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McGaha emphasizes running game, commitment for Mooresville Pioneers baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Eric McGaha wants a team that will keep moving on the baseball field will act right on it and off.

“We put a lot of guys in motion,” McGaha, who has been the head coach at Mooresville High School in Morgan County every year but two since 2002. “We’ve got more than 100 stolen bases. Our steal steal percentage a little over 90 percent.”

McGaha grew up a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, but he really enjoyed seeing speed on display with the St. Louis Cardinals of Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith and Ozzie Smith.

“I want my team to be athletic and run,” says McGaha. “That’s the first thing we do.

“I can’t watch Major League Baseball now. It’s either an extra-base hit or a strikeout. It boggles my mind. What about drag bunting, push bunting or fake bunt and slash?”

McGaha will look at a player’s batting average, but he’s really concerned with things like on-base percentage and hitting the ball hard.

“We use a Quality At-Bat chart and that’s the deciding factor on how we evaluate players from an offensive standpoint,” says McGaha. “We reward a ’sting’ hit or a ‘sting’ out.”

A player with a QAB rating of 2 is average, 3 above average and 4 outstanding.

“We have several players above 4,” says McGaha. “Off the field, it’s about being the best human being and teammate you can be. We’re here to mold young men into adults. They have be able to handle failure and success with grace and dignity.

“You want to surround yourself with kids are willing to work hard and pay the price. They buy into what you’re selling 100 percent. Those are the kids you want.”

McGaha’s Pioneers went into the week at 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the super-competitive Mid-State Conference. Whiteland and Mooresville were 1-2 in the standings in a league that also features Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood, Martinsville and Plainfield.

Among the Pioneers’ 2018 non-conference opponents are Avon, Beech Grove, Bloomington North, Cascade, Covenant Christian, Eastern Hancock, Edinburgh, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis North Central, Lebanon, Monrovia, Mount Vernon (Fortville), Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Tri-West Hendricks. Mooresville beat Eastern Hancock and lost to North Central Saturday, May 12 in Pioneers’ own John B. Howden Memorial Tournament.

“There’s no break in our schedule,” says McGaha. “All the teams we play are really respectable.

“We try to play as many quality teams as we can and try to prepare for the sectional.”

Mooresville is in the seven-team IHSAA Class 4A Avon Sectional with Avon, Brownsburg, Northview, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo.

Pioneers senior shortstop Tanner Haston has committed to Purdue University.

McGaha’s coaching staff features Kyle Davis (who played for McGaha), Joe Coughlan and David Rose (brother of Pete Rose) with the varsity, Toby Hennessy with the junior varsity and Dylan Johnson with the freshmen.

“It starts with good people,” says McGaha. “You surround yourself with good people that are pointed in the same direction. Those coaches are the voices of you. Make sure they’re following your philosophy.”

The program is fed by various travel programs plus the Mooresville Junior Baseball League, which serviced more than 500 kids in 2017.

With multiple teams and no room to expand, the school board voted to turf the entire baseball and softball fields at Mooresville. This spring marks the second season.

“I’d been asking for about a half dozen years,” says McGaha of his request to the school board. “They were very gracious.

“We are blessed and fortunate to have such a nice facility and we don’t every take it for granted.”

By using rakes and a LitterKat Synthetic Turf Sweeper, the team hopes to retain the life and longevity of the field.

In addition, metal spikes, sunflower seeds and chewing gum are all forbidden.

McGaha says the most expense in a turf field comes not from the turf but the drainage system.

“When it rains at our place, within 10 minutes it’s dry and you’re ready to go,” says McGaha.

The coach wants all his players ready to go and that includes seniors.

McGaha says only people who have coached a high school sport in the spring — like baseball — knows the challenges that accompany it.

Besides the diamond, players heads are filled with thoughts of spring break, prom, graduation, open houses and summer jobs. Many times, sectional games are played with players who are already out of the school building.

“Are they with you or have they mentally already checked out?,” says McGaha. “Unless you’ve experienced that you have no idea what it’s like. There are all these balls in the air and it’s a distraction.

“We try to play our best baseball at the end of the year. There have been years we haven’t done that. How committed are your seniors? We always say we have to have guys with two feet in. When a baseball player has senioritis it can kill the chemistry of a ball club.”

McGaha, who now teaches physical education at Northwood Elementary in Mooresville in addition to his coaching duties, is a 1991 graduate of Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, where he played for Indiana Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Foreman.

“Besides my stepfather, he had the biggest impact on my life,” says McGaha of the man who played at Indiana University for IHSBCA and Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Ernie Andres and then led the Warren Central program for 31 seasons.

