BY STEVE KRAH
Creating confidence is major goal for Phillip Reynolds as head baseball coach for Dugger (Ind.) Union Junior/Senior High School.
“I don’t focus on the X’s and O’s as much as some coaches do,” says Reynolds, who has been in charge of the Bulldogs program since just before the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 after a season as an assistant coach. “I buy into my players and give them the tools to build themselves. If they don’t believe in themselves it doesn’t matter.
“We’re getting kids to step out of their comfort zone. They’re going through skill training and learning how to move their feet. We’re showing them they can hit a baseball. We’re building from the ground up here.”
Dugger Union won three games in 2021. That’s the highest total in years.
“All of my boys are excited to be back and go again (for 2022),” says Reynolds, who hopes to have around around 21 players for a varsity-only schedule this spring. “The boys are really starting to buy into the program. Three years ago we had just 11 kids.”
Dugger was formerly in the Northeast School Corporation of Sullivan County. In December 2013, NESC voted to close Union High School and Dugger Elementary. The school became a Grace College-affiliated charter school and operates as Dugger Union Community Schools. There are about 200 students in the top four grades.
“Dugger has come a long way from where it used to be,” says Reynolds. “The administration pushes the students to be the best they can be.”
The 2022 season will mark the last of the Bulldogs’ probation from IHSAA tournament play.
Located about 25 miles from the Indiana-Illinois State Line, Dugger Union holds membership in athletic conferences in both states — the Southern Roads Conference (with Cannelton, Columbus Christian, Christian Academy of Madison, Lighthouse Christian Academy of Bloomington, Medora, Pleasant View Christian of Montgomery and Seven Oaks Classical of Ellettsville) in Indiana and the Little Okaw Valley Conference (with Martinsville, Oblong-Palestine-Hutsonville and Red Hill) in Illinois. In the SRC, only Dugger Union, Cannelton and Columbus Christian currently have baseball.
Reynolds was born in Texas and moved around as an “U.S. Army brat.” He played Little League while living in Oklahoma. The 2001 graduate of nearby Linton-Stockton High School retired after a 12 1/2-year hitch in the Army — which include time in Georgia where he was a Little League coach — and is a substitute teacher at Dugger Union. The father of four from a previous marriage also enjoys hunting and fishing.
Phillip’s wife Joanie (who has a daughter living at home) is an assistant coach. He is looking to recruit more help.
The Bulldogs play on a field a half mile from the school. It is a community-shared field with a skinned infield.
“It is very, very fast,” says Reynolds. “We understand our field. I tell them at away games (on grass infields) it’s not going to come to them as fast as it is on our field.”
A local youth league goes to age 12.
“The last two years we were getting freshmen that haven’t played in a couple years,” says Reynolds. “I think we have enough for an actual junior high team this year.
“It’s baby steps.”
Dugger Union is scheduled to open the season March 29 against visiting Martinsville (Ill.). The Bulldogs have been invited to return to a tournament hosted by Evansville Bosse May 21.
In between, there are scheduled dates with Bosse, Cannelton, Cloverdale, Columbus Christian, Crothersville, Eastern Greene, Greencastle, Lawrenceville (Ill.), North Central (Farmersburg), North Vermillion, Oblong, Red Hill, Robinson, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet and Wood Memorial.