Tag Archives: Football

Stoner wants Jimtown Jimmies baseball to aim for ‘The Gold Standard’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

New Jimtown High School head baseball coach Cory Stoner wants his Jimmies to reach for “The Gold Standard” during the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re not going to settle for ‘good enough,” says Stoner, who has been with the Jimtown junior varsity the past five springs. “We want to push ourselves and get back to competing for sectional and conference championships.

“There is a goldmine of talent here. We’ve just got to mine that gold a little bit.”

Stoner, who graduated from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School in 2009 and Bethel College in Mishawaka in 2013, began teaching U.S. History (Explorers to Civil War) at Jimtown Junior High School in Elkhart, Ind., and joined the Mike Campbell-led football coaching staff (Stoner is defensive coordinator for the Jimmies) in 2013-14.

He believes in the multi-sport athlete.

“Doing other things makes them better baseball players, too,” says Stoner. “It makes them better athletes all-around.”

For athletes not in a fall sport, Stoner just held a session to help some Jimtown baseball players get better. There was even a fall athlete who came to get in some extra work.

John Huemmer was Stoner’s head coach at Mishawaka High and has made an impact on his life.

“What a great role model,” says Stoner of Huemmer. “I remember how hard he worked for me. You could tell he was working for the kids.

“He worked so hard to get me into Bethel and improve my skills and talents. I really appreciated him as a role model and a figure and, hopefully, I can do that here at Jimtown.”

At Bethel, head coach Seth Zartman displayed a contagious zeal.

“He had a passion for the game,” says Stoner, who played all over the infield and some in the outfield for the Pilots. “Playing high school and college baseball are two different things and you find out quickly if you have a passion for the game. He brought that everyday.

“I really appreciated that from him.”

Stoner will be assisted at Jimtown by former Jimmies head coach Darin Mast, Luke Smith and some others to be determined. Smith will be the pitching coach.

“I want kids who have bought in and ready to work and get better,” says Stoner. “We want to dig into the whole character aspect and build young men who will be successful outside of baseball as well.

“I’m a big believer in the little things matter — staying mentally into games. That stuff carries over into life, too. That’s what I hope to relay to these guys and imprint on their lives.”

In order for a program to be successful, athletes must accept their roles and putting the team first.

Stoner says he’s seen that attitude so far in his years with the Jimmies and expects it to continue.

“This is a special place,” says Stoner of Baugo Community Schools. “I see that in these kids. They accept their roles, understand what it is and embrace and enjoy it.

“They want to get better in their roles because it’s about the team. That’s part of The Gold Standard — what can I do get us where we want to be?”

New IHSAA rules allow coaches to work with an unlimited number of players in the off-season, but only two times a week for up to two hours at a time.

“One of the big things that I want to focus on is getting into the weight room and growing physically,” says Stoner. “There are muscles for baseball that are different for other sports.

“And pitching is huge. We want to get that arm built up. There’s a reason pitchers and catchers come in early (for spring training) in the major leagues. You’ve got to get that arm strength built up. We’ll focus on that early.”

Stoner notes that even though rules limit off-season team activities to four times a week, that doesn’t prevent players from working on their own.

“Those are the kids that have that passion and can’t get enough of it,” says Stoner.

What changes has Stoner noticed in the education field?

“It’s crazy,” says Stoner. “Technology is huge now. We’re using (Google) Chromebooks in class and researching.

“(Technology) is also huge in baseball, too. We can get the iPad out and videotape a swing, slow it down and talk about certain points. There’s definitely connections there.”

Cory and wife Richele Stoner have two sons — Luke and Sam. Sam Stoner recently had his first birthday. Luke Stoner turns 3 in September. Cory and Richele are expecting a third boy — Cole — in December.

Kirby and Barb Stoner are Cory’s parents. Kirby Stoner is retired from the Mishawaka Police Department. Barb Stoner keeps busy babysitting her grandkids. Scott Stoner, Cory’s older brother and a social studies teacher at John Young Middle School in Mishawaka, is married with a daughter.

