By STEVE KRAH
To say Dan Bodiker has worn many hats as a fan of baseball and other sports is quite the understatement.
Bodiker, 75, came to northern Indiana from northwestern Ohio in the early 1960’s to attend Goshen College, where he represented the Maple Leafs on the baseball diamond and the soccer pitch.
In the fall of 1964, he was hired just up the road at Bethany Christian High School to coach an entire athletic department.
He led BC in boys soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball and track.
By the time Bodiker retired, his overall mark in all sports was 918-719-39 and he served terms as athletic director. He was taken into the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and is also a member of the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame.
His last season as head baseball coach was 1995-96. After one season under Jason Leichty, Brent Reinhardt led the program through 2017. The new coach for 2017-18 is Jim Kraft.
The first BC baseball team wore white T-shirts and blue jeans and only played a handful of games (but only lost one of them).
Starting out as an associate member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, the school could attract some good athletes who did not have to sit out or be restricted to junior varsity play. The trade-off is that BC was not eligible for tournament play.
That changed when the school became a full member in the early 1970’s.
Today, baseball, soccer and softball teams play on Bodiker Athletic Fields, located across the railroad tracks behind the school.
For years, the baseball team used a field with no fence and surrounded by a cinder track. It was BC’s home when they earned the lone baseball sectional title in school history in 1987.
Dan’s wife, Diane, has preserved the memory of that championship and many other moments in the pages of scrapbooks housed in the couple’s Goshen home.
Bethany — then known as the Braves and later the Bruins — rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Goshen 9-8 for the Goshen Sectional title.
With the scored knotted 3-3, Goshen had scored five in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the frame, Eric Risser and Scott Bodiker (the oldest of two Bodiker sons; Mike is the youngest) began the comeback with a pair of singles.
Doug Horst, the No. 9 hitter in the BC order, took a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and cleared them with a bloop hit. The decisive run was scored from first base by Gary Chupp (who is now athletic director at the school).
“Of all the sports I coached, I thought baseball was the toughest,” says Bodiker. “You have to make so many tough decisions and you have to live with those decisions.”
Bodiker was faced with choices like whether or not to stick with his top pitcher who was not throwing strikes when he knew his No. 2 was not nearly as good.
“What do you do?,” says Bodiker.
There is also the case of a freshman — a poor bunter — being up in the last inning with runners or first and second base and less than two outs.
Bodiker could let him try to bunt or swing away. He chose the latter and the frosh hit into a double play.
The same player came up in the same kind of situation as a senior. He was a better as a bunter and hitter. This time, Bodiker called for the bunt.
The result: Another double play.
“True story,” says Bodiker. “It’s that tightness.”
When the coach wanted to call for a squeeze bunt he would give a verbal cue — “Bust that apple” — so all players could hear.
Sign stealing — sometimes with the help of technology — has been a hot topic in Major League Baseball.
As a regular part of clean play, Bodiker and some of his players were sometimes able to figure out the opposing signs.
“I’d ask (the batter) if you want me to call the pitches if I see them,” says Bodiker. “I might say their first name for a fastball and their last or their number for a curve.”
It’s about making decisions in critical moments.
“There’s a lot of that in baseball that you don’t get in any other sport,” says Bodiker.
It was as a boy in Lima, Ohio, where he was born in 1942, that Bodiker learned baseball and became a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Indians.
“I never like to brag on the Indians because it’s never over until that last out,” says Bodiker, who recalls Cleveland’s World Series teams of 1948 and 1954 and counts many Tribe replicas in his collection of more than 390 big league and minor league caps. He started the collecting hobby in the 1980’s.
As a youngster, Dan and his train engineer father would walk to games of Lima teams in the Class D Ohio State or Ohio-Indiana leagues — like the Red Birds, Reds, Terriers, Chiefs and Phillies.
One of his replica caps pays tribute to the old Lima Pandas.
Dan would grow to be a catcher at Lima Senior High School (which had 1,500 students in the top three grades) and with the local American Legion team. Lima Senior placed second in the Ohio state tournament in Bodiker’s senior year of 1960.
When Bodiker was a junior, he was a back-up to Gary Moeller (who went on to become head football coach at the University of Michigan and with the Detroit Lions).
“What little I got to play, I enjoyed,” says Bodiker.
The Joe Bowers-coached Spartans beat Massillon Washington in the ’60 state semifinals and lost to Cincinnati Elder in the championship — both played in Columbus.
“He knew his baseball,” Bodiker said of Bowers.
Dan Matthews was the Legion ball manager who also took a team to the State Finals and placed third.
“I patterned a lot of my coaching after him,” says Bodiker of Matthews, a former New York Yankess minor leaguer. “If I didn’t block a ball behind the plate, he would pull me aside rather than chewing me out.”
Pitchers were led by former Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand Ed Oley. He had been a travel roommate of Hall of Famer Duke Snider.
Many of the blue caps worn by Bethany baseball have had that Brooklyn “B.” It seems to be no small coincidence.
“B” for Brooklyn.
“B” for Bethany.
“B” for Bod.
Dan Bodiker started the whole athletic program at Bethany Christian High School when he began working there in the fall of 1964. That includes a long stint as baseball coach. (Steve Krah Photo)