By STEVE KRAH
Reaching out to re-connect with its winning baseball past, Anderson University has hired alum Matt Bair as head coach.
Bair, a 2001 AU graduate, played for and coached with Dr. Don Brandon and participated in the NCAA Division III World Series as a Ravens player (1998) and assistant coach (2003).
“I’ve been able to connect with several alumni already that are excited in the vision we are putting forward with the baseball program,” says Bair, who had former Anderson player and assistant coach Brent Hoober as the best man in his wedding. “We’re trying to gain some of their energy and momentum back.”
Brandon, who is in the Anderson, American Baseball Coaches Association and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association halls of fame after winning 1,100 games in 38 seasons, created what Bair calls a “culture of brotherhood” while competing at a high level.
With a foundation of respect, trust, loyalty, faith and fun, Bair is hoping to do the same.
“If you focus on the relationships, the wins will be the result,” says Bair. “Everybody is out there to win, but it can’t be the focus. It’s not the only piece of the puzzle. A lot of life lessons can be taught through the game. Coach Brandon was a master at that. He had a lot of wisdom. He gave us some great attributes that we could carry forward and be better men.
“I want players to have great memories of being loved by their coaches and teammates. I want to make this the best life experience possible for them.”
The 1996 Anderson High School graduate returns to campus after three high school head-coaching stops — one season at Cowan, three at Anderson Highland and one at Lapel plus an ongoing relationship with the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization as a coach, instructor and board member.
Bair’s coaching staff includes Jim Hazen, Carlos Leyva, Jeff Freeman and Zach Barnes as assistants with J.D. Tammen as statistician, Brandon Schnepp as graduate assistant/baseball operations and Jacob Troxell as volunteer assistant. Leyva and Freeman were assistants to Bair at Anderson Highland.
AU coaches are on the recruiting trail — mostly around Indiana and the Midwest — looking for athletes who can help the Ravens compete in NCAA Division III baseball at a national level as well as in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. That means taking aim at some Division I-type talent.
“We want impact guys in our program,” says Bair. “We go after those big guys because sometimes our school is a good fit for them — academically, athletically and socially.”
Being a D-III school that gives no athletic scholarships, Bair says AU is “looking for kids who take a genuine interest in their academics.”
Besides the talent, Bair and company also look for the intangibles of coachability, competitiveness and caring. They are looking for someone who responds to instruction and is driven while being a good teammate.
Bair, the son of Debbie and Kevin Moore of Anderson and Glen Bair of Lapel, played at Anderson High for Terry Turner and Wally Winans. He was a shortstop on the 1995 Indians that reached the semistate.
“Both of them have a real love for the game and the kids that they coach,” says Bair of Turner and Winans, who were coaches in the 2017 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Muncie. “They were good at the X’s and 0’s of the game, but they also had an impact on developing me as a person. They were always good to me. They helped me grow in the game.”
Matt and Brooke Bair have been married 15 years and have three sons — Landon (13), Isaac (12) and Hogan (9).
Besides recruiting, Bair and his staff have been getting prepared for Aug. 28 — the day that players report to campus, where they will be greeted by an upgraded Don Brandon Field (new sod, bullpens, game mound, batting cages and regular visits from Midwest Turf Management).
“I’m really excited about some of these things we’re doing with our facility,” says Bair. “We want create a showcase field.”
NCAA D-III rules allow 16 days of fall practice. Bair plans to use that time for evaluation through practice and an Orange and Black series.
David Pressley was AU head coach after Brandon’s retirement and served for five seasons (2011-15). Dustin Glant led the Ravens in 2016. Drew Brantley and Mark Calder were interim co-head coaches in 2017.
Matt Bair, a 2001 Anderson University graduate, has been named as head baseball coach of the Ravens.