Tag Archives: Coach

Quest for knowledge takes Hall of Fame coach, educator Siler through all of his days

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Curiosity was a part of Dick Siler’s nature.

He wanted to know things.

When you talked with him you knew he was going to ask questions.

“What have you been up to?”

“How’s your mother?”

“Can you tell me something new?”

When he got a chance, he explored historical places and books and soaked in as much new knowledge as he could.

As a coach, he wanted to break down and understand plays and positions so he could convey those to his athletes.

It’s that sense of interest that took Siler through his 84 years.

No doubt he had the sense of wonder as a boy growing up on a poultry farm near Ashland, Ohio, and playing sports on that same land. He was a catcher in baseball and wound up as a center and linebacker in football. 

Too busy on the farm to go into Ashland to play ball, a plot was dedicated for that purpose. Sometimes it was used by the circus.

“It was two thirds football field, one third baseball field,” Siler once said. “The east end zone was just dirt.

“Dad let me use a panel truck,” said Siler. “I contacted people and got eight or nine other guys and we went around and played softball or baseball — probably more softball than baseball.

“If we had two bats, that was great. Most guys didn’t have baseball spikes.”

Siler carried big diamond dreams.

“I loved baseball so much,” said Siler. “I wanted to learn and nobody was teaching me.”

When it came time to play at Ashland High School, Siler (Class of 1953) did not play varsity. Future big league catcher John Roseboro (Class of 1951) was ahead of him.

“He threw a lot harder from his knees than I could shoot a gun behind the plate,” said Siler, who was on the junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore and at the start of his junior year.

Then came a call from the varsity. He got to the game on a Farmall F-20 tractor.

“It’s the only way I could get there,” said Siler. “I had no other vehicle.

“I threw on the gear. I didn’t have time to warm up  They put me right in.”

The first or second runner got on base and went to steal.

“When I threw the ball, I felt like my whole arm went down to second base,” said Siler. “Something just ripped in there. I couldn’t get the ball back to the pitcher. They ended up pulling me out the game.

“That was the last school ballgame that I played. That was heartbreaking.”

Siler went on to coach baseball for decades, but he never threw batting practice. He caught BP until one of his knees locked up on him. The number of reps made with a fungo bat is nearly incalculable.

From north central Ohio, Siler took his curiosity to North Manchester, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University), where he played football and got the knee injury to remember it by the rest of his days.

More importantly, it was at Manchester that he met Marjorie Thompson. The two wed in 1956 and wound up in her hometown of Elkhart, Ind. 

Dick took a job teaching and coaching at Jimtown High School after graduating Manchester in 1957.

His first coaching assignment was with Jimmies football. He was a coach all the way until the end, including the last 23 years as an assistant at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind.

The Siler family, which grew to include three children (Scott, Laurie and Julie), lived for years in Elkhart. Scott Siler was the Indiana Umpire of the Year in 2018.

Dick became head baseball coach at Elkhart High in 1968 and led that program through 1972. A split of the school sent him into a 25-year run as head baseball coach at Elkhart Memorial High School, where he also was a football assistant for many years.

The 1992 Crimson Chargers were the first Elkhart County baseball team to play in the IHSAA State Finals.

After retiring as coach and social studies teacher at Memorial (he won more than 500 games at the high school level), Siler accepted an invitation from Bethel head coach Sam Riggleman to join the Pilots staff. Margie came along as a scorekeeper. 

She fought a battle with cancer for two decades before dying in 2002. She got to live in a new house in Mishawaka for a short time. Bethel has presented a scholarship in her name and has a plaque in her honor at Patterson Field at Jenkins Stadium.

Dick Siler, who went on to be on the staffs of Mike Hutcheon and Seth Zartman, talked of his wife often. He passed away at his Mishawaka home around 1:45 a.m. Monday, July 20. 

What did he gain most from coaching all those years?

“I enjoy the kids just for who they are — seeing them grow or seeing them change,” said Siler. “I get to see the light go on — he finally gets the idea about timing and using the barrel of the bat to hit.”

Whether it was baseball, football, track, wrestling or basketball (he coached those sports, too), it was about instruction.

“I wanted to teach,” said Siler. “I wanted to tell them this is the best way to do it.

“Kids are hungry to learn if you’ll just teach them.

“Too many people do too much yelling and not teaching. Kids want to get better and they love the game.”

