By STEVE KRAH
Kris Dill has been coaching for close to two decades — the last three at his alma mater. In his first year in charge (2019), his Taylor High School baseball team lost to eventual state champion Alexandra-Monroe in the IHSAA Class 2A Eastern (Greentown) Sectional final.
A 1996 graduate of Taylor in Kokomo, Ind., Dill was a junior varsity assistant on a staff led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer George Phares in 2003. That summer, Phares got him hooked up with a Connie Mack League coaching job. Dill helped guide the Taylor Titans with Phares and then Jeremy Luna through 2010.
Later came the opportunity to be head JV softball coach at Kokomo High School for a year and head JV baseball coach for the Wildkats for four years before taking his current position at Taylor. When that happened he stepped down as director of 8U to 14U teams for the Indiana Nitro travel organization and is now a 14U Gold assistant.
Born and raised in Kokomo, Dill played at Taylor Southeast Little League, where Dwayne Richmond was one of his coaches. Dill later assisted him at Taylor High.
“I learned a ton from him,” says Dill of Richmond.
Dill attended Victory Christian Academy from kindergarten through freshmen year. VCA does not have a baseball team. He transferred to Taylor as a sophomore and became acquainted with Phares.
“He taught hard lessons,” says Dill, who was a catcher on the field and not such a disciplined student. “If you weren’t doing the right things in the classrooms he wasn’t going to let you get away with that. You’ve got to be accountable.
“I did not play college baseball. I was pretty immature.”
Dill entered the work force after high school. He got married, started a family and, eventually, decided to go to college.
“I was going into youth ministry,” says Dill, who left for Kentucky Christian University (Grayson, Ky.) at the end of July 2003.
On Labor Day weekend, Dill, wife Brenda and baby daughter Arianne were traveled back to Kokomo when tragedy struck.
“We were 15 minutes from home on U.S. 31 and a drunk driver headed in wrong direction hit us head-on,” says Dill of that Aug. 29. “It killed my wife instantly. I got 100 stitches. My daughter did not have a scratch.”
Brenda Sue Dill was 22.
Kris Dill stayed in Kentucky for the next two years then moved back to his hometown. He eventually earned a degree from Indiana University Kokomo (2013) and got re-married. He and wife Amy have a son named Kade.
Arianne Dill played soccer at nearby Western High School as a freshman and sophomore. She ran cross country and track and Taylor and graduated in 2021. Baseball-playing Kade Dill is a Taylor eighth grader.
Kris, who turns 44 in November, teaches general and Advanced College Placement U.S. History at Taylor.
As baseball coach, Dill leads a program at a school with an enrollment around 360 and not many with the resources to play travel ball. They often arrive in high school lacking in the fundamentals and diamond experience.
“(In 2021-22) we’re going to be in a little better spot,” says Dill. “We got in a summer of Babe Ruth Baseball (the COVID-19 pandemic took away high school and summer action in 2020). We got to play and learn how to play.
“We will be able to hit the ground running with varsity players. The JV will get some time to perfect those fundamentals and hone in on them. Our Baseball I.Q. is going to be in a lot better place.
“Our kids didn’t play for two years essentially. But we don’t talk about those things. We talk about what we’re going to do to get better.”
While slowed down when Dill tested positive and was out for two weeks, Taylor is easing into IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities (the current window is Aug. 30-Oct. 16).
Dill’s coaching staff features Tyler Hodson, Tim Douglas and B.J. Pemberton with the varsity and head coach Josiah Bolton and assistant Caden Sullivan with the JV.
Taylor plays on George Phares Field. The Titans are a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with baseball members Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan and Tri-Central).
In 2021, Taylor was part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant and Tipton. The Titans have won seven sectional titles — the last in 2015.
Former player Colby Devenport is on the reserve squad at Indiana Tech.
Taylor brought back middle school baseball in 2021, which will also help at the high school level. As part of the feeder system, travel teams are being added at Taylor Southeast.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” says Dill. “It’s a slow-moving build. We’re going to grind away.”
The 8U level is going to Coach Pitch so they can learn how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.
“We have resources,” says Dill. “It’s about using them correctly.”