Jason Pierce knows what kind of identity he wants for his Bluffton (Ind.) High School baseball team. “Our motto is to control what we can control,” says Pierce, who asks his Tigers not to dwell on mistakes and to rally together. “We’re very much a family here. This sport has a lot of ups and down. We want our players to have controlled aggression and do the little things the best they possibly can.” Pierce stresses life lessons, high academics and building maturity in young men. “We want to productive members of society,” says Pierce, who took over the program before the 2020 season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic after seven seasons as head coach at Eastside Junior/Senior High School (Butler, Ind.) and two campaigns leading the Churubusco (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School program. “You learn that through team sports.” Bluffton went 14-16-1 in 2021 with five on-run losses and a pair of one-run victories with a team featuring just one senior starter. “We’re young on paper, but we’ve got a lot of experience on the field,” says Pierce in looking ahead to 2022. “We’ve got a lot of athletes. We’re in a really good spot with guys who can move around the field. “As long as we can keep our heads I think we’re going to be a pretty dangerous baseball team.” The 14 players on Bluffton’s MaxPreps.com roster (as of March 28) include six seniors — middle infielder/pitcher Brock Drayer, outfielder/catcher Lukas Hunt, outfielder/pitcher/first baseman Dylan King, outfielder/pitcher/shortstop Kyler Rolston, pitcher/first baseman Grant Thompson and pitcher/outfielder Kayden Vineyard plus four juniors in corner infielder/pitcher Curtis Ellis, catcher/outfielder Kayden King, pitcher/infielder/outfielder, outfielder/pitcher Austin Lewis, Andrew Onuegbu and outfielder/pitcher Drew Pressler and three sophomores in pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Braxton Betancourt, middle infielder/pitcher Eli Garrett and catcher/pitcher Brody Lewis. Left-hander Betancourt (5-5, 1.43 earned run average, 97 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings) was the Tigers’ No. 1 pitcher in 2021 and Pierce expects him to have the same role in 2022. Bluffton is to open the season Tuesday, April 5 at New Haven. On a team with as many as 10 players can be effective pitchers, Pierce looks at right-hander Ellis as his probable No. 2. Kaleb Riley (Class of 2021) is now on the baseball team at Indiana University South Bend. Bluffton (enrollment around 470) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Adams Central, Heritage, Jay County, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan). The Tigers is scheduled play Adams Central and Southern Wells twice with the second game counting toward the ACAC standings. Bluffton is slated to meet Heritage, Jay County, South Adams and Woodlan one time each. In 2021, the Tigers were runner-up in a IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Adams Central, Eastside (host and champion), Churubusco, South Adams and Woodlan. Bluffton has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2019. Bluffton plays home games on Everett Scott Field. The facility on the north side of the campus is named after the Indiana Hall of Famer who played in a then-record 1,307 consecutive games for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees 1916-25. Providing early diamond opportunities is Bluffton Youth Baseball (T-ball to age 15). Most high school players are with travel organizations, including the Indiana Bandits, Midwest Aces and Summit City Sluggers. Pierce’s 2022 coaching staff features Tim Garrett, Marco Betancourt (pitching coach) and Doug Pressler with the varsity and Trae Jojola and Cody Harris with the junior varsity. A 1993 graduate of St. Marys (Ohio) High School, Pierce played one season at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio, and then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He got hurt in the fall and did not get to play for Lance Hershberger’s Warriors. Pierce, who teaches seventh grade at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School, has two daughters — Leo sophomore Lillian (16) and Heritage grade schooler Harper (8).
