Tag Archives: History

Foundry Field project using baseball to build community in South Bend’s urban core, tell hidden histories

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Enriching the community through baseball and telling the stories of underrepresented groups is the aim of bringing Foundry Field to South Bend’s Southeast Neighborhood Park.
A vision meeting attended by 10 people happened in the fall of 2018. The project was launched in 2019.
“We’re passionate about it,” says Matthew Insley, project chairman and Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation president. “We’re all committed to South Bend.
“We were slowed by COVID-19. But that presented an opportunity to dig in with partnerships.”
Community partners include Boys & Girls Club of St. Joseph County, Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Civil Rights Heritage Center at Indiana University South Bend, South Bend Community School Corporation, South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts, Southeast Organized Area Residents (SOAR) and The History Museum.
As part of Phase One, Nov. 5 is the deadline for a crowdfunding campaign, featuring a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Construction is to begin in 2023 with play starting in 2024.
Phase Two includes public and private funding for historical research and public art. Phase Three is centered on community space.
With the help of our donors and collaborators, the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation has the goal of placing a diamond and showcase public art and historical markers that pay tribute to undervalued legends of the past near downtown. Southeast Neighborhood Park is located at Fellows and Wenger streets.
Among the hidden histories to be highlighted are those of the Foundry Giants (an African-American baseball team that played in South Bend’s Studebaker Industrial League in the 1930’s) and Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team that excelled in the region in the ’30s and ‘40s).
“We want to tell these stories about baseball history,” says Insley. “I’d like to see the game return to the day when it had a lot more diversity. Baseball has become an elite, exclusive game. It was never that.
“Are we going to change the world? No. But we’re going to do our part.”
Insley and Mike Hebbeler (who is program director at the Center for Social Concerns) founded the Sappy Moffitt Baseball League in 2013.
The league — named for former South Bend Green Stockings pitcher Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt, who was born in nearby New Carlisle and is the all-time leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in South Bend professional baseball history — features more than 120 adults playing recreational games on Sunday afternoons at Boland Park.
Team names are a nod to the heritage and places in South Bend. There’s the Du Lac Rockets, Ironhides, Monroe Park Millracers, Oliver Chill, Ottawa Arrowheads, Porters, River Park LongNecks, South Shore Liners and Studebaker Larks.
“We want to play in the urban core,” says Insley, who sees Foundry Field as a place not only for the adult league but for youths in organized or pick-up baseball.
“It’s been near to see guys playing with their kids in (the Sappy Moffitt League). There’s something powerful about kids watching adults play.”
A train wall will double as an outfield barrier and a location for murals and markers.
“It becomes more than a baseball field,” says Insley. “It’s a broadly-utilized space — an impactful space.”
Clinton Carlson, an associate professor for Visual Communication in Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design and a Sappy Moffitt League player, has lent his expertise to the group for the past year.
“I’m a designer,” says Carlson. “I use my skills to help share the vision of Foundry Field.
“Let’s get more baseball being played by adults and kids. We want to drive more kids to play. We don’t want to replace rec leagues or Little Leagues that might be struggling.”
Milt Lee, the Director of Community Programs and K-12 Athletics for South Bend Community School Corporation, got to know project originators as a player with the Studebaker Larks.
“I discovered that these are really sincere guys — not just in everyday life but when it came to being responsible community people,” says Lee. “When they brought the idea of creating a field where people can mentor young people, come and play pick-up baseball, learn how to become good teammates and learn life lessons you certainly can’t pass it up. It means everything to South Bend Schools.”
Lee says the aim of the corporation is aligned with the Foundry Field project.
“A major strategic priority of ours is to introduce non-traditional Olympic sports to kids in underserved communities throughout the corporation,” says Lee. “One of those sports happens to be baseball.
“The number of kids in South Bend — particularly black kids — has dramatically decreased since the 1970s.
“We’ve determined to create equitable access to those types of sports in those areas. That’s a major priority of ours. One is the reasons is that the more kids are exposed to games at an early age the more they’ll play multiple sports and play sports for a lifetime so they’ll have better mental and physical health. We’re trying to change health outcomes in underserved communities through recreation and athletics.”
Lee says the area around Southeast Neighborhood Park has a reputation of being a tough place to live.
“I can’t think of a better area and neighborhood to have a beautiful space and place that would make people feel proud and be a place where kids and families could gather to have unbelievable experiences,” says Lee.
South Bend Community Schools — where there is open enrollment and magnet schools — is taking a neighborhood approach with its students. Lee sees programs like those at Foundry Field and nearby facilities like the Boys & Girls Club will get as many as possible to go to Riley High School.
“We want to make sure all the coaches, athletic directors and families
gather as a neighborhood and begin to build relationships that would encourage them to stay together,” says Lee. “If we can keep these kids connected early in their neighborhoods, the better chance we have to keep those kids in our high school system.
“We can stave off some of that migration (to corporations outside South Bend).”
As Lee sees it, high schools ADs — Dawn Huff at Adams, Al Hartman at Clay, Seabe Gavin at Riley and Garland Hudson at Washington among them — should be be seen as the neighborhood CEO for sports and athletics and invite young kids to campus for camps and competitions etc.
Lee says there is some baseball for SBCSC middle schoolers.
“We’ve been losing student-athletes left and right in our middle school program because of the whole travel baseball phenomenon. The more we have kids playing the game at age 5, 6, 7, 8 and working with our Little Leagues, I think we can create some type of base training and feeder program to our high schools.
“The sooner we can get kids playing the game and make they fall in love with it and get them connected to really good coaches, we hope to have them playing the game for a lifetime.”
A diversity of interests and talents are going into the project. Some are focused on the baseball side. Others on fundraising, grant writing, design or historical research.
Greg Bond, Sports Archivist for Hesburgh Libraries and the Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection at Notre Dame, is affiliated with the school’s Sport, Media and Culture Minor.
He is helping with research and notes that the stories will be told through a variety of media and does not need to be constrained to a physical location such as the location of Foundry Field.
“It will be accessible to people in other ways to be determined,” says Bond. “We want to make this a sustainable project (for future researchers). One big push is to make it not dependent on people involved right now. That’s very important.
“It’s heartening to see how many people are passionate about this project.”
Katherine Walden, an Assistant Teaching Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame, is also part of the Foundry Field project along with her students.
Among courses regularly taught by Walden is “Baseball and America.”

