By STEVE KRAH
Seth Paul is a student of baseball.
The former Cowan High School and University of Indianapolis catcher has taken several perspectives on the game and made it his own while enjoying on-field success.
In his six seasons as a high school head coach so far — three at Cowan (2012-14) and three at Delta (2015-17) — half his teams have won a championship of some kind.
Paul guided the Cowan Blackhawks to a Mid-Eastern Conference crown in 2012 and helped the Delta Eagles take IHSAA Class 3A Yorktown Sectional and Bellmont Regional titles in 2016 and the Delaware County Tournament in 2017.
Mental toughness, a refusal to quit and grounding in the basics are the building blocks of Paul’s program.
“We’re never out of a game,” says Paul. “We never give up. It’s the old ‘Jim Valvano’ philosophy. The kids buy into that early.”
Paul often gets across his message across in classroom talks.
“It’s not college when you have them all year and have the time,” says Paul. “That doesn’t mean I’m a better coach. I just put more emphasis on it than other people do.”
Paul wants his players to have the know-how and ability to make the right plays.
“I’m a big fundamental and defensive guy,” says Paul, who was a four-year starter at Cowan (playing one season for Mike Estepp and three for Rick Pippin and graduating in 2003) before playing for Gary Vaught at UIndy. “It’s knowing the game, where to be and backing up bases.
“We try not to give anyone runs by our mental mistakes.”
Paul credits Estepp for teaching him about work ethic and preparation and keeping cool under pressure.
“He had this ability to stay calm at all times,” says Paul of Estepp, who later served on Paul’s Cowan coaching staff. “(Pippin) taught me that is was OK to have fun playing baseball. At that time in my life, I was taking it seriously all the time. He incorporated fun into everything we did and found ways to make me laugh.”
Estepp and Pippin imparted knowledge about fundamentals and Paul still uses a front-hand/back-hand soft toss taken from Estepp and a four-corner defensive drill from Pippin.
In college, Paul drew from Vaught as a player and then as an assistant coach.
“He is one of the smartest baseball minds I’ve ever been around,” says Paul of Vaught. “He’s from Oklahoma and has that toughness. I got that toughness from him.
“He does a really good job of wanting his players want to play for him. I still call Coach Vaught to this day. We talk about my lineup or his lineup or whatever.”
Paul has also gleaned much from his attendance at American Baseball Coaches Association national conventions (the 2018 version is Jan. 4-7 in Indianapolis) and watched plenty of videos. Two of his favorite clinicians are brothers Greg and Todd Giulliams on the mental approach to hitting.
“(UIndy associated head coach) Al Ready uses that system and introduced me to that video,” says Paul.
Glenn Cecchini, head coach at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., spoke at the 2017 ABCA convention and got Paul’s attention.
“He’s all about mental approach and mental toughness,” says Paul. “I really like to follow what he says and does.”
A few years ago, Paul was in the audience University of Mississippi head coach Mike Bianco shared the system he learned from ABCA Hall of Famer and former LSU head coach Skip Bertman.
Paul has also taken to some of the methods of mental training expert Brian Cain.
“A lot of my coaching style has been molded from my own research,” says Paul. “I’ve definitely evolved.”
All of this is to help the Eagles face the challenges during the season.
“Our (Hoosier Heritage) Conference is ridiculously hard,” says Paul. “Delta is a very hard-nosed blue-collar school with athletics. It’s the kind of coaches they look to hire and the kinds of students that go here
“Football success (Delta has won 163 games on the gridiron since 2000) sets tone for every other sport in the school. I have very few baseball-only players here.”
Taking the “Friday Night Lights” atmosphere of football, the HCC (which also includes Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown) play Friday night conference doubleheaders. Teams take turns being the home team on the scoreboard.
“Everyone’s good,” says Paul of the conference. “Everyone is well-coached. It’s good, hard-nosed baseball. It reminds me of when I was coaching in college.”
Delta plays on-campus at Veterans’ Field — a facility that was completely overhauled last year. The playing surface, dugouts, backstop, press box and entrance were all new.
And — for the first time — the Eagles had a lighted field.
Paul says New Castle is now the lone HCC member without lights on its baseball field.
Delta is grouped with Blackford, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, New Castle and Yorktown at sectional time.
Paul, who is 87-74 in his six seasons (40-35 at Cowan and 47-39 at Delta), has sent several players on to college baseball, including Cowan’s Aaron Wells and Joey Covington (both at Manchester University), Alex Delk (Indiana Tech) and Luke Miller (Indiana University) and Delta’s Cade Jones (DePauw University), Arian Coffey (University of Indianapolis), Mitchell Hahn (Marian University), Adam Paschal (Anderson University), Adisyn Coffey (Arizona State University), Jacob Van Pelt and Redon Henry (both at Manchester U.), Charlie May (Elmhurst College) and Andrew Shafer (University of Northwestern Ohio). There have been no college commitments yet this year.
Paul’s assistant coaches are Chad Hinds, Kevin Shafer (pitching coach), Spencer Matheny, Preston Phillips and Curt Howard. All are with the varsity during most games. Phillips and Howard coach the JV Eagles, which play HCC doubleheaders on Saturdays.
When Paul’s daughter Sloane (who is now 3) had a viral infection and had to go to Riley Children’s Hospital, Hinds stepped in and ran the team.
A holder of all grades health and physical education undergraduate degrees plus a masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Indianapolis, Paul teaches health at Delta High School.
“I never anticipated coaching or teaching in high school,” says Paul. “But the opportunity came up and it made sense.”
And he will keep studying to make sense of the game with the bat and ball.
Seth Paul, who played at Cowan High School and the University of Indianapolis, and coached at his high school alma mater is heading into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Delta High School in Delaware County, Ind.