BY STEVE KRAH
Shawn Turner wants his Richmond (Ind.) High School Red Devils to sweat the small stuff.
“We focus on the details,” says Turner, a veteran coach who heads into his fourth season of leading the Richmond program in 2019. “We want give it our best effort 100 percent of the time. We pay attention to the defensive side and how we’re pitching.
“Offensively, we look to ‘get on, get over and get in.’ We play at a big facility (Don McBride Stadium). We don’t sit back and wait on the three-run home run.”
Turner looks for his Red Devils to hit balls to the gaps and rack up doubles.
“We teach the concept of using the whole field,” says Turner.
When it comes to launch angle, Turner says it is for the advanced hitter. T.J. Collett, who began working with Turner at a young age, put in the time to make himself into a potent left-handed hitter who named Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond Magazine in 2016 and is now swinging for the University of Kentucky.
“It’s fantastic for kids with elite talent who have great hitting philosophy and the ability to execute it,” says Turner. “I’m more concerned with hitting a solid. Exit velocity is a factor. We do chart that. If you have four at-bats, we try to hit it hard four times and see what happens.”
Contact is key and strikeouts don’t help in moving runners.
“We do try to put pressure on the defense and put the ball in play,” says Turner, who coached his first season in Richmond in 2016 after serving as a Wabash College assistant in 2015.
The 1988 Terre Haute North Vigo High School graduate was head coach at his alma mater 1998-2014 after serving two seasons as a Patriots assistant.
The 2014 North Vigo team was IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up.
He was a McCutcheon assistant in 1994 and 1995, West Vigo assistant in 1993 and Terre Haute North Vigo assistant in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Turner played two seasons for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings and two for Steve Moore. He later was a part of Moore’s coaching staff.
“(Jennings) was always a very positive influence not only on me but on his coaches and the team as a whole,” says Turner. “In practice, we did a ton of offensive work. If we put runs up we had a chance of competing.
“(Moore) carried on a lot of Coach Jennings’ traits. My first couple of years coaching within were a continuation of what I learned in high school.”
Turner also gained from the teachings of North Vigo assistant Mike Sturm.
“He was more into fundamental skills and defensive work,” says Turner of Sturm. “He broke things into positions and individual parts.”
Turner played one season for head coach Jim Rendel at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology while studying civil and mechanical engineering.
“(Rendel) had the biggest influence on me becoming a coach,” says Turner. “He was an amazing individual that did so much for people through sport.”
Turner decided to change gears and pursue a different life path. He transferred to Indiana State University to major in mathematics and become a teacher and coach.
He did his student teaching at West Vigo and worked with Steve DeGroote then joined the staff of Jake Burton at McCutcheon. Both are IHSBCA Hall of Famers.
“Those two were cut from the same cloth,” says Turner of DeGroote and Burton. “They were Fantastic at setting up indoor practices where you were going from station to station and maximizing your practice time.”
Turner notes that there are areas around the state have embraced the idea of getting better at baseball and that’s where indoor facilities have popped up and produced many players who have succeeded at the lower levels and gone on to college and professional diamonds.
“We’ve got baseball talent in the state of Indiana,” says Turner, who gets indoor work done at Richmond at the spacious Tiernan Center and the school’s auxiliary gym.
While McBride Stadium is run by the city and is off-campus, the Red Devils sometimes take advantage of the turf on the football field for outdoor practice.
Turner gives a few private lessons on the side. Several Richmond players get in work at Cate’s Cages and Hitters Hangout. IHSBCA Hall of Famer John Cate started both facilities. He now teaches at Cate’s Cages along with Jordan Ashbrook, Patrick Flanagan and Mike Morrow. Tyler Lairson is an instructor at Hitters Hangout.
Former Red Devils moving on to college baseball in recent years include right-handed pitcher John Cheatwood (Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and committed to Marshall University in Huntington, W.V.), right-hander Jordan Christian (Earlham College in Richmond) and middle infielder Austin Turner (Indiana Wesleyan University). Austin is Shawn’s oldest son.
Current senior outfielder/right-hander Josiah Sizemore has committed to Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Ind. Versatile Phillip Hobbs and right-hander/third baseman/shortstop Mikey Vance are also exploring their collegiate options.
When building his Red Devils pitching staff, Turner looks to develop a number of arms to lesson the workload on the top hurlers so they will be fresher for the postseason.
The exception might be Blake Holler, who threw many innings for Terre Haute North Vigo before going on to Stanford University and the Los Angeles Angels system.
But sharing the work has been a philosophy Turner carried in Terre Haute and long before 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).
“We focus on longevity,” says Turner. “The season is a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve always make sure our top two or three pitchers are strong at the end of the season. We might go eight-, nine- or 10-deep during the season.”
This approach also helps those pitchers to be ready the following season.
Turner’s 2019 Richmond staff includes Dave Marker, Scott Vance and Ben Fox. Marker is the Red Devils pitching coach and a former Randolph Southern head coach.
Richmond fields two teams — varsity and junior varsity. The most players Turner has had is 33 and he’s never made any cuts.
Contrast that with Terre Haute North Vigo, where he says the fewest number to try out was 80 and he’d keep 50 to 55 for three teams.
Richmond belongs to the North Central Conference (with Richmond, Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Marion and Muncie Central in the East Division and Harrison, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport and McCutcheon in the West Division). Teams play home-and-home series within their divisions then compete in a seeded cross-divisional tournament the two Saturdays in May.
The Red Devils, which are coming off a 14-14 season in 2018, are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Connersville, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights.
Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last coming in 2011.
Shawn is married to Tiffany, who is Chief Nursing Officer at Paris (Ill.) Community Hospital. Their sons are Austin and Nick. Besides playing baseball, Austin Turner is neurology student at Indiana Wesleyan. Nick is a Richmond freshmen and a lefty-swinging catcher.
The Turners (from left): Nick, Tiffany, Austin and Shawn. The 2016 season was Shawn Turner’s first as head baseball coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School.
Austin Turner (27) is greeted by Terre Haute North Vigo baseball coaches Mark Sturm (left), Tony Smodilla, Lance Walsh, Steve Bryant, Fay Spetter and Shawn Turner at the IHSAA Class 4A State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Shawn Turner is now head coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School.
Terre Haute North Vigo High School head baseball coach Shawn Turner (left) talks with his son, Austin Turner (27), and assistant Fay Spetter during the 2014 IHSAA Class 4A semistate.
Shawn Turner enters his fourth season as head baseball coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School in 2019.