By STEVE KRAH
Brad Douglas played for a high school baseball coach who appreciated hard-nosed players and those willing to lead.
Kyle Campbell was guiding the Frankton baseball program when Douglas was a student-athlete and now 1994 graduate Douglas is entering his fifth season as Eagles head coach in 2018.
“He would always challenge his guys,” says Douglas of the late Campbell. “He was always interested in giving guys opportunities to lead. He was always somebody who was going to earn what you got.
“He recognized hard work.”
Douglas takes much the same approach with his players at Frankton Junior/Senior High School.
He wants competitors.
“You play the kids who are up for the challenge,” says Douglas. “If you can play, I don’t care if you’re a sophomore or a freshman.”
Frankton is a small town in Madison County and the school has around 480 students.
Douglas tells his players that they are making lifetime of memories during their school days.
“I’m a firm believer in the kids being good citizens and good students,” says Douglas. “I want them to be extremely involved with the community, have school spirit and support everyone. They should appreciate the four years and make the best of it.”
This high-knit community lost a baseball coach and teacher the day after Christmas 2017 when Chris Hatzell died unexpectedly at 44. The 1992 Frankton graduate was an eighth grade social studies teacher and tended the first base box for the Eagles.
“He was a great guy and a great dad,” says Douglas, who was a a high school teammate of Hatzell’s for two years. “You learn a lot about people after they’re gone. Students were very touched by the loss of Coach Hatzell.”
Douglas works as a union representative for Rolls Royce in Indianapolis and Hatzell was his “eyes and ears” at the school and did many things behind the scenes. On the diamond, he would throw batting practice or swing the fungo bat for hours.
“We reflected each other well,” says Douglas, who recalls Hatzell coaching a 12-year-old Frankton team to a Town & Country Baseball state championship.
To honor Hatzell, there will be a patch on Frankton jerseys this spring. There are also plans for a memorial marker near the dugout on the Eagles’ home field.
That field, located on the Frankton Elementary School grounds, has an infield that’s been re-graded and re-sodded with an irrigation system installed. The mound and home plate areas have been re-built. There is also new on-field storage in the home dugout, new concrete and safety hand rails in each dugout and concrete tee stations in the batting cage.
Frankton is part of two-high school district in Frankton-Lapel Community Schools.
“The kids still have a passion for the rivalry” says Douglas of the Lapel Bulldogs. “It keeps our kids motivated. You don’t want to go a whole year wearing a loss from your sister school.”
While Lapel is an athletic independent, Frankton belongs to the Central Indiana Conference (along with Alexandria-Monroe, Blackford, Eastbrook, Elwood, Madison-Grant, Mississinewa and Oak Hill).
Since Douglas took over the program, he has gotten the Eagles schedule back up to the 28-game regular-season limit and includes plenty of quality.
“When you have Shenandoah, Wapahani, Tipton and Yorktown in addition to our CIC schedule (each team meets the other once on Tuesdays and Thursdays), you’re in for some good baseball,” says Douglas.
The Eagles are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Shenandoah and Wapahani.
“We play in one of the toughest sectionals in the state,” says Douglas. “It’s competitive regardless of the names of the players. You’ve got coaches like Brian Dudley at Wapahani, Matt Campbell at Lapel, Bruce Stanley at Shenandoah and Keith Nunley at Monroe Central.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. But it’s a good challenge that we embrace.”
The Eagles’ last two sectional titles came in 2003 and 2016. They were also regional champions in ’03.
Returnees for Frankton in 2018 include to college baseball-committed seniors in right-handed pitcher/shortstop Landon Weins (Morehead State University) and right-hander/infielder Evan Doan (Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo.) plus others from the Class of ’18 in right-hander/center fielder Travis McGuire, outfielder Will Harris, utility Brock Threet and Noah Van Slyke.
“We have nine seniors returning,” says Douglas. “That’s unheard of for a small school.”
There’s also junior right-hander/third baseman J.J. Hatzell and sophomore left-hander/outfielder Ethan Bates.
Frankton’s 2018 assistant coaches are Rick Dellinger, Tim Friend and Mark Caldwell.
Alumnus Matt Kunce is currently a player at Huntington University.
Prior to taking over the program at his alma mater, Douglas was coaching in youth and travel baseball. He continues to coach son Bradyn Douglas (a seventh grader) with Tony Cookerly and the 13U White Indiana Bulls.
“I’m a huge proponent of travel baseball,” says Douglas, who has had Frankton players also play for the Indiana Prospects, Indiana Mustangs, USAtheltic and others. “I use a lot of things that (executive director) Dan Held preaches throughout the Bulls organization.”
Frankton’s high school program is also fed by Red and White seventh and eighth grade club teams.
Brad and Tricia Douglas also have a daughter. Sydney Douglas is a Frankton junior.
Frankton baseball coach Brad Douglas (left) celebrates with Jake Richwine in 2017. The 2018 season will make the fifth as Eagles head baseball coach for 1994 Frankton graduate Douglas.