By STEVE KRAH
Gordon Turner grew up in Anderson, Ind., with athletic ambition.
Turner played at Anderson High School, where he graduated in 2005, then two seasons at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill., before transferring to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He played one season (2009) on the field with the Warriors before an injury and spent eligibility put an end to the middle infielder’s playing career.
“I’m not going to lie, I cried,” says Turner. “It hurt.”
But the next day Indiana Tech head coach Kip McWilliams asked Turner to join the coaching staff. He’s been there ever since. The 2021 season is his 11th. It’s Williams’ 14th leading the Warriors program.
“Once you’re done playing, you can always spread the knowledge of the game to somebody else and make them better,” says Turner — aka GT. “I’ve got the privilege to be a college coach. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
“I’m not going to take it for granted.”
Turner calls McWilliams the “heart and soul” of the Indiana Tech program and somebody who is always learning something new about baseball and passing it along.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Mac,” says Turner. “He has changed the culture. He looks into (recruiting) high-character guys who are coachable. He’s done a great job over the years.
“It’s nothing but positivity. It’s a great environment. He’s got his standards and he holds his players and coaches to them.”
Indiana Tech has varsity and developmental players and the NAIA program typically carries a large roster that has counted as many as 65 players.
Turner is the head reserve coach and leads that team in games against NAIA, NCAA and NJCAA competition.
But while some might be varsity and other junior varsity, all Tech players are on equal footing.
“We try to keep our guys involved,” say Turner. “Our developmental guys practicing with varsity. We keep them on the same page. We don’t want anybody to lose focus.
“It’s like family. You don’t want to leave nobody out.”
Turner notes that 2016 first-team NAIA All-American Brian Hakes started out on the developmental roster.
Tech has begun its 2021 season. A typical week at this time of the year means taking Monday off if the Warriors are coming off a weekend series. This gives players a chance to rest and to catch up with their studies.
There are sometimes mid-week games with practices to fix flaws and stay sharp.
“We try to get outside as much as possible,” says Turner. “Sometimes we use the turf soccer field and field fly balls and ground balls and do PFP (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice).
“We work on anything (the coaching staff says) we need to work on.”
There’s also in-seaon weight lifting to maintain strength.
Once the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference season starts, there are intense weekend series.
“It’s a grind for 55 games as a northern team,” says Turner.
In the off-season, Turner has worked at camps both at Tech and other places.
He is also a substitute teacher in Fort Wayne Community Schools. This year, was at Lakeside Middle School, where cousin Alan Jones (who played basketball at Muncie Central High School and Taylor University and earned his masters degree at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne) is the principal.
Turner, who received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana Tech in 2012, has taught multiple subjects, but favorite is social studies.
“There’s something about geography,” says Turner. “Show me a place and I’ll show you 10 different ways to get there.”
Turner has also helped Tech players in graduate school to get substitute teaching jobs.
Terry Turner, who has won two IHSAA state titles at Daleville (2016 and 2018), was the Anderson head coach when GT played for the AHS Indians.
“T-Squared — that’s what we call him — was very laid-back,” says Gordon Turner. “If he saw senior had leadership and were taking control of the team, he let it happen. He let us play our game.”
That doesn’t mean the veteran coach did not have control.
“He was holding guys accountable,” says Turner. “If you show up, he’s going to let you know.”
Turner played with some talented players at AHS. In his class was Michael Lucas (who went on to Lincoln Trail College and Ball State University) and Zane Sparks (who played at Kishwaukee and is now with the Anderson Police Department). A year ahead of Turner and his classmates was Brandon Meadows (who played at Anderson University).
Michael Earley, a Class of 2007 graduate, went on to play at Indiana University and in pro ball is now on the coaching staff at Arizona State University.
Turner played at Kishwaukee for Josh Pethoud (now an assistant at Northern Illinois University).
“You really had to be tough to play for him,” says Turner. He had a lot of passion for the game and he knew how to accelerate guys’ games.
“He was very intense, Off the field, he’d give you the shirt off his back. I had a very good relationship with that guy.”
Turner values relationships.
“There’s trust in knowing someone has your back at all times,” says Turner. “There’s someone to help you out during struggles.”
Since he was 15, Turner has occupied parts of his summer playing fast pitch softball. In recent years, he’s been with Anderson-based Diamond In The Rough.
Two nephews have excelled in sports. Lawrence North High School graduate Harold Jones is on the football team at Ball State. LN senior Anthony Hughes is a two-time IHSAA Wrestling State Finals qualifier.
Turner lives in Fort Wayne with girlfriend Shelby Knepper. Together, they have a daughter — Aria Grace Knepper-Turner (2).
Tuesday, March 2 would have been Charles Turner’s 67th birthday. Gordon’s father died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 16, 2018 — about a month before his daughter was born.
“Before he passed away he told me that he was proud of me,” says Gordon. “I’m trying to be a better man as every day comes.”