Siler was a founder of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and a member of the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. He also belonged to the American Baseball Coaches Association and National High School Baseball Coaches Association. He is also enshrined in sports halls of fame in Ashland County, Ohio, and Elkhart County, Ind.

Siler said he went into coaching baseball with a football mentality.

“A kid would say to me, ‘Coach, we’re trying not to fail,” said Siler. “That was a big learning and turning point for me. I need to teach them better than just yelling.

“For some, it’s just really hard (to fail). It destroys them. They failed Grandpa. They failed Dad. They failed the girlfriend. They failed the coach. It’s a heavy burden.”

Ever inquisitive, Siler asked these questions: How do we enjoy the sport more? and How do we get there?

“You don’t do it through negativity, I’ll tell you that,” said Siler. “My son (Scott) threw a bat once when he was really young and I made him run the hills. ‘But Daddy, I’m so young.’ I probably handled it a different way and I didn’t. That wasn’t right. 

“You make mistakes. You’ve got to live with those, too.”

As a high school baseball coach, Siler was faced with having to cut down his roster.

“Only so many people can make the team,” said Siler. When he took over at Elkhart High, he could not use freshmen and still had about 125 trying out. 

Siler and assistant Randy Miller had to do their evaluations inside a tiny downtown gym.

“We tried to be as fair as we could and didn’t have a whole lot of complaints,” said Siler. “Later, I did.”

Siler said figuring out the top and bottom of the roster is the easy part.

“Some of the kids who come up are coached by people who know baseball better than a lot of others,” said Siler. “The better athletes adjust faster and better than the lesser athletes.”

While Siler could teach technique and improve upon it, he knew that “some talent is just God-given.”

Siler said the difference in a successful high school player and an unsuccessful one came down to attitude.

“I’m not much on all-ness statements,” said Siler. “Sometimes the dog wags the tail and sometimes the tail wags the dog. In my perspective, the program is more important than the individual. Period.

“If you think you are going run the program or effect the program in a negative way, you’re not going to be around. The program is what it’s all about.”

Siler insisted on a pregame prayer.

“They’ll have to fire me,” said Siler. “I’m not changing. That was very important to me.

“I live and die on the idea of ‘family first.’”

Many family members came to visit or called in Dick’s final days.

Dick Siler, who began his coaching career in the 1950’s, was an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., from the 1998 season to 2020. He died July 20. (Bethel University Photo)

It’s all about service for 2020 IHSBCA Hall of Famer Abbott

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brian Abbott has been an educator, coach and administrator for a long time.

In all his roles, he has strive to follow the model of servant leadership.

“I like serving others,” says Abbott, who will go into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame with George Cuppy, Clint Barmes, Scott Upp and Tony Uggen during a Jan. 17, 2020 banquet as a contributor/coach. “I like baseball. I’ve met a lot of good people.

“I have a lot of good friends that I never would have met if I was not involved.”

Abbott, who grew up in Carroll County and graduated from Delphi (Ind.) High School in 1979, began his coaching career as a teenager at the local Babe Ruth League level. He led a group of 13-year-olds to the state tournament in Noblesville.

He pitched at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University), graduating in 1983, and served one year as an assistant at Brookville (Ind.) High School (now part of Franklin County High School) followed by 21 years as a high school head coach at Eastbrook and Huntington North. His teams won more than 300 games, seven county championships, four conference titles, three sectional crowns, one regional title and made one Final Four Appearance (1999 with Eastbrook).

As Eastbrook coach, Abbott got to compete against baseball minds like future IHSBCA Hall of Famers Ty Calloway at Western, Greg Marschand at Lewis Cass and George Phares at Taylor.

“I always thought the (Mid-Indiana) Conference was tough when I first started,” says Abbott. “The teams were all good because their coaches were really good.”

Abbott had the distinction of pitching the first no-hitter on the new lighted Delphi diamond when he was a junior for the Oracles. He played for three coaches while in high school — Greg Fisher, Dave Young and Mike Lane.

Long before Abbott was associated with high school baseball, he regular at the IHSAA State Finals and remembers seeing Paul “Spider” Fields lead Lafayette Jeff to its second state championship in 1973. Another found memory is going with his father and grandfather to the Colt League World Series, an event organized by Hall of Famer Harry Bradway and staged at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. One year, he saw future big league pitcher Sid Fernandez compete there.