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Cory Stoner is in his sixth year as a teacher and coach in Baugo Community Schools. After five seasons as an assistant, the graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) High School and Bethel College is now head baseball coach at Jimtown High School. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

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Baseball coach and instructor Christiansen developing leaders at Culver Military Academy

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Teaching baseball and other skills in a college preparatory school is what Kurt Christiansen does in his roles as head baseball coach and humanities senior instructor at Culver (Ind.) Military Academy.

Christiansen has been at the school since the fall of 2008 and has led the Eagles baseball program since 2009 in all but one season, when he was finishing graduate school.

A 1997 graduate of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., Christiansen played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph and was a top-notch football receiver.

His diamond teammates included two players selected in the 1996 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — A.J. Zapp (in the first round to the Atlanta Braves) and Nick Jamison (in the 31st round to the Detroit Tigers).

After earning his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, where he did not play sports, Christiansen did some student teaching in Australia. He then was a teacher and coached baseball and football for two years at Carmel (Ind.) High School.

Pamela Christiansen, Kurt’s wife went to law school at Valparaiso University, and got a job in South Bend, bringing the family to northern Indiana. Kurt was a teacher and coached baseball and football at NorthWood High School for four years before pursuing the opportunity to teach at CMA.

Christiansen describes the humanities as a combination of Language Arts and Social Studies in a traditional school.

“It’s pretty wonderful,” says Christiansen. “The kids are learning to read and write and think in a pretty interdisciplinary setting.”

Culver Military Academy offers what its website calls “a leadership approach that develops young men into leaders of character who are poised for global success in any career path.”

There is also a Culver Girls Academy. Together with CMA for boys, they form what is known as the Culver Academies.

Students come from far and wide.

While seven players had hometowns in Indiana, Culver’s 2018 roster featured athletes from Alaska, California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington as well as Korea.

Hayden Schott, an outfielder from Newport Beach, Calif., participated in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in South Bend.

Schott plans to attend Cypress (Calif.) College. The junior college has a tradition of sending players on to NCAA Division I and professional baseball. Among those are former closer extraordinaire Trevor Hoffman (who will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this weekend) and former big league third baseman Brandon Laird.

In recent years, CMA graduates Connor Bartelman (University of Chicago), Kyle Bartelman (Columbia University in New York), Shane Comiskey (Grinnell College in Iowa), Zach Moffett (Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.) and Perley Provost (Denison University in Granville, Ohio) have gone on to play college baseball.

Culver Academies has a college advising office, which helps students make connections at the university level.

“Ideally, a Culver kid is using baseball to help them find the best academic fit for them,” says Christiansen. “Baseball is part of what got them to the school. The end benefit is a world-class education.”

Christiansen knows that college coaches have often seen players through video, scouting or camps and they are calling him to fish out the story.

“One of the big benefits about being at Culver is that I know my players,” says Christiansen. “I see them on and off the field quite a bit. I have a pretty good sense of who they are.”

Christiansen says Culver Academies students are attractive to colleges not only because they are strong academically, but they’ve also learned to develop independence.

“They’re at a boarding school far from home and they’re figuring out how to take care of themselves,” says Christiansen. “All of that’s done before these colleges get them and that’s a real big bonus.”

It’s not a cookie-cutter approach taken by Christiansen and his fellow instructors.

“Like any school, kids are kids,” says Christiansen. “Each kid is a little bit different. So you’ve got to find ways to connect with them and teach them. But it helps that we’ve got kids who are committed to the mission of the school.

“How do I leverage baseball to deliver on that mission? That’s a question that the staff constantly asks of ourselves — not just to put kids in a position to compete and win baseball games and develop as athletes but develop dispositions and mindsets that will serve them in life.”

With no feeder program, Christiansen often does not know who he will have on his baseball team until school starts in the fall, though he does sometimes find out who has a baseball background during the admissions process.

“In almost 100 percent of the cases I’ve never seen them throw or hit,” says Christiansen. “I have to work pretty hard to recruit our own campus because there’s so many interesting and wonderful opportunities. Kids grow up playing Little League and they get to Culver and decide they want to try crew or lacrosse.

