BY STEVE KRAH
An opportunity to make a difference has led Dan Turner back to the Indianapolis neighborhood where he grew up.
Turner was raised two blocks from the Children’s Guardian Home.
“I had a good friend that lived here,” says Turner. “We used to sneak in here and play basketball.”
That building just inside the I-465 circle on the near east side now houses Irvington Preparatory Academy and Turner is in his second season as the Ravens head baseball coach.
IPA is the high school portion of Irvington Community Schools and is a charter school with a diverse student population.
“Many students come from low-income families or part of the 21st Century Scholars program (which makes college affordable based on need and other factors).
“We want to provide a safe learning environment and raise students who are respectful and prepared for the modern world,” says Irvington Prep principal Jana Goebel. “We want them to be good citizens, hard workers and successful in their life after high school.
“We want everyone can go to college, but we know that college isn’t for everyone. We have a few kids every year that join the military, several do apprenticeships for the trades and some just go right into the workforce. But I would say probably 60 percent are college bound.
“You don’t have to go to college, but you have to have a plan.”
Says Turner, “High school baseball can’t be the pinnacle of our life.”
It’s the education-focused model and a chance to better the lives of young people that that drew Turner to the school.
“I think the world would be much better if we just took a little pocket and changed our pockets or our neighborhoods,” says Turner, who was hired by former Irvington Prep athletic director Teddy Rogers. “It’s about doing good. It’s about changing the culture. It’s getting kids off the gerbil wheel and making them understand that there’s opportunities in this world and we can make a difference.
“If we all made a difference in our communities the big world problems would go away. This is why I like it here.”
Diversity also means different ethnic and social backgrounds. Turner does not want those to be a stumbling block to learning and a successful baseball program.
“We have to understand we’re all the same race,” says Turner. “We just have different skin colors. We’re all human race.”
After playing no games in 2020 (COVID-19 pandemic) and 2021 (low numbers), the Ravens went 10-7 and won the Greater Indianapolis Conference title in 2022 with a roster of 14. The win total is a school record.
Before the season started, several Irvington players took part in a National Scouting Report Metrics Combine at Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield.
The 2023 team is off to a 3-1 start.
Turner has high standards.
“I’m tough on my guys and I’m brutally honest,” says Turner. “I don’t pull punches.
“Accountability is huge. I don’t put up with excuses. One of my favorite sayings is ‘excuses are a justification for failure.’ We’ve got to make our kids better on the field and in the classroom or we’re in trouble.”
Irvington Prep (enrollment around 360) is a member of the Greater Indianapolis Athletic Conference (with baseball-playing schools Crispus Attucks, Eminence, Indianapolis Washington, Purdue Polytechnic and Tindley).
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 (up from 1A) with Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina, Park Tudor and Triton Central. Irvington has not yet won a sectional title.
IPA plays and practice three miles from campus at McNulty Park on Raymond Avenue — home to Irvington Sports Baseball & Softball. That’s the same grounds where Turner played Little League.
Hans Lassiter, who played baseball at North Carolina State A&T University, is Chief Executive Officer of Irvington Community Schools.
“He’s going to give us the resources to be a handful here on the east side of Indianapolis,” says Turner. “We’re going to be good.
“We’re going to drive this thing to be a good program — a program that’s based off education first.”
Victories are a priority for the coach.
“Winning is important,” says Turner. “I think losing becomes acceptable. And when losing becomes acceptable we transfer that into our lives outside baseball.”
The Ravens coaching staff also includes Orien Ogg (father of pro pitcher Kenny Ogg), Warren Belton, Jim Ellis, Roger Rebbnack and oldest son Brandon Turner.
“I look at all of us as co-coaches,” says Dan Turner. “This is a team. This is a family.”
Turner is a 1983 graduate of the former Indianapolis Howe Community High School.
Dan and wife Trischa have been married since 1986. She is a 1984 Warren Central High School graduate who now serves as Vice President for Perioperative Services for Methodist Hosptials.
The couple has four children — daughters Courtney and Brittany and sons Brandon and Bradley. All went to Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind.
Brandon Turner played college baseball at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati and Bradley Turner at the University Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Turner, who is regional sales manager for TW Sales and splits his time between Indiana and Florida, has been in the travel baseball world for many years. He started with the Mt. Vernon Vipers then was with Harold Gibson (father of big leaguer Kyle Gibson) and the Indiana Bandits.
Around 2010, Turner helped start the Indy Stix. The organization will field 16U, 17U and 18U teams this summer. Supplements have allowed inner-city kids to play travel ball with a chance to go to college.
K.J. Rankin (Irvington Prep Class of 2024) is on the IPA and Indy Stix 16U rosters.
Turner also started Lead-Off Consulting, which helps players and the parents though the college recruiting process.
A few years ago, Turner went to Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis to assist Titans head coach Bob Haney.
“I always knew the inner-city needs help — not just on the field but they need a lot of other things,” says Turner, who used his travel team to start a clothing drive when he found a player wrapped in a bed sheet to stay warm because he had no coat.
“These are the things that eat at me,” says Turner. “We’ve got to make a difference.”