During the single-class era, Delphi played in an IHSAA sectional with Lafayette Jeff (coached by Fields), West Lafayette (coached by Hall of Famer Fred Campbell), McCutcheon (coached by Hall of Famer Jake Burton), Harrison and Lafayette Central Catholic.

Abbott and Burton first faced off back in the ‘70s Babe Ruth coaching days when Abbott was in Delphi and Burton in Dayton, Ind.

As a Huntington Forester, Abbott played for three head coaches — Jim Wilson, Fred Vonderlage and Tim McKinnon. Current HU coach and Hall of Famer Mike Frame was a third baseman and classmate of Abbott.

In Brookville, the hometown of Brian’s wife, Trisha Abbott, he got to work with another coach bound for the Hall of Fame — Jim Hughes.

“He was a good mentor to me,” says Abbott of Hughes. “He loved baseball. He loved sports. He was a positive person. He always had something good to say about everybody.

“He was one of those people you hate to lose.”

Abbott currently as a pitching coach at Huntington U. and held that position at Indiana Wesleyan University.

A math teacher for 37 years, Abbott currently instructs eighth graders at Riverview Middle School in Huntington. He holds master’s degrees in mathematics and administration from Ball State University.

He often drives to the nearby Crossroads League games himself. When Huntington makes weekend trips to places like Tennessee in February, Abbott and a friend get on the road about 2 a.m. and then come back to Huntington after the last game.

For several summers, Abbott has worked for Hammel Floor Service, sanding, re-lining and lettering basketball floors. He uses his math skills to put down and fill in the patterns.

“It’s really been neat,” says Abbott. “I’ve had a chance to go to a lot of different venues.”

Abbott has been part of a crew that did gyms at most of the North Central Conference schools as well as Market Square Arena, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University and many more.

He knows about the intricacies of sanding a parquet floor, such as the one at Carmel High School.

He’s met many accomplished coaches — men like George Griffith, Norm Held, Bill Stearman, Howard Sharpe, Jim Miller and Steve Shondell — and had the privilege of putting the name of John Wooden on the hardwood at Martinsville High School.

“Growing up, he was a guy I respected,” says Abbott of Wooden, the coaching legend. “I read his book.

“I feel like I have a good feel of the high school land. I follow high school sports and I love baseball. Being in the association is a good role for me because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for a lot of different things.”

After serving as associate executive director to Hall of Famer Bill Jones, Abbott has spent the past eight years at IHSBCA executive director.

He was nominated for Hall of Fame induction by the IHSBCA executive council.

“I was very humbled by it,” says Abbott. “I’m a mule. I’ve coached.

“It’s been a really good experience.”

Abbott got his start in the IHSBCA when future Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson of Mississinewa invited him to his first State Clinic.

“Little did I know what he was trying to do,” says Abbott. “I didn’t figure it out until about a year later.

“I kind of got drafted into service.”

Atkinson would take statewide IHSBCA office and turn over his district representative duties to Abbott, who led the group that fed the old Kokomo Regional for years.

In that role, he got to know one of the association’s founders and leaders in Jones.

“Bill was very thorough and very complimentary,” says Abbott. “He was very nice to me. He would take me underneath his wing and teach me things.”

Abbott has seen the IHSBCA membership grow. Each January, the association’s state clinic brings around 500 coaches to Indianapolis.

The latest renovation at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper is almost paid off.

“We’ve been working real hard at that the last couple of years,” says Abbott. “The coaches association put in about a third of that money — in the $240,000 or $250,000 range.

This week, the IHSBCA presented five proposals to Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and is hoping for action by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

“I’m just trying better baseball,” says Abbott. “I think my strength is as an organizer and listening to other people and figuring out how I can serve them better.

“I haven’t been afraid to change things. When Bill (Jones) started I’m sure he had to make some adjustments.

“As we’ve had solutions and suggestions come along, I’ve been willing to be open and say let’s give it a shot.”

One of those things was starting a Futures Game last year as part of North/South all-star activities.

“It’s a good adjustment from the Junior Showcase,” says Abbott.

The 2020 Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be held in Evansville.

Brian and Trisha Abbott have two children — Tyler (who is married to Chelsie and have a son named Quinn) and Briley.

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Brian Abbott, the executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, will go into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2020 as a contributor/coach. He is also an eighth grade math teacher in addition to serving as pitching coach at Huntington (Ind.) University.