Foundry Field is coming to the urban core in South Bend, Ind.
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
One of the hidden histories to be told at Foundry Field is that of Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team. (Northern Indiana Center for History Photo)
Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt.

The Sappy Moffitt Baseball League was founded in South Bend, Ind., in 2013.

Borden begins professional career in Houston Astros system

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tim Borden II just wanted a chance to show what he can do on the diamond.
So the infielder and 2018 graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., transferred from the University of Louisville to Georgia Tech for the 2022 collegiate baseball season. He was familiar with the school and program since the two schools are both in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Playing in 55 games for the ’22 Danny Hall-coached Yellow Jackets, the righty swinger hit .316 (60-of-190) with 18 home runs, 11 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 56 runs scored and 1.106 OPS (.448 on-base percentage plus .658 slugging average).
“I felt like I had to give myself the opportunity to play every day,” says Borden, 23. “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player.
“It all worked out the way I wanted to.”
Borden, who was selected in the 37th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians but opted for college, was chosen in the 16th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. He got into 26 games with the Florida Complex League Astros and Asheville (N.C.) Tourists and hit .286 (24-of-84) with six homers and 21 RBIs. He played shortstop, third base and second base.
“I’m very familiar with all three of those positions,” says Borden. “I like them all equally. As long as I’m out there playing every day I’m OK with wherever I play.”
The last day of the Astros two-week instructional league in West Palm Beach, Fla., was Sept. 25.
He plans to spend his off-season working out in Louisville with Eric Hammer.
Borden, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, describes his hitting approach.
“I’m always looking to attack the fastball early on in the count,” says Borden. “Any off-speed pitch that starts in the middle or down in the zone I’m letting go by.”
His best athletic qualities are twofold.
“Being a competitor and being confident are the two biggest things,” says Borden. “I always know my confidence is going to be through the roof because I put in the preparation. I’ve done the work.
“When it comes to game time I’m able to be free and have fun.”
Tim Borden II is the son of Tim Borden Sr. and grandson of Ray Borden and considers them his two biggest mentors.
“Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Tim II. “They’ve always shown me what hard work looks like whether it’s in a business forum or in the weight room.
“I’ve always looked up to them in every aspect of life.”
Borden graduated in three years from Louisville as a Sport Administration major with a minor in Communication. He was studying History, Technology & Communication at Georgia Tech.
Born in Jeffersonville, Ind., Borden spent the first nine years of his life there and played at Jeff/GRC Little League. He played travel ball for the Ironmen, Evoshield Canes and Georgia-based Team Elite.
A four-year baseball letterwinner and three-time first team All-State selection at Providence, Borden helped the Pioneers win an IHSAA Class 2A state title in as a sophomore in 2016.
He hit .417 with seven homers, 12 doubles, 38 RBIs and 28 runs as a junior in 2017. He hit .484 with six homers, 12 doubles, 41 RBIs and 28 runs as a senior in 2018.
Scott Hornung was Borden’s head coach all four years at Providence.
“He allowed me to play my game and to compete at a very high level with all the other guys on my team,” says Borden of Hornung. “That’s what allowed us to run to make a run to a state cham[pionshiup and to the semistate the year after that.”
“Coach Hornung was always in my corner and for that I will always be grateful.”
Marissa Hornung, who played volleyball at Providence and Purdue University, is one of Borden’s best friends.
Borden was redshirted for his first year at Louisville (2019) and played for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals for two years (2020 and 2021), earning Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. In 32 games at U of L, he hit .309 (21-of-68) with one homer and 14 RBIs.
He worked out at Louisville in the summer of 2018. He split the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Quincy (Ill.) Gems and Northwoods League’s Rochester (Minn.) Honkers. He was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in its first two seasons (2020 and 2021).
Tim Borden Sr. and wife Patty have three children — Tim II, Grant and Brooke. Providence senior infielder Grant Borden is committed to play baseball at Mercer University (Macon, Ga.). Brooke Borden (Class of 2025) plays volleyball for Providence.

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Asheville Tourists Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Enright emphasizes mental approach with Wheeler Bearcats

