Tag Archives: Competition

Beemer brings energy as new Butler Bulldogs field boss

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Blake Beemer was hired as head baseball coach at NCAA Division I Butler University in Indianapolis in June 2022.
Beemer, a former first baseman at Ball State University (2010-13) and volunteer assistant at Penn State University (2014-15) and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at both Eastern Illinois University (2016-18) and Ball State (2019-22), brings a style to his players he describes as energetic.
“They’ll get energy from me,” says Beemer, 31. “They’ll get dirt honesty. And I think that’s going to help build relationships.
“Guys are going to know where they stand. They’re going to know I care about them. They’re going to know who I am as a human being. Really building those relationships in that foundation will allow us to build toughness and accountability. We’ll build it with with energy will build relationships.”
As an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator at Ball State over the past four seasons, Beemer helped the Cardinals to a 123-65 record with a Mid-American Conference regular-season championship and an appearance in the MAC Tournament championship game in 2022.
“I learned under one of the best in the business under (Ball State head coach) Rich Maloney,” says Beemer, who earned two degrees from BSU — a bachelor’s degree in 2012 and an Masters of Business Administration in 2014. “I’ve had a chance to see success at a high level through him.
“I think I know the state pretty well. I know what it takes to win him in major baseball. And I’ve got the energy to make sure this thing gets going.
“It’s a cool opportunity. I can tell you I’m very humbled to have this chance. And it’s a neat opportunity. This place can be a rock show. I mean, Butler has everything from the academic side to the location to facilities we can we can really win. Not to mention it’s a great conference (the Big East which also includes baseball-playing members Connecticut, Creighton, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall. Villanova and Xavier). It’s a it’s a really cool opportunity.”
The Bulldogs went 20-35-1 overall and 4-16-1 in the Big East in 2022. It was the last season for the retiring Dave Schrage.
What does it take to win at the mid-major level?
“First off you’ve got to you got to do the recruiting right.” says Beemer. “I mean you win with players and you win with people. So in recruiting we’re after land guys that that are tough. I think in college baseball, you win with toughness.
“I think it takes execution. And at Ball State what we did there was we tried to get really good on the mound. And I think here we’ve got to get really good on the mound (at Butler). If you have some horses that can carry you along ways and baseball.
“And so I think you’ll see an increased emphasis to help us get better on the bump and to get tougher and to execute at a high level. Baseball is the same everywhere, right? Good pitching, defense and timely hitting. If you do those three things, you’ll be alright.”
With building toughness in mind, Beemer has his Bulldogs waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts. They’re doing sprint work and some other training to which they have not been exposed.
“I think that there is a energy level that you have to be able to get through whether it’s strength training, speed training, conditioning or for our practice,” says Beemer. “I mean we’re having long practices that the energy has been great, but you build toughness that way.
“We’re going to have games that are three and a half hours. We have to have great intent, great focus and great energy in the ninth inning the same as we do when we start the game. That day-in and day-out consistency, that’s where you build toughness.”
With a national reputation at Butler, thanks in large part to the recent success of the Bulldogs basketball program, Beemer sees a expanded recruiting footprint for the private school.
That means getting some players from the New York City or Washington D.C. areas.
“It’s a great degree,” says Beemer. “We just came out in U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 Midwest regional university in the country. It’s an unbelievable education and I think that speaks volumes across the country.”
Beemer’s staff includes assistant coach, pitching coach Ross Learnard, assistant coach Bladen Bales and volunteer coach Dan Wilcher.
Learnard pitched at Parkland College and Purdue University (he was a two-time All-American) and coached at Illinois State University and Purdue. His duties with the Boilermakers focused on pitching analytics and team operations.
“(Coach Learnard) is really, really detailed and connects with our guys at a high level,” says Beemer. “He’s a great pitching mind I keep telling everybody. I think he’ll be in the SEC. He’ll be an elite pitching coach at one of the high-end jobs within the next seven years. just think I think he’s a stud.
“He develops arms as well. He knows how to take care of the guys. He sees things that are really advanced level.”
Bales was with Beemer at Ball State in 2022. Before that he coached at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb., and managed the Nebraska City American Legion junior team to a state runner-up finish in 2017. He has also coached the Lakeshore Chinooks of the summer collegiate Northwoods League.
Bales played at McCook (Neb.) Community College and Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
“He’s a tireless worker,” says Beemer of Bales. “He has a great eye for talent and recruiting.
“I’ve known Dan (Wilcher) for years. We both grew up in Dayton, Ohio. And Dan helps lead our infield play, a lot of our throwing progressions and throwing programs and helps with field maintenance (at Bulldog Park). He’s our Swiss Army knife. He does it all for us.”
The first two weeks of fall practice at Butler was for individuals. Team practice began on Labor Day and will go until mid-October with intrasquad games twice a week. After that, there will be a transition back to individuals.
“Everybody’s new so it’s a clean slate for everybody is what I’ve been telling our guys,” says Beemer. We get to play outside opponents (Frontier Community College on noon Oct. 1 at home and Ball State Oct. 8 in Muncie). But every day is evaluation, whether it’s an intrasquad, in the weight room or just a BP session, our guys are always being evaluated the same way.
“They’re evaluating me. They’re seeing what my coaching style is. They’re seeing how I instruct things. I think that in today’s world, just understand you’re always under a microscope. You’re always being evaluated. Our guys know that. And so every day we’re trying to have competition. We want to get better every day and and move this thing forward day by day.”
Since his hire, Beemer has been getting his face in front of the community.
Alums are coming back for the induction of the 1998 team (that won a then-school record 33 games) into the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 24 and the Oct. 1 exhibition and Oct. 2 golf outing. The coach has been on the phone talking to alums and boosters and spoke on the air during an Indianapolis Indians broadcast.
“We’ve got a great opportunity for this place to really take off,” says Beemer. “I’m proud of it really proud of being a Butler Bulldog and I’m very fortunate for it.”