“I have to identify the baseball players and make sure they still want to come out and be part of the program.”

The school’s mission includes a wellness component and students not in a sport must do something to get exercise.

“Not all of our kids are premier athletes,” says Christiansen. “Hockey and lacrosse programs are elite. They’re really, really good — some of the best in the country.”

Baseball, which plays on Wilkins Field, is restricted by school policy from playing more than a couple of games during the school week with other contests on Saturdays. This means CMA schedules around 20 to 23 games or less than the 28 regular-season contests allowed by the IHSAA.

The Eagles went 10-9 and played in the IHSAA Class 3A Mishawaka Marian Sectional (along with Jimtown, John Glenn, New Prairie, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington) in 2018.

“We want to make sure our kids have plenty of time to study and they’re not out until 9 or 10 o’clock at night four or five nights in a row,” says Christiansen.

Being an independent, CMA often gets bumped when other schools must make up conference games.

Christiansen’s coaching staff includes three other senior humanities instructors — J.D. Uebler with the varsity and John Rogers and Andy Strati leading the junior varsity.

Kurt and Pamela Christiansen have three children — Jack (11), Sarah (10) and Joey (5).

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Culver (Ind.) Military Academy head baseball coach Kurt Christiansen with Hayden Schott at the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in South Bend.

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Kurt Christiansen is the head baseball coach and a humanities senior instructor at Culver (Ind.) Military Academy. He played high school baseball for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph at Center Grove. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Attitude, camaraderie important to veteran South Vermillion baseball coach Terry

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Attitude.

Bonding.

Continuity.

These are three of the building blocks for South Vermillion High School baseball.

“Attitude’s such a big thing,” says Wildcats head coach Tim Terry. “They pick each other up (and don’t point fingers when things don’t go their way). Once everybody starts doing that, that attitude is catching and they don’t stay down.”

During the season, the team comes to school early to get in some hitting practice.

“The kids work pretty hard,” says Terry. “We hit every morning. We probably take at least 100 cuts before school starts. That has a lot to do with our success.”

The Wildcats went 20-4 in 2017 and followed that up with 27-4 in 2018. The 2017 squad set a school record for consecutive victories with 15. With six starters moved on, the 2018 team won the first 20 games of the season and went on to earn the program’s ninth sectional championship and seventh on Terry’s watch.

A 1973 Clinton (Ind.) High School graduate, Terry has been head baseball coach at South Vermillion since the 1982 season (Clinton became South Vermillion in 1977).

“I’ve got an advantage because with a lot of these players, their dads played for me I’ve been around so long,” says Terry, who has helped the Wildcats take sectional hardware in 1982, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2002 (2A), 2014 (2A) and 2018 (2A).

At the 2018 postseason banquet, Terry brought out some of those trophies for two-generation photo opportunities.

Between the genuine family atmosphere and players going out to breakfast after the early-morning hitting sessions and many of them playing in the summers together with Clinton American Legion Post 140, there is plenty of camaraderie.

“We had real good unity,” says Terry of the 2018 squad, which featured four seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. “Everybody accepted their roles and I didn’t have to worry one bit about that kind of stuff.

“In this day and age, those kids are hard to find. (Many) think they ought to be varsity players as soon as they walk up. That’s not the case if you want to have a good program.”

One this year’s seniors — Indiana State University-bound third baseman/pitcher Matthew Panagouleas — was selected to play in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in South Bend.

Matthew’s father, Steve Panagouleas, played for Terry. Steve’s connection to First National Bank and helped get a donation of a $16,000 scoreboard to South Vermillion baseball.

Assisting Tim Terry are oldest son T.J. Terry (a former outfielder and pitcher) and Brian Pestoff.

Cooper Terry (a pitcher, shortstop and outfielder) is heading into his senior year and Easton Terry (a catcher, pitcher and first baseman) the eighth grade in 2018-19.

The second of Tim and Kim Terry’s sons — Canton Terry (a catcher) — was a 2A all-stater and IHSBCA North/South All-Star in 2017 and now plays at Wabash College.

