BY STEVE KRAH
Kevin Kinnison is a facilitator.
As head baseball coach at Blackhawk Christian School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Kinnison helps gets athletes where they need to go.
“As a Class A school, we focus on individuals striving to be consistent and the best they can be,” says Kinnison, who has led the Braves since the 2009 season and knows he has some players who see high school as the end of their baseball careers and others who want more. “We push some to where they want to go.”
Baseball is a team sport, but Kinnison sees it as an opportunity to “play against yourself.”
Individuals find what they can do and how they fit into the puzzle and push themselves — even when no one is watching.
“The game should be easy,” says Kinnison. “Practice should be hard. It’s human nature to only do as much as someone would push you to do.
“We want the best version of you on the ball field. Give me 100 percent of what you have today.
“You’re responsible for what you do. At the end of the day, results are bases on the work you put in.”
Kinnison encourages his players to study the game and the opponent.
“Figure out a weakness and exploit it,” says Kinnison. “If you’re fast, steal bases.
“I don’t think kids think the game as much as they could. They just play.”
College-bound players, especially, will be served by understanding the game.”
Recent graduates to play college baseball include Nathan Targartt and Kole Barkhaus at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and Nate Moonen at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. Current Blackhawk Christian junior Callan Wood is among those with college baseball aspirations.
“We give as much information as we have as a staff,” says Kinnison, who is assisted by Matt Harmon (the Harmon brothers — Mark, Matt and Jake — were involved in bringing state titles to Blackhawk in 2002, 2005 and 2006), Brice Urschel, Nick Braun and Ryan Davis. Harmon and Braun are BCS teachers. Urschel played for Kinnison then at Huntington (Ind.) University.
Some things become instinctual.
“We don’t use signs very much,” says Kinnison. “We take what they’re giving us.”
Kinnison is a 1988 Fort Wayne Snider High School graduate who played baseball for three years for Jim Russo then one for Dave Hay as well as football for Mike Hawley and two years of basketball before playing baseball at Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Huntington College (now Huntington University) for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Frame.
“(Frame) had a greater influence on me after I left than when I was there,” says Kinnison. “He is probably one of the best ambassadors for baseball in northeast Indiana.”
Kinnison was a lead-off or No. 9 hitter who would bunt on his own.
As a coach, he is not inclined to insist his Blackhawk Christian batters lay one down. He usually leaves it up to them.
“I don’t like to take the bat of the the kids’ hands if they going good,” says Kinnison.
After college, Kinnison was an assistant to Matt Kinzer at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) and coached for the independent Richmond (Ind.) Roosters, run by IHSBCA Hall of Famer John Cate.
Kinnison, who was assistant director of construction for a retail investment company in Cincinnati and came back to Fort Wayne on the weekends, was encouraged to apply for the Blackhawk Christian job by Kinzer.
Blackhawk Christian (enrollment around 240 for high school in the K-12 system) is an independent.
Among teams the BCS played in 2019 were Bellmont, DeKalb, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Fremont, Heritage, Homestead, Lakewood Park Christian, New Haven, Northfield, Prairie Heights, Southern Wells and Woodlan.
Athletic director Joel Cotton makes up the schedule with some input from the coach.
“I didn’t want a bunch of 1A schools on it,” says Kinnison. “I would rather take our lumps (and get better against tougher competition).
“It’s about taking pride in performing. The team that is able to relax and play their normal game can beat you.”
Since Kinnison has been in charge, there has only been a varsity team with about 18 to 20 players per season. For 2020, he expects to have two seniors, two juniors and seven or eight sophomores.
As a way of supporting the school, all players help with a program established in 2011 by BCS Foundation, Inc., called reNEW Upscale Resale.
The Braves part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton and Lakewood Park Christian. Blackhawk has won 14 sectional titles — the last in 2017.
Blackhawk Christian played only a handful of games on-campus in 2019 because of wet conditions. The rest of their home dates were contested on the turf at the ASH Centre, home of the World Baseball Academy.
Kevin and Annette Kinnison have three daughters — Taylor, Kenzie and Karlee. Taylor is 22. Eighth grader Kenzie and sixth grader Karlee have attended Blackhawk since they were in kindergarten. Kevin is co-owner of Blue Apple Construction.
Kevin Kinnison has been the head baseball coach at Blackhawk Christian School in Fort Wayne, Ind., since the 2009 season. He played at Fort Wayne Snider High School, Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University). (Steve Krah Photo)