BY STEVE KRAH
A baseball-mad town and surrounding area will be the focus of the Indiana high school diamond community this summer.
The 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North-South All-Star Series are scheduled for the week of June 17.
“We’re going to make it a week-long event,” says Tim Armstrong, head baseball coach at Madison Consolidated High School. “We’re exciting about having an opportunity to host. We want to do it up right.
“We’re going to make the all-stars feel like all-stars.”
Festivities are to be held at Madison Consolidated, nearby Hanover College as well as on and along the Ohio River.
Madison boasts the “largest contiguous national historic district in the United States” with sites, landmarks and tours plus speciality shopping, restaurants and cafes and the lure of Clifty Falls State Park.
Madison Consolidated will be the site of three all-star games for seniors (25 each representing the North and South) on the weekend. Hanover will house the players and be the site of the Futures Games (replaces the Junior Showcase) and all-star banquet.
Armstrong says Armstrong says Governor Eric Holcomb has agreed to throw out a first pitch. Indiana University head coach Jeff Mercer has been tapped to be the keynote speaker at the all-star banquet.
The plan is to get local youth leaguers and Boys & Girls Club members involved in the fun.
Madison has long considered making a bid for the North-South Series. When Armstrong returned to the Madison Consolidated program for his second stint as head coach, he and former assistant Mike Modesitt (who now tends to all of Madison’s outdoor athletic facilities) began planning and got the mayor’s office and tourism folks involved.
Armstrong served as Madison’s mayor (Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2011) and was a city police officer for many years. He is currently certified through the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office and a resource officer at Madison Consolidated.
Basketball is also dear to Armstrong. He was varsity assistant in boys basketball at Madison two different times and was a lay head boys hoops coach at Shawe Memorial Memorial High School in Madison for two seasons.
The baseball-playing Madison Cubs call Gary O’Neal Field home.
Former Madison head coach Gary O’Neal, who retired for the second time after the 2002 season with 601 career victories, is a member of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Armstrong graduated from Shawe Memorial in 1979. He became an assistant to O’Neal at Madison in 1982.
He started as Shawe’s head coach in 1989 and took the Hilltoppers the IHSAA Class 1A State Finals in 2001, losing 1-0 to eventual state champion Triton in the semifinals.
After sitting out the 2002 season, he returned as Madison’s head coach from 2003-07, resigned to serve as mayor and then got back into law enforcement. He returned to the program for the 2017 season.
Gary O’Neal Field is getting a new scoreboard and windscreen this spring and plans call for an expansion to permanent seating.
During Armstrong’s first stint with the Cubs, he enlisted the help of Madison American Legion Post 9 and got upgrades to the park like irrigation, a new back stop and fencing and a three-tier press box.
“It’s constant work if you want a nice facility,” says Armstrong. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and June. But we’re getting there.”
Madison Consolidated (enrollment around 875) is the smallest school in the Hoosier Hills Conference (which also includes Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany and Seymour).
A tournament determines the HHC champion.
“It’s a great conference,” says Armstrong. “It’s traditionally strong.”
The Cubs are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville and South Dearborn. Madison has won 22 sectionals — the last in 2009. A 3A state championship was earned in 1999 as the Cubs topped Fort Wayne Carroll 10-0.
Bryan Bullington was the winning pitcher in that contest, capping off a 15-0 senior season.
Bullington was selected in the 37th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals, but opted to go to college. He played three seasons at Ball State University and was chosen No. 1 overall in the 2002 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his MLB debut with the Pirates in 2005 and went on to pitch for the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals then in Japan.
Armstrong’s 2019 assistants include Joe Jenner, Ryan Mahoney and Drew Frazier with the varsity and Derek Wynn, Peyton Head and James “Doc” Boyd with the junior varsity or C-teams.
Local attorney Jenner and insurance agent Mahoney both played on Madison’s 1999 state championship team. Frazier played for Armstrong during his first stint as head coach.
Wynn also played one season for Armstrong at Madison. Head is a Hanover student. Boyd played at Evansville Memorial.
Armstrong’s core coaching values include taking responsibility for one’s actions.
“I stress accountability,” says Armstrong. “I hold them accountable for what they do on and off the field.”
The coach also looks to build a relationship and a sense of trust with his student-athletes.
“I’m very personable with my players,” says Armstrong. “We’re building the character and the type of person they will be once leave high school.”
Armstrong says he appreciates the drive and camaraderie of his current group.
“These kids work hard and they get along together,” says Armstrong. “That’s a big part of it.”
There are 30 in the Madison Consolidated program in 2019.
“Our middle school program is really strong,” says Armstrong. “They are athletes and baseball players. They’re going bump our numbers back up.”
There are close to 30 for seventh and eighth grade squads that play in the spring. The Madison Junior High School field is inheriting the old scoreboard and batting cage from Gary O’Neal Field.
This year, Madison Baseball Club aka Mudcats will field eight travel teams ranging from 7U to 14U. The 14U team, made up mostly of seventh and eighth graders, goes by the Madison Fusion.
Not strictly a Madison organization, players are welcomed from all over southeastern Indiana.
“We want to give kids an opportunity where they can play and not travel far and play a lot of money,” says Armstrong, who indicates that costs to families are cut through fundraising and sponsorships.
Mudcats and Fusion players are encouraged to participate with the local recreation leagues during the week and their travel teams on the weekend.
Madison American Legion Post 9, which won a state championship in 2000, went on hiatus in 2018. Armstrong and Jenner were coaches and would like to bring the team back in the future.
“(Post 9) pays for it all,” says Armstrong, who saw American Legion Post 9 Field become a reality at Shawe Memorial and games move to Gary O’Neal Field when he landed there. “It doesn’t cost the kids a dime to play.”
Armstrong played Legion ball for Delbert Liter in the ’70s and later coached with him.
Tim Armstrong is in his second stint at head baseball coach at Madison (Ind.) Consolidated High School.