McGaha played one season at Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, Ind., then transferred to Purdue University North Central (now Purdue Northwest) in Westville, Ind.

“I knew I wanted to coach,” says McGaha, who was a relief pitcher who got a chance to lead and be a role model for coach Larry Blake. He earned his degree and began teaching and coaching in Mooresville around 2000.

Eric and Jan McGaha have been married close to 21 years and have three children — Brenna (13), Hanna (11) and Brody (9).

When Brody was very young, Jan went through a bout with cancer. She had her thyroid removed and went through radiation treatment.

“Thank the good Lord,” says Eric. “She’s been cancer free — knock on wood — for quite awhile.”

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Eric McGaha and wife Jan gather with their children (from left) Brenna, Brody and Hanna. Eric is the head baseball coach at Mooresville High School.

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IHSBCA adds five to Hall of Fame in 2017

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

For what they have meant to the game, five more men have been added to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and will have plaques hanging in Jasper.

The Class of 2017 included (in order of induction on Jan. 20): Chip Sweet, Greg Marschand, Paul Ehrman, Steve DeGroote and Bart Kaufman. Don Jennings, a Hall of Fame inductee in 1988, was also spotlighted during festivities Friday, Jan. 20 in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame is located on the Vincennes University-Jasper campus, where expansion is planned in 2017.

Chip Sweet (180th HOF inductee): The 1975 Shakamak High School graduate and retired Lakers coach led his alma mater for 21 years — in two stints. His final season of 2014 culminated with an IHSAA Class 1A state championship. His youngest son, Luke, was on the team.

“It was really a pretty special experience,” Sweet said of going out on top.

Older son Josh had been on Shakamak state runner-up teams in 2004 and 2006. The 2012 Sweet-coached Lakers were also state runners-up.

An outfielder as a player, Sweet left the Hoosier State for the Sunshine State for his college baseball experience. After never having been away from home, Sweet spent five years about 1,000 miles away with two years of junior college ball at Central State Community College and three at the University of Florida.

In 1979-80, Sweet coached at Oak Hill Private School in Gainesville, Fla., where the three sons of famed slugger Roger Maris played.

Sweet said Maris did not impose himself on the program.

“He let the coaches do their coaching,” Sweet said. “He was a nice guy.”

Maris did arrange for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to donate sod for the field.

“We put down every roll,” Sweet said. “It was a lot of hard work.”

Sweet took the time at his induction to thank the Jasonville, Ind., community which supports Shakamak.

“We’re a very small school,” Sweet said. “Everybody knows everybody.”

In closing, Sweet also shared a story renowned in baseball coaching circles — Stay at 17 Inches about John Scolinos at the American Baseball Coaches Association clinic in Nashville in 1996 and it’s message of faith.

Greg Marschand (181st HOF inductee): The 1972 Lewis Cass High School graduate and current Kings coach and athletic director played his college baseball at Columbus (Ga.) State University, where he won a school-record 32 games and learned much from the leader of the program.

“Coach (Charles) Ragsale was a fantastic coach,” Marschand said. “He molded guys from all over nation into a team. But, most of all, he taught us to be men and, on top of that, he taught us to be Christian men.”

A sign on the Cass dressing room points to Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

Marschand came back from Georgia to Walton, Ind., and through 36 seasons, he had amassed 556 wins with a Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2009.

One of the fitness challenges during Cass practices is called the “Victory Field Challenge.”

“Your ultimate goal is to get back there again (at the State Finals),” Marschand said.

One of his most memorable moments came during the Kings’ annual alumni doubleheader when one of his former players landed his Black Hawk helicopter in right field just to drop in to say hello to his former coach. The player — who Marschand chose not to identify — has since served his country overseas and thrown out the first pitch at a Kings game.

“In coaching, when those kind of things happen, they are more important than any wins, championships or anything else,” Marschand said. “That was a pretty emotional time for me.”

Thanking many family and school members, Marschand also saluted 28-year assistant Steve Ford. They’ve shared many a bus ride together.

Marschand said that when he was down with major back surgery, causing him to miss half the 2016 season, the records were dug out to establish his Hall of Fame credentials.

“What an honor to be voted on by your peers,” Marschand said. “I appreciate each and every one of them for taking the time to cast the ballot to make this happen.”

Paul Ehrman (182nd HOF inductee): The veteran umpire from Batesville and 1963 Carol (Flora) High School graduate began his 49-year career of making the calls in 1964 on the high school and college level after being cut by Ball State Teachers College coach Ray Louthen for being “absolutely too slow.” He had umpired youth games back in 1958.