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeff Enright sees baseball as more than just physical. There’s what goes on between the ears, too.
“Baseball is kind of a unique sport,” says Enright, the head coach at Wheeler (Ind.) High School since the summer of 2019. “There’s so much thought that goes into every position and every pitch.
“There’s the mental approach and how to overcome short-term adversity.”
Players will face a bad call by the umpire or have a sure hit robbed by a great catch, but they must move forward or it becomes a negative.
“That’s what I enjoy most about coaching baseball,” says Enright. “You try to put them in healthy stressful situations as much as you can during the off-season.
“You make them uncomfortable and failing and then you build them back up.”
Enright equates mental training with mental health.
“These kids are 14 to 18,” says Enright. “They are still growing emotionally. Their highs are too high and lows too low.”
The coach goes for even-keel.
“We say you’re never as bad or as good as you think you are,” says Enright. “We talk about it all the time.”
For every four practices on the baseball field, the Bearcats are in the class room going over the last few practices or games. Enright likes to do this debriefing on a rainy day.
Wheeling won the program’s sixth sectional title in 2021.
While right-handed pitcher Rex Stills (9-1, 1.37 earned run average, 100 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings) and infielder Sean Conroy have moved on — Stills to Purdue Fort Wayne and Conroy to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.
Returnees for 2022 include senior outfielder Nehemiah Parrish, senior catcher/outfielder Dylan Passauer, senior corner infielder/right-hander Kole Hutcheson, junior shortstop Kris Kingery, junior right-hander/outifleder Mason Leckrone, sophomore utility man Mark Johnson, sophomore right-hander Lucas McNamara and sophomore third baseman/designated hitter Jackson Smith.
Parrish, who plans to enter the U.S. Marines after graduation, hit .414 with 30 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases in 2021.
Passauer has committed to the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Kingery is expected to be the Bearcats’ lead-off hitter.
Leckrone and Hutcheson are likely the team’s top two starting pitchers.
Johnson (.317, 13 RBI) and Smith (.355, 19 RBI) are coming off solid offensive seasons.
Of the 21 players in the program, most are juniors and sophomores.
“For a (Class) 2A school we’re pretty deep this year,” says Enright.
Wheeler (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Whiting).
With the addition of Illiana Christian, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Wheeler is paired with Calumet New Tech, Lake Station Edision, River Forest and Whiting.
The Bearcats do not have a conference JV schedule but has scheduled JV games on days when the varsity does not play.
“I want to get the young guys some reps,” says Enright.
Wheeler is part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Bowman Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting (host).
Enright’s varsity assistant is Joe Kennedy, who was a player for Enright at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. Enright was an assistant for the 2013 Class 4A Illinois state champions.
JV coaches are Union Township Middle School teacher Sean Cunningham and Alex Hutman (Wheeler Class of 2021).
Wheeler is due to get new baseball and softball fields with turf. First up is the turfing of the football field. The diamonds will be located on the other end of the property from their current locations.
“It may not be pure baseball in the traditional sense, but as soon as it stops raining you can play,” says Enright of playing on turf. “In our area of the country it’s tough to get a baseball season in in the spring.”
Wheeler is small incorporated Valparaiso community. The feeder system for the baseball program include Union Township Little League (T-ball through Senior League for middle schoolers).
Enright estimates that around 75 percent of players are with travel organizations, including Triple Crown Valparaiso, 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs and Cangelosi Sparks (Lockport, Ill.). Some also play American Legion ball for Post 502 Blaze coached by Bob Wineland.
An alum of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill. (1995), Enright with a double major in History and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1999. He went to Chicago-Kent College of Law and practiced product liability law at Schiff Hardin LLC in Chicago.
It was while clerking for a judge during law school that he got the idea that he might one day want to go into education. He teaches History and U.S. Government at Wheeler.
Before landing with the Bearcats, Enright was head coach at Calumet Tech. The 11 years prior to that was spent at Mount Carmel. He moved up from freshmen coach to sophomore coach and varsity assistant while working with Caravan head coach Brian Hurry.
“I learned most about coaching from him,” says Enright of Hurry. “The biggest thing was how to have a personal relationship with each kid to try to maximize their potential.”
A member of the Chicago Catholic League, Mount Carmel players are recruited while in middle school.
“We get to know them in sixth and seventh grade as you’re trying to entice them to come to your school,” says Enright. “You hope you know how they tick.”
During his time at Mount Carmel, the baseball community rallied over a series of tragedies. Complications of a heart defect took Steven “Stevie” M. Bajenski in 2009 (the first Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Baseball Tournament was played in 2012). The Caravan also lost a coach to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and another player passed on July 4.
“It brought everybody closer together,” says Enright. “Everybody was reeling.”
Jeff and wife Kerry have three children in the Union Township School Corporation — junior Emily (16), eighth grader Sarah (14) and sixth grader Jack (11).

Jeff Enright

Alum Reister emphasizes ‘little things’ with Henryville Hornets

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s uniforms say “Hornets.” But first-year head baseball coach and alum Cody Reister wants “guys that have the dog in them.”
“We want to be tough defensively and on the base paths — someone that executes all the time,” says Reister (Class of 2013). “That’s our focus. Everyone can hit to some extent, but not everyone can do the little things well.”
Reister played for and coached with Jeff Schroeder who led the Henryville for 27 seasons.
As a student and player at Hanover (Ind.) College — where pitched for Panthers coach Shayne Stock (the 6-foot-3 right-hander was 6-1 out of the bullpen as a senior) — Reister would help out Schroeder’s Henyrville teams when he could.
Reister was born in Jeffersonville, Ind., and moved from Salem, Ind., to Henryville in second grade. He played American Legion baseball for Doc Boyd’s Scottsburg Post 234 team and later Ricky Romans’ Floyds Knobs Post 42 squad.
After graduating HC in 2017 with a History degree, Reister came home and became a middle school science teacher and to coach in the boys basketball and baseball programs.
As Henryville approaches the start of official practice March 14, Reister sees six or seven players with mound potential.
During conditioning, his players have been throwing footballs to build up arm strength.
A year ago, Reister worked almost exclusively with pitchers and catchers.
“We threw a ton of fastballs and change-ups,” says Reister. “It’s just as effective as anything if you can do it correctly.”
The competitor in Reister would not have been receptive to the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) when he played. But the coach in him understands.
“It puts you in-tune with development and what you’re guys can do,” says Reister. “I understand the reasoning for it.”
Reister, who is assisted by Henrville classmate Bailey Hall as well as Tim Hawkins, expects have have 12 or 13 players in 2022.
“We’re pretty light this year,” says Reister. “We have a bunch of kids in middle school. Hopefully we get them to continue on (with baseball).”
As a feeder system, there is Henryville Youth Sports (wee-ball to 12U) and Henryville Elite (a teams for Grades 6-8 not affiliated with the school that plays in the spring and summer).
The Hornets play on a diamond located on the west side of campus.
“Our field is very, very nice,” says Reister of the facility with Bermuda grass in the infield.
Henryville (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth).
Other non-conference foes include Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central, Providence, Rock Creek Academy, Salem, Seymour, Scottsburg, Silver Creek, Southwestern (Hanvover) and Trinity Lutheran.
In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Providence. Henryville has won six sectional titles — the last in 2008.
March 2 marked 10 years since a EF4 tornado caused extensive damage to Henryville, killing one person and destroying the schools.
Rise Above Mental Health/Illness is a podcast hosted by Henryville senior athletes Caleb Lehaceanu, J.D. Michael and Tyler Orberson. The latest episode was dedicated to the tornado. Senior Sam Gilles, who was inside the elementary on that unforgettable day in 2012, was a podcast guest.
Reister is to be on the student-led podcast in the near future.
To follow the Hornets, see the Henrville High School Baseball page on Facebook.

