By STEVE KRAH
Shawn Lyons took a recent call that added a little extra excitement to his summer.
Lyons, the head baseball coach at New Palestine High School, got the news from Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association executive director Brian Abbott telling he was named to the South coaching staff for the 2018 series July 20-22 Four Winds Field in South Bend.
“It’s an honor,” says Lyons. “Now I’m learning more about it everyday. I’ve had (New Palestine) kids play in the games. But I didn’t know the behind-the-scenes stuff.
“I’ve called other coaches to know what to expect, the routine and the regimen.”
Among others, Lyons has been getting advice from IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rich Andriole, who has coached in the all-star series twice.
Like any coach, there’s making out the lineups. But other all-star considerations include fairly distributing playing time and figuring out who can pitch that weekend and how much. With guidance from the IHSBCA leadership, Lyons expects those duties to be divided between the four coaches.
Shawn, who can be seen each January organizing the college tables at the IHSBCA State Clinic, grew up learning things like respect for the game, playing hard and being accountable from his father — Joe Lyons — and at Community Little League in Indianapolis.
“My dad wasn’t one of those helicopter parents that was always hovering around,” says Lyons. “He let me sink or swim on my own.”
As a coach, Lyons has an open door policy with parents with the exception of playing time. That is not up for discussion.
“We don’t have too many issues,” says Lyons. “I had two kids that played for me and they didn’t always play. It wasn’t easy when I got home. I had to do what was best for the program.”
Shawn and Holly Lyons (a family law attorney in Greenfield) have three adult children — Katie, Nick and Corey. All were athletes at New Palestine — Katie Lyons in volleyball and basketball (and played basketball at UIndy), Nick Lyons in baseball (with one diamond season at Franklin College) and Corey Lyons in baseball and football.
A 1979 graduate of Indianapolis Scecina Memorial High School, Shawn’s head coach with the Crusaders was Larry Neidlinger. He played two seasons for coach Bob Tremain at Indiana Central University (now the University of Indianapolis) and one for coach Craig Moore at the Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.
The president of Indiana Appraisal Service, Inc., Lyons joined the New Palestine coaching staff as pitching coach nearly 20 years ago and became head coach for the 2012 season. The Dragons have had three head baseball coaches since 1965 — Marvin Shepler, Al Cooper and Shawn Lyons.
“I’m pretty passionate about high school baseball and I’m lucky enough to be able to make my own (work) schedule,” says Lyons.
New Palestine has done very well on the IHSAA tournament stage, winning the sectional 16 times, regional on six occasions and semistate once.
“We have talented kids that work hard,” says Lyons. “We have a good culture.”
In his seven seasons at the helm, Lyons’ New Palestine teams are 145-64 with three Hoosier Heritage Conference titles (2012, 2016 and 2018), three sectional crowns (20-12, 2014 and 2015) and two regional championships (2012 in 4A and 2014 in 3A). The 2018 squad went 22-7 overall and 11-2 in the HHC and lost to eventual 4A state runner-up Indianapolis Cathedral in the final of the Warren Central Sectional.
The Dragons were briefly No. 1 in the IHSBCA poll and wound up No. 7 in the final rankings.
Besides New Palestine, the Hoosier Heritage Conference (which also features Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown) plays varsity doubleheaders on Friday nights with junior varsity twinbills on Saturdays.
Five seniors from 2018 — Jake Garrison (Olney Central College), Nick Rusche (Taylor University), Cameron Pitzer (Huntington University), Kyle Gardner (Anderson University) and Myles Kost (Trine University) — have committed to play baseball at the next level. The best two players were juniors — catcher Colby Jenkins and left-hander Jack Walker (an Indiana University verbal commit).
“If they want to play (in college), I’ll help them out anyway I can,” says Lyons. “But when they call me I tell them the truth (about the player’s abilities and character). I let the players and the parents know that.”
Lyons credits development, administrative and community support as factors that have kept Dragons baseball vital for decades. Players come out of the New Palestine Youth League, where the high school teams conducts clinics and workshops.
“We want to keep the foundation strong,” says Lyons.
Numerous travel organizations also contribute to the progress of players.
With the help of Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County and the New Palestine Baseball Backers, the Dragons have been able to raise funds to buy equipment and stay competitive while fluctuating between 3A and 4A.
His “amazing” 2018 coaching staff included Landon McBride, Andy Swain, Andrew Armour, Tim Zellers and Brad Rusche at the varsity level with Mike Zeilinga leading the JV and Jeremy Meredith the freshmen.
McBride played for Tremain at Indianapolis Marshall High School and then at nearby Marian College (now Marian University). Swain is a New Palestine graduate who played at Purdue University. Armour played for the Dragons and then at UIndy. He shares hitting coach duties with retired Carmel police officer Zellers. Zeilinga is valuable to Lyons as an organizer. Meredith was formerly a varsity assistant at Logansport and Warren Central.
New Palestine (Ind.) High School head coach Shawn Lyons will be the South head coach for the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 20-22 in South Bend. (New Palestine High School)