By STEVE KRAH
Attention to Detail.
These are the seven winning values — the battle cry — of the baseball program at Huntington (Ind.) North High School.
“Win 7” is emblazoned on social media and apparel.
“We fully believe in the team and we try to remove the individuals and that’s coaches and players,” says Jarod Hammel, who in the second year of a second stint as Vikings head coach (he was an assistant beginning in 2010 and then head coach from 2017-19). “Everything that we do is about the team with the exception of the ‘Win 7’ (year-end award).
“It’s the player who embodied our seven values. It’s not the MVP. We make that clear to the guys and they vote on it.”
It’s those values that can be controlled every game regardless of how the scoreboard reads.
“We may not win all seven innings of every game, but we want to compete that way,” says Hammel. “If we get back on the bus and we feel we won those seven it’s going to be a good bus ride home.”
The “seven” theme does not end there.
“We have seven class periods in a day where we tell our kids you go in and you compete in the classroom as well and you win all seven of your periods,” says Hammel. “There are seven innings in each game. There are eight teams in (the Northeast Eight Conference) so we have to beat seven conference opponents. That’s our mindset. We may or may not, but we want to compete like we will.
“There’s seven games on a typical road to the (IHSAA) State Finals for us out of our bracket.”
Huntington North (enrollment around 1,500) counts Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Leo, New Haven and Norwell as NE8 foes.
The Vikings are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Columbia City (host), Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and New Haven. Huntington North has won 20 sectional titles — the last in 2017.
The program has also produced three regional crowns (1982, 1987 and 1993), one semistate championship (1993) and one state runner-up finish (1993).
A celebration of the ’93 team featuring Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association/Huntington North Athletics Hall of Famer Don Sherman during the 2023 season is now in the planning stages.
Hammel logged four baseball seasons (one coached by Chad Daughterty and three by Russ Degitz) and four at Huntington University (coached by Hall of Famer Mike Frame), picking up diplomas in 2006 and 2010.
“I was fortunate to have been a part of Viking baseball my whole life and be a small piece of it,” says Hammel. “I remember most the groups that I played on that served each other and was pulling for each other.
“So we’ve tried to create that and we’ve been fairly successful using the program to impact young men in the community.
To expose youth to Viking baseball and its players one method of outreach is a “home run derby” held on home football nights.
“We just let kids have fun,” says Hammel. “We don’t care if it’s the prettiest swing. We let them use wiffle ball bats and set up a snow fence.”
The recent IHSAA Limited Contact Period saw about 40 players participate with many others occupied with a fall sport.
“I think it’s going to be a competitive year to throw your name in the mix and be part of the program,” says Hammel. “I want to keep as many kids as I can and impact them through the program. We won’t turn any guys away who demonstrate commitment and desire to be involved and make good decisions. With that said, we’re probably going to land around 30 to 35 (players for varsity and junior varsity squads).
“We have a lot of multi-sport guys which I love. At minimum I’m wanting to catch a football practice a week so I can see our guys competing in a Viking jersey.”
Hammel says about 80 percent of those participating in the “Viking Velocity Builder Program” using a timed duration increased their arm strength and speed at the end of about six weeks training.
“We set realistic expectations of we can accomplish baseball-wise,” says Hammel. “Our primary focus was building relationships, especially with our new faces.”
Renovations took Huntington North from two baseball diamonds to one and three teams to two.
Viking Field, which is located on-campus, has new fencing, backstop netting and a brick kick wall as well as new batting cages and bullpens.
A hill in right field has been smoothed out and a tall wall has been installed. It’s 310 feet down the right field line, 345 in the right-center gap, 405 to center, 375 to left-center and 340 down the left field line.
“We’re so excited in some of the things the community has trusted us with,” says Hammel. “A significant amount of money has been donated to our baseball program.
“We have a new football field which is turf and we can work out on as well.
“It’s an exciting time for our guys to be involved. I think that they want to be good stewards of it.”
A former Mathematics teacher at Huntington North, Hammel is now an assistant principal. He has a masters degree from Ball State University and is married with four small children.