By STEVE KRAH
Jim Kraft would like his baseball players at Bethany Christian High School to take the right approach at the plate, hit the cut-off man and throw strikes from the mound.
But’s that not the most-important thing to the man who has led the Bruins program since the 2018 season.
“No. 1 it’s about making better men,” says Kraft. “It starts with being a good teammate, work ethic and things like that.
“The baseball stuff kind of takes care of itself after that.”
Bethany, a school of about 140 in the top four grades with its campus in Waterford Mills, Ind. (south side of Goshen), has 13 players in 2021 and is playing a varsity-only schedule and got off to a 4-0 start through April 22.
“In a weird way (the COVID-19) pandemic probably benefited us a little bit with being small and not having a JV team,” says Kraft. “We only graduated a senior and junior from the team of two years ago.
“We really only had one player playing travel baseball (last summer). But other schools played less last year.
“We’re really looking forward to growing this year.”
Kraft is assisted this spring by former Fairfield High School players Jason Smith and Jared Christophel and former Bethany athlete Jared Schlabach.
The Bruins are members of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with Argos, Career Academy of South Bend, Elkhart Christian Academy, Lakeland Christian Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Argos and ECA are the other baseball-playing schools this spring.
Bethany is part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont (the 2021 host site) and Lakewood Park Christian. The Bruins won their lone sectional title in 1987.
Others on the BC schedule are Bremen, Concord, Fairfield, Goshen, Harlan Christian, Jimtown, Lakeland, LaVille, NorthWood, Oregon-Davis, Prairie Heights, Triton, Wawasee, Westview and White Pigeon (Mich.).
Bethany plays home games at the Dan Bodiker Athletic Fields, located across the railroad tracks behind the school. Kraft says a capitol campaign is expected to bring upgrades to soccer, track and field, softball and baseball.
There are currently no Bethany graduates playing college baseball. Kraft says three of his seniors could play if they want to pursue that route.
The 2021 Boys of Summer Baseball League is expected to include a Bethany junior high team.
Kraft grew up on a dairy farm near Trufant, Mich., and was active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He is a1984 graduate of Lakeview (Mich.) High School and earned an engineering degree at Michigan State University.
He is employed at Brock Grain Systems in Milford, Ind., as a product director.
Jim and wife Tammy have a son, Logan, and live in New Paris, Ind. Logan played baseball at Fairfield and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020.