Cody Reister.
Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s baseball field.

Martinsville’s Peterson puts stock in education, unity, fun

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tutterow Field is the varsity baseball diamond at Martinsville (Ind.) High School. It is named for late Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow, who led the Artesians for 39 years through 2008.
Second-year Martinsville head coach Adam Peterson says getting to play there has to be earned.
“In order to be on the that field you’ve got to take care of business in the classroom,” says Peterson, who is also assistant principal at John R. Wooden Middle School in Martinsville. “That’s our first emphasis before we even get to the baseball part.”
MHS students are on a trimester schedule.
“It’s also about being good citizens and teammates and taking care of each other. Even if you’re not the best player on the team, you still have something to give.”
Peterson also wants his student-athletes to improve each day and have fun while they’re doing it.
“Winning is fun,” says Peterson. “But it’s the idea of being around their friends and relishing those experiences. The season is a grind with practices and games. We want to mix it up, keep the kids on their toes and keep it fresh.”
Peterson, who was a middle infielder in high school then played almost all the positions in college, encourages his players to be be versatile.
“It gives you more of an opportunity to be in the lineup everyday,” says Peterson.
In 2021, Martinsville had just over 30 players in the program at the end of the season for varsity and junior varsity games.
At a preliminary meeting this fall, 46 showed up to show their baseball interest.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period ended Oct. 16. Twice a week, 10 to 13 athletes met twice a week for baseball activities (many others were in fall sports). Baseball players continue to lift weights twice a week with Martinsville head strength & conditioning coach Ethan Breach.
Tutterow Field is behind a new fieldhouse. The grand opening for the facility which his plenty of rubberized floor space and batting cages was Oct. 8.
Assistant coaches for 2022 are expected to be Martinsville alums Steve Bunton, Layne Bayird and Gary Brittain.
The Artesians had one senior in 2021 — Braxton Wilson. The right-handed pitcher signed at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Right-hander Brandon Dodson (Class of 2020) landed at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill.
Verbal commitments to the University of Evansville have been made by catcher/shortstop Andrew Payton (Class of 2022) and left-hander/outfielder Kevin Reed (Class of 2023).
Last spring, Martinsville had junior high baseball. Seventh and eighth grade teams not affiliated with the school played against conference teams. In 2022, the school system hopes to sponsor the program.
Peterson joined Martinsville schools in 2016-17 and was a baseball assistant to Jeff Scott for two seasons (2017-18). The Artesians won a sectional title in 2017.
Martinsville (enrollment around 1,300) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland Community).
In 2021, the Artesians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Mooresville and Whiteland Community. Martinsville has won 15 sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Before Martinsville, Peterson spent a year as assistant principal at Indiana Math & Science Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis.
Prior to that, Peterson was at Rio Rancho (N.M.) High School for nine years, where he was head assistant for four seasons then a volunteer while he and wife Donna started their family. Rio Rancho head coach Ron Murphy is the all-time wins leader in New Mexico high school baseball history. The Murphy-coached Rams won Class 5A state titles in 2007 and 2009 and he is in the New Mexico Baseball Coaches Association and New Mexico Sports halls of fame.
“He’s a fun guy,” says Peterson of Murphy, who built the Rio Rancho program from scratch. “He’s originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s got some good stories.”
Before New Mexico, Peterson taught on an Indian reservation in Hayes Lodge Pole, Mont.
That’s where he met his future wife. When the New Jersey native applied to the University of New Mexico for her doctorate in History, that’s where the couple landed. The Petersons ended up in Indiana when Donna Peterson went to work at Indiana University and she is now teaching Ivy Tech History courses at Martinsville High.
Before Montana, Adam taught and coached in the Superior, Wis./Duluth, Minn., area.
Peterson graduated from Superior High School in 1999. He played four years of baseball – three varsity — for Spartans head coach Steve Fregin.
At the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Peterson was a four-year starter for Yellowjackets head coach Jim Stukel.
Adam and Donna’s three children are daughter Emma (12), Caleb (almost 10) and daughter Blair (5).

Martinsville (Ind.) High School’s 2017 sectional baseball champions.
Adam Peterson.
Adam Peterson.
Donna, Emma, Blair, Caleb and Adam Peterson.
Rio Rancho High School’s 2007 New Mexico Class 5A state baseball champions.
Rio Rancho’s Micah Martinez and Adam Peterson in 2009.
Ron Murphy and Adam Peterson in 2018.