Most South Vermillion players grow up playing in the Clinton Little League. The three youngest Terry boys have played travel ball with the Terre Haute-based Indiana Havoc.

T.J. Terry is now the Clinton Post 140 manager with his father as an assistant coach.

Tim Terry was a three-sport athlete at Clinton High, playing football for coaches Rene Foli and Brent Anderson (South Vermillion gridders now plays on Coach Brent Anderson Field), basketball for coach Ron Henricks (the Clinton Wildcats won a Western Indiana Conference title during Terry’s prep career) and baseball for coach Don Shearer (1968-81 at Clinton/South Vermillion).

Terry went on to play baseball for coaches Jim Rendel and Bob Warn at Indiana State. His first teaching job came at Turkey Run High School in Marshall, Ind. His second year there, he became head baseball coach and was then coaxed home to join Shearer’s coaching staff at South Vermillion before taking over the reins.

For more than three decades, Terry was also head girls basketball coach at South Vermillion. He gave that up after the 2013-14 season. He has been the school’s athletic director for four-plus years.

The Wildcats are members of the Wabash River Conference (along with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Riverton Parke and Seeger).

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Tim Terry, a 1973 Clinton (Ind.) High School graduate, has been head baseball coach at South Vermillion High School since the 1982 season. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Indiana Primetime Sports, Klipsch-Card bringing Finch Creek Fieldhouse to Noblesville

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Central Indiana athletes are getting more space to train and compete thanks to a partnership between Indiana Primetime Sports and Klipsch-Card Athletic Facilities LLC.

As a part of a new park in Noblesville, the Finch Creek Fieldhouse will provide a place for multiple sports, including baseball, softball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse and rugby.

The 130,000-square foot state-of-the-art facility located in a new public park at 16289 Boden Road, just north of Hamilton Town Center and near Ruoff Mortgage Music Center is due to open its doors in September.

Finch Creek Fieldhouse will have 56,000 square feet of open turf suitable for all field sports and five full basketball/volleyball courts.

A second phase to the project will bring outdoor baseball fields.

“There is a need in the community for indoor space, especially turf for baseball and all field sports,” says Indiana Primetime Sports president Ryan Cole. “It will be a premier facility for baseball practice and training for select organizations.

“It will be a premier facility for baseball practices and baseball training but it is a 100 percent a multi-sport facility. Baseball will have the biggest presence but you can expect to see flag football, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey and soccer all played on the indoor turf fields.”

Indiana Primetime had 24 baseball and softball teams in 2018.

Other organizations will also call Finch Creek home.

When all is said and done, Cole expects more than 50 baseball and softball teams to use Finch Creek as their primary practice and training location. That equates to more than 500 players.

Plans call for 11 batting tunnels and bleacher seating for 180 at each court. There will also be a mezzanine for viewing on the courts and fields. Below that will be office space, concessions and restrooms.

Currently, Indiana Primetime Baseball and Softball is training in various places around Hamilton County.

With the alliance and new facility, Primetime’s baseball, softball and football will be headquartered at Finch Creek and basketball will remain in the Klipsch-Card-owned Pacers Athletic Center at Grand Park in Westfield.

Brandon Lafferman, co-founder of Indiana Primetime Sports with Cole, will run the PAC as Cole handles all operations at Finch Creek.

Cole will oversee the facility and partner with different groups, scheduling and executing different events on the turf and courts.

Two other Indiana Primetime Sports employees — Quentin Brown and Matt Nicholson — will also transition to Finch Creek.

Brown will continue to run Indiana Primetime Baseball and will oversee operations of all baseball programming inside Finch Creek. Nicholson will continue as the youth director of Indiana Primetime Baseball. Both will assist with facility management.

“We believe we have always done it the right way with the kids’ best interests at heart,” says Cole. “Our team feels that we are beginning to reap the benefits of staying true to our mission.”

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A schematic look at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. (Indiana Primetime Sports Image)

 

New Saint Francis Cougars head baseball coach Butcher committed to making history

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dustin Butcher wants baseball success for his alma mater.

The new head baseball coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., is committed to making the Cougars into a perennial championship contender — something already achieved by the school’s football and basketball programs.