Blake Beemer. (Butler University Photo)\
Blake Beemer. (Butler University Photo)

Character counts with new Portage head coach Prance

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Shane Prance is emphasizing the “Three C’s” as new head baseball coach at alma mater Portage (Ind.) High School. They are: Character, Community and Competition.
Prance (Class of 2008) says his No. 1 focus is work ethic.
“We want to control the controllables,” says Prance. “We’ll look at attitude, effort, body language, things like that.
“From there the baseball skills and talent will take over.”
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15 and Prance looks forward to having players take part two days a week for two hours.
His agenda has attendees concentrating on arm health and long toss, proper catch routine and learning fundamental drills at each position. After those things comes intrasquad games so he can evaluate players.
“We want to get a good baseline to see where they’re at,” says Prance.
The off-season will be dedicated to strength and conditioning.
Portage (enrollment around 2,400) is a member of the Duneland Athletic Conference (with Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City and Valparaiso).
The Indians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell and Valparaiso. Portage has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2013.
Prance is a Health and Physical Education teacher at PHS.
In four seasons at Portage (the last three on varsity), Prance played for head coach Tim Pirowski.
“He came in when I was a freshman,” says Prance. “I saw how he was building a foundation. There were classroom learning sessions and we were taught baseball. It made you think more in-depth. It’s the basics that sometimes get brushed over.”
Born in the south side of Chicago, Prance moved to Portage early in his elementary school days. He played at Portage Little League through high school. As a high schooler, he was with the traveling Indiana Breakers.
Prance was a position player and pitcher until blowing out his knee while swinging the bat as a Portage senior.
John Weber was Prance’s head coach at Purdue North Central in Westville, Ind.
“He had a huge influence on me,” says Prance of Weber. “He’s one of the reasons I wanted to coach.”
One of Weber’s strengths was managing the people.
“He wanted them to be good high-character people,” says Prance.
As a four-year PNC pitcher, right-hander Prance set single-season program records for wins (7), complete games (8), innings (84) and strikeouts (95) — all during his senior campaign of 2012.
That summer Prance joined the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg Boomers. He went 1-1 in eight appearances (four as a starter) for the Jamie Bennett-managed club and was released in August.
He went back to PNC to finish his degree and joined Weber’s coaching staff.
“I always knew I wanted to coach,” says Prance. “I became pitching coach at PNC. The rest is history.”
When Weber took an administrative position, Prance became head coach in the fall of 2013 and spent three years in that position.
When Purdue North Central and Purdue Calumet merged into Purdue Northwest, Dave Griffin was named head coach and Prance associate head coach.
He was later assistant athletic director at Saint Xavier University in Chicago and helped the baseball team.
Prance got his coaching feet wet with the Eric Blakeley-led Diamond Kings Fall Baseball League. Blakeley is also the founder of the Crossroads Baseball Series and High School Fall Baseball League.
There has also been one-on-one training and travel ball coaching with the Region Playmakers for Prance.
As a former college coach, Prance brings that knowledge and long list of contacts to his Portage athletes.
“I want to give guys a chance to go play in college,” says Prance. “We want to find the right fit for them to play at the next level.
“If baseball gets them in the door to a university event if they don’t play all four years, they’re likely to stay and finish the degree.”
Recent Portage graduates to move on to college diamonds include Class of 2020’s infielder Scottie Hansen (South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill.) and left-handed pitcher Xavier Rivas (who went to the University of Indianapolis to the University of Mississippi), Class of 2021’s infielder Danny Puplava (Kankakee Community College) and Class of 2022’s right-hander/corner infielder Joshua Ortiz (Purdue Northwest).
Prance and girlfriend Christina have a 2-year-old son named Levi. A daughter is due in October.

Shane Prance.

