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Stevens making baseball important again at Bethesda Christian

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Raising baseball’s profile.

It’s the goal of Tom Stevens as the third-year head coach at Bethesda Christian School in Brownsburg, Ind.

Stevens took over the Patriots just a few months before the 2019 campaign, got through a year without games because of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and expects up to 20 players in 2021 at a private school of about 85 students.

“I’m trying to make this program relevant again,” says Stevens. “Baseball has been an afterthought for awhile.”

Bethesda Christian’s junior high baseball coach for a few seasons, Stevens was asked to head up the varsity in January 2019.

“We had to circle the wagons and get some practices going,” says Stevens. “We had no equipment and no set routine for the varsity schedule.

“We started building it basically from scratch.”

The school has replaced its rickety press box and Stevens would like to get a new backstop. 

The Patriots began workouts for 2020-21 in October and just finished the latest IHSAA Limited Contact Period for bat-and-ball activities. Players are now using a speed and agility routine devised by strength and conditioning expert Zach Dechant and a throwing strength training course put together by Jason Taulman, a former college coach who runs the Indy Sharks travel organization.

“I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in the speed on my baseball team,” says Stevens of Dechant’s system. “It really works.

“I use (the throwing program) with the entire team. We use med balls and J-bands and do core work.”

With Bethesda’s basketball teams getting first priority on gym time in February, a handful of baseball players were at the school a 6 a.m. Friday workout. 

Stevens’ assistant coach is Bethesda Christian graduate Josh Stroud.

Besides the junior high team, Stevens would like to establish a feeder system at the elementary level.

“I want to get them younger if I can,” says Stevens. “You have to build a program from the bottom up.”

Bethesda Christian is a member of the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference (with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic and University). Since Stevens has been involved, CCA and International have not fielded baseball teams.

PAAC teams are set up in two divisions and play each other one time.

The Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley and Traders Point Christian. Bethesda won sectional titles in 2008 and 2011.

A 1994 graduate of Southmont Senior High School in Crawfordsville, Ind., Stevens ran the Walnut Township youth league then headed Southmont Little League when it joined the national organization.

“Before that Southmont played Crawfordsville and North Montgomery (school system players) and that was it,” says Stevens, who helped the league branch out to find a variety of competition around Indianapolis.

Tom and wife Christy’s daughter, Madi, transferred to Bethesda when she was a ninth grader. She’s now an elementary education major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

When their sister changed schools, brothers Garrett and Wyatt — who began playing T-ball at Southmont — decided to also make the switch. 

Garrett Stevens is now a Bethesda senior. Bethesda is preparing to put stage “Beauty and The Beast” in March and Garrett is to play The Beast.

The Patriots’ top pitcher touches 90 mph on the radar gun, Garrett will be a teammate of freshman Wyatt. 

Garrett is committed to play baseball at Anderson (Ind.) University.

“(Ravens head) Coach (Matt) Bair knows baseball, but he’s a good mentor and cares about the boys,” says Stevens. “I’m more interested in these boys become good young men and that they become all-stars at leaders in their communities and their families.”

Bethesda Christian graduate Brayden Sayre is on the baseball roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.

Stevens is a licensed electrician, but has not worked in that field for about five years. He had a home improvement company in Crawfordsville. For the past three years, he’s been an apprentice to his wife in Winding Creek Ranch, a Crawfordsville-based dog breeding business specializing in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.

Stevens has coached travel ball, but he’s partial to the community leagues for younger players.

“Travel ball has no place for any kid below the junior high level and that’s pushing it,” says Stevens. “Let’s play ball locally.”

The Stevens family (from left): Madi, Garrett, Tom, Christy and Wyatt. Tom Stevens is head baseball coach at Bethesda Christian School in Brownsburg, Ind., and both his sons are on the team in 2021.

Patience is virtue for new South Bend Cubs manager, pro baseball vet Bailey

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Buddy Bailey is heading into his 40th season in professional baseball in 2019.

The new manager of the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in the Low Class-A Midwest League is aware that his players are still discovering what pro ball is all about.

With most players 19 to 22 years old and in the earliest stages of their careers, they are not finished products and Major League Baseball-ready.

“Down here it’s going to take more patience,” says Bailey, who has been a skipper at levels from rookie to Triple-A and was the manager of the year in the International League Manager in 1996 and 2003 and Venezuelan Professional Baseball League in 2006-07. “There are going to be more mistakes.

“I’ve got a motto: If you’re not patient, you will become a patient. You’ve got to live by that motto and try to find a way to help them get better.”

South Bend is scheduled to play a seven-inning exhibition against Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at Four Winds Field.

The 140-game regular season opens at home Thursday, April 4 with a 7:05 p.m. contest against West Michigan.

“A lot of these guys have big dreams and ambitions to put up good numbers,” says Bailey. “Some of them won’t be here long if they do things right.

“If we have half of a new team by June, it would be great for the (Chicago Cubs) organization.”

Bailey, who was born in Norristown, Pa. and went to high school and college in Virginia, says he has stayed in baseball so long because he sees it as an extension of his childhood and relishes the opportunity to turn young players into men with a kids’s heart.

“I still have passion and love for what I do,” says Bailey, who has won more than 2,000 games as a minor league manager. “Not all of them are going to be big league players, but at the same time, they’re going to have to go live their lives doing something else.

“Hopefully, you find some ways to build character — not only as a player, but you turn them into men.”

In four decades, plenty has changed in the world of player development.

Bailey says pitching is where it’s changed the most.

“Back then pitch totals were higher even in the minor leagues,” says Bailey. “Guys were allowed to collect more innings.”

Bailey recalls that Tom Glavine, who was on his way to 305 MLB wins and a trip to the Hall of Fame, pitched more than 150 innings (it was 168 2/3) in A-ball in 1985.

“We won’t have anyone get to that now,” says Bailey of the 2019 South Bend Cubs. Pitch counts and innings totals will be monitored and kept relatively low. “The whole industry’s got that mentality. That’s part of the way it is now. The game has changed.”

Welby Sheldon Bailey is a graduate of Amherst (Va.) County High School and Lynchburg (Va.) College.

A catcher, he signed his first pro contract with the Atlanta Braves in 1979.

Bailey managed in the Braves system 1983-90, winning the Southern League pennant as pilot of the Greenville Braves in 1988.

He went to the Boston Red Sox organization in 1991 and served as a minor league manager at Lynchburg (1991-92) and Pawtucket (1993-96, 2002-04) and served as a big league bench coach (2000 under manager Jimy Williams) and was a field coordinator of minor league instruction, or roving catcher instructor (1997-99, 2001).

Bailey has also led the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuela Winter League, leading the team to a Caribbean Series title in 2009.

He joined the Cubs organization in 2006 as a roving minor league catching instructor and took over as manager at Daytona midway through that season.

Since then, Bailey has managed at Triple-A Iowa (2007), Double-A Tennessee (2008, 2012-15), High-A Daytona (2009-11) and High-A Myrtle Beach (2016-18).

Bailey’s South Bend staff includes pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea, hitting coach Paul McAnulty and coach Pedro Gonzalez.

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Buddy Bailey is the manager of the Low Class-A South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in 2019. He spent the past three seasons as manager of the High-A Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans. He has been in professional baseball for 40 years. (Myrtle Beach Pelicans Photo)