BY STEVE KRAH
Jake Banwart, the head baseball coach at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis since 2018, looks to the 2023 campaign with a mix of returnees and newcomers possession physical tools.
But that’s not been the focus for the Falcons in the months leading up to the season.
“It’s mindset,” says Banwart. “We definitely have some talent to work with in this group. The off-season can get pretty long and monotonous. We have established the mentality of not worrying about playing time and challenging themselves to get better on a day-to-day basis not only on the physical side but on their daily habits and mindset.
“We’ve dove in quite a bit on the mental side.”
Banwart is president and co-founder of Baseball Academics/Fastpitch Academics Midwest (BAM/FAM) — an organization he started in 2015 with Adam Gouker (the former Indianapolis Lutheran High School head coach who serves as vice president) that emphasizes the six-tool player (speed, arm strength, fielding, hitting for average and hitting for power plus the mental skill).
BAM and FAM has around 450 athletes on 36 travel teams — 18 baseball and 18 softball — that train at Extra Innings Indy South.
With the growth of all three and the addition of Dugout Coalition (which offers online mental training for coaches and players) and his one-one mindset and small group routine mindset training, Banwart wrapped an eight-year stretch as a classroom teacher about two years ago.
Perry Meridian (enrollment around 2,300) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Plainfield and Whiteland Community).
MSC teams play home-and-home weekday series.
The Falcons are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Franklin Central, Arsenal Tech, Roncalli, Southport and Warren Central. Perry Meridian has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2007.
Roncalli, Southport and Warren Central are also on the Falcons’ regular-season schedule.
Michael Carter (Class of 2023) is committed to Franklin (Ind.) College and two or three others are expected to announce where they will play college baseball by the start of the season.
Recent graduates moving on the college diamond include Class of 2018’s Jesse Wainscott (who has transferred from Eastern Illinois University to Arizona State University), Class of 2019’s Charlie Joyce (Hanover, Ind., College) and Sean Thomas (Franklin College), Class of 2021’s Luke Genier (Olney, Ill., Central College) and John Joyce (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Class of 2022’s Kellen Reed (Franklin College) and Mason Rohlman (Franklin College).
There are typically 40 players to fill varsity and junior varsity roles for the Falcons. Perry Meridian is part of Perry Township Schools along with Southport High School and shares lighted Holder Field with Cardinals. The Falcons play JV games and run many practices on-campus.
Banwart’s varsity assistants are Robbie Strader, Cortez Hague, P.J. Miles and Ryan Parrot. Sam Ahrens is the JV head coach. He is assisted by Joe Garmon.
Southport Little League and Edgewood Athletic Association feed into Perry Meridian. Many players come from travel programs BAM, Top Tier Indiana (formerly Indiana Elite), Midwest Astros and Indy Clutch.
Banwart, who met Gouker while both were attending Anderson (Ind.) University, began assisting in baseball and teaching at Daleville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School and helped the Broncos to the 2016 IHSAA Class 1A state championship. He taught online while guiding Liberty Christian School in Anderson to a conference championship then moved to Perry Meridian, where he taught for three years.
Perry Meridian has a large population that traces its roots to Burma. There is a Burmese American Community Institute in Indianapolis. Over the years, some have served as baseball student managers or athletic trainers. Baseball does not enjoy the same level popularity in Burma as soccer and volleyball.