By STEVE KRAH
Grace College baseball wants workers.
“Having the discipline to do the work is what gets you to the ability,” says Ryan Roth, co-head coach of the Winona Lake, Ind.-based Lancers. “Work ethic is a form of discipline.
“I think it’s necessary. It’s a non-negotiable.”
Roth, who has as been on the Grace coaching staff for a year, and co-head coach Tom Roy, who was Lancers head coach 1980-83 and has served a few seasons as chaplain and a short stint as pitching coach, are leading young men on and off the diamond.
“You’ve got to have guys at this level who want to work hard and get better,” says Roy, who is helping the NAIA-affiliated school prepare to compete in the Crossroads League. “You have to be able to grind. You have to be disciplined and do the fundamentals properly. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Fall practice was spent on fundamentals and learning offensive philosophy and swing mechanics and continues as the team returned from winter break this week.
Roy and Roth’s relationship goes back to when Roth played at Huntington University.
“He’s a very good coach,” says Roy of Roth. “I’m no worried about that at all. Coach Roth is really good with pitching and these kids are really improving already.
“We’ve known each other for 13 years. We’re pretty excited about it. We’ll love on the kids. That’s our philosophy.”
“Anybody can win on any given day,” says Roth. “If you give yourself a chance mentally and prepare to win, it doesn’t matter (what the standings say).
“You’ve got to respect your opponents. Make sure you handle your business on game day.”
With 10 teams in the Crossroads, Grace will play nine series. Eight of those will be on the weekend with a 9-inning single game on Friday and a doubleheader with 7- and 9-inning games Saturday. the other series will be held on Tuesdays with a 9-inning single game one week with 7- and 9-inning contests the next. This year, the Lancers host Indiana Wesleyan April 9 and 16 at Miller Field.
“We are men for Christ,” says Roth. “We have the utmost respect for all the coaches in the league.
“We are honored for the opportunity to be a part of it.”
The 2019 roster includes junior pitcher David Anderson, sophomore infielder Houston Haney and senior pitcher Logan Swartzentruber. Pitcher Anderson and infielder Haney were honorable mention all-Crossroads selections in 2018 while pitcher Swartzentruber was on the academic all-league list.
Other commitments mean Roy won’t be with the team full-time until March 1. The two men have divided up responsibilities.
Roth said is handling all administrative work and leading efforts in recruiting and establishing the program’s culture.
“Our primary focus is that we grow Godly men,” says Roy, the founder of Unlimited Potential, Inc. and author of six books, including Shepherd Coach: Unlocking the Destiny of You and Your Players. “We know we can coach. We’re very confident in our abilities.”
Love played at Northridge High School and Ball State University and has almost 20 years of coaching experience. He handles outfield instruction and helps with base running. Love and Roth have both coached at nearby Warsaw High School.
Moore, who is from Kokomo, Ind., played at Indiana Wesleyan where he was an NAIA Gold Glove catcher. He works with Grace receivers.
Skelton is a graduate assistant from Forsyth, Ga., who played at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. He handles infielders and helps with recruiting.
With their connections, Roth and Roy have a large network from which to recruit.
“We want to recruit regionally and locally if we can, but we’re not opposed to going coast to coast,” says Roth. “First and foremost, we’re looking for character.”
The 2019 recruiting class has a number of players from northern Indiana and a few from Ohio.
Grace coaches are looking for players who are good teammates, hard workers and those who have a relationship with the Lord.
“We’d like to get a Christian athlete, but they need to be able to play, too,” says Roy. “We’re looking at measurables (like 60-yard dash time etc.) — all the things you do as a pro scout.”
Roth talks with high school and travel coaches and seeks players willing to do the extra things on the field and in the weight room.
“We know if he’s doing it there, he’ll do it here,” says Roth. “The big thing is work ethic. That kind of thing is innate. We look for that in guys.”
To allow more opportunities to grow as baseball players and as men, Grace has added a junior varsity program. Those games will be played in the fall.
Roth played for head coach Jack Rupley at Manchester High School in North Manchester, Ind., where he graduated in 2003.
He was part of the Squires’ IHSAA Class 2A state champions in 2002 and also played football.
Ryan followed in the footsteps of older brother Marc Roth and playing for head coach Mike Frame at Huntington U.
Coach Rupley made fundamental baseball a priority.
“He taught the basics of running bases, bunt defense and situational hitting,” says Roth. “We also believed in treating everybody fairly and letting everybody be the best version of themselves.
“You knew he was going to care about you and value you no matter what happened on the field.”
Playing for Mike Frame (who Roy recruited to Huntington in his time as a coach there) and with Mike’s son, Thad Frame (a current Foresters assistant), Roth received many lessons.
“I learned a lot about how to be a disciplined player,” says Roth. “I learned a lot about the game. My I.Q. increased a ton.”
He also found out how to accept challenges and develop resilience as an athlete.
“Playing for (Frame), you just have to push yourself to get better,” says Roth. “I have a ton of respect for him.”
Roth served in the U.S. Navy 2010-13.
Citing family and personal reasons, Cam Screeton stepped down as Grace head coach in December 2018.
Tom Roy (left) and Ryan Roth are co-head baseball coaches at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)