2005), said. “If guys will invest the time and effort and use the proper mechanics, the sky’s the limit.

“It motivates the kids when they see their (velocity) numbers go up. We also teach them a great 12-6 curve ball, too. That’s the safest pitch you can throw if you do it correctly and it reduces injuries.”

Athleticism has a lot to do with throwing hard, but proper technique and putting in the work is also key.

Much of the program does not involve getting on a mound.

“You must learn how to throw before you learn how to pitch,” Held said. “Throwing is a science and pitching is an art.

Held, whose teams have won 670 games and three Ohio High School Athletic Association Division 2 state titles (2013, 2015 and 2016) in 29 seasons, said a player must spend 4-6 weeks throwing everyday to get their arm into great shape.

“That does not mean you can pitch everyday,” Held said. “Kids don’t throw enough and they pitch too much.”

Held and Miller teach private lessons and run camps in the fall, Christmas break and on Sundays in January and February.

“We don’t label it as a pitching camp, but a throwing camp,” Miller said.

The desire is to get players at the younger ages before they get a chance to develop bad habits.

Held said that throwing — when done properly — does not hurt the arm.

A pitcher from 1983-86 in the Detroit Tigers system, Tom Held learned much of his baseball wisdom from father Mel “Country” Held, a veteran of 13 pro seasons with a “cup of coffee” for the 1956 Baltimore Orioles.

“All they did back then was throw,” Tom Held said.

The younger Held said his Bulldogs — pitchers and position players — will do long toss after a throwing progression every single day once the team gets outdoors.

Miller, a 1980 Jimtown High School and 1984 Goshen College graduate, stresses that conditioning is big for anyone wishing to be good at pitching or throwing.

“We want them in the best shape possible,” Miller said. “We do proper warm-up (of at least 20 minutes) with dynamic and static stretching. We make sure all core muscles are warmed up before we ever pick up baseball.”

Then were are towel drills and throwing progressions, isolating upper and lower body. There are specific drills to isolate every movement.

Long toss is emphasized for Defiance College pitchers, who work their way up throwing the length of a football field (300 feet). These Yellow Jackets will long toss the day before and after they pitch.

And their arms are stronger for it.

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Tom Held (Defiance High School)

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Scoop Miller (Defiance College)