New Richmond head coach Brankle combining Old School, New School

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Brankle is a familiar face in a different place on the Wayne County, Ind., baseball scene.
Brankle pitched at Earlham College and for the Richmond RiverRats and was head coach for the Richmond Jazz and Cambridge City Lincoln Middle/High School.
In July, the 28-year-old became head coach at Richmond High School.
With the Red Devils, Brankle is establishing a culture where Old School meets New School.
“I’m going to use a lot of the Old School strategies, but try to do it with a modern approach,” says Brankle. “That’s what our players have grown up with.
“We’re going to be disciplined in how we handle every moment of our day. I’m high on grades. We expect to miss zero assignments and have zero F’s. We’ll be 10 minutes early everywhere we go, including school. We’ll be dressed properly with shirts tucked in and hats forward.
“I know there’s a lot more to this life than baseball I’m going to try to teach them skills in baseball that will help them in those situations.”
Brankle has learned coaches he played for and applied it to his coaching style.
“I’ve taken the best of all of those and found a middle ground,” says Swinson.
Steve Swinson was his coach with the Kokomo (Ind.) Longhorns travel ball team.
“He never yelled,” says Brankle of Swinson. “He built a relationship with you that you respected.
“My high school coaches were more demanding, but also understood the New School mentality.”
Brankle played three years for Jeremy Luna and Brent Owens as a senior at Taylor High School in Kokomo.
(Luna) was hard-nosed — kind of a football style — and was upbeat all the time,” says Brankle, who played shortstop and third base when he was not pitching for the Titans. “(Owens) was even-keeled most of the time.”
At Earlham, Brankle’s head coach was Steve Sakosits.
“Coach was full of energy all the time — most of the time it was positive,” says Brankle of Sakosits. “He has one heckuva of a drive in him and it definitely leaks out to his players.”
Old School in his approach, Coach Sak’s Quakers were expected to be clean-shaven with short hair cuts.
At EC, Brankle was named Newcomer of the Year (2012), Pitcher of the Year (2013) and earned the All-Heartland Collegiate Conference Sportsmanship Award (2013), Captains Award (2015) and George Van Dyke Outstanding Athlete Award (2015). At the time of graduation, he was No. 1 in all-time strikeouts, No. 2 in career saves and innings and No. 3 in career mound appearances.
Brankle played for the RiverRats in the summers of 2013 and 2014. After graduating in 2015 with a Fine Arts degree, he played independent professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers.
He was the head coach for the Jazz in the summer of 2016 and assisted Patrick Flanagan at Eaton (Ohio) High School in the springs of 2016 and 2017.
Brankle was head coach at Cambridge City 2018-21. He taught at Richmond Community School’s Test Intermediate School for 2 1/2 years before Cambridge City and is now a Special Education teacher at Richmond’s Dennis Middle School.
In May 2021, Brankle completed a Masters in Education from Indiana University East and is now working on a Masters in Educational Leadership from American College of Education.
Richmond (enrollment around 1,375) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon and Muncie Central).
The NCC is split into two divisions with Richmond in the East.
In 2021, the Red Devils were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights (2021 host). Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last in 2011.
Richmond plays home games on John Cate Field at Don McBride Stadium.
“The history is the best part,” says Brankle of a park built in the 1930s that has seen Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and many more diamond legends play there. “We don’t talk about it enough.
“Some of the kids don’t understand the significance.”

Matt and wife of seven years, Kelsey Brankle, have three children — daughters Amillia (5) and Abigail (3) and son Broden (1 1/2).

Matt Brankle (Richmond High School Photo)
The Brankle family (from left): Amillia, Abigail, Broden, Kelsey and Matt.
The Brankle family (from left): First row — Amillia and Abigail; Back row — Broden, Matt and Kelsey.

Baker, Flemm guiding Elkhart Christian Academy Eagles

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A 30-something from Indiana and a 20-something from New Jersey have come together to lead the baseball program at Elkhart (Ind.) Christian Academy.

Shawn Baker, 34, and Matthew Flemm, 24, are co-head coaches for the Eagles. 

Baker graduated from Northridge High School (Middlebury, Ind.) in 2005 and Manchester University (North Manchester, Ind.) in 2009 as a Grades 5-12 Social Studies major.

He played at Northridge for two head coaches — Mike Logan and Troy Carson. Rick Espeset was his coach for four seasons at Manchester.

Northridge was very competitive in Baker’s junior and senior seasons and the friendships started off the field carried on to it.

“We’d have our backs there, too,” says Baker.

“Both Mike and Troy instilled the hard-nosed baseball philosophy in us as players,” says Baker of Logan and Carson. “It’s working hard in practice and seeing the transfer over in games.

“I learned a lot from Coach Espeset about the ‘why’ and the philosophy of the game of baseball.”

As an educator, Baker was at South Bend (Ind.) Career Academy and Westview High School in Topeka, Ind., and has been at Northridge Middle School for the past eight years, teaching eighth grade Social Studies and coaching seventh grade boys basketball.

He has served an assistant baseball coach at Dowagiac (Mich.) Union High School and Westview for Warriors head coach Jason Rahn.

“I had been getting the itch to coach baseball again,” says Baker, who applied at ECA and was hired in mid-February. The first official day of practice was March 15.

Baker has been married for eight years. Shawn and Heather have a girl and two boys — Aleah (6), Colson (4) and Bennett (2).

Shawn’s younger brother, Shannon Baker, played at Northridge and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and is now an assistant to A.J. Risedorph at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind.

Flemm is an alum of Veritas Christian Academy in Sparta, N.J., where he pitched for the Lions baseball team and graduated in 2015. He finished his course work at Cedarville (Ohio) University as a History major and double minor in International Studies and Bible in December and is planning to attend May 1 commencement. 

He was contacted by former Veritas Christian administrator and current Elkhart Christian secondary principal Sean Bevier who informed him of the baseball coach opening. Flemm was working with the Sussex County Miners Travel Baseball 13U team. Besides coaching, he is substitute and study hall teacher at ECA.

