BY STEVE KRAH
Chadd Blasko found out as an an athlete how far a positive attitude could carry him and he’s carried that into his roles as coach, educator, husband, father and citizen.
Blasko, who recently became a baseball instructor at the 1st Source Bank Performance Center in South Bend, graduated from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School where he was a standout in basketball and baseball. He went on to pitch for Purdue University when Doug Schreiber was the Boilermakers head baseball coach.
“He’s probably one of the most influential people ever in my life,” says Blasko of Schreiber (who is now head coach at McCutcheon High School). “I heard as an immature high school kid about attitude and things like that. I didn’t understand what attitude meant until I went to Purdue and was around Coach Schreiber. He drilled attitude, attitude, attitude, attitude.
“When I coach, I carry that piece from him. A good attitude can relate to every single thing you do — how you carry yourself, how your react to people, how you come to practice. It’s the attitude you bring to the table in sports and in life.”
Blasko, who likes to use analogies in his coaching and teaching, sees attitude as the glue that keeps the pieces of the puzzle together.
“If you keep that attitude sound, it takes care of everything else,” says Blasko.
The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher was selected in the 47th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North-South All-Star did not sign and three seasons at Purdue and was taken in the first round (36th overall as a “sandwich” pick) in the 2002 draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Mishawaka teammate Eric Good was drafted as a pitcher in 1998 and played in the Montreal Expos organization. Purdue mates David Gassner (Toronto Blue Jays) and Andy Helmer (Cleveland Indians) were also drafted as pitchers.
Blasko wound up his professional career in the Baltimore Orioles organization in 2007.
He has had two stints as a varsity baseball assistant at Mishawaka, where he has been an assistant boys basketball coach for a decade.
“I’ve always had a passion for playing sports,” says Blasko, 38. “(Coaching) allows me to still be young and be a competitor. This allows me to still connect to it.”
Blasko is also a physical education and health teacher at MHS. Chadd and wife Samantha have two sons — Baylen (5) and Brooks (3).
When he became a father, Blasko backed off his baseball coaching duties to spend more time with his wife and sons.
“I sit back a lot of times and realize how valuable my times is with my boys,” says Blasko. “The time people put in with me, especially my dad and mom (Ed and Sandy Blasko). Those things are so important.
“It’s nice to coach kids, but it’s very important to be there for your kids as a father. Before you know it, they’re going to be 7 years old, 10 years old then they’ll be a teenager and won’t want to talk to you because they know everything.”
Blasko, who has a younger brother named Phil (who played basketball at Defiance College in Ohio and is now Mishawaka Parks & Recreation Department director), played baseball at Mishawaka for head coach Gregg Minegar and basketball for Jerome Calderone.
“(Minegar) was more laid-back,” says Blasko. “He had a mellow way of reaching a kid.”
Calderone was more demonstrative as is current Caveman head boys basketball coach Ron Heclinski.
“I remember his tough love,” says Blasko of Calderone (who is now principal at MHS). “I thanked him when I was inducted into the Mishawaka Hall of Fame.
“He was old school. He’s going to let out a bark. He’s not going to let you just go through the motions. He had passion. You have to have a passion for what you’re doing.”
Blasko appreciates how Heclinski finds a way to get though to his young athletes and their many personalities.
“I relate to him a lot,” says Blasko. “If you don’t relate to the kids, it’s hard to get to them. I’ve learned that from him.
“Sometimes you have to give that tough love and get after a kid. You have to hold him accountable.
“Some folks betray that as being too harsh. It’s about knowing that line and not crossing the line to disrespect. You’re showing them your passion. I’m trying to help you out.”
Blasko has also learned from Heclinski that some players respond to the proverbial kick in the hindquarters while other wilt when you do that.
“You should learn your players,” says Blasko. “You can’t just be a cookie-cut coach.
“There’s a common goal there it’s finding a way of how to unlock the kid’s lock.”
Blasko’s bottom line: If you’re in the classroom, on the court or on the field, if you can’t connect with that kid, it’s going to be very hard to teach them.
“I don’t care if I’m trying to teach you to have self esteem and be nice to people or how to pitch,” says Blasko. “It’s going to be very hard for me to get in your brain and for you to trust me.
“If you trust me, I’ve got you. They’ve got to know they can trust you and know what you’re about.”
In his early Performance Center sessions, Blasko has been showing young pitchers how to load up and use their whole body rather than just their arms.
He told them that if you’re going to throw a punch, you want to bring it back before you take it forward for maximum power and the same is true with pitching.
Once again, Blasko is not using a cookie-cut approach.
“They’re all different,” says Blasko. “We have a main goal, but if something works for you, I’m not going to change it all that much. I’m not going to make everybody a robot . We’re not all going to look identical.”
He wants them all to have the same foundation and be able to balance during their motion.
“You’re not stopping but you’re gathering yourself to make that powerful movement toward the plate,” says Blasko. “We want to be equal and opposite (creating a rhythmic and synchronized arm swing; extending the arms at the same tine, in the same motion, with the elbows matching up int he exact identical position and foot strike), stay on top of the ball and follow through.
“You’ve got to have a base and build your way up to get to the power position.”
Chadd Blasko recently became a baseball instructor at the First Source Bank Performance Center in South Bend, Ind. He is a coach and teacher at Mishawaka (Ind.) High School. He played baseball at Purdue University and in the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles systems.