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Servant leadership top priority for Bremen’s Gerard

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Being able to field, pitch and hit is essential.

But second-year Bremen High School head baseball coach Chad Gerard places leadership above those diamond skills.

“Teaching leadership to me is just as important as baseball,” says Gerard, who served two seasons as an assistant to Bo Hundt before taking over the Lions program for 2017. “It’s servant leadership. The the theory beyond that is that leaders are put in that position to make other people better.”

Taking a cue from former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, Gerard and his staff — former Mishawaka assistant Jim Morris and Bremen graduates Ryan Carpenter and Greg Williams — look to “build leaders that build leaders.”

Beyond baseball, Gerard sees his players as future fathers, husbands, employers and employees and wants them to lead in those capacities.

“That’s what is most important to me,” says Gerard, who has been married to Amanda for nine years and they have a daughter — Kaitlyn (6).

Between the lines, 1998 Mishawaka High School graduate Gerard puts an emphasis on pitching and defense.

Being a “huge Cubs fan,” Gerard enjoyed Chicago beating the Washington Nationals 9-8 in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

But when coaching, a pitchers’ duel is more his speed.

“I like to win ball games based on preventing the other team from scoring runs as opposed to a slugfest,” says Gerard.

That may stem from his playing days, when he was a catcher for coach Gregg Minegar at Mishawaka and then Glenn Johnson at Grace College.

“At the college level, you play doubleheaders every time out,” says Gerard. “Catchers don’t want to be out there for a big inning.”

Big is the task that Bremen faces as the only IHSAA Class 2A school in the 13-team Northern Indiana Conference (which also includes Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay and South Bend Riley in 4A and Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington in 3A).

“That certainly is a challenge,” says Gerard, noting the number of athletes who participate at the bigger schools. “But we’ve gone into the tournament extremely prepared the last two years. Day in and day out, we’re playing quality opponents. There’s no fear coming from these kids.”

The NIC is divided into two divisions — Bremen, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawka Marian, New Prairie and South Bend Riley in the South and Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington in the North. Each team plays the other once in conference play and there are titles for overall and games won within the division.

The Lions’ non-conference schedule includes Bethany Christian, Culver Academy, Elkhart Christian, Elkhart Memorial, Knox, LaVille, Tippecanoe Valley, Rochester, South Central and Triton.

Bremen won the Northern State Conference (which featured Culver, Jimtown, John Glenn, Knox, LaVille, New Prairie and Triton) in 2015 before that league disbanded.

At 2018 sectional time, Bremen is grouped with 2A schools Central Noble, Eastside, LaVille, Prairie Heights and Westview.

The Lions won the 2016 Westview Sectional and lost to eventual winner Eastside in the semifinals of the 2017 Westview Sectional.

Gerard coached in the Harris Township Junior Baseball Softball Association for three summers before spending 10 years as an assistant Mishawaka head coach John Huemmer then heading to Bremen. He has long kept track of pitches for his own hurlers and the opposing team. At any point in the game, he knows the pitch count for all.

With that in mind, he encourages his batters to work the count and get the opponent’s pitch count up.

He favors keeping track, but says the pitch count rule adopted by the IHSAA for 2017 (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) “has room for improvement.”

“It’s got it’s ups and downs,” says Gerard. “It’s great for the kids’ arm health. But they threw a monkey wrench in it when they added another day (of rest) once you hit 100 pitches.”

The old rule allowed a pitch to go 10 innings every three days.

“I remember when you could look in the newspaper and see who pitched and how many innings they have available,” says Gerard.

Hitting the 100-pitch plateau now means a required four days of rest, which really comes into play with a compacted sectional schedule.

“That forces some decision making (on when and how much to use a pitcher),” says Gerard.

Another sticking point is the enforcement of the new rule. Teams are now supposed to self-report and give their pitch count totals to their athletic directors and led AD’s communicate with one another.

It’s a matter of accountability.

