By STEVE KRAH
Get the Mishlers — father Joel and sons Nic and Zac — together and the conversation turns to the same topic.
“It’s always baseball,” says Nic Mishler. “It drives my mom (Kim) and sister (Hannah) nuts when we are at home.
“We grew up in a college baseball dugout. We live baseball. That’s our family.”
Joel Mishler played and coached college baseball and his boys grew up around the game.
When the elder Mishler established JNZ Baseball and Softball Academy in Shipshewana, Ind., after his days at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., Nic and Zac were always around.
They were working on their own skills, but they were also helping others. The brothers got to work with future Ball State University players Matt Eppers, Nick Floyd and Caleb Stayton and Northwestern Oklahoma State University lefty slugger Judah Zickafoose when they were youngsters and pick the brain of major league hitting coach and frequent visiting clinician John Mallee and former University of Michigan and current Ball State head coach Rich Maloney at his camps in Ann Arbor, Mich.
After Glen Oaks, Joel Mishler was head coach at Westview High School near Shipshewana and established the Indiana Chargers travel organization. The Chargers now train in Goshen, Ind., and has helped several players move on to college baseball.
Nic Mishler (Class of 2009) and Zac Mishler (Class of 2011) both played at Westview and became college players — Nic at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich., and Zac at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill., and then Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne.
What did the Mishler brothers do after their playing days?
Become baseball coaches, of course.
Nic Mishler, 27, has just begun as pitching coach at Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, Iowa, after five seasons at Valparaiso (Ind.) University. Before that, he was a student assistant for two years at his father’s alma mater, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz.
Zac Mishler, 25, is heading into his third season as hitting/infield coach and recruiting coordinator at NCAA Division II Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va. Before landing at ABU, he was at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., where he was in charge of infield play, base running, and recruiting and scheduling.
“I don’t know what else I’d do,” says Zac Mishler of baseball coaching. “I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a little kid.”
Nic Mishler pitched in the Division II Junior College World Series while at Kellogg and appreciates the world of juco baseball.
“To me, what makes junior college so attractive is you are able to recruit very talented players who could use a couple years to get bigger and stronger and develop their craft.
“I want them to know what it means to dogpile. It’s something you never forget. They can work toward a World Series (the 2019 National Junior College Athletic Association D-II Championship is in Enid, Okla.) before moving on to the next level.”
Since junior colleges are two-year institutions and athletes are aiming for four-year schools or the professional ranks, Nic sees the spark in all of them.
“The drive is second to none,” says Nic Mishler. “They’re all fighting for something.
“These are guys who may have been looked over and have a chip on their shoulder.
“I get to help these guys reach their goals. To me, that’s really exciting.”
With this common bond, Nic has witnessed close relationships forming among juco.
“Some of my best friends are from when I was at Kellogg,” says Nic Mishler. “We’re a real close group.”
After working at NCAA Division I Valparaiso, Zac returns to Division II at Alderson Broaddus.
“I really do like D-II baseball,” says Zac Mishler. “There’s a ton of talent and it’s very, very competitive.
“We get a lot of kids who are athletic and just want to chance to play.”
Zac also appreciates that he gets a chance to spend time on teaching and development, passing along the things he’s learned in time as a player and coach.
Jerry Halstead (John A. Logan) and Bobby Pierce (IPFW) were Zac’s head coaches while he was a college player and he coached with Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s before joining the staff of Matt Yurish at ABU.
“(Halstead) taught me a toughness I never knew I had in me,” says Zac Mishler. “(Pierce) taught me more than anybody how to be the same person everyday and how to stay consistent.
“It’s something I try to do in life. He had a big influence on me.”
Yurish has passed along lessons on communication and motivation.
“You get out and meet people and make a good name for yourself,” says Zac Mishler. “And you have to know how how to handle different types of people.
“A common misconception is that everybody needs to be coached the same. You want to tap into each kid and see what makes him tick.
“Coaching is getting people to play at the best of their abilities.”
After playing for Eric Laskovy at Kellogg, Nic and soaked up wisdom from Andy Stankiewicz at Grand Canyon and Brian Schmack at Valpo U. His boss at DMACC is David Pearson.
“(Stankiewicz) gave me my shot at coaching,” says Nic Mishler. “I can’t thank him enough.”
He worked with the Antelopes pitching staff and served as bullpen coach for a team that went to the NCAA Division II World Series. A member of the GCU staff — Nathan Choate — is now an assistant at NCAA Division I Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
One summer, Nic was pitching coach and also worked with infielders and outfielders for the East Texas Pump Jacks in the Texas Collegiate League.
Nic led Valpo catchers and helped Schmack with the pitching staff. He was the catching coach for three-year starter Scott Kapers, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers. Mishler also got to help Trey Ferketic, who found his way from California to pitch in the Midwest for the Crusaders.
“I was in a pretty good situation at Valparaiso,” says Nic Mishler. “They have something good going.
“I have full control over a pitching staff here. This offered me a real good opportunity.”
Pearson — with his NCAA Division I background (he was associate head coach at North Dakota State University) and high energy — also drew Nic.
“I’m a high-energy guy,” says Nic Mishler. “I’m so excited to get to go to work for him everyday.”
Nic and Zac communicate just about everyday by call or text and often speak with their father. Now that Nic is at a junior college, he can recruit Zac’s players and has already had a few conversations.
“It’s cool for me to watch (Zac) chase his dream,” says Nic Mishler. “He works extremely hard. That motivates me to work hard as well.”
DMACC is scheduled to play about a dozen games this fall and was at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., recently for the Prep Baseball Report juco event.
Zac says he was attracted to coaching in because he can work with players throughout the year.
“It’s different mentality (than high school),” says Zac Mishler.
Looking down the line, Zac could see himself as a head coach or an assistant to his big brother.
What if Zac becomes a head coach first?
“(Nic) will be my first call,” says Zac Mishler.
Nic Mishler, a 2009 Westview High School graduate, is an assistant baseball coach at Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, Iowa.
Zac Mishler, a 2011 Westview High School graduate, is an assistant baseball coach at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va.