Lefty Lohman competes way to Dodgers organization

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Competition.
It’s one of the things Carter Lohman likes most about baseball.
As a left-handed pitcher, the 2018 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate enjoys the challenge of facing hitters.
In four seasons at the University of Louisville (2019-22), he appeared in 38 games (30 in relief) and went 3-4 with a 5.59 earned run average, 62 strikeouts and 52 walks in 58 innings.
The Cardinals went 134-65-1 during Lohman’s time with the program, including 51-18 and a College World Series appearance in 2019.
Each season was preceded by the Omaha Challenge — a series of competitions to get the team ready for the season and focused on the goal of ending the season at the CWS.
For a week or two, the red and black teams took part in swimming, tire flips, 100-meter dashes, lifting and running and more. There was a truck push around the Kentucky State Fairgrounds.
Lohman was in the individual top 10 and on the winning team a couple of times.
In high school, he played four varsity seasons (all but his junior year as a pitcher-only) for then-HSE head coach Scott Henson and the Royals did the Victory Challenge (the IHSAA State Finals are at Victory Field) early in the spring semester.
“It helped make us mentally and physically tougher,” says Lohman. “(Coach Henson) pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves on the field. Our practices were scheduled nicely. There was no lollygagging. That was our time to get better.
“At the same time he knew that baseball is fun so let it be fun.”
He struck out 125 batters during his prep career and was ranked as Indiana’s top left-handed pitcher by Perfect Game. He also earned two football letters at HSE.
Lohman has also enjoyed development at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., working with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and others and going against other players on Fridays.
“It’s a good atmosphere for competing and getting better,” says Lohman.
Dan McDonnell is Louisville’s head coach. Lohman worked closely with associate head coach/pitching coach Roger Williams.
“He did not take a cookie-cutter approach (to each pitcher),” says Lohman of Williams, who has been at the U of L for 16 seasons. “The emphasis was on learning the game and becoming a better player.”
Lohman learned about things like bunting scenarios and first-and-third situations.
“I could go for days talking about pitch sequencing,” says Lohman. “You can use your pitches in different ways to get the batters out.”
Lohman’s been good enough at it to get paid for it.
The 22-year-old southpaw was signed Aug. 1 as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers is now at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., throwing regular bullpen sessions and expecting to make his pro debut soon in the Arizona Complex League.
Lohman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, throws from a high three-quarter arm slot.
His four-seam fastball has gotten up to 96 mph. His two-seamer has similar velocity with more horizontal movement to the arm side as opposed to the glove side for the four-seamer.
To get more feel for the pitch, Lohman positions his index finger to throw a “spike” curve ball.
Thrown harder than his curve, his slider has more horizontal break.
His uses a “circle” grip for his change-up.
Born in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 1999, Carter is the oldest of Northwestern High School graduates Brian and Andrea Lohman’s four children.
Brian Lohman, a sales engineer, played baseball and football in high school and lettered as a defensive back at Purdue University (1992-95).
Andrea Lohman, an actuary, was a high school cheerleader.
Griffin Lohman, 21, is a right-handed pitcher at Purdue. Ava and Sydney have played volleyball at HSE.
The Lohman brothers were teammates briefly during Carter’s senior year of high school and with the Tropics of the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
What was it like growing up with a ball-playing brother?
“The biggest thing was playing catch,” says Carter. “We eventually passed up our dad so we had no one else to throw with.”
Carter played recreation ball in Fishers until 8 then travel ball for the Fisher Cats, Indiana Bulls and Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest) at 16U and 17U.
He met Jared Poland around 10 while both were on the Bulls. Right-hander Poland went on to pitch at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins.
“We definitely talk about (pitching),” says Lohman of some of his conversations with Poland.
Lohman played briefly with the Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 before joining other freshmen on the Louisville campus. He had a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds in 2019 and was with the CSL’s Snapping Turtles in 2020.
In May, Lohman earned a degree in Exercise Science.
“I’ve always been interested in how the body moves,” says Lohman. “It can help me on the field.”
Away from baseball, the knowledge gives Lohman many options including athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist.
But now it’s about competing on the pitcher’s mound.

Carter Lohman at the University of Louisville. (Bryan Green Photo)
Brothers Carter and Griffin Lohman with Tropics of 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park.
Carter Lohman signs pro baseball contract. (Los Angeles Dodgers Photo)

Butcher, Saint Francis gets attention of NAIA baseball world

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

When Dustin Butcher took over as head baseball coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., following the 2018 season, the former Cougar player and assistant coach (2008-17) had high hopes.
“Committed to make history” was the motto.
USF went 13-40 in his first season in charge (2019). The was followed by 10-11 in a campaign shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic (2020).
Then came the 2021 season and a mark of 34-22 overall (a school record for single-season victories) and a 23-13 ledger in the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League.
“We’ve opened some eyes about Saint Francis baseball,” says Butcher, who an attendee at the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. “We’ve increased our talent pool a lot (from the best player on down). We’ve taken off and narrowed the gap.
“There’s competition across the board. I believe competition is vital.”
Butcher likes it when his No. 1 and No. 2 player at any given position are challenging each other at practice.
“Every rep matters,” says Butcher. “A guy doesn’t go get to a ball and the guy competing against you got that ball. You’re not in the weight room as much as you should be. The guy that’s beating you is in the weight room consistently.
“It’s fun to watch these guys compete their rear end off. We are going to put the guy out there that performs and we back up what we say.”
Butcher has also watched his players achieve as students.
“We had a GPA of 3.4 (as a team) this past semester and it’s consistently gone up,” says Butcher, who earned a psychology degree from USF and Masters in Psychology from Ball State University. “What’s crazy is that when you get smart kids you throw things at them a little bit different and can challenge them a little more about the game.”
Butcher has not only seen the talent pool gap shrink, but another facet has improved.
“We’ve increased our athleticism tenfold,” says Butcher. “Athletes just find ways. They move their body in different ways.”
Many Cougars were multi-sport athletes in high school.
“When they come to us and they’re just focusing on baseball and lifting like a baseball player their talent ceiling gets pushed higher and higher because it’s like they’re only focusing on one thing,” says Butcher. “I think that’s helped. I really do.”
In 2021, Butcher had Connor Lawhead and Kristian Gayday as assistant coaches and Dylan Farwell (a scout school graduate) as a student assistant who helps with strength and conditioning.
Lawhead has since gone Whitman College in Walla, Walla, Wash., and Tanner Gaff has taken his place on the staff.
“Coach Lawhead helped out tremendously with the culture as had KG,” says Butcher. “I trust them coaching my son (Nolan) and that’s the highest compliment you can pay any coach.”
Gaff has made the transition from a Saint Francis pitcher in 2021 to leading USF pitchers.
“I love the energy he has,” says Butcher. “He has done as well as I’ve ever seen to going from a player relationship with his buddies to now being their coach and there is no gray area.
“He is Coach Gaff. He does a great job of relating with the guys, but also having a plan like Coach Lawhead had.”
Other former Cougar players helping out including Kyle Baker with catcher, Brady Harris with infielders and Noah Freimuth with outfielders.
Butcher also credits the impact of assistant athletic trainer Lindsey Foust.
“She does a really good job in terms of flexibility, movement patterns and being effiicent,” says Foust. “It’s about keeping them healthy and getting them back on the field (after an injury) as soon as possible.”
Saint Francis — with 17 freshmen — is scheduled to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 at Bethel (Tenn.). The first game at Cougar Field is slated for March 4 against Crossroads League rival Huntington.

