By STEVE KRAH
Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022.
It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff.
That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff.
Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23.
“I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.”
Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach.
“In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control.
“For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them.
“It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.”
It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff.
“We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.”
Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation.
“I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.”
The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play.
“Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense.
“I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.”
On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.”
“If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.”
Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters.
“That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.”
The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run.
Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort.
Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title.
He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend.
He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville.
Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan.
A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems.
Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School.
For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time.
He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family.
Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends.
Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan).
Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily.
Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there.
Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.