By STEVE KRAH
Ryan Carr wants his Mt. Vernon (Fortville, Ind.) High School baseball players to play with an edge.
As a reward, the Marauders head coach presented “Dirtbag” T-shirts to those athlete who exhibited this brand of baseball in 2018 and plans to do the same again in 2019.
“We’re too nice sometimes,” says Carr. “(The incentive) gave them a reason to play a little harder. I want (opponents) to know they played a game of baseball.
“Every year the team has become closer and closer to what I want. We’re a year older and a year more experienced.”
After seeing Mt. Vernon go 16-12 in 2018, Carr heads into his fifth season as head coach next spring.
“It sounds so cliche’, but I want to get good kids to play hard,” says Carr, who learned more about the profession by attending the annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis in 2018. “I want to get as much out of them as I can.
“I want them to play the game right and be respectful. I tell them to give ‘100 percent, 100 percent of the time.’”
Carr came back to Mt. Vernon (he was an assistant on Dustin Glant’s staff while teaching freshmen physical education during the spring semester in 2012) after spending 2013 as an assistant at Indianapolis Arsenal Tech and 2014 as head coach at Indianapolis Manual.
At the latter stop, the baseball program had been dormant and Carr helped bring it back. It was an experience that was both difficult and rewarding.
“I was knocking on doors and creating relationships to make sure we could field a team,” says Carr. “I had no assistant coach. I did get a lot of support from athletic director and assistant principal Don Burton.”
The Redskins won one game in 2014.
When Carr took over at Mt. Vernon, he was the fifth head coach at the Hancock County school in six years. He has tried to bring a sense of stability to the program and has sent players on to college baseball each year — Zach Spears (Miami University of Ohio and now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization) in 2015, Noah Powell (Ball State University) and Kennedy Parker (Anderson University) in 2016, Braydon Augustinovicz (Franklin College) and Ryan Beck (Indiana University Kokomo) in 2017 and Caleb Rush (Frontier Community College in Illinois) and Dino Tharp (Urbana University in Ohio) in 2018.
Carr expects three seniors to return for 2019 — left fielder Dylan Cole, catcher Sam McCarty and center fielder Thomas Obergfell. Carr sees Cole going to an Ivy League school for academics only with the other two weighing their options of playing college ball.
A 2000 Norwell High School graduate, Carr was a four-year starter for head coach Bob Mosier.
“I learned that it does not matter what grade a kid’s in, if he’s good enough, let him play varsity,” says Carr. “It’s not always a very popular decision to play young guys. But if they’re good enough, put them on the field.”
Carr was one of three freshmen seeing considerable playing time when Norwell won the 1997 Bellmont Sectional and met future Notre Dame and major league pitcher Aaron Heilman and his Logansport teammates in the first round of the Kokomo Regional.
That was the last year of the IHSAA single-class system in Indiana. Carr recalls that the focus at the time of the switch was on basketball.
“It didn’t change that much for baseball,” says Carr. “We were in a sectional before with 2A’s and 3A’s. The Bellmont Sectional was made up of Adams and Wells county schools.”
Mt. Vernon is part of a Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Connersville, Greenfield-Central, Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights and Richmond.
In 2018, the tournament was hosted by Mt. Vernon. Pendleton Heights beat the Marauders in the championship game. The last Mt. Vernon sectional championship season was 2011.
Mt. Vernon is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). The Marauders went 6-8 in HCC play in 2018, finishing tied for fifth with Pendleton Heights and Shelbyville and behind conference champion New Palestine (11-4), New Castle (9-4), Yorktown (8-6) and Greenfield-Central (7-7).
HCC games are played as Friday night doubleheaders unless New Castle (which does not have lights) is hosting and then the contests are on Saturday.
Mt. Vernon’s lighted varsity diamond is on-campus and has a short brick wall in front of the dugouts rather than a screen. There is an adjacent practice field.
Carr is still filling his 2019 coaching staff. Michael Thompson has been with him each year at the varsity level and will return. Jerry Grill will lead the junior varsity. Other coaches at the varsity, JV and C-team levels have not yet been solidified.
Typically, Carr likes to have 40 players in the program.
“Every year I get better at (explaining to players how they might fit),” says Carr. “I try to be forthright and open, telling them ‘this is the role you’re going to play.’”
Marauder Baseball Club will field 8U through 13U teams in 2019. The club’s first season was 2018.
Other feeder programs for MVHS include middle school baseball, Mt. Vernon Optimist League, Oaklandon Youth Organization and various travel organizations. The Midwest Astros are headquartered in Greenfield. Marauders also play in the summer for the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and others.
The son of Megan Carr, Ryan grew up in Bluffton, Ind., and participated in local youth leagues and travel ball for the Fort Wayne Indians during his high school years.
He played four seasons (2001-04) at Manchester College (now Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.).
The Rick Espeset-coached Spartans won Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament titles in 2002 and 2004, an HCAC regular-season crown in 2004 and went to the 2004 NCAA Division III College World Series in Appleton, Wis.
“He’s an interesting cat,” says Carr of Espeset. “He’s always thinking and changing. He tries things his players maybe don’t understand. But he’s proven himself.
“I loved playing for him.”
Carr tries to mimic Espeset calm demeanor.
“He’s not a rah-rah guy,” says Carr. “I’m more excitable, but I try to keep it cool. I don’t get in an umpire’s face.”
Carr got his history/social studies in 2006. After holding non-education positions, his first teaching job was at Indianapolis Marshall High School in the fall of 2011. That’s when he began helping Glant at Mt. Vernon.
Now a high school history and government teacher at Mt. Vernon, Carr is engaged to Joanna Sajda.
Ryan Carr (left) and fiancee’ Joanna Sajda enjoy Turkey Run State Park in the spring of 2018. Carr is entering his fifth season at head baseball coach at Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., in 2019.