University of Saint Francis (Ind.) baseball coach Dustin Butcher at the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. (Steve Krah Photo)

Harden keeping it positive with Linton-Stockton Miners

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Accountability, positivity, a spirt of competition and excellence are qualities Jacob Harden is looking to instill as the new head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School in Indiana’s Greene County.
“I’m big on holding (players) accountable,” says Harden, who was hired to lead the Miners program in July. “I’ll be the first one to get on their tail when they’re doing something wrong, but I’ll be the first one to build them back up. All the coaches I’ve been around cared and still held me to realistic standards.
“Positives need to outweigh the negatives.”
Harden, who is also a Project Lead The Way computer science teacher at Linton-Stockton Middle School, had players conditioning shortly after the school year began and led players in grades 7-12 during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period in the fall and since the first week of December.
“I want to be the program coach,” says Harden, 25. “I don’t want players to meet me for the first time when they’re freshmen.”
Besides the middle school program for seventh and eighth graders, the Linton Youth League (T-ball though Grade 6) feeds the high school Miners.
Recent graduates moving on to college ball are 2021 graduates Josh Pyne and Kip Fougerousse (son of former Linton-Stockton head coach Matt Fougerousse) to Indiana University.
Bracey Breneman (Class of 2022) recently signed with Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Harden did his best in the fall to simulate what spring practices will be like with position group work followed by team activity.
He set the tone from Day 1.
“I set the standard for how I expect things to go,” says Harden. “I mean business. I want us to win state championships. That means working hard.
“We’re doing something every minute of our practices and everybody is going to get better.”
Harden has players trying to beat one another in cut-off and bunt drills.
“Scoop Tennis” — which promotes quick hands and feet and proper glove work — is both fun and competitive.
“When guys compete with everything they do that’s going to transfer over to the game,” says Harden. “You want to be be a competitor and find ways to win.
“It’s a competitive atmosphere and we’re paying attention to the fine details.”
Fall World Series teams vied for the “Folger’s Cup” — an old coffee can found in a dugout. There’s also social media salutes to the “Grinder of the Week” complete with honoree pictured with a coal miner cap.
Linton-Stockton baseball embraces the hashtag #PreparingForReign.
“Everybody want to be the best they can be, but who’s going to prepare?,” says Harden, who also has his team breaking huddles with a chant of “618.” What’s significant about that number? June 18, 2022 is the date of the IHSAA State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis and that’s where the Miners want to be — #Destination618.
Harden wants “The Miner Way” to be personified by players who are gritty with good attitudes.
“It embodies what this town is all about,” says Harden. “These people have to work for a living. That’s how this community is.
“These guys are starting to believe they can do it.”
Linton-Stockton’s new uniforms will feature “MH” on the right shoulder to honor baseball backer Mark Hollingsworth, who died at the beginning of the school year.
While he’s not on his staff, Harden has got plenty of support from former Miners head coach Bart Berns.
Linton-Stockton (enrollment around 390) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley).
In 2021, the Miners were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli and South Knox and beat North Knox 10-0 in the championship game. Linton-Stockton has won 10 sectional titles.
Harden’s assistants are Mike Walters, Craig House and Brian Reel. Walters was a Harden teammate at Northview High School in Brazil, Ind. House is a longtime Linton-Stockton coach who is employed as a coal miner. Reel is the father of Indiana University Southeast head baseball coach Ben Reel.
Harden graduated from Northview in 2015. Besides playing Knights head coaches Scott McDonald (2012 and 2013) and Craig Trout (2014 and 2015), he was in the Clay Youth League and was in travel ball as a middle schooler with the Indiana Redbirds and American Legion Baseball for Clinton Post 140 the summer before his senior year and Clay County Post 2 the summer after graduation.
He played for Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany in the spring of 2016 and went back that fall.
“I had a lot going on,” says Harden. “My grandpa passed away late that fall and one thing led to another.
“I was led to step away and come back closer to home.”
Harden, who is the son of Brazil’s Mark and Jaime Harden and older brother of sister Kennady Harden (now 19 and an Indiana State freshman) transferred to Vincennes U.
“Coach (Chris) Barney took a chance on me,” says Harden, who went in as a walk-on in the fall of 2017 and left in the spring of 2018 as a scholarship player.
He became a 4-2-4 player (four-year school, two-year school and four-year school) when he went to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs convinced him it was not worth the risk since Harden had open heart surgery at 16 in 2013 and he was a student manager the rest of the first semester for an ISU team that went on to win a Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship in 2019.
Trout invited Harden to be an assistant at Northview and he helped at the varsity and junior varsity levels in 2019 and leading up to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 season.
“I’d always known I wanted to coach,” says Harden. “That was the first time I got to put my imprint on something.”
In 2021, Harden was an assistant to longtime Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology coach Jeff Jenkins in what turned out to be Jenkins’ final season at the Terre Haute school.
Harden assisted manager A.J. Reed of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer and was on a bus heading to Champion City (Springfield, Ohio) when he got the call from Linton-Stockton asking him to join the Miners.
We got to grow real close together,” says Harden of Reed. “He was fighting very hard for me. I got great references and guys on the team pulling for me. It felt so good.
“I’ve met a lot of people along the way. I can’t think of too many 25-year-olds has the network I do. I’ve got to learn some much. It’s been a chaotic journey. But you have to have some chaos to get that goal accomplished.”
The holder of an associate degree in General Studies from Vincennes and degree in Sports Management from Indiana State, Harden is working toward certification through the Indiana Teachers of Tomorrow program. This semester, his PLTW class is creating apps. Next semester, it will be computer science for innovators and makers.
“It gives kids a moment to shine,” says Harden of the STEM students. “It makes them feel good.”