Ehrman worked the first IHSAA state tournament in 1967. One of his most memorable State Finals came in 1978 and 1979. Future Yankees first baseman and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Don Mattingly was on Evansville Memorial teams in those years, winning the first one and seeing a 59-game win streak end in the latter.

A baseball and basketball coach and then an AD in the early part of his career, Ehrman became an insurance salesman while continuing umpiring at many levels. He worked in 10 different states and 57 different IHSBCA Hall of Fame coaches. He logged 45 sectionals, 26 regionals, 15 semistate and eight State Finals.

“There’s some really good things and some really bad things about being an umpire,” Ehrman said. “When you’re an umpire, nobody likes you.”

But enough coaches and athletic directors liked him enough to hire him and soon he was scheduling the umpires around southeastern Indiana.

“I enjoyed every minute that I worked,” Ehrman said. There were stretches where he was gone from home more than 40 straight nights while umpiring and appreciates the support from his family.

Married to Karen on June 5, 1965, he worked through many wedding anniversaries.

“She never once complained,” Ehrman said.

Steve DeGroote (183rd HOF inductee): The retired West Vigo High School coach came to Indiana after playing high school and college baseball in Iowa.

DeGroote was on IHSBCA Hall of Fame coach Bob Warn’s staff at Indiana State University before becoming a West Vigo assistant and then head coach from 1993-2013 before another stint on the ISU staff.

DeGroote went all over the U.S. and Canada to recruit players for the Sycamores. Over the years, he noticed more and more baseball talent has turned up on Hoosier soil that has gone on to the college and pro ranks.

One of the highlights of DeGroote’s coaching career came in 2009 with a Class 3A state runner-up finish. The Vikings went into the State Finals at 28-1.

“We had so many people there in green,” DeGroote said. “(The State Finals) was important to our people.”

West Vigo won 525 baseball games on DeGroote’s watch.

DeGroote played football, basketball and baseball in high school and college and his three sons — Cory, Culley and Casey — were also three-sport athletes.

“It makes you a better warrior,” DeGroote said of the multi-sport or non-specializing athlete. “You can work out, but you can never go through warriorship like you do in competition. We don’t have that problem (at West Vigo). We really back each other (as coaches) and try to share (athletes) the best we can and it works out for us.”

DeGroote is also thankful for the lack of outside interference when coaching his athletes.

“I had no problems,” DeGroote said. “They weren’t pampered. I kept telling them, ‘if you guys keep working this hard, you’re going to get my name in the paper.’

“I knew it was more about them than it was about me … All we want is respect.”

Bart Kaufman (184th HOF inductee): The benefactor from Shelbyville was introduced by long-time friend Del Harris, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer.

“My first love was baseball,” Harris said. “We all love baseball, but nobody loves baseball any more than Bart Kaufman … How many of you played until 72 (at a Dodgers fantasy camp)?

“He’s one of the most generous and caring people I’ve known in my long life.”

Kaufman, who was nominated by the IHSBCA Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and graduated from Shelbyville High School in 1958 and Indiana University in 1962, spoke about his appreciation for the game and what it has done for him.

“Baseball has been an incredibly important part of my life. It’s permitted me to make lifelong friends like Del Harris and Bill Garrett (the first African-American to play basketball in the Big Ten Conference) … (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and IU coach) Ernie Andres had confidence in me, especially against left-handers. I wasn’t so sure … I enjoyed coaching many boys and men and teaching them the game I loved. I used the discipline that I learned from many coaches … Carl Erskine was the first to suggest I go to Dodgertown in Vero Beach (Fla.) and learn baseball the Dodger Way. Carl has been a friend ever since … Like one of my children told me, if you can’t get inducted into Cooperstown, this is about as good as you’re going to get.”

Kaufman, an outfielder, led the Hoosiers with a .452 batting average in 1961.

One of his most memorable moments came during his junior year when he helped Indiana sweep Ohio State and then got pinned to Judy and they have now been married 54 years with four children.

He went on to play and coach in Indianapolis amateur leagues. He was appointed to a committee that tried to bring Major League Baseball in Indy by Mayor William Hudnut.

Through Kaufman’s philanthropy, baseball fields at IU and Marian University and a softball stadium at the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis all bear his name. Bart Kaufman Field at IU will be the site of the Big Ten tournament May 24-28.

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(From left): Don Jennings, Steve DeGroote, Greg Marschand, Paul Ehrman, Bart Kauffman and Chip Sweet.