By STEVE KRAH
Mike Bodart conducted a call-out meeting Wednesday, Aug. 31, after being named head baseball coach at his alma mater — Columbus (Ind.) North High School.
There were 37 players in attendance and a few more indicated that they could not be there.
There could be about 40 players to fill out varsity and junior varsity rosters in 2023.
Bodart, a 1993 North graduate who has been a Bull Dogs assistant in two different stints (1998-2000 with head coach Val Nolan and 2014-21 with head coach Ben McDaniel), talked about putting teammates first and lifelong loyalty to Columbus North baseball.
“It’s not about us; It’s about the program,” says Bodart. “We don’t want any individuals putting themselves first.
“It’s about building.”
Bodart has had a number of former players reach out to him this week.
“I’m going to work on getting the alumni re-energized,” says Bodart. “We want to honor them a little bit.”
Ways this can be done is to recognize teams that advanced in the state tournament or prominent alums.
“We want to show the kids how loyalty to the program looks,” says Bodart.
The coach also told Wednesday’s gathering about perseverance.
As a player, he did not make the varsity until he was a senior and convinced head coach Joe Preda to keep him.
“I was not necessarily the most-talented,” says Bodart. “But I gritty, smart and worked hard. I tried to put myself in places to be successful.
“(Current players) are going to get a fair chance from me because I understand. Be ready when your chance comes.”
Columbus North (enrollment around 2,300) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
The Bull Dogs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, East Central and Shelbyville. Columbus North has won 14 sectional titles — the last in 2021.
Bodart says there has been talk at North of adding lights and turf to the infield at the school’s field at Southside Elementary.
“We’ve never had lights in Columbus at either high school,” says Bodart. “If we end a conference game in a tie for darkness the visiting team has to come back.”
CERA Sports Park & Campground in Columbus is home to a youth baseball league.
Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus will field it first baseball team in 2022-23.
Bodart played two seasons at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany for Rick Parr and later graduated from IU-Bloomington and then joined Nolan’s staff.
“Part of his goal was to get me ready to be a varsity coach,” says Bodart. “Val is still a really good friend to this day.”
Bodart helped Gene Wise at Columbus East during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
McDaniel, who retired after the 2021 season, did things that impressed Bodart.
“He did a wonderful job of challenging the guys mentally and making sure they were prepared,” says Bodart. “His attention to detail was ridiculously amazing. He was meticulous during the game. It forced me to be a better coach.”
Bodart says McDaniel had a way of addressing mistakes and positives.
“We have to learn from what we did,” says Bodart. “It forced me to start working on that.”
Bodart has also coached with the Diesel Baseball Club — a Bartholomew County-based travel organization — the past three years and plans to continue.
Mike and wife Amanda have two children — North sophomore Lizzie (15) and South Side Elementary fifth grader and Diesel ballplayer Michael (11).
Bodart bought Hoosier Sporting Goods in Columbus in 2003. The business has been in town for generations.
“It keeps me involved in sports,” says Bodart. “I keep up on the trends the kids like.”
He foresees letting current seniors — who missed their freshman season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and have three head coaches in McDaniel, Patrick Antone (now head coach at Roncalli) and Bodart — will be allowed to design a set of uniforms to leave their mark on the program.
There have been no college commitments among current players. Bodart says Tyler Blythe and Luke Harmon are among those from the Class of 2023 who might choose to play at the next level.
Devin Mann (Class of 2015) is a North graduate who played at the University of Louisville and is now an infielder with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Of late, some college players from North have been the Class of 2018’s Tyler Finke (Snead State Community College in Alabama and Southeastern Louisiana State University), 2019’s Parker Maddox (University of Southern Indiana) and Jakob Meyer (University of Evansville), 2020’s Casper Clark (John A. Logan College in Illinois), 2021’s Austin Bode (Louisville and Indiana University), Reese Harmon (Iowa Western Community College) and Kyler McIntosh (Alabama State University) and 2022’s Will Baker (Snead State), Dyllan Redmon (Franklin College in Indiana) and Zach Wager (University of Tennessee at Martin).