Jacob Harden (Terre Haute Rex/Brian Williams Photo)
Jacob Harden instructs Linton-Stockton baseball players.
Linton-Stockton Miners with the “Folger’s Cup” at the Fall World Series.
Linton-Stockton Miners aiming at “Destination618 — the IHSAA State Finals on June 18, 2022.

Hester takes the wheel for Charlestown Pirates

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A familiar face is now in charge of the Charlestown (Ind.) High School baseball program. 

Brian Hester, a 1987 Charlestown graduate who served nine seasons as an assistant to former head coach Ricky Romans (who led CHS baseball for 17 years) and the past five with Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers travel organization, is now leading the Pirates on the diamond.

“Ricky has an amazing passion for the game,” says Hester, who came back on board at Charlestown in December. “He loves the game. He studies the game.”

Hester played high school baseball for Mike Hall.

“He was caring with his players,” says Hester. “I could go to him for anything I needed.

“He’s one of the reasons I started teaching and got into coaching.”

After one season playing for Rick Parr at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Hester concentrated on his studies. He is now a Robotics teacher at Charlestown Middle School after beginning his professional life as a mechanical engineer. He also serves on the Charlestown City Council.

Hester calls Parr one of the greatest hitting instructors he’s ever been around.

The former Boston Red Sox minor leaguer had a knack for breaking down the swing and bringing out the best in a hitter.

“Coming out of high school I was mainly a pull hitter,” says Hester. “He opened up my eyes to using the whole field and being a multi-faceted hitter.

“He was one of the very first guys I heard talk about letting the ball travel deep into the (strike) zone.”

Hester says that by letting the ball travel, the hitter can see it a little deeper and can still generate bat speed and power to the opposite field while opening up the defense.

Another coach to have an impact on Hester is Larry Owens, who played for rival Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Poole when Hester was playing and is now head baseball coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. The two have since worked the same camps.

“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.

Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.

“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”

Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.

“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.

Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.

The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.

The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.

“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester. 

Charlestown (enrollment around 715) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.

Non-conference games on the 2021 schedule include Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Jennings County, Lanesville, New Washington, Perry Central and South Central (Elizabeth).

Invitees to the May 15 Charlestown Invitational include Boonville, Lebanon and Providence.

While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders. 

Another feeder for CHS baseball is Charlestown Little League

There is no travel organization solely-dedicated to Charlestown players and Hester would like to see that change. 

Greater Clark County Schools includes Charlestown and Jeffersonville. Silver Creek School Corporation is nearby.

Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).

Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.

Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.

Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.

Brian Hester, a 1987 Charlestown (Ind.) High School graduate, is now head baseball coach at his alma mater. He was a Pirates assistant for nine years on the staff of Ricky Romans and coached the past five with the Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers travel organization.

Competitive juices flow on Fridays at PRP Baseball

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Friday is “Compete Day” for PRP (Passion Resilience Process) Baseball.

After week of training, players get a competitive outlet in a controlled game played inside spacious Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind

PRP Baseball founder Greg Vogt, who talked with IndianaRBI about strength training for overhead athletes in November 2019, explains the culture of working hard each day and athletes pushing athletes.

“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”

During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.

Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.

“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”

Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.

Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.

College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.

