By STEVE KRAH
Brian McCrary does not have a deep roster or abundant resources, but the head coach is working to make his athletes better at Rivet Middle/High School in Vincennes, Ind.
McCrary enters his third season in charge of the Patriots in 2019 after years in the travel baseball world.
In each of his first two seasons at the Catholic school, McCrary has had to find enough players to field a team. With just two seniors on a team made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores, Rivet won two games in 2017.
“We took some lumps,” says McCrary. “Working on mentality alone was a challenge.
“We got run-ruled left and right.”
The win total tripled in 2018.
“We were improving with basically the same team,” says McCrary. “It is a process at Rivet. You get a leadership class of two or three kids then what do you have after that?
“If you have numbers, you have options. We don’t have numbers. We get the most out of them. We’ve made tremendous strides.”
Ten players — three are seniors, three juniors, four sophomores — are back for 2019 on a roster of 11. All but two play basketball.
The seniors are McCaine Claycomb, Colton Mouzin and Austin Thomas. Claycomb was the Vincennes Sun-Commercial Player of the Year. Mouzin is an all-area baseball and soccer player. The Patriots were impacted last year when catcher Thomas got hurt and left the lineup.
Rivet (enrollment around 80 for Grades 9-12 with less than 30 boys) is a member of the Blue Chip Athletic Conference (with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial).
Non-conference opponents include Dugger, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Memorial, Jasper, Lawrenceville (Ill.), Linton-Stockton, Mount Carmel (Ill.), North Central (Farmersburg), Olney (Ill.) and Princeton. In the past, the Patriots have played Lincoln and Sullivan.
Rivet is part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess and Shoals. The Patriots have won nine sectional titles — the last two in 2013 and 2014. The Patriots were 1A state runners-up to Lafayette Central Catholic in both 2009 and 2013.
McCrary constantly educates himself about the game by attending clinics and talking with experts.
“I’ve learned a lot,” says McCrary. “Expanding my knowledge to pass on to these kids is my job.” He was at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic in January. He has also learned from Mike Rodgers, who pitched for the University of Mississippi, the independent Evansville Otters and runs the The Inside Korner training facility in Olney, Ill., which is about 30 miles west of Vincennes.
McCrary met Rodgers at a travel ball clinic. McCrary and his two oldest sons — Colton (a senior at Vincennes Lincoln High School) and Cayden (a seventh grader at Clark Middle School) — have been affiliated with the Vincennes Green Monsters. Brian and Chelsea McCrary’s other two children are first-grade son Ryker and and 2-year-old daughter Oakley.
Rivet players get attention from a coaching staff that includes assistants Conner Eck, Curt Hunkler, Mike Mayles, Curt McCrary and Landon Robbins. Eck, Hunkler and Robbins all played at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. Hunker, Mayles and Robbins are Rivet graduates. Curt McCrary is Brian’s cousin.
“We have classroom work — chalkboard and video — and turn it over to drills,” says McCrary, who has figured out that his team is made up of individuals with differing outlooks and ways of learning.
“Not every kid’s the same,” says McCrary. “Kids today are nowhere near kids of old. Kids’ styles and demeanors have changed completely.
“You have to be willing to change with these kids a little bit to make it work.”
Like other coaches of spring sports, McCrary has to contend with the fact that athletes are sometimes ready for a break by the time their season roles around.
“Baseball suffers because it’s at the end of the school year,” says McCrary. He notes that spring break this year coincides with the beginning of preseason practice (March 11).
The Rivet campus is located on Barnett Street. The school plays its home baseball games on a field about three miles away near Lincoln High and St. Vincent Rectory on Hart Street. The grounds also has an indoor facility known as “The Butch” in honor of late supporter Butch Thomas.
Chad Thomas had the building built in his father’s honor and also helps attend to the maintenance of the diamond.
The team is responsible for the upkeep of the field and the funding of the program.
“We buy our baseballs, uniforms, dirt and chalk,” says McCrary. “Our kids respect what they have.”
Established in 1958, Vincennes Cub League offers baseball for kids as young as 4. The organization hosted the 10U Cal Ripken World Series in 2018. Also last year, a Babe Ruth League was added for ages 13-15.
McCrary says he would like to see more of an emphasis on fundamentals at the Cub level.
A 1996 Vincennes Lincoln graduate, McCrary played baseball for the Alices until his junior year then put all of his energy into another sport as a senior.
“I fell in love with wrestling,” says McCrary, who went on to start the Vincennes Grapplers Club.
It was on the mat in high school that he had an experience that he shares with his young athletes today.
McCrary was competing in the semistate needing to win his second aka “ticket” round match to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals. He was ahead 5-1 in the final period when his opponent rallied to beat him 6-5.
“Just because you’re supposed to be there doesn’t mean you’re going to get there,” says McCrary. “It takes work.”
With a renewed interest in baseball, McCrary attend a 1998 Cincinnati Reds tryout camp at Bosse Field in Evansville. He made the first two day of cuts then decided not to attend the third day. His wife, Chelsea, was closer to completing her degree at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne then he was at Vincennes University and they had a son on the way so Brian went into the work world. He is now employed by Vincennes Water Utilities.
“I regret everyday not going back to that third day of tryouts,” says McCrary. “But life is full of what if’s.
“I try to coach with a little bit of life lessons. Challenge yourself to win for the team today. Ask yourself, ‘did you cheat your team?’”
Brian McCrary (center) poses with two of his sons — Xxx (left) and Xxx (right) — during a Vincennes Green Monsters travel baseball tournament.
The 2019 baseball season will be the third for Brian McCrary at head coach at Rivet Midde/High School in Vincennes, Ind.
Vincennes Rivet baseball coach Brian McCrary visits at the mound with Colton Mouzin, McCaine Claycomb and Austin Thomas. All three players return for their senior year with the Patriots in 2019.