“To do something special, you have to commit to it,” says Butcher, who takes over the program after the retirement of Greg Roberts. “We’re going to make history here at some point.

“I’m excited. I have a lot of pride in this university.”

Saint Francis is a member of the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League (along with Bethel College, Goshen College, Grace College, Huntington University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marian University, Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, Spring Arbor University and Taylor University). The Cougars are seeking their first regular-season or tournament title in baseball.

USF head football coach Kevin Donley is the winningest coach in NAIA history. Men’s basketball Chad LaCross has won over 70 percent of his games with two national runner-up teams. Coach Jason Ridge now leads a women’s basketball program that won a national title in 2014.

Butcher graduated from Heritage High School in Monroeville, Ind., and played baseball and soccer at Saint Francis, completing his undergraduate degree in 2001. He went on to earn a masters in sports and exercise psychology from Ball State University.

During his internship with USF’s soccer teams — men and women — Butcher got a chance to built the mental skill set of athletes.

Butcher played baseball for coach Dean Lehrman at Heritage. His USF coaches were Steve Kovacs and Doug Coate in baseball and Ken Nuber then Mitch Ellisen in soccer.

“I’m thankful,” says Butcher. “Coach Lehrman kind of saved me from myself. He was very honest. I wasn’t on the best path. I wasn’t living up to expectations.”

Butcher says he contributed to Cougars soccer for his willingness to be a grinder.

“I was good in high school, but at the collegiate level I wasn’t good enough,” says Butcher. “But I think I made everybody around me better because I would never stop.

“It made me realize that you need guys like that. I pushed guys in practice. They knew you couldn’t take a day off.”

Butcher’s first assistant college baseball coaching stop came at Marian in Indianapolis on the staff of Kurt Guldner and assistants Kip McWilliams and Toby Rogers.

Jessica Butcher, Dustin’s wife, is a family doctor with Lutheran Health Physicians. She did her residency in Fort Wayne and Dustin coached a season at Saint Francis and then went with head coach McWilliams at Indiana Tech. Butcher returned to Saint Francis to join Roberts in the fall of 2008 and remained until the present.

“I’m appreciative of Coach Guldner giving me my first job,” says Butcher. “Coach Mac is really the one that got me going to the (annual American Baseball Coaches Association national convention). If you love baseball and you’ve never been to an ABCA convention, you need to go. It’s mind-blowing.

“It’s such a cool culture of coaches. It’s a group of guys constantly trying to learn and share information. I love it.”

Butcher is grateful for Roberts, who allowed him to find his own way of implementing his philosophy.

“He allowed us to coach,” says Butcher, who also served alongside Miguel Tucker (who is now on McWilliams’ staff at Indiana Tech). “He gave us full autonomy. He allowed us to fail and succeed on his watch. He was just so good at teaching. He always had an angle that would make you think.

“I owe him a lot.”

As head coach, Butcher will emphasize the grinder mentality

“I want to challenge them to where they hit a wall physically and they have to figure out how to get to the other side,” says Butcher. “You’ve got to find something within yourself.”

To narrow the gap on the competition, Butcher expects his athletes to move some iron.

“I’m a big believer in the weight room — it allows you to compete at a higher level quicker.

“To win at the NAIA level, you see a lot of teams across the country in the World Series or Top 25 with transfers (Division I or junior college). We don’t have the luxury of being able to pluck any JC kid or get every Division I bounce-back. We don’t have the financial capability. To be able to compete, we’ve got to push in the weight room.

“To make history, we need to do more — we need to develop more, we need to take more swings outside of practice time. That’s something I’m going to ask our coaches to do.”

Former Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne player Kristian Gayday has been hired as a USF baseball assistant and a search is one for a second assistant. Gayday, who played for Mastodons and head coach Bobby Pierce, will lead Cougars hitters and help with infielders and outfielders.

Butcher is especially fond of the methods favored by strength and conditioning specialist Eric Cressey. Because they seem to be more in-line with baseball, the coach says his Cougars will front squat and deadlift.