Vogt says Friday’s session alone had players representing the following Indiana universities: Anderson, Ball State, Butler, DePauw, Huntington, Indiana, IU Kokomo, Indiana State, Indiana Wesleyan, Purdue, Purdue Fort Wayne, Saint Francis and Taylor. Plus there were those from Akron, College of Charleston, Illinois State, Northern Kentucky and Spalding as well as junior colleges John Wood, Lincoln Trail and South Suburban.

That’s just Friday’s list.

Several players from College Summer League at Grand Park in nearby Westfield, Ind., train with Vogt and company at PRP Baseball.

Dominick Berardi, a right-handed pitcher at Daytona (Fla.) State College was sent to work with PRP Baseball for the summer.

“They’re coming and they’re asking for housing,” says Vogt of his ever-growing client list from outside Indiana.

Vogt notes that three 2020 high school graduates from northwest Indiana — IU commit Tyler Nelson (Andrean), Illinois State commits Gene Kolarik (Crown Point) and Jonathan Sabotnik (Crown Point) — travel together to play in the Grand Park league and train at PRP Baseball.

Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games. 

The American Association is playing with six teams (Chicago Dogs, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, Milwaukee Milkmen, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes) rotating between three cities — Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota/Minnesota, Franklin, Wis.,. and Sioux Falls, S.D.

Polley, a 23-year-old left-hander, played at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School and Indiana State University before being drafted by the Rangers in the 16th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.

“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”

Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.

“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”

Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.

Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.

“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.

“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”

Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.

For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.

With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.

“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.

“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”

Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.

“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.

Milto, 23, is a right-hander who played at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis and Indiana University before being selected by the White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2019 MLB Draft.

“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working. 

“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”

Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.

“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto. 

While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.

“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible. 

“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”

Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment. 

“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development. 

“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”

Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.

“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.

“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.

“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”

Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.

“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”

Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.

“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”

When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.

“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.

“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”

Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.

Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”

“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.

“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”

Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.

“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”

And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.

“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”

Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.

He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.

“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.

“I’ve been maintaining.”

Vogt says pro pitchers Jacob Cantleberry (Center Grove High School graduate and former University of Missouri left-hander in the Los Angeles Dodgers system), Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South Vigo High School graduate and former IU left-hander in the Cleveland Indians system) and Will Klein (Bloomington North High School graduate and former Eastern Illinois University right-hander drafted in the fifth round in 2020 by the Kansas City Royals) are expected to be a part of the PRP Baseball culture soon.

Christian Sullivan, a 2014 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., and four-year right-handed pitcher at Franklin (Ind.) College (2015-18), has joined the PRP Baseball staff as a strength coordinator/jack-of-all-trades.

“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.

“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”

Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). 

“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent. 

“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity. 

“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”

Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.

“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”

Triston Polley, a former Brownsburg (Ind.) High School and Indiana State University player now in the Texas Rangers organization, warms up for PRP (Passion Resilience Process) Baseball “Compete Day” Friday, June 19 at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)
One of the mottos of the PRP (Passion Resilience Process) Baseball is “Rent’s Due Every Day.” It promotes a culture of hard work and competition. (PRP Baseball Image)

Indiana Wesleyan’s Benjamin affirms priority of coaching communication

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rich Benjamin has been the head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University since the 2016 season.

His Wildcats have gone 123-105-1 overall and 62-47 in Crossroads League play during Benjamin’s tenure with a CL tournament title in

2016 and a 2018 CL Regular Season Championship leading to two NAIA Opening Round appearances in 2016 and 2018.

A big part of the culture revolving around the IWU program involves improving communication each year.

Benjamin, who was head coach at Judson University in Elgin, Ill., for eight seasons, winning eight championships before taking over in Marion, addressed communication’s impact on coachability at the American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler University.

The full presentation can be ordered through the ABCA Barnstormers Clinics Video Library.

“Guys come in on Day 1 and they seem very coachable,” says Benjamin.

Benjamin says coaches may notice some players that are a little standoffish or hard to influence while others are coachable throughout the entire experience.

In many cases, players have a personal instructor, adding more voices to the room.

“You’re trying to navigate all those variables,” says Benjamin. “The vision is the allow the player to play competent-unconscious.”

That vision comes with a set of values.

The first is asking open-ended questions (coach to coach, coach to player, player to coach and player to player) and minimizing statements.

Why is this done?

“I’m trying to develop the awareness and self-awareness of the player by asking him an open-ended question.

 “By slowing things down, conversations with players become much more of a dialogue instead of a one-way statement.

“You know a lot more about your players because you’re getting a lot more feedback.”

The player is given a chance to do some self-discovery by answering the open-ended questions.

Benjamin says if a player doesn’t have awareness (knowing what is going on around you) and self-awareness (knowing what you are experiencing), they cannot effectively implement information.

“If anytime they’re stuck  they’re looking for a statement, they will have the inability to self-diagnosis pitch-to-pitch during competition.” says Benjamin.

“It’s Strike 1 and they look down to third base and say, ‘Coach, what now?’ You can’t do that. You’ve got to learn how to talk to yourself.

“Most young players talk to themselves in statements instead of open-ended questions. Most statements are negative and not positive and solution-driven.”

Benjamin has found that as players develop they ask themselves open-ended questions, they find a solution the vast majority of the time.

