BY STEVE KRAH
Like many Indiana boys, Eric Riggs’ athletic focus growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., was basketball.
His father, David Riggs, was on the 1962 Evansville Bosse state championship team and earned a letter on the hardwood at the University of Evansville in 1966-67. The Purple Aces were NCAA Division II national champions in 1963-64 and 1964-65.
David’s father Walter Riggs and uncle Clarence Riggs are both in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Both graduated from Evansville Central High School and Evansville College.
Walter Riggs, grandfather of Eric, coached Evansville Central to an IHSAA state runner-up finish to Lafayette Jeff in 1948.
Eric Riggs, who is 6-foot-2 and played on Steve Brunes-coached Brownsburg High School teams that went 20-5 and 24-3 in his junior (1993-94) and senior seasons (1994-95), accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of Central Florida.
Playing Knights head coach Kirk Speraw, Riggs started in 22 of 30 games and averaged 11.4 points and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman in 1995-96. UMass and Marcus Camby knocked UCF out of the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Then Riggs turned his attention back to the diamond.
In his 16U, 17U and 18U summers, Riggs played travel baseball for the Indiana Bulls — the first two years with Jeff Mercer Sr. as head coach and the last with Bret Shambaugh.
The switch-hitting infielder had played baseball at Brownsburg for head coach Wayne Johnson and assistants Craig Moore and Mick Thornton. Big league pitcher Jeff Fassero came in to help the Bulldogs during the off-season.
“(Johnson) was a players’ coach,” says Riggs. “We were pretty stacked in our senior class. We had a lot of guys play at the next level (including Brian Stayte, Mark Voll and Joel Martin).”
Junior Quinn Moore, youngest son of Craig, was the mound ace in 1995 and went on to play at the University of South Alabama.
During a basketball recruiting trip to the school near Orlando in the spring of 1995, Riggs met with UCF baseball coach Jay Bergman near the end of the program’s 29-game win streak.
“He was very positive,” says Riggs of Bergman. “Coach Moore had been in Coach Bergman’s ear to let me walk on.
“(Craig Moore) was very instrumental in my baseball career. I just kind of played it. Basketball was my first sport.”
“I had never played year-round baseball. I wanted to find out what that was like. I ended up getting a partial baseball scholarship.”
Before he knew it, Riggs was batting ninth and starting at second base at the NCAA D-I level.
From 1996-98, Riggs amassed a career average of .362 with 49 doubles and a .573 slugging percentage. As an all-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team shortstop in 1998, he hit .394 with 26 doubles, 154 total bases and 64 runs scored.
Selected in the fourth round of the 1998 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Riggs was one of 10 UCF players picked from a 41-21 team. Two of those — pitcher Mike Maroth (Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals) and outfielder Esix Snead (New York Mets) — reached the majors.
In the winter of 2000-01, Riggs played a few months in Queensland, Australia, before returning to the U.S. and the Dodgers. He was with that organization for eight years (1998-2004, 2006), getting as far as Triple-A in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
In three seasons, his roommate was David Ross (who went on to be a 14-year big league catcher and is now manager of the Chicago Cubs).
“He’s a natural leader,” says Riggs of Ross. “Being a catcher that was his state of mind. He managed the pitching staff well.
“He was just a solid baseball player. Once he got his chance (in the majors), he showed them what he could do as a catcher and hit a little bit.”
Riggs also played Double-A ball for the Houston Astros in 2005 and was briefly with the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers at the beginning of 2007 before finishing up his pro career that year in Double-A with the Miami Marlins.
In 10 seasons at all levels, Riggs played in 1,050 games (with 500 appearances at shortstop, 235 at second base and 216 at third base) and hit .264 with 78 homers, 217 doubles, 459 RBIs and slugging percentage of .406.
Steve Farley, then the Butler University head coach, brought Riggs on as a part-time volunteer coach in the spring of 2008.
“Steve gave me a chance to see what coaching at that level was like,” says Riggs. “He was a very, very smart baseball man. He was great to learn from and watch work.
“I had a blast.”
Riggs also had the opportunity to pick the baseball brain of Butler assistant Matt Tyner, who had played the University of Miami (Fla.) for Ron Fraser and in the Baltimore Orioles system. After Butler, Tyner was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., a University of Richmond (Va.) assistant and head coach at Towson (Md.) State University.
With a change in his full-time job in 2009, Riggs changed his focus to coaching his sons. Eric and wife Trisha have four sons. Bryce (16) is a sophomore at Noblesville (Ind.) High School. Twins Blake (13) and Brooks (13) are seventh graders at Noblesville West Middle School. Beckett (8) is a third grader at Noble Crossing Elementary School.
The three oldest Riggs boys have had their father as a coach with the Indiana Bulls. Eric was an assistant with Bulls teams Bryce played on from age 8 to eighth grade and he is now head coach of the 13U White team as well as a board of directors member. The 12-player roster (pitcher-only players become a thing in the high school years) includes Blake and Brooks.
The team played in two fall tournaments and plans to ramp up preparation for the 2021 season of 11 tournaments with 50 or more games in January. His assistants include Brandon Inge, J.J. Beard and Kyle Smith. Former MLB third baseman/catcher Inge (Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates) go back to their Cape Cod Baseball League days in college with 1997 Bourne Braves.
Kevin O’Sullivan (who went on to coach the 2017 national championship team at the University of Florida) was the Bourne head coach. The ace of the pitching staff was left-hander Mark Mulder, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft and went on to win 103 games in nine Major League Baseball seasons with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.
When he can, Eric also helps coach the Noblesville Millers travel team that includes Beckett.
“I’m using what I’ve learned from players and coaches I’ve been around,” says Riggs. “I want to pass that to kids to make them better people and baseball players.”
Riggs, 44, is also a sales pro for BSN Sports with college and high school clients. He says uniform trends at the high school level tend to revolve around what catches a coach’s eye on the college scene. If they like the Vanderbilt look, they may wish to replicate in their school colors.