Baker and Flemm, who are assisted by former Elkhart Christian players Mark Stevens and T.J. Tice, guide a group of 12 players that includes one senior (Matt Elmerick), no juniors and the rest sophomores and freshmen.

Some have played travel ball. Others have little baseball experience.

“It sounds cliche’, but we’re working on getting better each day,” says Baker. “We want them listening to what we tell them and trying to apply it on the field.”

Three — Elmerick and sophomores Jude Reynolds and Luke Schramm — split their time between baseball and the Eagles track and field team coached by Allen Lollis. With the help of athletic director Richelle Viront, game and practice schedules are coordinated to accommodate both spring programs.

Elkhart Christian Academy (enrollment around 160) is a member of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with IHSAA Class 1A schools Argos, Bethany Christian, Lakeland Christian Academy, South Bend Career Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Only ECA, Argos, Bethany have baseball teams this spring.

The Eagles are part of an 1A sectional grouping with Bethany Christian, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont (the 2021 host), Hamilton and Lakewood Park Christian. ECA won a sectional title in 2013. 

Besides conference and sectional foes, ECA’s regular-season schedule includes games with 4A’s Concord, Mishawaka and South Bend Riley, 3A’s Culver Academy, John Glenn, Lakeland and NorthWood, 2A’s Bremen and LaVille and 1A’s Culver Community and Oregon-Davis.

“We play a lot of these really big school,” says Flemm. “That’s going to set us up for success in the conference and a state tournament time.”

The Eagles are trying to develop pitchers and catchers on the fly. Many will get a turn on the mound.

“Everybody’s a pitcher until we figure out that’s not your forte’,” says Baker. 

Something that was ingrained during Flemm’s travel and high school pitching career was the importance of control.

“Throwing strikes is the only way you’re going to succeed,” says Flemm. “Our second game (against LaVille) we had more strikes and that was awesome to see.

“It’ll just take a lot of refinement and more experience for the guys on the bump.”

Baker looks for ECA pitchers to develop a fastball and change-up and be able to hit their spots with it.

Flemm is upbeat about the future.

“We see a lot of potential,” says Flemm. “It’s been a blessing working with this group of guys.

“I’m excited for what’s coming and how we can develop these guys even more.”

As a private K-12 school, ECA does not always know who will be attending from year to year.

Flemm says there has been talk of starting a junior high baseball program. He has noticed interest in the game among students in those grades.

“It’s something, hopefully, Coach Baker and I can start.” says Flemm, who notes that he and Baker will lead a youth baseball camp ECA in early June. “We’ll get a chance to see what kind of talent we have coming in.”

The Elkhart Christian campus is located in an open area behind the school and next to the U.S. 20 By-Pass. A breeze seemingly never stops.

“We’re almost in a wind tunnel,” says Baker. “It can be difficult to hear (talk between players and coaches and players and other players). 

“We need to work on communication and use our big-boy voices so people can hear.”

Shawn Baker
Matthew Flemm

Fessel wants North Harrison Cougars to ‘Win The Day’

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“Win The Day.”

It’s a phrase that Kevin Fessel has tied to his role as head baseball coach at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind.

“We want to win in baseball, but we also want to be good people,” says Fessel, a 1996 North Harrison graduate. “I’m coaching young men to be husbands and fathers.

“Do what’s right even when no one’s watching.”

An assistant to Cody Johnson for three seasons, Fessel took over the Cougars program for the 2019 season. 

Of course, the 2020 schedule was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was kind of heart-breaking,” says Fessel. “I contacted schools in Harrison and Crawford counties to see if they wanted to put together a Senior Day. We had a date set. Then there were more stipulations and no visitors were allowed on-campus.

“It was even more of a gut punch.”

A member of the North Harrison Class of 2020 — Dawson Howell — did go to Vincennes University to play baseball. Colin Higdon (Class of 2021) has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College.

Other Cougars to move on to college ball include 2019 grads Justin Deatrick (Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.) and Jake Harley (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and 2018 grad Max Flock (Vincennes U.).

During fall and winter workouts, North Harrison players have worked on their glove work — back hands, forehands etc. There’s been plyo-ball and core work. They’ve also gotten into the school’s hitting facility to polish their mechanics. 

“We got outside as much as we could,” says Fessel. “We did long toss and get our arm strength.

“With missing last year, I feel we got put behind the 8-ball.”

Once things opened up again in the summer, a few of Fessel’s players got to play travel ball. But the majority of them did not see game action on the diamond though there was some practice in July.

“It was just fun to be outside more than anything,” says Fessel. “We were getting re-connected. It felt like we couldn’t see them for the longest time.”

During the shutdown, Fessel and his players stayed in-touch through group chats. To keep the boys’ minds sharp, he coach offered scenarios from the baseball case book. He’d ask, “What’s the call on this?”

“I was testing their I.Q. and keeping them baseball-minded,” says Fessel. “We were trying to keep upbeat and stay ready during that COVID time. Then they shut it all down. 

“A lot of (players) shut down themselves and I really worried about them.”

North Harrison (enrollment around 700) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. North Harrison has won nine sectional championships — the last in 2015.

Fessel’s 2021 assistant coaches include Tony Waynescott (varsity), John Miller (junior varsity) and volunteers Chris Koutsoubos and Micah Napper.

North Harrison plays its games on campus on a field that’s dimensions are larger than many high school facilities — 320 feet down the foul lines, 365 in gaps and 390 to dead center field. 

“We don’t see a lot of home runs,” says Fessel, who says baseballs used in 2021 will need to be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).

Fessel says the Cougars’ field is expected to see a new wind screen this spring.