“The coach is there as a sounding board, a facilitator, a counselor, awareness raiser and available when the player gets ‘stuck’ to offer a suggestion,” says Benjamin, who wants his players to own the process.

“If they own it, the ceiling is them. If I own it, their ceiling is me. If their ceiling is me, they’re never going to hit a curveball because I couldn’t do it.”

The relationship becomes a partnership.

“It’s not a threat and it’s not a power struggle,” says Benjamin.

The additional value of communication helping coachability is the coaching staff being aware of the person before the player. Assistant coaches are vital in this area as the front lines of knowing the room.

“There’s death in the family,” says Benjamin. “Girlfriends, adjusting academically, or something going on in the home.

“Nobody on the coaching staff should ever be surprised about what’s going on in a player’s life; it gives you a clearer picture of all the influences in that person’s life when they enter training.”

As a coaching staff, There are typically two individualized meetings a week in which, as a staff, we go down each name on the roster discussing who has what needs that we may be able to meet through various aspects of the program.”

The Indiana Wesleyan staff has players focus on one objective at a time (approach, plan or skill). By showing restraint, they can avoid information overload.

“It is impossible to play unconscious and knowledgeable if we’re carrying all these different things into our performance time,” says Benjamin. “If you’re trying to balance two or three different things, it becomes impossible to execute one.”

At IWU, that one thing for a player might take the entire fall. They focus on the objective, they achieve it and then they move on.

Benjamin desires the coaching staff to over communicate with each other, to be open and always seeking growth.

Benjamin admits that investing in assistants development was not a strength earlier in his coaching career.

Having operated during the first half of his career with just one volunteer assistant, who worked during the day, Benjamin’s ability to understand the value and importance of investing into his assistants was behind. “The last two years, I’ve grown in the ability to delegate, mentor, and invest daily in our assistant coaches.

By doing so, the atmosphere and the productivity is up.”

Benjamin looks to provide a safe atmosphere for his assistants to ask questions.

“That’s how we get better,” says Benjamin. “We talk about players needing to be coached-up, but so do coaches.”

“As a coaching staff, we have blind spots. But if we ask each other open-ended questions, it’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity to grow.”

Benjamin says, “In coaching, time is maybe the most valuable aspect.”

As a coaching staff preparing for this Fall training season, Benjamin and his staff noticed that the areas in which we failed the most in coaching, was coaching a player inside too tight of a time restraint.

Benjamin says a coaching session must provide clarity by the coach and the player, because that often requires time, coaches needed to decide when the best time was to address a coaching opportunity.

Because it negatively impacts trust, the idea is to avoid “Drive-By coaching.”

IWU coaches witnessed this the most in the side cages during Batting Practice rotations.

Rotations may be 8-15 minutes depending on the day.

If four hitters arrive in the side batting cages with limited time, then we found ourselves making a lot of statements since we did not have the time capacity to create the amount of clarity as you would in a different segment of training, early work, or post work.

Now, if we get a coaching opportunity in the cages, we ask ourselves if the player has the foundational awareness and self-awareness to find a solution in the limited amount of time without transferring ownership of the hitter’s development.

If there is not enough time to effectively coach that player in that session, we will act on the coaching opportunity post practice or early work the next day.

“We want to create opportunities for growth so there’s time to land that plane,” says Benjamin.

Practices for the Wildcats are divided into training zones and performance zones.

Training zones entail many reps and a lot of teaching.

“Nothing’s really being measured,” says Benjamin. “It’s a zone where you can make mistakes and experiment.”

Benjamin notes that baseball players in general are training now more than ever.

“Guys are hitting all the time. They’re training all the time,” says Benjamin. “They become really, really good at training.”

That’s where the performance zone comes in, where there is competition with some kind of award or consequence.

“You have to win,” says Benjamin. “We’re transitioning from the training zone where you’re allowed to think, to the performance zone where you shut this thing (points to head) off, get unconscious and just try to win the moment.

“You just try to go beat the other guy.”

This fall, a typical Wildcats practice has three competitions (performance zones) and one learning moment (training zone), in addition, early work is designed as a training zone.

IWU also emphasizes peer-to-peer competere.

“It’s the Latin word for competition and it means to strive together,”

says Benjamin. The personal best comes out by competing with another person.

It does not happen overnight, but it can be healthy for two players to be vying to be the starting shortstop.

It’s often been found that one wins the job and the other ends up starting, too, perhaps at second base or third base.

“Competition is an opportunity and not a threat,” says Benjamin. “We have to have competition. It’s the only way we’ll find out what our personal best is.”

Benjamin invites players to join the IWU program based on three factors — humility, motor and skill.

“They have the confidence to say ‘I’m really good’ and the humility to say ‘I need to get better.’ That’s vital.

“In psychology, they say your self-confidence shows up before your self-awareness does.”

Motor means the ability to work hard with intention each day.

“Skill can always be developed if the first two exist.” says Benjamin.

RICHBENJAMINIWUBASEBALL

Rich Benjamin is the head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. His first season leading the Wildcats was 2016. (Indiana Wesleyan University Photo)

 

Coughenour stresses life lessons, competition for Eastern Hancock Royals

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Teaching life lessons and emphasizing competition, Chad Coughenour is heading into his 13th season as head baseball coach at Eastern Hancock Junior/Senior High School near Charlottesville, Ind.