“The umpire doesn’t keep track. It’s not his job,” says Gerard. “Who am I supposed to tell (if there’s a violation)?

“I caught two guys over the maximum number (120).”

The penalty for going over the limit is a team forfeit and Gerard says that did happen around the state last spring.

If Gerard got his way, he would also see baseball participation numbers go up across the board. He laments the shrinking of youth leagues.

“Little League is dying,” says Gerard. “Travel ball numbers are growing. A lot of kids are being left out. They are getting cut (from travel ball). I’m not sure how to do it, but we need get more kids playing baseball.”

Gerard notes that it depends on the number of baseball players in a given class whether Bremen will field a junior varsity team. Two years ago, the Lions had 11 seniors. Last year, Bremen did not have a JV team. He says he expects there will be enough freshmen this year to have one.

Bremen has one diamond. It is located a few blocks southwest of the Marshall County school’s campus.

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Chad Gerard, a 1998 Mishawaka High School graduate, is entering his second season as head baseball coach at Bremen High School in 2018. He was Mishawaka assistant for 10 seasons and Bremen assistant for two before taking over the Lions program.

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IHSBCA South All-Stars head coach McKeon sports diamond pedigree

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

So says Jeff McKeon, who has been chosen as South head coach for this weekend’s 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. Practices, junior showcase and banquet are slated for Friday, July 14, with two games Saturday, July 15, and one game Sunday, July 16, at Ball State University in Muncie.

“I believe you must respect the game,” says McKeon, who resigned as head coach at Plainfield High School after the 2017 season (Shane Abrell has been named as his successor). “Once you cross that line, you have to give 100 percent every single time. The game will humble you in a second. If you ever think you are bigger than the game, it will strike back at you in a second.”

McKeon, who led the Quakers to a 94-75 record in his six seasons, was an assistant at three schools prior to Plainfield — one season for Jason Engelbrecht at Evansville Central, two for Steve Johnston at Evansville Reitz and six for Pat O’Neil at Brownsburg.

At Plainfield, McKeon got to be the host coach for the IHSAA’s South semistate games. The field has two berms for spectators and a scoreboard in center field.

Coming from Evansville, where iconic Bosse Field and other parks all have unique features, McKeon likes that the facility is not a “cookie-cutter.”

“I’m a big baseball purist,” says McKeon. “The ballpark should be part of the experience.

“Plainfield has some uniqueness to it.”

A 1993 Evansville North High School graduate, his high school coach was Dan Sparrow. He was a catcher and then a middle infielder at Ashford University in Iowa, graduating in 1997. He also worked two years for the Clinton LumberKings as an intern, grounds crew worker and clubhouse assistant and one for the Birmingham Barons as assistant GM for concessions and in sales.

Jeff comes from a baseball family. He is the son of former minor league catcher and scout and current Evansville Otters radio analyst Bill McKeon. In 2010, Bill was briefly the Otters manager with Jeff as a coach.

Bill McKeon and Joe Unfried, Jeff’s uncle, were teammates on the 1956 Evansville Braves of the Class B Three-I League and founded the non-profit Tri-State Hot Stove League in 1993.

The ’55 Evansville Braves were owned and managed by Bob Coleman. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inducted Coleman in 1980.

Coleman, Engelbrecht, Johnston, Sparrow and Unfried, are all members of the Greater Evansville Baseball Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in 2016.

Bill’s older brother and Jeff’s uncle is Jack McKeon, the manager for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins. Jack also served as skipper for the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.

In his first off-season as general manager of the Padres, he began to rebuild the club with a series of deals and became known as “Trader Jack.”

Jack’s sons have also been involved in professional baseball. Kasey McKeon was a catcher in the Detroit Tigers system and is now director of player procurement for the Washington Nationals.