A middle school club baseball team is part of North Harrison’s feeder program. Ideally, there are enough players for separate seventh and eighth grade teams who play in a league filled with Hoosier Hills Conference feeder schools.

Since the middle school shares the same field with the high school, there is a movement to get a Pony League diamond built at the North Harrison Cal Ripken complex. The youth league for Grades K-6 tends to have about 220 participants.

Fessel played baseball for Danny Schmidt and football for Chuck Walker — both still North Harrison teachers.

Both men set an example about work ethic.

“Danny was one of those guys who were there all the time,” says Fessel. “He worked hard. That stuck with me.

“He did it for the players.”

Walker saw Fessel go on to play football at the next level at Franklin College, where he played two seasons for Mike McClure and two for Bill Unsworth.

It was at Franklin that Fessel met Michelle Knoll. The couple will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and have three children — Brody (16), Bryce (13) and Abigail (9). 

North Harrison sophomore Brody Fessel is likely to be the Cougars’ starting catcher in 2021. He is also a varsity basketball player and football manager. Seventh grader Bryce Fessel plays football, basketball and is on the middle school baseball team. Third grader Abigail Fessel plays softball.

At LaPorte (Ind.) High School, Michelle was a batgirl for Hall of Fame coach Ken Schreiber

Since earning his History degree from Franklin and teaching certification at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Kevin has been an educator and football coach. 

He taught for nine years at Highland Hills Middle Schools (part of the Floyd Central system) and is in his sixth year at North Harrison Middle School, where he teaches eighth grade U.S. History. 

Fessel was on the varsity football staff at North Harrison 2000-08 — the last five assisting Jason Mullis. The 2009 season was spent with Brian Glesing at Floyd Central for coaching at Floyd Central Middle School 2010-14. In 2015, he returned to North Harrison. His primary responsibility on Mark Williamson’s staff is defensive line.

Kevin Fessel is the head baseball coach at Northern Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind.

Columbus East, Franklin College grad Claycamp gets pro ball opportunity in The Battle of the Bourbon Trail

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sam Claycamp began playing baseball at 3.

The Columbus, Ind., native had a pretty good idea might be on the diamond at 23.

But when his workouts before professional coaches and scouts did not yield an offer, he figured his baseball would come in an adult amateur league.

Claycamp played in a few games in one such circuit in Indianapolis when a unique pro opportunity arose.

He completed a paid internship in the purchasing department at Faurecia USA from the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2020. In December 2019, he earned his degree in History.

More than a year after his college eligibility ran out and eight months after getting his degree Claycamp signed to participate in The Battle of the Bourbon Trail — a co-op pro league. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing cancellation of the independent Frontier League and Low Class-A South Atlantic League seasons for 2020, a league was formed with two teams each in Lexington (Legends and Leyengas) and Florence (Y’alls and Freedom).

The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.

Other Indiana players in The Battle include Drew Ellis, Jeff Thompson, Walker Talcott, Will Baker, Joe Dougherty and Nick Floyd.

Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.

Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.

Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.

Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).

Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.

Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.

So far, Claycamp has played left field, third base and first base for the 2020 Lexington Legends, who counts Eddie Brooks as manager with former pro scout Steve Chandler as well as Chad Martin and Dom Fucci as coaches.

While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.

“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp. 

At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.

He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.

Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.

After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).

Lance Marshall is Franklin’s head coach.

“Coach Marshall’s awesome,” says Claycamp. “He’s very much a player’s coach.

“He lives and breathes baseball. He gets very in-depth with a lot of things. He’s talked more about the little things in baseball than anybody I’ve ever been around.”

But as important as the sport is, it’s not the top thing on Marshall’s list.

“From Day 1, he makes it very clear that it’s faith, family, baseball then school,” says Claycamp.

At East, Claycamp played for Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.

“It was a good program,” says Claycamp. “We always had a lot of good talent. They were guys I grew up playing with.”

Among them were Peyton Gray, Cam Curry, Will Anderson, Brian Wichman and Christian Wichman.

Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.

Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.

Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.

Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.

Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.

Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.

His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.

David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.

The Battle of the Bourbon Trail is a baseball co-op between Florence and Lexington in Kentucky. (Florence Y’alls/Lexington Legends Image)
Sam Claycamp played three baseball seasons at Franklin (Ind.) College, landing on the all-time Top 10 in several offensive categories. (Franklin College Photo)
Sam Claycamp played shortstop at Franklin (Ind.) College for three seasons (2017-19). He is a graduate of Columbus (Ind.) East High School. (Franklin College Photo)
Sam Claycamp was a .354 hitter in his three baseball seasons at Franklin (Ind.) College (2017-19). The Columbus (Ind.) East High School and FC graduate is now playing in The Battle of the Bourbon Trail pro league with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends. (Franklin College Photo)

Quest for knowledge takes Hall of Fame coach, educator Siler through all of his days

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Curiosity was a part of Dick Siler’s nature.

He wanted to know things.

When you talked with him you knew he was going to ask questions.

“What have you been up to?”

“How’s your mother?”

“Can you tell me something new?”

When he got a chance, he explored historical places and books and soaked in as much new knowledge as he could.

As a coach, he wanted to break down and understand plays and positions so he could convey those to his athletes.

It’s that sense of interest that took Siler through his 84 years.

No doubt he had the sense of wonder as a boy growing up on a poultry farm near Ashland, Ohio, and playing sports on that same land. He was a catcher in baseball and wound up as a center and linebacker in football. 

Too busy on the farm to go into Ashland to play ball, a plot was dedicated for that purpose. Sometimes it was used by the circus.

“It was two thirds football field, one third baseball field,” Siler once said. “The east end zone was just dirt.