With the beginning of IHSAA baseball practice, the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has put out its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year Watch List for 2022. An email was sent to baseball coaches in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Famers. Each coach was asked to nominated any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor. The list of 72 will be narrowed down in finalists in early May and the Dick Crumback/NEIBA Player of the Year will be announced May 25 to coincide with the beginning of the IHSAA baseball tournament series. The player of the year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in early June and at the NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet June 12. Homestead’s Carter Mathison was the 2021 honoree. The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961. For more information, contact Gary Rogers at email@example.com or Brett Windmiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DICK CRUMBACK/NEIBA HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST 2022 Adams Central (Coach Dave Neuenschwander) Sr. Alex Currie Jr. Ryan Black Sr. Jaron Hildebrand Sr. Blake Heyerly Bishop Dwenger (Coach Jason Garrett) So. Brayton Thomas Sr. Xavier Aguirre Sr. Jack Tippmann Bishop Luers (Coach Jeff Stanski) Jr. Cam Martinez Sr. Paul Birkmeier Carroll (Coach Dave Ginder) Sr. Alex Smith Sr. Jaydan Duba Sr. Jordan Malott Jr. Will Worrel Jr. Thomas Tratnyek Jr. Andrew Sinish Jr. Daniel Kirk So. Conner Barkel Central Noble (Coach Tyler Graybeal) Sr. Will Hoover Churubusco (Coach Jordan Turner) Sr. Keenan Hendricks Sr. Cal Ostrowski Columbia City (Coach Rob Bell) Sr. Sam Gladd Sr. Adin Miller Sr. Julian Osselaer DeKalb (Coach Collin Bice) Sr. Bryce Dobson Sr. Logan Jordan Jr. Eli Ehmke Jr. Tegan Irk Jr. Ethan Jordan Jr. Alex Leslie Jr. Logan Montoya Jr. Parker Smith Jr. Donnie Wiley East Noble (Coach Aaron Desmonds) Sr. Brayden Risedorph Eastside (Coach Aaron Willard) Sr. Jack Buchanan Sr. Nick Snyder Sr. Owen Willard Garrett (Coach Jason Richards) Sr. Graham Kelham Sr. Trey Richards Sr. Kail Baughman Jr. Luke Byers So. Luke Holcomb Heritage (Coach Dean Lehrman) Sr. Dalton D. Wasson Homestead (Coach Nick Byall) Sr. Brennen Weigert Sr. Nick Hockemeyer Sr. Caden Tarango Jr. Jake Goode Jr. Bryce Yoder Sr. Braydon Quintana Sr. Carter Dixon Sr. Jackson Todor Huntington North (Coach Jarod Hammel) Sr. Austin Oswalt Leo (Coach Gary Rogers) Sr. Cohden Brubaker Sr. Donavin Massing Jr. Jevon Walker So. Kylar Decker New Haven (Coach Dave Bischoff) Sr. Connor Cannon Northrop (Coach Matt Brumbaugh) Sr. Luke Siren So. Pernell Whitsett North Side (Coach Austin Mannan) Jr. Gabriel Oliva Snider (Coach Josh Clinkenbeard) Sr. Trevor Newman Sr. Cade Hinton Fr. Landen Fry Fr. Brandon Logan Sr. Aaron Fenn Sr. Domanic Moon Sr. Jakob Byler South Adams (Coach Brad Buckingham) Sr. A.J. Dull South Side (Coach Will Coursen-Carr) Sr. Perry Stow So. Evan Harl Southern Wells (Coach Blade Rheinhart) Sr. Branson Rheinhart Sr. Evan Reynolds Sr. Owen Vickrey
Always looking for ways to develop his players, Guthrie added Virtual Reality to the Panthers’ practice regimen by bringing in a WIN Reality system which helps hitters with things like pitch recognition. Athletes don a headset and get a fully-immersive experience, seeing realistic pitches in what looks like a professional stadium. “I’m constantly scouring the Internet and social media to see what is out there to better our kids,” says Guthrie, who introduced WIN Reality when players returned from winter break in January. “I like to mix up our training routines. “Some days we don’t get the gym with the batting cage and we can still get in live work. We’re getting that cognitive intuition we need on a much better scale.” With the WIN Reality, players go through graduated sequence of eight drills. The first is basic, recognizing fastball, curveball and change-up. They are also tracking the pitch. This is done by asking the hitter to point the controller to where the ball ended up in the strike zone. Later comes the “disappearing pitch” drill where the pitch might go away at 50 feet or less and hitters are still asked to recognize it. “It really starts to challenge guys,” says Guthrie. “They see their averages at the end (of drills) and the begin competing against each other.” Guthrie notes that the technology is not new and is used by numerous pro and college teams. Now it has come to Brushy Prairie, Ind. Using the VR trainer offers an efficient way to see more pitches in less time than would be possible with the traditional methods alone. “We’re certainly not taking away from the live BP,” says Guthrie. “We’re adding to it in a risk-free environment.” While identifying these WIN Reality pitches, no swings are taken. Hitters pull the trigger on the controller. The system tells them when they made that decision and if it was in the optimum window of when they could hit the pitch. “You’re not training your body,” says Guthrie of the VR work. “We’re using this to train the brain. “We’re using cage to train the body on the proper fundamentals.” WIN Reality does include an optional bat attachment and collects data on swings. Guthrie, a 2011 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate who had his college career ended by injury, embraces tech. He uses smart baseballs that track spin rates, velocity and movement. There are Blast Motion sensors on his players’ bats to give feedback. “We’re getting video of guys all the time,” says Guthrie, who likes to shoot 4K at 60 frames-per-second. “We go frame-by-frame and make sure we’re not missing anything.” A phone app called Coach’s Eye allows for comparative side-by-side videos. It’s helpful for pitchers trying to make all their pitches look the same coming out of their hand. Guthrie says that pitch recognition training when he was a player involved a VCR. “We’d see a one-second clip of a ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand,” says Guthrie. “But it did not mix it up like the real pitcher does.” Guthrie has used YouTube videos for this purpose. There is also a phone app called GameSense Pitch-IQ. With Guthrie and varsity assistants Mike Gustin (pitching coach), Tyler Christman and Ryan Fulton, junior varsity coaches Gene Smith (head coach), Dave Priestley (pitching coach), Shane Richards and JV statistician Reese Smith, Prairie Heights is preparing to compete in the Northeast Corner Conference (which also includes Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, West Noble and Westview) and IHSAA Class 2A in 2022. “The NECC seems to be going in a high-velocity direction,” says Guthrie. “We’ve got a lot of great pitchers in this conference. It was bound to happen because of the push for travel ball. The kids want to get better day in and day out. “We need to know how we improve at the plate. You’ve got to score runs to win games. The velocity is one thing. It’s the curve balls, sliders and change-ups that are beating us. “Recognizing the pitch is half the battle.”
