By STEVE KRAH
All the hats that Sherard Clinkscales has donned thus far — many of the baseball variety — have helped him to his current role as athletic director at Indiana State University.
The former baseball and basketball player at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and Purdue University went on to play and scout in professional baseball and coach in the college ranks before going into athletic administration. He was hired by then-ISU president Dr. Daniel Bradley to lead the Sycamores in February 2016 and now serves for current president Deborah J. Curtis.
Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State fields baseball, basketball, cross country, football and track and field teams for men plus basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, track and field and volleyball teams for women.
Two weeks ago Clinkscales, 51, was named to the NCAA Baseball Committee. As the 2022 Division I season gets closer to the postseason, the committee will meet to discuss the teams that are trending up or down and then determine the top seeds. Committee members will become regional and super regional directors and serve as team administrators at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“We’ll make sure their experience is top notch,” says Clinkscales.
In 2021, Indiana State went 31-21 and played in the Nashville Regional. It was the eighth season for ISU alum Mitch Hannahs as Sycamores head coach.
While they never competed against one another, Clinkscale’s relationship with Hannahs goes way back.
“I know Mitch well,” says Clinkscales. “He’s a good man that I respect immensely. He’s one of the best coaches in the country.”
Clinkscales says Hannahs’ success stems from his understanding of players and an intuitiveness as a tactician.
“He has a knack for getting the best out of players and knows when to push them and when not to,” says Clinkscales. “He’s an excellent recruiter and finds guys that fit his system.
“He genuinely cares about his young men. He’s authentic. You always know where you stand with Mitch.”
While Indiana State is a northern school and — in football terms — is not in a power five conference, Sycamores baseball has long been competitive on a national level.
“That starts with Coach (Bob) Warn,” says Clinkscales of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer whose name is on the ISU baseball field. “I grew up in the ‘80s and Indiana State was the best program in the state of Indiana.
“Mitch was a part of that and he has taken that even further. Indiana State is just a wonderful institution. We get kids that love the game of baseball, love to play it and love to learn it.”
Clinkscales says generations of parents have come to understand the toughness that it takes to play in Terre Haute.
“They’re more than happy to send their kids to play for a man like Mitch,” says Clinkscales. “They know what they’re getting.”
A standout basketball player for Mike Miller, Clinkscales began getting noticed at the college level for his baseball skills with Brebeuf’s summer team.
“I was always a good athlete,” says Clinkscales, a 1989 Brebeuf graduate. “I played baseball because it was fun.”
The baseball Braves were coached by Kevin Stephenson.
“Coach was outstanding,” says Clinkscales of Stephenson. “He was a really good guy who stuck with me.”
At Purdue, Clinkscales played one season (1989-90) as a walk-on guard for Boilermakers head basketball coach Gene Keady and three springs for head baseball coach Dave Alexander (1990-92).
“(Keady and Alexander) stuck by me when I struggled,” says Clinkscales. “I owe everything to where I am today to Dave Alexander. Dave took a chance on me.
“He was tough, authentic and honest. Coach definitely cared about me and got the most out of me.”
The relationship continued a few years after his playing days when Clinkscales and Alexander were scouts in the same Midwest territories.
Right-handed pitcher Clinkscales was a “sandwich” round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (31st overall selection) and played for the 1992 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, 1993 and 1994 Rockford (Ill.) Royals and 1994 Gulf Coast (Fla.) Royals.
What did Clinkscales appreciate most about being a player?
“The camaraderie and going to the ball park to spend time with buddies,” says Clinkscales. “Baseball is such a team sport. You’re getting to know guys (from diverse backgrounds).”
After being released by the Royals, Clinkscales went to extended spring training with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 then decided to pursue scouting and other ventures.
Clinkscales was an area scouting supervisor of the Atlanta Braves 1997-99, assistant director of scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays 1999-2001 then a professional and amateur scout for the Braves 2001-06. He was also founder and president of Indianapolis-based AfterSport Group, a consulting firm for high school, college and professional athletic communities.
“I absolutely loved it,” says Clinkscales of scouting. “It was one of the thrills of my life.”
He relished identifying potential big leaguers through observation. Baseball was not so analytics and stats-driven at that time.
“I was able to get to know the player,” says Clinkscales. “Make-up is everything. You have to be a tough son of a gun to play Major League Baseball. Only the strong survive.
“It comes down to toughness, luck, consistency and being in the right place at the right time.”
Then came the opportunity be pitching coach for head coach Dave Schrage at the University of Notre Dame for three seasons (2007-09).
“I’m grateful for the chance he took on a guy who’d never coached before,” says Clinkscales of Schrage, now head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. “He saw the positive things. He knows the game inside and out.”
Clinkscales learned how difficult coaching can be.
“It’s hard,” says Clinkscales. “You have to really love coaching. It all starts with leadership. You have to work together as a team and assistants have to do their jobs well.
“It takes a special person to be a coach.”
Clinkscales equates coach with teacher.
“To get the most out of a young man that doesn’t know how much he has is a gift,” says Clinkscales, who has gotten to interview and hire many coaches in his AD role.
Clinkscales was Assistant Director of Championships for the NCAA in Indianapolis 2009-11 and Senior Associate Athletic Director at North Carolina State University 2011-16 — serving on the staff of Wolfpack AD Debbie Yow.
A holder of a History degree from Purdue in 1994, Clinkscales completed a masters in Sports Management from North Carolina State in 2016.
The fall semester at ISU begins Aug. 18 and young people are now back on the campus.
“I enjoy the student-athletes,” says Clinkscales. “It’s the purity that I really enjoy. They are students first and achieving in the classroom and on the field.
“You build relationships with students and coaches. They get kids to execute and learn how to deal with the losses. I’m working with a staff that loves doing what I’m doing. They work hard and pick each other up.
“I thank God I have the opportunity to be an athletic director.”
Clinkscales has two children — North Carolina Wesleyan University graduate Alex Clinkscales and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tara Clinkscales. Sherard and second wife Monica reside in Terre Haute.