“Dad let me use a panel truck,” said Siler. “I contacted people and got eight or nine other guys and we went around and played softball or baseball — probably more softball than baseball.

“If we had two bats, that was great. Most guys didn’t have baseball spikes.”

Siler carried big diamond dreams.

“I loved baseball so much,” said Siler. “I wanted to learn and nobody was teaching me.”

When it came time to play at Ashland High School, Siler (Class of 1953) did not play varsity. Future big league catcher John Roseboro (Class of 1951) was ahead of him.

“He threw a lot harder from his knees than I could shoot a gun behind the plate,” said Siler, who was on the junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore and at the start of his junior year.

Then came a call from the varsity. He got to the game on a Farmall F-20 tractor.

“It’s the only way I could get there,” said Siler. “I had no other vehicle.

“I threw on the gear. I didn’t have time to warm up  They put me right in.”

The first or second runner got on base and went to steal.

“When I threw the ball, I felt like my whole arm went down to second base,” said Siler. “Something just ripped in there. I couldn’t get the ball back to the pitcher. They ended up pulling me out the game.

“That was the last school ballgame that I played. That was heartbreaking.”

Siler went on to coach baseball for decades, but he never threw batting practice. He caught BP until one of his knees locked up on him. The number of reps made with a fungo bat is nearly incalculable.

From north central Ohio, Siler took his curiosity to North Manchester, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University), where he played football and got the knee injury to remember it by the rest of his days.

More importantly, it was at Manchester that he met Marjorie Thompson. The two wed in 1956 and wound up in her hometown of Elkhart, Ind. 

Dick took a job teaching and coaching at Jimtown High School after graduating Manchester in 1957.

His first coaching assignment was with Jimmies football. He was a coach all the way until the end, including the last 23 years as an assistant at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind.

The Siler family, which grew to include three children (Scott, Laurie and Julie), lived for years in Elkhart. Scott Siler was the Indiana Umpire of the Year in 2018.

Dick became head baseball coach at Elkhart High in 1968 and led that program through 1972. A split of the school sent him into a 25-year run as head baseball coach at Elkhart Memorial High School, where he also was a football assistant for many years.

The 1992 Crimson Chargers were the first Elkhart County baseball team to play in the IHSAA State Finals.

After retiring as coach and social studies teacher at Memorial (he won more than 500 games at the high school level), Siler accepted an invitation from Bethel head coach Sam Riggleman to join the Pilots staff. Margie came along as a scorekeeper. 

She fought a battle with cancer for two decades before dying in 2002. She got to live in a new house in Mishawaka for a short time. Bethel has presented a scholarship in her name and has a plaque in her honor at Patterson Field at Jenkins Stadium.

Dick Siler, who went on to be on the staffs of Mike Hutcheon and Seth Zartman, talked of his wife often. He passed away at his Mishawaka home around 1:45 a.m. Monday, July 20. 

What did he gain most from coaching all those years?

“I enjoy the kids just for who they are — seeing them grow or seeing them change,” said Siler. “I get to see the light go on — he finally gets the idea about timing and using the barrel of the bat to hit.”

Whether it was baseball, football, track, wrestling or basketball (he coached those sports, too), it was about instruction.

“I wanted to teach,” said Siler. “I wanted to tell them this is the best way to do it.

“Kids are hungry to learn if you’ll just teach them.

“Too many people do too much yelling and not teaching. Kids want to get better and they love the game.”

Siler was a founder of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and a member of the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. He also belonged to the American Baseball Coaches Association and National High School Baseball Coaches Association. He is also enshrined in sports halls of fame in Ashland County, Ohio, and Elkhart County, Ind.

Siler said he went into coaching baseball with a football mentality.

“A kid would say to me, ‘Coach, we’re trying not to fail,” said Siler. “That was a big learning and turning point for me. I need to teach them better than just yelling.

“For some, it’s just really hard (to fail). It destroys them. They failed Grandpa. They failed Dad. They failed the girlfriend. They failed the coach. It’s a heavy burden.”

Ever inquisitive, Siler asked these questions: How do we enjoy the sport more? and How do we get there?

“You don’t do it through negativity, I’ll tell you that,” said Siler. “My son (Scott) threw a bat once when he was really young and I made him run the hills. ‘But Daddy, I’m so young.’ I probably handled it a different way and I didn’t. That wasn’t right. 

“You make mistakes. You’ve got to live with those, too.”

As a high school baseball coach, Siler was faced with having to cut down his roster.

“Only so many people can make the team,” said Siler. When he took over at Elkhart High, he could not use freshmen and still had about 125 trying out. 

Siler and assistant Randy Miller had to do their evaluations inside a tiny downtown gym.

“We tried to be as fair as we could and didn’t have a whole lot of complaints,” said Siler. “Later, I did.”

Siler said figuring out the top and bottom of the roster is the easy part.

“Some of the kids who come up are coached by people who know baseball better than a lot of others,” said Siler. “The better athletes adjust faster and better than the lesser athletes.”

While Siler could teach technique and improve upon it, he knew that “some talent is just God-given.”

Siler said the difference in a successful high school player and an unsuccessful one came down to attitude.

“I’m not much on all-ness statements,” said Siler. “Sometimes the dog wags the tail and sometimes the tail wags the dog. In my perspective, the program is more important than the individual. Period.

“If you think you are going run the program or effect the program in a negative way, you’re not going to be around. The program is what it’s all about.”

Siler insisted on a pregame prayer.

“They’ll have to fire me,” said Siler. “I’m not changing. That was very important to me.

“I live and die on the idea of ‘family first.’”

Many family members came to visit or called in Dick’s final days.

Dick Siler, who began his coaching career in the 1950’s, was an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., from the 1998 season to 2020. He died July 20. (Bethel University Photo)