IHSBCA members may vote for up to four coaches and two players/contributors. Deadline for returning the ballot is Oct. 31. Inductees will be honored at the State Clinic Jan. 14-16 at Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Steve Strayer (Active) A graduate of Prairie Heights High School, Manchester College (bachelor’s degree) and Indiana University Northwest (masters degree), Strayer has been a head coach at Boone Grove and Crown Point (current) and has a record of 641-238 with 15 conference, 14 sectional and nine regional titles. He has coached 13 IHSBCA All-Stars, 64 future college players (23 NCAA Division I). He is a six-time District Coach of the Year (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2019). In 10 seasons at Boone Grove, Strayer won 223 games with seven Porter County championships. His Crown Point teams have won 418 in 19 seasons with numerous sectional regional crowns and eight Duneland Athletic Conference titles. He has been IHSBCA president and was a North All-Star coach in 2005 and 2021. Strayer teaches math at Crown Point High School. Steve and wife Jennifer live in Crown Point with daughter Charlotte.
Lea Selvey (Active) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey has spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 32 as head coach — and is 515-343 with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 42 years — nine at Woodlan and 33 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 615 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 ears and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Mark Grove (Retired) A graduate of Bluffton High School and Ball State University, Grove won 513 games, nine sectionals, four regionals and was a semistate runner-up in 1995 at Churubusco High School. His teams won nine Northeast Corner Conference championships (four tourney titles) and two Allen County Athletic Conference crowns. Grove coached 40 players who went on to college baseball and one MLB Draft selection. He has coached 25 All-Staters, six North All-Stars and twice coached the All-Stars. He was a District Coach of the Year several times. A longtime IHSBCA member, he has served on several committees (co-chaired “Baseball Strikes Out Kancer”) and is currently helping at the state clinic registration table. He is a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer and has mentored many coaches. He is a willing participant/organizer of clinics and youth baseball events.
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., 26, Carlton, 22, Cooper, 21, and Easton, 16).
Doug Greenlee (Retired) A graduate of South Putnam High School, Indiana State University (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (masters), Greenlee won 503 games in a 28-year span, including 25 at Kankakee Valley High School with three sectionals, two regionals and seven conference championships. He was the 2013 IHSBCA North All-Star head coach and coached nine All-Stars and numerous future collegiate players. His Kankakee Valley teams were ranked No. 1 on three occasions. Greenlee has served on several IHSBCA committees and been an athletic director of 16 years at four different schools. He officiated baseball for more than 25 years and worked four State Finals.
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 400-142 in 19 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 10 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 22, Dresden, 20, and Jantzen, 17). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Jamey Carroll (Retired) A graduate of Castle High School (1992) and the University of Evansville (1996), Carroll played for Dave Sensenbrenner in high school and Jim Brownlee in college. He was an All-American in 1996 and Caroll’s name is in the UE record book 27 times. Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 14th round, he went on to a 12-year big league career with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Carroll posted a 16.6 WAR WITH 1,000 hits, 13 homers, a .272 average, 580 runs, 265 RBIs, 74 stolen bases, .349 on-base percentage and .687 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 2006 and plated Matt Hollday with a sacrifice fly in a 2007 NL Wild Card Game. Jamey and wife Kim have 11-year-old twins (Cole and Mackenzie). He works in the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.
Players/Contributors Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college in January to finish his bachelor’s degree.