Recruiting at Saint Francis focuses on a 50-mile radius around the school. Anyone from inside that ring can commute. By school policy, those outside that radius must live on campus and that adds to the cost.

The 2019 online roster includes 15 players from Allen or surrounding Indiana counties.

Using resources like FieldLevel and getting athletes to on-campus to experience the atmosphere of home football games, Butcher is wrapping up the 2018-19 recruiting class while also looking for 2019-20 commits.

Travel organizations that have been good to Saint Francis are the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks, Summit City Sluggers and Indiana Chargers.

“Those are three top programs,” says Butcher. “You want to make sure you see them in the summer because they always have kids to recruit.”

He expects his roster to hover between 30 and 40 players, which will take practices and a few scrimmages in the fall and a 55-game schedule in the spring. Some winter workouts will take place at The Diamond Baseball and Softball Academy. All home games will be played on the turf at the ASH Centre in Fort Wayne.

Dustin, the oldest of six children, is the son of Becki Beauchot and Steve Butcher. Dustin’s sisters are Abbi, Emily and Daisy with Sam and Jack (a senior-to-be at Heritage).

Living in Leo, Ind., Dustin and Jessica Butcher have two children — Nolan (9) and Ella (7). Ella was in Miguel Tucker’s wedding. Jessica has been the baby doctor for former USF players.

“That’s why you do it,” says Butcher of the bonds formed through baseball. “It’s a family. That’s hard to get through to coaches.

“I hope they understand it.”

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Alum and long-time assistant coach Dustin Butcher is now the head baseball coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Plymouth’s Nixon credits Hall of Fame grandfather, teachers, coaches, parents for pushing him to IHSBCA all-star status

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bill Nixon is a member of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

The diamond where Plymouth High School plays baseball is called Bill Nixon Field.

But the former Pilgrims head coach who won 714 games at PHS from 1970-99 did not talk much about the sport with Benji Nixon when his grandson was a young boy.

“He told me to take care of my classes and grades,” says Benji Nixon. “He knew I had passion to be the best I could in baseball. He wanted to make sure everything else in my life was important to me.”

The young Nixon was a consistent honor-roll student through his elementary school years.

When Benji reached high school, grandpa began dishing out more baseball advice.

“We’d talk about my swing or how to get rid of the ball better (as a middle infielder),” says Benji. “It was a bunch of tips that helped me grow to be a successful player.”

Benji started at shortstop in every one of his team’s games and was good enough on the diamond to be receive honorable mention on the IHSBCA Class 4A all-state team.

He was also chosen for the North squad in the 2018 IHSBCA All-State Series, which is this weekend at Four Winds Field in South Bend (practices and banquet Friday, July 20, noon doubleheader Saturday, July 21, and noon wood-bat game Sunday, July 22).

“It’s a great way to cap everything off at Plymouth and my high school career,” says Benji, who plans to study business at Indiana University and is undecided about trying to walk on for the Hoosiers. “When I talked with my grandfather about it on the phone, it one of my better moments in 18 years on earth.”

Bill Nixon is planning to travel up from Florida to take part in the festivities.

Taking that early academic advice into high school, Benji graduated with a grade-point average around 3.5 and took six Advanced Placement classes his last two years.

“I had relationships with all my teachers,” says Benji. A couple that he maintains contact with are Curtis Nordmann, John Johnson and Scott Michel.

A three-sport athlete, Benji is grateful for his three head coaches — John Barron in football, Ryan Bales in basketball and Ryan Wolfe in baseball — for different reasons.

“Coach Barron wants us to be more than just a football player,” says Benji, a receiver, running back and defensive back on the gridiron. “He wants us to be be active students and (attend other extracurricular events).

“What I’m going to miss most (about football) is my teammates. We’ve created bonds we’ll have the rest of our lives I would hope.”

The 5-foot-10 Nixon played guard for the Pilgrims and credits his coach with helping him control his emotions.

“I was a hot head my freshman year,” says Benji. “Coach Bales did a nice job my last two years of highs school making sure I could stay calm during tough situations.

“I learned how to keep my cool.”

