By STEVE KRAH
In this era of specialization, Angola High School baseball is an outlier.
The 2017 Hornets varsity has just one player that is not a three-sport athlete at the school.
“It’s something we preach,” says third-year head baseball coach Roger Roddy, who plans to tackle a 12th season as an assistant football coach at the school of around 900 students in the fall. “Our athletic director (Mark Ridenour), football coach (Andy Thomas), (boys) basketball coach (Ed Bentley) and myself are firm believers in two things — No. 1, we’re not big enough to compete in 4A in football and we still need all our athletes on the field (or court for 3A baseball or basketball).
“We can’t have one of our best athletes decide: I’m just a pitcher or just a basketball player.
“No. 2, if they choose not to (participate during a certain season) we all have the same message: You’re still in the weight room.”
Angola has all its athletes — from 275-pound football lineman to girls who weigh below 100 — doing the same core strength program during the school year and in the summer.
Roddy, a 1983 Angola graduate, said its not only made stronger athletes of the Hornets, but it has helped with school spirit.
“Everybody’s in (the weight room) chipping in and helping,” says Roddy. “All sports support the other sports because they have respect for them now. They all went through the same grueling workout.
When Roddy, 52, was in high school, baseball players did not lift weights. About half the players in college lifted and that was on their own and not organized by the school.
Now, incoming Angola freshmen know they will be spending the next four years gaining functional strength.
While he knows it won’t happen, Roddy would love it if the Indiana high school baseball was longer.
“Football is three months long and is basketball is three months long, four if you make a long playoff run,” says Roddy. “Baseball is packed it into two months. Not a lot of fall and winter sports people understand what a challenge that can be.”
But Angola wants the multi-sport athlete and to have success in each season so they understand there might not be much time for baseball players to get ready for their season coming out of the winter.
A salesman in his day job, Roddy was a junior varsity baseball coach for two seasons before succeeding Jerry McDermott as head coach for the 2015 season.
The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets pitcher (Roddy was a senior co-captain with future big league pitcher Jim Poole in 1988 and played for coaching icon Jim Morris) coached an Angola-based Yellow Jackets travel team for eight seasons, got out of baseball coaching for a short time and then answered the call at the high school.
Roger’s boys — Jake (now a Trine University baseball and football freshman) and Chance (an Angola junior) also played for the traveling Yellow Jackets. The Homan brothers — senior Jake and sophomore Luke — were also on that squad.
Jake Honer is the lone senior on a 2017 varsity team that regularly has six sophomores in the lineup.
“They’re very, very talented and they have lofty goals (in all sports),” says Roddy of the athletes in the Class of 2019. “They’ve all been sponges. They are willing to put in the work.
“We can not challenge them enough. Most sophomores are real tentative. Sometimes they’ve got more courage than they have sense, but the figure it out pretty quick.”
Angola is a member of the 12-team Northeast Corner Conference (along with Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview). The Hornets are in the 3A New Haven Sectional.
While rainouts have been stacking up the games and cutting into practice time of late, early Angola workouts are pretty intense.
“We work on situations, rundowns, first-and-thirds and we demand they do it right,” says Roddy, whose coaching staff includes Dan Hammel and Oshea Owens at the varsity level and Russ Tingley and Brett Neveraski with the JV team. “Us coaches will turn up the heat so when they’re in the game, they can respond. It’s not the first time they’ve been under pressure.”
Angola does a four-corner defensive drill with fielders at each base and home plate.
“We see how fast they can get the ball around,” says Roddy. A bad throw or one not right on-target is penalized with push-ups on the spot. “We explain everything we’re doing. We’re not yelling and screaming to seem like maniacs. When get a ball at third base, you don’t have all day to throw it to first.”
Roddy looks at the new pitch count rules (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) and insists that his hurlers be more efficient and focused to avoid working so deep into the (ball-strike) count.
“What’s wrong with seven ground balls to the second baseman or the shortstop?,” says Roddy. “We have had three games where Chance (Roddy) or (sophomore Aaron) Chao ended up with 101 pitches and required four days rest. If they had 99 or 100, it would just be three days. Then you look back at the kid that kicked the ball in the third inning.
“But it is what it is. One rule to fit everybody, it’s going to have holes … I’m not worried about what’s going on in your dugout. I’ll worry about my team. It’s a trust factor with the coaches.”
For the first three weeks of the 2017 season, Roddy held his moundsmen to 35 pitches. Not because of any rule, but their arms were not yet eady to go beyond that.
Angola coaches meet each Sunday afternoon during the season to plot out who is going to start or relieve at the varsity and JV levels during the week.
Roddy tries to keep 31 or 32 players in the program with 14 dressing for varsity games.
“We’ll have kids who are starting, one on the manual scoreboard, one on the electric scoreboard, one handling GameChanger, our backup catcher warming up pitchers. Everybody has a job. That works out pretty well for us.
“(Getting all the kids playing time) makes JV coach’s hair turn gray real quick, but I love it.”
Roger Roddy is in his third season as head baseball coach at Angola High School. He is also a longtime assistant football coach for the Hornets.