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Thurston now leading Southwestern Rebels on diamond

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nearly a decade after guiding a high school baseball program, Dan Thurston is back in that role.

Hired as School Resource Officer at Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind., in January 2020, he became Rebels head baseball coach around mid-year.

Thurston was head coach at nearby Madison (Ind.) Consolidated High School 2009-11 while also serving as D.A.R.E officer in the junior high. He resigned as baseball coach when he became chief of the City of Madison Police Department.

Meanwhile, he headed up Long Toss Indiana LLC and the Indiana Rawlings Tigers LLC, helping players with arm care and Mental Toughness Training.

A few years ago, Thurston sold the businesses as a package. He was invited by head coach Grant Bellak to join the Hanover College coaching staff and had spent 2019 and 2020 with the Panthers when the opportunities came along at Southwestern.

“One thing I really enjoyed about Hanover was the personal interaction with players,” says Thurston, who played tennis, basketball and baseball at Mooresville (Ind.) High School and baseball at Hanove. “They knew where they were in life and where they were going to go. They were thankful to play more baseball. But it’s probably not going to be their profession after college.

“I learned so much in the last two years about how to run a program and how to run a practice. I think I’ll be a much better coach than I was before.”

As SRO, Thurston estimates that he spends more than half his time on relationships with the rest split between counseling and his law enforcement duties.

Until becoming coach, he got to know students as people and not as athletes. 

Thurston took the coaching job in time to lead a few summer workouts in June and then guided IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall.

“It was intrasquad games, (batting practice), infield drills and arm care. We did long toss to stretch arms out,” says Thurston. “Looking back on it, it more about me getting to the know the kids and the program and them getting to know me and my style.

“My style has evolved over the years. At Madison — to a fault — I was a little bit of a control freak. Now I have really good assistants and I expect them to coach.”

Thurston’s Rebels staff includes Ethan Leach, Brian Crank and Brendon Bump.

Leach played at Madison Consolidated and Indiana University Southeast. Crank, who is dean of students and junior varsity boys basketball coach at Southwestern, played at Franklin (Ind.) College an was a JV coach for Thurston at Madison. Pitching coach Bump took the mound for Marshall University (Huntington, W.Va.) and was on Shayne Stock’s Hanover coaching staff.

Winter conditioning began at Southwestern last week. Thurston expects around 22 players for varsity and junior varsity teams in the spring.

Southwestern (enrollment around 375) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Rising Sun, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley and Switzerland County).

ORVC teams play each other twice on a home-and-home basis.

Though it may not happen in 2021, Thurston says he would like those games to come in the same week.

“That avoids team having one really good pitcher to space out their conference games and pitch the same kid in every game,” says Thurston. “You get more of a true team conference champion.”

Super ATV Field, located on the Southwestern campus, has a turfed home plate area. A new scoreboard — never used with the cancellation of the 2020 season — is expected to be in-place for the Rebels’ first home game of 2021.

Thurston says there’s talk of lighting the field and expanding the dugouts.

“Of course that comes down to that almighty dollar,” says Thurston.

The Rebels are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley and Switzerland County. Southwestern’s lone sectional title came in 1999.

The Madison Cubs are on the Rebels’ schedule. Southwestern has never beaten Madison in varsity baseball. When the Rebels won the Class 2A Jeffersonville Regional in 1999, the Cubs and Indiana Mr. Baseball Bryan Bullington won the 3A state championship.

“I’m going to be low key,” says Thurston of this spring’s Southwestern-Madison meeting. “I’m going to treat it just like any other game.

“There’s no pressure for us to win.”

Thurston is also a regional scout for SportsForce Baseball — a recruiting service that helps players find the best fit at the college level.

Last summer, he was able to help athletes while serving as a tournament director for Pastime Tournaments

“I often tell players to take baseball out of the equation,” says Thurston. “Is it the right fit academically, financially and socially? Is it the right distance from home and the right size of school?

“Check all the other boxes first. If baseball is important to you, let’s go somewhere we can play. Some are OK with being the program guy.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic has come extra years of eligibility for college players. Thurston says his gut tells him that it may be until 2023 before the trickle-down effect that hits younger college players — and even high schoolers — settles down.

There has traditionally been youth baseball run by the Hanover parks department. Southwestern schedules up to 20 games in the spring for its junior team of seventh and eighth graders.

Recent Southwestern graduate Bailey Elliott is on the baseball roster at Vincennes (Ind.) University. Thurston says he expects the Rebels to produce more college players in the next few years.

