By STEVE KRAH
Sharing his knowledge, Ed Schlueter is looking to raise the quality of baseball played in his corner of the world.
That corner is located in Jasper County in northwest Indiana — about 20 miles south of Valparaiso and 75 miles southeast of Chicago.
Operating out of a rented 40-by-50 space in a pole barn near Wheatfield with one batting cage and enough room to throw the ball 60 feet, 6 inches, the former college player is passing along his knowledge.
Schlueter, a 2011 graduate of Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., was a teacher and head baseball coach at Rensselaer Central High School for three seasons (2012-14) then decided to become a commercial and residential painter.
Missing the game he loves, Schlueter started Baseball Directive and began providing private lessons. In the last calendar year, he has worked with about 50 individuals on hitting, pitching and catching.
“I want to spread more baseball to the people around me,” says Schlueter, who was a right-hander pitcher at Saint Joe and before that at Harlem High School near Rockford, Ill., before that. “I want to give direction.”
Schlueter’s lessons are directed to parents and players to “get them headed in the right direction.”
Besides the mechanics of baseball, Schlueter also imparts wisdom about the mental side of the game.
“It’s doing things the right way and being accountable,” says Schlueter. “They have to do more on their own. I give them homework (something to work on before the next lesson) and they spend 5 or 10 minutes a day on it.
“They have to buy into and trust what they’re doing in order to put the work in. A lot of them don’t realize the amount of training that goes into getting to the next level. It’s a mix of talent and hard work. It can’t all just be natural talent.”
It’s important with the younger players to get that work ethic started early.
“By the time they get to middle school or high school, it is instilled,” says Schlueter, who helps players in the Clinton Prairie, Rensselaer Central, Kankakee Valley, Lowell, North Newton school districts and more. A couple of his travel ball clients are the Outcast Thunder (Lowell) and North Central Cyclones (Francesville).
As a one-man operation, Schlueter can focus on each of his pupils.
“I like the whole one-on-one personal connection I can have with players and their parents,” says Schlueter. “They feel like they’re getting 100 percent of the attention all of the time.
“We’re not be rushed to get through everything. I’m providing that customer service.”
He also gets a chance to have quality time with his son. Ed and Meagan Schlueter’s boy — Lucas — is a 5-year-old ballplayer.
For Schlueter, it’s the people that make it worth being in baseball.
At Rensselaer Central, he inherited a good team that won 16 games before bowing to Andrean in the first round of the IHSAA Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional in 2012 then struggled the next two seasons.
“The best part of it was developing relationships with my players,” says Schlueter. “It was more about that bond.”
He still shares meals with his former Bombers and regularly communicates with them through phone calls and texts.
Schlueter was part of a tight-knit group at Saint Joe fostered by head coach Rick O’Dette.
“It was a family atmosphere,” says Schlueter. “I’m starting to see other programs envelope that.
“Kids are investing their time and money into college baseball. Ending up with a lifelong family is a huge pay-off.”
Schlueter speaks highly of O’Dette and still maintains contact with the man who has moved on to Saint Leo University in Florida after Saint Joe closed its doors at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
“He’s a great guy and a motivator,” says Schlueter of Coach O. “He pushes you to get the best out of you all the time. He was good at helping guys understand what the game is about. He was always at explaining this is why we do this and why we do that.”
While Schlueter was at SJC, he also encountered assistants Matt Kennedy (now a Saint Leo assistant), Josh Rabe (now head coach at Quincy University) and Jeremy Sheetinger (now American Baseball Coaches Association coaches liaison).
Schlueter’s head coach in high school was Doug Livingston, who has since retired with the most wins in Harlem program history.
Livingston got his players to take ownership and work hard.
With a core of players who grew up on diamonds together, Harlem won back-to-back Illinois High School Association regional titles (equivalent to the sectional in Indiana) in Schlueter’s junior and senior seasons (2005 and 2006).
In 2005, the Huskies became only the second team to go unbeaten in the Northern Illinois Conference (then known as the NIC-9). Schlueter went 7-0 with an 0.91 earned run average in 2005 and 10-2 with one save and a 1.20 ERA in 2006.
“We learned to play as a team,” says Schlueter. “It was not all about one individual. We had depth and learned to rely on one another.”
Ed Schlueter (right) operates Baseball Directive out of a rented space near Wheatfield in northwest Indiana.
Ed Schlueter, a graduate of Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and the former Rensselaer Central High School head baseball coach, is the founder of Baseball Directive. Baseball near Wheatfield, Ind., he provides instruction and information to area players and their parents.