The High School and College Baseball Series at Parkview Field hosted by the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps is to feature 46 different schools for a total of 29 games between April 2-29. The TinCaps begin their 120-game High Class-A season May 4.
Tickets ($6) for High School and College Series games go on sale March 24 at ParkviewField.com.
The Parkview Field Ticket Office also will be open for ticket purchases beginning one hour prior to each day’s first pitch.
All transactions must be completed by debit or credit card (no cash). The TinCaps plan to utilize a special seating chart to account for physical distancing between pods of fans. Ballpark concessions will be available as well (no outside food or drink is permitted.)
The list will be narrowed in early May to a group of award finalists. The winner will be announced May 26 to coincide with the start the IHSAA state tournament series. The winner will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game since the NEIBA banquet has been postponed until Sept. 12.
Since 1961, the NEIBA has recognized local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors through a Hall of Fame and honors program. South Adams’ Grant Besser was named Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year in 201. With the 2020 season being canceled because of the COVID-1 pandenic, there was no award given for 2020.
For more information, contact Gary Rogers at email@example.com or Brett Windmiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I do demand a lot from my players,” says Richards, who spent a decade of coaching in the Railroaders softball program then took over the baseball post prior to the 2020 season which was taken away by COVID-19. “At the same time, baseball has to still be fun for everybody.
“We want to still work hard for our goals.”
Richards was a softball assistant to Scott Bishop for eight seasons before leading the Garrett team in 2018 and 2019.
“(Bishop) demands perfection,” says Richards. “You’re only going to get that through hard work.”
Prior to Garrett, Richards was a baseball assistant at Central Noble for head coach Jim Sickafoose and baseball assistant Eastside for head coach Jason Pierce.
Richards says Sickafoose has an “old school” way of doing things.
“We had a good team,” says Richards, who helped the Cougars win an IHSAA Class 2A LaVille Sectional title and compete in the Whiting Regional in 2012. “(Coach Sickafoose) wanted to get the most out of everything you can do each day.
“(Coach Pierce) brought a fire for the game. He kept the kids on their toes, letting them know they can’t just go through the motions.”
“(Coach Grove) demanded perfection and hard work,” says Richards. “He was no-nonsense.”
Before class baseball, ‘Busco won Warsaw Sectional and Plymouth Regional crowns and competed in the Fort Wayne Semistate championship against eventual state runner-up Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Stadium in 1995.
Richards went on to be a student at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, where he earned a Education degree with a focus on middle school Social Studies and Science and later gained a School Counseling masters from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.
An attendee of several coaching clinics, Richards likes to run an organized practice.
Everyday players show up they know everything is thought out and in a certain order.
“Anything after 2 1/2 hours and you start to see bad habits,” says Richards. “In 1 1/2 hours, we can get in there, word hard, get good habits formed and have fun.”
At its size, the multi-sport athlete is the norm at Garrett. Many baseball players are on the football team and Richards is an assistant in program led by Chris DePew. That means Garrett had just a few participate in practices during fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period for baseball.
Winter workouts — bat and ball activities plus speed and agility and weight work — have regularly been drawing about 17 with the others involved in winter sports. Richards expects to have around 30 players for varsity and junior varsity teams.
Last March, Garrett was two days away from its first official day of practice when the pandemic caused a shutdown and loss of the 2020 season.
“What a crazy year,” says Richards. “We had like four kids play travel ball last year and no (Garrett Youth Baseball for ages 5-16).
“COVID can really hurt a small program.”
A third year as a guidance counselor at Garrett Middle School (he was a science teacher prior to that), Richards gets to see student-athletes grow and mature for six years — grades 7-12.
“I build a relationship with them in middle school and earn that trust,” says Richards. “In high school, we get them what they need.”
Richards counts Rudy Fuentes as a varsity assistant coach for 2021. Other assistants are Clay Evans, Steve Orth, Bobby York and Cody Camp. Joe Fuentes (Rudy’s son) is GYB president.
The youth league will base its draft on performance at camps held at the high school in February.
“We work really well together,” says Richards of the accord between GHS and GYB.
Garrett graduate Tristan Taylor is a freshman on the baseball roster at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Current Railroaders senior Gage Smith is expected to make a college baseball commitment and a number of juniors also have college diamond aspirations.
Jason and wife Emily Richards have three children — Kierra (19), Trey (16) and Brady (8). Kierra Richards is a softball player and Exercise Science major at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. Trey Richards is a junior football and baseball players at Garrett. Third grader Brady Richards, who tuns 9 next week, is involved in football, wrestling and baseball.