By STEVE KRAH
Scott McTagertt paid his dues before becoming head baseball coach at his alma mater.
A 1986 graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School, McTagertt was still a Purdue University student when he became a Jeff assistant for the 1988 season.
He has been bringing baseball knowledge to Bronchos ever since.
McTagertt played for head coach Mark Strader and served on the staffs of Tony Primavera, Ed Gilliland and Kevin Maxwell before taking the reins of the Lafayette Jeff program for the 2008 season.
“(Strader) is probably the best athlete that ever came through Lafayette Jeff,” says McTagertt. “He was very demanding. We respected the guy because you knew what he knew in baseball.
“We put so much intensity into practice. (Strader) got (to play for and) coach with (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul) “Spider” Fields. (Strader) brought some of that fire to us.”
A shortstop and pitcher at Jeff, McTagertt was on the Purdue team for one season behind future big leaguer Archi Cianfrocco while working toward what would be an Education degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).
As a young coach, McTagertt marveled at Primavera’s game management skills.
“I don’t know if there was anybody better than him,” says McTagertt. “He knew everything in the game was going to happen before it happened.
“He was fun to learn from.”
Gilliland had played for and coached with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber at LaPorte High School.
“(Gilliland) was a disciplinarian,” says McTagertt. “This is the way we’re going to do it. He had set routines. The kids worked hard for him.
“He liked to ride his top two pitchers a lot. It was the LaPorte Way.”
In a decade with Maxwell, McTagertt witnessed a strong organizer.
“(Maxwell) ran very structured practices,” says McTagertt. “Everything was written out. The kids had to know the practice plan.”
Along the way, McTagertt has continued to have a growth mindset. He has learned much about the game from networking, attending clinics and — in this pandemic year of 2020 — Zoom meetings and other online resources.
“We’re probably the most sharing group of coaches you’re going to find in any sport,” says McTagertt. “Tthere are so many ways to teach in baseball.
“You can always steal an idea or two.”
McTagertt was born in Greenwood, Ind., and came to Lafayette as a fourth grader. That first day in town he attended the Colt World Series at Loeb Stadium.
“It was a big place for my family,” says McTagertt, who started working at Loeb in 1988 and did so until the facility dedicated in 1940 was torn down to make way for the New Loeb Stadium.
Teaching fifth grade STEM at nearby Sunnyside Intermediate, McTagertt drops by regularly to see the progress of the ballpark adjacent to the Columbian Park Zoo that mimics Kokomo Municipal Stadium (home to Kokomo High School, Indiana University Kokomo and summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits) and is oriented the other way from the old Loeb (left field faces the pool and right field is closet to the zoo).
“I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place,” says McTagertt. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
With construction of the new Loeb (also home to the summer collegiate Lafayette Aviators), Jeff was going to spend much of 2020 playing road games. But the COVID-19 pandemic took away the season. The Bronchos were just days away from tryouts when what became lockdown began. Individual workouts were distributed via computer.
In fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period practice, the focus was on individual skills and position development.
“We put a premium on teaching since we lost a season,” says McTagertt, who sent the Bronchos from the World Series to the weight room until Dec. 22 and expects to resume activities Jan. 4.
McTagertt’s 2021 coaching staff features John Ripke, Alex Igo and Sean McDonald as varsity assistants. Kevin Igo is the JV Red head coach and is helped by Brian McDonald and Matthew Koeppen. Tim Whitaker is the JV Black (or C-team) head coach and is aided by Daniel Nelson.
The Bronchos tend to have around 40 players in the program. On days when all three squads are in action, there might be 13 to 15 with the varsity, 13 with JV Red and the rest with JV Black.
Jeff (enrollment around 2,080) is in the Northern Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).
The Bronchos are in an IHSAA Class 4A grouping with Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport and McCutcheon. Jeff won the last of its 17 sectional titles in 2013. The program has also claimed 12 regionals, four semistates, two state championships (1969 and 1973) and one state runner-up (1971).
Two recent Jeff players — brother Justin Walker Jr. (Purdue) and Jacob Walker (Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) — have moved on to college diamonds. Current Bronchos Caleb Koeppen and Brady Preston have received college offers.
For years, Jeff and Lafayette Central Catholic developed young players through the Lafayette Lightning.
About eight years ago — wanting to get more Jeff-bound youngsters involved in competitive play — Junior Broncho Baseball was established. The group fielded 10U, 11U and 12U teams that first year and now has teams from 8U to 15U.
That first 12U team were freshmen in the spring of 2020.
The Junior Bronchos play often at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and Indianapolis Sports Park.
Elite players are encouraged to play for teams like the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Nitro.
“We take rest of the kids and run them through our practices and camps,” says McTagertt. “We get the best of both worlds.”
Utilizing diamonds at Armstrong Park and McCaw Park, Lafayette Youth Baseball is still going strong.
“There’s a wonderful working relationship city, parks department and baseball programs in Lafayette,” says McTagertt.
Scott and Fawn McTagertt (a McCutcheon High School teacher) have three children. Rileigh McTagertt is a junior Education major at Purdue who coaches tennis at Tecumseh Junior High School in Lafayette. She was in cheerleading, basketball and tennis at Jeff.
Ashlynn McTagertt played golf, basketball and softball for the Bronchos and is now a freshmen softball player at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College.
Drew McTagertt is a Tecumseh eighth grader who plays tennis, basketball and baseball.