By STEVE KRAH
David Bear was on the mound when Ben Davis High School won its state baseball championship and he’s now leading the Giants program as head coach.
Bear, a 1981 Ben Davis graduate, pitched seven innings in a semifinal victory against Richmond and three innings of relief in a championship game triumph against Fort Wayne Northrop to wrap up a stellar prep career with a state crown.
Ralph David Bear Jr. left high school with a career 0.61 earned run average with five no-hitters and two perfect games, including three no-no’s and one perfecto as a senior.
“Coach Cox would let me throw 10 innings every three days no matter what,” says Bear, referring to Giants coach Ken Cox, who would be inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988 and finished his career with 440 victories. Besides the state title, his team earned seven sectionals, four regionals, two semistates and a state runner-up finish (1980). “I loved doing it.”
Bear cherishes his time with Cox.
“He was a man I dearly loved and one of the most respected coaches I know in the state of Indiana,” says Bear.
A couple weeks after regularly taking the ball for Cox’s Giants, the right-hander was on his way to Johnson City, Tenn., to begin his professional baseball career.
Bear was selected in the 27th round of the 1981 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and played five minor league seasons — starting with rookie-level Johnson City (Tenn.) in 1981 and finishing with High Class-A Miami (Fla.) in 1985.
He appeared in 168 games (20 as a starter) and went 25-21 with a 3.68 earned run average, 193 strikeouts and 145 walks in 363 innings.
His manager at Johnson City was Johnny Lewis, who later became the hitting coach in St. Louis.
“He was a very revered man,” says Bear of Lewis, a former outfielder with Cardinals and New York Mets. “I like the way he ran his team.”
Bear was also appreciative of the way Cardinals minor league pitching instructor Bob Milliken explained the craft. Milliken, who had played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was a bullpen coach and pitching coach in St. Louis.
The 2018 prep season marked Bear’s 12th on the Ben Davis coaching staff and his third as head coach.
Playing in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (along with Carmel, Center Grove, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central of Indianapolis, Pike and Warren Central), the Giants went 9-19. MIC teams play each other twice in home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with makeup dates on Thursdays and Fridays.
“That is a very tough conference for baseball,” says Bear. “It’s a grinder.
“You better come to play every night. If not, you’ll get your socked knocked off.”
Bear bases his program on concepts like honesty, work, respect and hustle.
“If you’re honest with the kids, you get more out of them,” says Bear, 56. “You also have to believe in them.
“I tell the boys, if you work hard and play the game the right way, good things happen for you. You have to respect it and hustle.”
Reinforcing that message is Bear’s assistant coaches — Kyle Cox and Terrence Davis with the varsity, Kent Spillman with the junior varsity and Robert Jackson with the freshmen. Cox (no relation to Ken Cox) was an IHSBCA North/South All-Star for Ben Davis in 2005.
With nearly 4,400 students, Ben Davis is one of the biggest high schools in Indiana. The graduating class of 2018 alone was over 1,000.
Bear notes that 55 to 60 players come out for baseball and he keeps 14 for the varsity, 14 or 15 for the JV and 15 to 17 for the freshmen. The latter squad tends to be bigger to “give kids a chance to develop.”
At the varsity level, Bear talks to his players about always being ready even if they’re not in the starting lineup.
“You never know when you’re going to get that call,” says Bear. “When you get it, make the best of it.”
Four seniors from 2018 have made commitments to play college baseball. Catcher Zyon Avery is headed to Ohio University. He participated in the IHSBCA North/South Series July 20-22 in South Bend. He is the first Giants all-star since Deaun Williams in 2006.
Going to Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne are shortstop/pitcher Tyler Duncan, outfielder/pitcher Garison Poteet and pitcher/second baseman Ian Schilling.
Former Ben Davis players going into their sophomore years as collegians are Logan Butrum at Wabash College and Isaiah Davis at Vincennes University.
Besides Ben Davis, Bear also coaches summer travel ball. This year, he is with the Evoshield Canes Midwest 15U team (The Indiana Outlaws merged with the Canes a few years ago). The current 15U squad has played in tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield and also in Ohio, North Carolina and, last week, the World Wood Bat Association 2012 Grads or 15U National Championship at Perfect Game Park at LakePoint in Cartersville, Ga.
Bear notes that Perfect Game USA has imposed a pitch count rule with a limit of 95 in a day. Since 2017, the IHSAA has also had a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).
“I like the way they do it now,” says Bear. “Kids do a lot of throwing these days.”
Away from baseball, Bear fills up game rooms around Indianapolis in his job with Jay Orner and Sons Billiard Co.
David is the son of the late Ralph David Bear Sr. and Beverly Kay Bear and has three younger siblings — Richard, Rock and Stacey.
Bear’s girlfriend is Gretchen Atkins. He has a son (Coy), daughter (Cassie) and grandson (Bane, 3). Gretchen’s daughter is Stephanie Atkins. The Bear house also has a dog named Bear. The petite pooch is a Yorkshire/Australian Terrier mix.
David Bear, a 1981 Ben Davis High School graduate, is now the head baseball coach of the Indianapolis-based Giants. (Ben Davis Photo)
Former Ben Davis High School baseball player C.J. Vaughn (left) meets with Giants head baseball coach David Bear. A 1981 BDHS graduate, Bear came back to his alma mater as an assistant coach and has led the program the past three seasons.