BY STEVE KRAH
At 51, Roger Hasper still plays the game.
He’s also sharing his love of baseball with youngsters — many who are experiencing it for first time.
Hasper plays in the Indianapolis Baseball League and has competed in 25-and-over, 35-and-over and 45-and-over leagues. He came back to the diamond as a player at 41 after a two-decade absence. He has been a second baseman and third baseman and in his 35-and-over league, made the all-star team as a pitcher.
“I throw a change-up and off-speed — 75 (mph) at the most,” says Hasper. “I use (hitters’) aggressiveness to my advantage.”
IBL games are played at a variety of high schools with more than half at Grand Park in Westfield.
Hasper is also the head baseball coach at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School and an English Language Acquisition Paraprofessional at the Goodwill-affiliated institution with an enrollment of about 275 about 1.5 miles northwest of Victory Field that caters to “students with barriers.”
“We’ll get kids as juniors and seniors who are credit-deficient,” says Hasper. “We don’t get many freshmen.”
Hasper started the program in February 2020 — a few weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown took away that season. The revamped revamped Pumas debuted in 2021 as a club team and finished the season with 10 athletes. Only one had played baseball before.
“We have really good athletes here,” says Hasper. “It’s just changing their mind from basketball and football to baseball.
“We had a really fun year last year.”
Hasper, who was the lone coach last year, says there’s been a groundswell of baseball interest at the school.
“I’m looking at 20 or 30 kids,” says Hasper. “If that’s the case I’ll definitely need some (coaching) help.”
In 2022, Indianapolis Metropolitan will a bona fide IHSAA team with orange, blue and white uniforms.
Metropolitan is a member of the Greater Indianapolis Athletic Conference (with Crispus Attucks, Eminence, Indianapolis Washington, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Purdue Polytechnic, Tindley and Victory College Preparatory).
Last year, Metropolitan played two games against Purdue Polytechnic — one at Howe. Next spring, Hasper hopes the Pumas will be able to play and practice at either Howe or Rhoadius Park.
Hasper got his coaching start at Herron High School in Indianapolis where he assisted Rusty Hughes for five seasons (2015-19).
As a high school player and student, he attended what is now Prosser Career Academy in Chicago into the start of his junior year before moving to California and finishing at Los Angeles Baptist. He then went to College of the Canyons, a junior college in Santa Clarita, Calif. Decades later, he’s been taking two courses a semester at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis to finish his degree.
Hasper says he plans to give many of his players a chance to pitch in order to cover the pitch county requirement and because of lack of stamina for those just learning mound skills.
“I wouldn’t want to hurt anybody,” says Hasper. “Give me a good two (innings) and we’re good.”
Hasper also sees baseball as a leverage tool.
“You’ve got to get the grades to make the team,” says Hasper. “It’s bigger than baseball.”