“My faith is a big part of who I am,” says Coughenour aka Coach Coke. “I try to teach the young men more about life than I do about baseball sometimes.

“We all live life.”

Coughenour talks his Royals about things like being on time, doing their job, learning from failures and successes, standing by their word and working hard.

“The things that make you a better man,” says Coughenour.

Recent Eastern Hancock graduate Clayton White is on the baseball team at Anderson University and other current Royals have college baseball aspirations. Coughenour is proud that he has sent more young men on to the military and to be policemen and firemen.

Among those going on to the service are Alan Clark (Army Reserves), Kris Cushing (Navy, Dwight Duzan (Navy), Dustin Pettit (Marines and Army), Steven Stunda (Army), Devon Wagoner (Army) and Pedro Wilkinson (Air Force)

Recent graduate Tyler Blattner (Charlottesville) and Easton Fields (Greenfield) are volunteer firefighters and going through fire school.

Jacob Low is a police officer in Terre Haute.

Coughenour graduated from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in 1996. Life lessons were taught to him by Mountain Cats head coach Ken Keiper.

“He was a very moral man,” says Coughenour of Keiper. “He made sure everybody had a fair chance. It didn’t matter if they were a freshman or a senior.

“He made sure everybody was a part. He treated everybody the same and give them the same opportunities.”

Eastern Hancock players constantly get opportunities to compete — in practice and in games. There are thousands of chances during a school year.

Coughenour splits his team into small groups and has them compete for points in doing certain offensive or defensive skills. The group winner gets a piece of candy. Those with less points have to run.

The top three for a month get T-shirts — gold, silver and blue.

“The same kids don’t always win it,” says Coughenour.

The season champion receives a plaque.

The Royals averaged 16 to 17 players at fall practices, where they divided into teams and scrimmaged. Coughenour was the pitcher.

Some of the advantages to working as a team and not just the coach with a few players at a time is that things like bunt defenses and pick-off moves can be covered early and not just in the few weeks prior to the season opener.

In the off-season, there is school-wide conditioning program and also one that baseball players can use through a cell phone app.

“I give my boys off until after Christmas to hit the weight room,” says Coughenour.

In 2018, the Royals got off to a 1-7 start before finishing 13-15 and tied for second place in its first season as a Mid-Eastern Conference member. Eastern Hancock was the lone MEC school to beat champion Wapahani (1-0 in nine innings in Selma).

The rest of the MEC consists of Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc and Wes-Del. Union did not field a baseball team in 2018.

Before joining the MEC, Eastern Hancock spent a few years as an independent. Before that, the Royals were affiliated with the Mid-Hoosier Conference. Eastern Hancock was in the Big Blue River Conference when it split in 1989.

The Royals are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina, Irvington Prep Academy, Knightstown and Triton Central. Eastern Hancock mugged with the sectional championship hardware for the only time in 1976.

With the help of athletic director Aaron Spaulding, Coughenour builds a strong non-conference schedule.

“We try to find the best competition around,” says Coughenour. “Our sectional is not an easy one.

“We’ve got to be ready for it.”

The Royals play Greenfield-Central, Heritage Christian and Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter during the regular season and participates in the John R. Howden Memorial Tournament at Mooresville, which has also featured Indianapolis North Central and Valparaiso. Coughenour gave lessons to John Howden’s son Riley when the latter was in high school.

Eastern Hancock graduated 10 players last spring. Coughenour expects to have 31 in the program for varsity and junior varsity teams for the 2019 season.

“We’ve been growing,” says Coughenour. “My first couple years, we had 23 or 24. In lean years, it was in the mid-teens. The last three years, we’ve had around 30 kids.”

There’s also a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play close to 20 games in the spring.

Varsity, JV and middle school squads share the same on-campus field that was christened in 2010. The Royals played all of their 2009 home games at the Bandits Yard in Greenfield, Ind. (now site of Midwest Astros Academy), while the facility was being completed.

Coughenour coached the Bandits 17U team for five summers. He now coaches an Eastern Hancock summer team that plays in the Greenfield-based Babe Ruth travel league.

Those kids play their home games on the same field they occupy with the high school and middle school teams in the spring.

“We teach kids at a young age how to maintain it,” says Coughenour. “Taking care of the field is a habit. They have ownership in it. High school kids help the junior high kids.

“It becomes pretty seamless. It goes back to the service and building the tradition.”

Chad, who works as chief surveyor for the Hancock County Surveyor’s Office, has been married to Tiffany for 20 years. The couple have three daughters — Josie (16), Abigail (14) and Paige (9). Sophomore Josie and eighth grader Abigail attend Greenfield schools. Paige is home-schooled.

PAIGECHADTAMMYABIGAILJPOSIECOUGHENOUR

The Coughenours (from left): Paige, Chad, Tammy, Abigail and Josie.

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The Eastern Hancock Royals pray prior to a game a few high school baseball seasons ago.

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Eastern Hancock High School head baseball coach Chad Coughenour (left) gets xxx to slide into third base in a 2018 game against Cowan.

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A.J. Muegge (left) rounds third base as Eastern Hancock High School head baseball coach Chad Coughenour points him toward home during a 2017 game against Knightstown.