Kelly McKeon has scouted for the Padres, where he signed Greg Booker, son-in-law to Jack, brother-in-law to Kasey and Kelly father of former Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer Zach Booker. Greg Booker is now a pro scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I’ve had some good mentors,” says McKeon, who is a business teacher at Plainfield and IHSBCA vice president on a leadership team that has included Brian Abbott as executive director, Shane Edwards (Oak Hill), Kevin Hannon (Knox), Scott Hughes (Shelbyville), Ben McDaniel (Columbus North), Phil McIntyre (Indianapolis North Central) and Ricky Romans (Charlestown).

“Those are awesome guys,” says McKeon. “They are great coaches and even better men. Being with those guys has been life-altering for me.”

Fundamentals and instruction are important to McKeon, who has thrown countless hours of batting practice trying to turn weaknesses into strengths.

“I’ve worked with a lot of very good players,” says McKeon. “But you win not with best players, you win with the role player that has to step up.”

McKeon, who is in charge of vendors at the IHSBCA State Clinic in January, will serve as a vice president in 2017-18 and is due to be president the following year.

This year marked his third as South representative and coach for the Crossroads Series, held the past two season at Ball State.

With Rich Andriole as head coach, the South swept the North in three games at Whiting in 2016.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” says McKeon, who will be assisted by Brad Catey (Hagerstown), Justin Tucker (Batesville), John Major (Columbus East) and have a Plainfield Quaker on the roster for the third straight year. It’s first baseman Daylan Nanny (bound for Arizona Western College) in 2017. Outfielder/first baseman Jackson Blevins was selected in 2016 and went on to Saint Joseph’s College. He is playing for the Dubois County Bombers this summer. After the closing of SJC, Blevins is slated to play at Wabash College in 2017-18.

Pitcher Antonio Lucciola represented Plainfield in the North/South series in 2015.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be recognized for their accomplishments,” says McKeon.

Jeff and wife Liz have a son and a daughter — Gavin (9) and Katie (5).

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Jeff McKeon, head baseball coach at Plainfield High School 2012-17, will be head coach for the South in the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Muncie.

Valparaiso artist Weinberg commemorates Cubs with painting

rbilogosmallBy STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jay Weinberg learned he had an artistic side when he was a little boy growing up in Knox.

“I was 8 and I made this sketch,” says Weinberg three decades later. “Someone asked, ‘did you do that?’ and I was hooked.”

Even before then, Weinberg got hooked on a certain baseball team. He couldn’t help it. Everyone in his family — it seemed — were Chicago Cubs fans.

Father Jerry, who now lives in North Judson, mother Mary Lorenz and stepfather Mary Lorenz, who reside in LaPorte, brother David Weinberg, who lives across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago, and sister Michelle Downs, who calls Knox home, are all big supports of the Cubbies.

Jay recalls growing up looking with Cubs mural with players from the 1980’s, which probably helped fuel his love for art and the Chicago National League Ball Club.

When Jay moved to started attending Valparaiso High School, where he would graduate in 1997, he spent a lot of his time watching or listening to the Boys in Blue. He especially enjoyed listening to Ron Santo, color man to play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes.

“Ron Santo was always one of my favorites,” says Weinberg. “I’ll be the first to admit that after Ron died (in 2010 due to complications of bladder cancer and diabetes, two years before his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame), I lost a little bit of it.”

Weinberg never lost his love of creativity. He commuted from Valpo to the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He took the skills gained there to create works in many formats. He also made music with a band called The Energy Commission with songs ranging from pop to swing to hip hop. He’s also a personal trainer, marketer, videographer and entrepreneur (he’s the founder of the artunityapp).

“My thing is to creatively communicate whatever is on my mind or in my heart at the time,” says Weinberg. “I don’t have a specific style.”

He has done paintings of Santo for family members and a chance to raise funds for the Ron Santo Foundation.

When the Cubs snapped their 108-year drought and won the 2016 World Series, Weinberg had to commemorate the moment with a piece of art. He did a few and girlfriend Kelly Carey suggested they be listed on the Valparaiso Garage Sale Facebook page.

