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