Wolfe encouraged his baseball players to be good students and good citizens, getting involved with the community.

“He’s all about giving back,” says Benji of Wolfe. “Life is about more than just sports.

“It’s about being there for other people.”

The team did volunteer work multiple times this past year.

Rusty and Maggie Nixon have five sons — Jake Kelly, Elijah Nixon, Nate Nixon, Benji Nixon and Zephan Nixon. All played baseball at Plymouth. Zephan is heading into his junior year at PHS.

Rusty Nixon works for WTCA-AM 1050 radio and the Plymouth Pilots News newspaper.

Maggie Nixon  is the managing editor at The Post & Mail in Columbia City.

Benji describes his relationship with his parents.

“(My father) knew I was a lot like him,” says Benji. “He knew when I was frustrated. He let me handle my own problems, which helped me a lot as a person.

“My mom was my support system. She was always there for me. She encouraged me after bad games and kept me going.”

IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES

(At South Bend)

Friday, July 20

Junior Showcase (Four Winds Field), 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

North practice (Four Winds Field), 1:15 to 3 p.m.

South practice (Four Winds Field), 3 to 4:45 p.m.

Banquet (Great Room at Century Center), 7 p.m. Keynote speaker is Greg Kloosterman (former Elkhart Central High School and Bethel College standout who pitched in the Milwaukee Brewers organization and now runs the Game Changers travel organization in Canonsburg, Pa.). Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for 10-and-under.

Saturday, July 21

(Four Winds Field)

Pregame with South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and posthumous tributes to IHSBCA founders and Hall of Famers Jim Reinebold and Ken Schreiber, 11:35 a.m.

First pitch for doubleheader, noon. Admission is $5. Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10 and $15 apiece depending on size.

Sunday, July 22

First pitch for single wood-bat game, noon. Admission is $5. Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10 and $15 apiece depending on size.

Note: This year marks the fourth time the series has come to South Bend. It was staged at Clay Park in 1976, Coveleski Stadium (now known at Four Winds Field) in 1989 and Notre Dame in 2008 … The North leads the all-time series 65-61, dating back to 1975.

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Benji Nixon takes time during the Plymouth (Ind.) High School prom to stop by Bill Nixon Field for some baseball fun. Nixon was chosen to participate in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 20-22 in South Bend. BENJINIXON1

Benji Nixon, a 2018 Plymouth (Ind.) High School graduate, was chosen to participate in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 20-22 in South Bend. Grandfather Bill Nixon is an IHSBCA Hall of Famer.

 

New baseball coach Woodruff looks for Ancilla Chargers to adapt and improve

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Personal experience has taught Chris Woodruff the value of junior college for a student-athlete and now he’s leading a baseball program at a two-year school.

Woodruff, 25, was named head coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind., in June and has been busy recruiting and working on the facility at the liberal arts institution of higher learning sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

Woodruff, who has been running events for Elite Baseball Tournaments on the weekends, sees recruiting as a “fun challenge.”

With only a few months to fill a roster, recruiting has really amped up for him.

“Once we begin our fall ball season, we can begin recruiting our 2019 season,” says Woodruff. “We do have a lot of quality guys that return. I’m getting close to my goal. I want to get 30 guys this year and next year, I want to get up to 40.

“The more guys I can have on the roster, the more intrasquads we can do and the more team work we can do here on the field and see what we have in front of us rather having to depend on going somewhere to play a scrimmage.”

Woodruff says he hopes to tap into local talent on the playing side and has already done that for coaching.

Jesse Zepeda, an Elkhart Central High School graduate who played the outfield at Bethel College, has joined Woodruff’s Ancilla coaching staff.

“He already knows what I’m trying to bring here,” says Woodruff of Zepeda. “He’ll back my methods and my ways.”

Woodruff has a couple other people in mind to add other assistants.

A 2011 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) John Adams High School, Woodruff played two seasons (2012 and 2013) for coaches  Keith Schreiber and Mike Marks at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich. — a Michigan Community College Athletic Association member along with Ancilla — and two (2014 and 2015) for coach Brian Blondell at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind.