Dan and wife Jackie Thurston will be married 32 years in March. The couple has three children — Trey (29), Ryan (26) and Trisha (22).

Trey Thurston is in veterinary school at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.

Left-handed pitcher Ryan Thurston played at Madison Consolidated and Western Kentucky University and in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He was with the independent Chicago Dogs and Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2019 and is expected to be back with that club in 2021. Gary did not field a team in 2020 and Thurston went with the indy Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Winnipeg Goldeyes.

University of Cincinnati graduate Trisha Thurston works for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati.

Dan Thurston was an assistant baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College in 2019 and 2020. He is now head coach at Southwestern High School in Hanover.
Dan Thurston is the head baseball coach at Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind., and a regional scout for SportsForce Baseball. He was head coach at Madison (Ind.) Consolidated High School 2009-11 and the formerly owned Long Toss Indiana LLC and Indiana Rawlings Tigers LLC.

Jones imparts baseball, life lessons to North Knox Warriors

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Paul Jones is teaching baseball as head coach at North Knox Junior-Senior High School in Bicknell, Ind.

But that’s not all.

“We try to teach them some life skills as we go, too,” says Jones, a 1995 North Knox graduate entering his fourth season in charge of the Warriors in 2019. “We are student-athletes first. You have to pass classes first to be eligible. The athlete comes after.

“We show up for practice, work hard and try to improve.”

Jones is a Knox County deputy and resource officer at North Knox Intermediate School. He has been with the county for three years. He served 16 with the city of Bicknell, including eight as chief of police.

North Knox (enrollment around 410) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial).

Each team plays the other once to determine the conference champion.

Non-conference opponents for the Warriors include Clay City, Eastern Greene, Lawrenceville (Ill.), Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Central (Farmersburg), North Daviess, Pike Central, Shakamak, Sullivan, Washington and White River Valley. North Knox is scheduled to play in the March 30 Springs Valley tournament (which also includes Clay City and Loogootee) and the April 27 Evansville Bosse Invitational on historic Bosse Field.

The Warriors are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, South Knox and Southridge. North Knox has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1998.

Jones is assisted by Damon Yenne, Roger Lemons (statistician), Mike Sheren and Josh Decoursey.

North Knox field a varsity and junior varsity team, but does not have enough players for both to play in separate locations on the same day.

Feeding the high school is a junior high program coached by Ray Clark and Randy Archer. The team plays some games at the high school and some at Vincennes Babe Ruth League.

Youth baseball has been played in Bicknell, Freelandville and Oaktown, but numbers have been low.

“Baseball around here has been dying out,” says Jones. “I’ve been trying to bring it back.”

Jones, a Vincennes University graduate, coached travel baseball in the area before taking over at North Knox. His son, Cole Jones, plays in the summer of the J Cards of Jasper, Ind.

North Knox graduate Brayden Trinkle is now on the baseball team at Vincennes University.

Tragedy hit the community with the death of Jacob Williams. He was one of the top students in his class and a baseball and football player. He drowned in a stripper pit in July 2017, the summer before what would have been his sophomore year at North Knox. The baseball team wore a memorial patch for him last season and is remembered on social media with a hashtag: #livelikejacob.

“He is still missed by his friends and classmates,” says Jones. “I had coached him on other teams (as he was) growing up.”

Paul and Jennifer Jones have been married for 19 years. Jennifer Jones is a teacher’s aide/physical education teacher at North Knox Primary School. Besides 16-year-old Cole, who played soccer and basketball as well as baseball, the couple has seventh grader volleyball, basketball and softball player Reagan (13) and kindergartner Cambrie (6).

Nevin Ashley, a 2003 North Knox graduate, played three seasons at Indiana State University and 11 in professional baseball, including 12 games in the big leagues with the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers.

NORTHKNOXWARRIORS

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The 2018 North Knox Warriors (from left): First row — Austin Greubel, Chase Albrecht, Brayten Trinkle, Brant Trinkle and Cole Richter; Second row — Cole Jones, Brayden Thorne, Zach Boyles, Caleb Wise, Ethan Snyder, Ty Crane, David Lamb and Jacob Simison; Third row — head coach Paul Jones, statistician Roger Lemons, Brandon Decoursey, Keagan Thomas, Trey Keller, Dennis Stalcup and assistants Damon Yenne and Josh Decoursey.

PAULJONES

Paul Jones, a 1995 North Knox Junior-Senior High School graduate, is head baseball coach at the school. He is also a Knox County deputy and resource officer at North Knox Intermediate School.