By STEVE KRAH
For Stacy Herrold, coaching baseball is not just about balls and strikes, safe and out.
“I look to create those relationships with my boys,” says Herrold, who will make the 2019 season his third as head coach and the eighth in the program at Bluffton (Ind.) High School.
The Tigers went 5-21 in Herrold’s first season in charge. After graduating one senior, Bluffton went and 15-11 in 2018, bowing 7-3 to South Adams in the IHSAA Class 2A Adams Central Sectional championship game. South Adams lost 1-0 to eventual state champion Boone Grove in the Whiting Regional final.
There are 11 players back, including Kankakee Community College commit Gavin King, from that Bluffton team this spring.
“We’re going to have a good run,” says Herrold. “I’m excited.”
Herrold is a 2004 graduate of Caston Junior/Senior High School in Fulton, Ind., where he played two years for coach Mike Buczkowski then two for Clay Hannah.
“He was super-patient,” says Herrold of Buczkowski, son of late Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski. “He wanted to stick with the process. “That’s something I didn’t do very well my first season (at Bluffton) after inheriting a team that was 5-24 the year before.
“(Hannah) wanted us just to compete. He always used that word. He wanted guys who would compete day in and day out.”
After high school, right-handed pitcher Herrold spent five years at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (he was redshirted for one season) and his head coach was Billy Gernon for the first four seasons and Bobby Pierce for the last.
“They had completely different styles, but both had great ways of getting things done,” says Herrold of Gernon and Pierce. “I owe them both a lot.”
“Coach Gernon was the epitome of a college coach. You clock in, work hard and take care of your studies.
“Coach Pierce had more of a pro style coaching philosophy. He trusted us more to get the job done. He didn’t have to watch us like a hawk. It was more about growing as individuals and molding into a collaborative team.”
Herrold, who had Tommy John, ulnar nerve and sports hernia surgeries during his career, is also greatful for Mastodons pitching coach Grant Birely.
“Coach Birely made me so much better of a pitcher,” says Herrold. “I started feeling the ball better out of my hand and having more success.”
One of the highlights was a 4-1 complete-game loss against a strong University of Michigan team in 2009.
Gernon played for Bob Morgan at Indiana University.
“I met Bob Morgan,” says Herrold. “(Gernon) was a spitting image of Bob Morgan. He was intense. He worked us hard. He got the best out of our bodies.
“I also remember he had a plethora of life quotes. I use quotes everyday with my practice plan.”
During this limited contact period, baseball is coordinating with other spring sports for practice time in the “Concrete Jungle” portion of The Tiger Den.
“We use those two hours to the best of our ability, getting arms in shape so we can long toss with the 120- to 150-foot area we have,” says Herrold. “We focus on bullpens, conditioning and taking as many swings as a we can so we can hit the ground running when the first pitch comes.
“If it’s 40 or above, we’ll go out on the turf on the football field.”
The three-sport athlete is not uncommon at Bluffton (enrollment around 470). The Tigers part of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Adams Central, Heritage, Jay County, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan).
Bluffton is in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Adams Central, Churubusco, Fort Wayne Canterbury, South Adams and Woodlan. The Tigers have won four sectionals — the last in 2009.
Herrold is getting Bluffton players ready for the 2019 season with the help of assistants Kevin Powell (varsity), Eric Mettler (JV) and Ryan Crist (JV). Powell is a Norwell High School graduate. He teaches in the engineering department at Bluffton and helped place new railings and netting in front of the dugouts at the Tigers’ home field located northwest of the football stadium. Mettler (who pitched at Marietta (Ohio) College) and Crist are Bluffton graduates.
Koltan Moore (Kankakee CC) is a recent Bluffton grad who moved on to college baseball. Dane Hoffman (University of Saint Francis) is another. Jake Garrett finished at the Fort Wayne school two years ago.
In June, Bluffton, New Haven, Adams Central, Heritage and South Adams are among teams who play Monday and Wednesday doubleheaders to give returning players more reps.
Herrold is a sixth grade science teacher at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School. He and wife Andrea (a Fort Wayne Bishop Luers High School graduate) have two children — daughter Finlay (5) and son Hayden (3).
Stacey Herrold and his Bluffton Tigers celebrate winning the Garrett Invitational in 2018.
The Herrolds (clockwise from upper left): Stacy, Andrea, Hayden and Finlay. Stacy is head baseball coach at Bluffton (Ind.) High School and teaches sixth grade science at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School.
Stacy Herrold enters his eighth season as a baseball coach at Bluffton (Ind.) High School in 2019. It will be his third as head coach of the Tigers.