In high school, Woodruff played travel baseball his last two summers for Blondell’s Michiana Scrappers.

One of his teammates at Holy Cross was Jake Lanning, who was selected in the 24th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves and played in the minors that summer.

“I’ve seen and played with a lot of great guys,” says Woodruff.

Woodruff, who played football for coaches Frank Amato and Craig Redman and baseball for coach Adam Zache at Adams, hit .312 with two doubles, one triple, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored in his last season as a center fielder at Glen Oaks.

His final year at Holy Cross, the right fielder was selected first-team all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference after hitting .331.

“I know what kind of junior college played for me — athletically and academically,” says Woodruff. “I can give players the opportunity to come here and play for two years at the college level. In two years, they can improve and develop and leave with their associate degree and go somewhere bigger and better.

“I’m looking for guys who want to come here and work day in and day out and if Ancilla is the right place for them, we can make it work baseball-wise as well.”

Ancilla offers 25 associate degrees and the professor-to-student ratio is low, making for more personal attention. The campus located next to Gilbert Lake and eight miles west of Plymouth.

Indiana has three junior college baseball programs — Ancilla, Vincennes University and Indiana Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne are the others.

Some players and families know how the junior college system works and others are being educated while also being told the merits of Ancilla.

“Each family is different,” says Woodruff. “I have to feed off of them and see where their mindset is.”

Woodruff began his coaching career as a football assistant to Redman at Adams while also finishing his degree in the fall/winter of 2015.

Woodruff then tried his hand at professional baseball in the 2016 California Winter League.

“It was a good experience,” says Woodruff. “All the coaches in that league were (independent pro baseball) coaches or ex-pros and I learned a lot picking their brains.”

In 2016-17, he was a football assistant to Redman at South Bend Clay and a volunteer baseball assistant to head coach Mike Huling at Indiana University South Bend then served as a volunteer on the staff of Seth Zartman at Bethel in Mishawaka, Ind., in 2017-18.

Huling was an hitting/outfield coach in Woodruff’s senior year at Holy Cross then brought him onto the IUSB staff.

“I was always a great outfielder and defender, but it was always just natural,” says Woodruff. “I never had anyone teach me. He was constantly getting us to improve on what we did yesterday.

“At IUSB, it was what were we doing as a team to get better that day. Each day, we’re going to improve a little bit.”

Woodruff always wants to get better as a coach and see his atheles make steady progress.

“As soon as you think you know it all, get out of baseball because it’s constantly improving and adapting,” says Woodruff. “There’s so much information out there. Try to just be a sponge.”

At Bethel, Woodruff saw the way Zartman and assistant Kiel Boynton went about their daily business.

“I try to take everything in and that’s what it’s been like this first two or three weeks at Ancilla,” says Woodruff. “I’m constantly learning.

“That’s the kind of team I want to have on the field year in and year out — one that wants to adapt and improve.”

Woodruff, who was hired to a part-time position at Ancilla by athletic director Brian Pearison, has been consulting with groundskeeping guru and longtime family friend Joel Reinebold about getting the Chargers’ playing facility in shape.

“He’s definitely someone I will lean on as I’m getting started and as I move forward,” says Woodruff of Reinebold.

John and Teri Woodruff both have coaching and athletic administration backgrounds but they never pressured their only child to participate in sports.

“They got it right the first time,” says Chris Woodruff. “They just wanted me to be doing something. They’ve definitely been great role models for me and they are the backbone of my support system.”

Growing up, Chris was always around for dad’s softball games in the spring and summer and helped his mother at football games (at Penn High School then Adams).

“I was always around athletics,” says Woodruff. “It’s something I’ve grown to love.”

Woodruff also appreciates all the community support.

There’s a whole village that helped me get to this point and I have been to thank,” says Woodruff. “I’m always adapting, improving, learning and growing.”

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Chris Woodruff, a South Bend John Adams High School graduate who played at Glen Oaks Community College and Holy Cross, is the new head baseball coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

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New Ancilla College head baseball coach Chris Woodruff, 25, is working to fill his roster for 2018-19 while also improving the playing facility at the two-year school near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)