“Ten seconds after I posted, the first 10 spoken for,” Weinberg said. The post drew more than 500 comments from all over the globe. “It was really humbling experience for sure.”

Weinberg will never forget Game 7 of the World Series. While Kelly was asleep in the next room, Jay was in front of the TV and all kinds of nervous.

“I was jumping up and down and biting my nails,” says Weinberg.

Emotion really poured out a few days before Christmas when the family was gathered in the basement at his sister Michelle’s house. That’s when Jerry Weinberg got his copy of the Cubs painting, which he calls “Field of Dreams.” (“paint it and they will come.”)

Tears flowed while Jay captured the moment on his camera.

“I taught you well,” Jerry said to his son that December day.

After that, the video went viral and wound up on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Jay has also entered a contest to have his father be one of the World Series ring bearers on April 10 at Wrigley. That date happens to be Jerry’s 66th birthday.

“That’s serendipity,” says Jay Weinberg. “The stars are aligning.”

Weinberg will be selling and signing prints of that painting plus an embellished limited edition canvas from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at the South Bend Chocolate Cafe, 122 S. Michigan, South Bend.

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One of the limited edition embellished canvas “Field of Dreams” paintings will be on sale by artist Jay Weinberg Saturday, Feb. 18 in South Bend. He will also sell and sign prints of the artwork.

Hannon looks to develop winning team, good citizens at Knox

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kevin Hannon has a simple rule for his Knox High School baseball players.

Don’t do anything that would embarrass mom or grandma.

That’s the standard he went by as a student-athlete and then head coach and athletic director at Morgan Township and its the one he insists on as he heads into his eighth season as head coach of the Knox Redskins.

“You want to always think you’re parents are watching,” Hannon, a veteran of 17 head coaching seasons, said. “You don’t want to disgrace them. That really rings true for me.”

It’s about always doing the right thing.

So as Hannon looks to win games — Knox placed second in the first season of the Hoosier North Athletic Conference in 2016.

“I’m still a big believer in pitching and defense,” Hannon said.

But he is looking to accomplish more than that.

Hannon, who is second vice president in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association in 2016-17, has built his program on the foundation of discipline and hard work.

“We want to develop good people while getting life lessons across,” Hannon said. “I credit Matt Bush for discipline. He was my basketball coach at Morgan Township. He made sure we were trying to be good people when we were at school and in the community.”

While he misses the rivalries from the old Northern State Conference (Bremen, Jimtown, John Glenn and New Prairie went to the Northern Indiana Conference with Knox, Culver, LaVille and Triton going to the Hoosier North), Hannon is excited about Redskins’ opportunities in the new loop, which includes five Class 1A schools and four from 2A, including Knox.

“These are teams we compete a little better with,” Hannon said. “We have more natural rivals like North Judson, Winamac, Culver.”

A challenge Knox still faces is the time change. Knox and North Judson are the only conference members on Central Time. Knox gets out of school at 3:05 p.m., making it tough when road games are scheduled for 4:30.

Hannon, a Purdue University graduate, teaches at Knox Elementary, which dismisses at 2:30 and does his best to get the Redskins on the road in a timely manner.

Another wrinkle that is unique to Knox is a school calendar with two weeks for spring break — the last week of March and first week of April. Once the IHSAA allows full workouts, the Redskins go for two weeks, Hannon gives them the first full spring break week off and then they practice for a week before the first near the middle of April.

“Most schools have already played six games,” Hannon said. “We play five games a week. That’s just the way it is.”

Hannon got active in IHSBCA leadership after seeing what the older ones were doing when he was a young coach. He enjoys the camaraderie in the coaching fraternity and sharing of ideas.

“This has been an awesome experience,” Hannon said of being an association officer and getting a chance to help run the annual State Clinic in January in Indianapolis and the North/South All-Star Series and Junior Showcase in July (this year it’s July 14-16 at Ball State University in Muncie and in 2018 comes to South Bend). “Indiana is loaded with baseball talent. It’s unbelievable.”

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