By STEVE KRAH
One of the many lessons a son has learned from his father is that of lifelong learning.
With more than 40 years as a business teacher at Edgewood High School in the Monroe County town of Ellettsville and upwards of 30 as head baseball coach, Bob Jones can draw on a deep well of knowledge.
Jones, who recently turned 66, has plenty of know-how. But the former student at Central Catholic High School in Vincennes (now Vincennes Rivet), Vincennes University and Indiana State University is not content with that wisdom alone.
“He sits in the first or second row at the (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association) State Clinic each year,” says Sam Jones, one of Bob’s sons (Jade is the other) and a member of his EHS coaching staff. “He doesn’t want to miss a word.
“The knife most used is the best-sharpened.”
Bob Jones has also been a regular at clinics hosted by Jasper High School.
He employs the same approach as an educator. To prepare for his personal finance and introduction to business classes, Bob takes his text book home every night and reads it over so he will know the subject when addressing students the next day.
“He’s definitely not going to settle for complacency,” says Sam Jones, a 2006 Edgewood baseball alum and himself a seven grade social studies teacher at Cloverdale. “And he’s always evolving with the game (of baseball).”
Bob Jones and his staff, which also includes Tom Anderson (pitching coach), Eli Mathers (strength coach), Mac Kido, Austin Chapman, John Cage, Kyle May (junior varsity), John Justis (junior varsity) view their baseball program as what Sam Jones calls “a living and breathing thing” that changes with the times.
When he saw the benefits, Bob Jones started having his players lift weights daily — even game days.
“We live and die by the weight room,” says Sam Jones.
When Jaeger Sports bands came along with J-Bands for arm care, Edgewood began using them.
With all the private lessons and travel organizations now available, the Edgewood staff knows today’s players are pretty smart.
“They can feel and understand what their body is telling them and make some adjustments,” says Sam Jones. “The last eight or 10 years, dad has also had a lot of success reaching to to (students at nearby Indiana University) who want to stay connected to the game.”
Those IU students come and work with the Mustangs on the diamond and influence them beyond it. Many have gone on to become business professionals.
“They give vision for these kids,” says Sam Jones. “They know what’s possible if they apply themselves.”
Bob Jones has led Edgewood to sectional baseball championships nine times (1987, 1991, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and regional titles twice (2007 and 2011), all the while giving plenty of responsibility to his assistants.
“He empowers them to make decisions,” says Sam Jones. “We believe in building a tribe.”
Two years ago, Bob Jones was struck on the leg by a foul ball and a hematoma caused him to miss three weeks of baseball.
His assistants rallied in his absence and the Mustangs did not miss a beat.
Edgewood, an IHSAA Class 3A school with around 800 students, typically fields three teams. Last spring, there was a varsity and two JV teams.
Sam Jones says that is likely to be the case again in 2018.
“The new pitch count has forced us to spread out our games a little more,” says Sam Jones, who lays out the JV schedules, making sure to get a balance of 4A schools like Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo in with 1A and 2A competition. “We’re giving our freshman to compete against bigger and better competition right off the bat. We also do not wanted them to overwhelmed with teams that are above and beyond their skill set.”
The pitch count at levels below varsity is tighter than in is for varsity (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days). There was discussion at the IHSBCA State Clinic of making one standard for all since many schools will use pitchers for varsity and JV games — sometimes in the same week.
Edgewood is a member of the Western Indiana Conference and is part of the East Division along with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Indian Creek and Owen Valley. The West features Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo.
Each team plays home-and-home division series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with only the first game counting in the WIC standings. There are crossover games at the end of the season — East No. 1 plays West No. 1 and so on.
Bob Jones wants to see all sectional opponents during the regular season so Edgewood has Brown County, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo on its schedule.
The Mustangs plays home games on Ermil Clark Field, which is located between the high school and junior high buildings.
As part of a phase of athletic upgrades for Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, the baseball field is scheduled to get new dugouts and a backstop after the 2018 campaign.
A few years ago, players, coaches and parents chipped in to eliminate the hill in right field.
During spring break, they laid the sod and put down the bricks needed to level the fence.
“There were a lot of man hours from our players to make that field playable,” says Sam Jones. “If we don’t have kids that are interested in our field or our purpose that doesn’t happen.
“We’re super grateful for that.”
While junior high baseball is currently on hiatus, Edgewood does have Richland-Bean Blossom Youth Sports feeding it program along with area travel teams including Tier Ten, Demand Command and Diamond Dynamics. These organizations have players from multiple high schools.
“It’s a cohesive baseball community here,” says Sam Jones. “We like to think Monroe County has some pretty good baseball.”
Celebrating an occasion together (from left): Sam Jones, Bob Jones, Jade Jones and Cris Jones. Bob is a longtime teacher and head baseball coach at Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind. Sam, a 2006 Edgewood graduate, is one of his assistants.