By STEVE KRAH
Chuck Brimbury has enjoyed each stage of his professional life — from teacher and coach to assistant principal to principal to superintendent and then to athletic director along with a return to coach.
Brimbury is really basking in his second go-round as head baseball coach at Peru High School.
“I’ve loved every single job I’ve had in education,” says Brimbury, who also served 15 years as a football coach at Peru, including one as interim head coach. “The more you move up, the farther you seem to be from the kids and the daily guidance of them. I missed coaching. It was huge part of my life.
“I’ve been blessed to get back into it.”
After serving four years as superintendent of Peru Community Schools and helping to earn the district four-star status as one of the best-performing systems in Indiana, he opted in June 2014 to become AD and once again lead the Tigers on the diamond.
Beginning in 1998, Brimbury previously held the job for a decade.
“We had a really good run,” says Brimbury, whose teams were state-ranked in most seasons and had his 2000 squad reach the IHSAA Class 3A Final Four.
Brimbury borrowed methods he learned while serving as an assistant to Don Sherman at Huntington North High School.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer taught him all the intricacies of running a successful baseball operation.
“We believe in holding people to high standards,” says Brimbury. “We get off the bus all looking the same and we stay together. Our top players carry the water cooler. There’s no job too small.”
Peru baseballers wears “Program” on their shirts to remind themselves and everyone else that “the program is more important than any player or any coach.”
Brimbury also uses drills and teaching methods gleaned from Hall of Famers Bill Jones of DeKalb, Bill Nixon of Plymouth and Chris Stavreti of Fort Wayne Northrop as well as the man who won 1,010 games and seven state championships — Ken Schreiber of LaPorte.
It doesn’t have to be a Thursday for the Tigers to throwing it back.
“We’re throwbacks,” says Brimbury. “It’s an old-school approach and our kids thrive off it.
“If you resemble a lot of guys with blue rings you’ll get one for your community one day. If their kids can do it, we can do it. We believe that here. We use a lot of what works.”
In his first season back in charge (2015), Brimbury enjoyed Peru’s first sectional championship since 2000.
When the Mid-Indiana Conference dissolved at the end on the 2014-15 academic school year, the Tigers joined the Three Rivers Conference and have reigned in baseball in their first two seasons in the new league (2016 and 2017).
“It’s a really good small-school conference,” says Brimbury of a conference which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko. “I really enjoy the competition.”
Brimbury has also savored the ability to build a non-conference which has pitted the Tigers against the best competition from around the state and to a variety of venues.
Peru played Lafayette Central Catholic at Purdue University and both Providence and Rossville at Alexandria-Monroe in 2017 and this year will feature a program first — a southern spring break trip with stops at League Stadium in Huntingburg (where much of the movie “A League of Their Own” was filmed) to play Southridge and games at Muhlenberg County and Christian County in Kentucky.
“I want to make sure these kids have a tremendous experience in their four years at Peru,” says Brimbury. “I like exposing these kids to beautiful places and really good programs.
“Each year our schedule is a little different. We want to get our kids used to playing on the road.”
The idea is to prepare the Tigers for the postseason, which begins in 2018 with the Peru Sectional but another title would mean a trek to the always-tough Griffith Regional.
Peru is to play at Indiana State University May 5.
Tiger Field will also be the site of 2018 Miami County Classic. Two of the three teams that visit Peru feature head coaches with close ties to Brimbury — former assistant Shane Edwards at Oak Hill and former player Troy Hudson at North Miami. Maconaquah rounds out the field for the May 12 all-day event.
“We have an old-time field,” says Brimbury. “It’s beautiful at night. It’s a really good atmosphere for home games.
“It’s one of the better small-school stadiums out there.”
Brimbury’s public address announcer at Tiger Field and assistant at Peru athletic events is Mike Stewart.
Now retired, Stewart was Chuck’s baseball coach at Fountain Central High School who also found his way to “Tiger Town.”
“(Stewart) was passionate about the game,” says Brimbury, who graduated from high school in 1988 and went on to play a little at Marian University in Indianapolis and receive various degrees from Indiana State.
Every Peru game and a weekly coach’s show has been on the radio (thanks to 101.9 FM and broadcasters Bob Stambazze and Doug Muzzillo) and many contests are shown on student-run Tiger TV.
Several players saw significant varsity action last spring, meaning Brimbury welcomes back 17 lettermen.
Among the senior returnees are catcher Nathan Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s son and a 2017 IHSBCA Junior Showcase invitee), right-hander Lucas McConahay (the top returning pitcher), outfielders Austin Caldwell and Robert Cunningham, second baseman Kasey Comp, first baseman Christian Gatliff and designated hitter Nathan Ramirez.
Juniors include third baseman Blake Edwards, outfielder D.J. Fuller, catcher Payton Honn and left-handers Chance Ogle and Zach Purcell.
Sophomores in the mix are right-hander/third baseman/shorstop Michael Chandler, outfielder Jonah Hoopenthal, outfielder/shortstop Daunte Majors, middle infielder Dmitry Reese and right-handers Jackson Green and Chase Tyler.
Hitting coach Rob Hileman has been with Brimbury in every season in both of his tenures except one. Jody Beauchamp is the Tigers pitching coach. Shawn Dwyer, Josh Ulrey, Brad Townsend, Gary Loe and strength coach complete the high school staff.
Sixth grader Madison Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s daughter) is a baseball student manager.
Michelle Brimbury, who is a special education teacher at PHS, is also team mom.
Feeders for the high school program include a Peru Junior High School team, which is expected to play 12 to 15 games in April and May.
There is also the Peru Cal Ripken League and many players wind up with various travel baseball organizations.
Besides Nolan Brimbury, recent Peru graduates on college baseball rosters include left-handed pitcher Cameron Beauchamp (Indiana University) and right-handers Dexter Shuler (Franklin College) and Sean Smith (Wabash College).
Beauchamp (2016) and Smith (2017) were both IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participants.
“It’s fulfilling to see our kids playing at some level above high school and we try to keep (former players) a part of our program,” says Brimbury, who regularly welcomes baseball alums from his first Peru head coaching stint into his dugout and is now coaching the sons of some former players. “It’s a long history of former Tiger baseball players.
“We are totally vested in the success of our kids here.”
The Brimbury family celebrates Peru High School’s 2015 sectional baseball championship (from left): Michelle, Nathan, Nolan, Chuck and Madison. In 2018, Chuck is in the fourth season of his second tenure as head coach. Nathan is a senior catcher. Michelle is team mom. Madison is student manager. Nolan is now a redshirt sophomore at Indiana State University.