BY STEVE KRAH
They’ve got continuity happening on the northeast side of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Marc Skelton has been coaching baseball at R. Nelson Snider High School for three decades.
Skelton, a 1985 Snider graduate, enters his eighth season as Panthers head coach in 2019 after 22 as an assistant.
Bruce Meyer, who has also coached at Snider for 30 years, and Skelton can trace their lineage back to the origins of the Panthers program.
“We played for or coached with every (head) coach in Snider history,” says Skelton, who is Snider’s fifth head baseball coach. Jerry Miller (1971-83) was the first, followed by Jim Rousseau (1983-87), Dave Hey (1988-92) and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Owen (1993-2011).
Miller and assistant Adrian Deusler held the first practice April 15, 1971 and had 95 boys trying out.
“He loved baseball and worked hard it it,” says Skelton of Miller. “He’s still our No. 1 fan. He comes out to games. It’s always good to see Coach.
“(Rousseau) stressed fundamentals and doing things the right way.”
Skelton leads the current Panthers squad while putting effort and excellence at the forefront.
“We believe in hard work,” says Skelton. “You want to give it your best effort every time you’re getting after something.
“Ten quality reps are better than 100 sloppy ones, just going through the motions.”
Besides Meyer, Snider assistants include Josh Clinkenbeard, Rob Hale, Peyton Bieker with the varsity and Tim McCrady, Eric Cirillo and Brandon Phelps with the junior varsity. All but Cirillo and Phelps are returnees to the staff.
Marc is the son of David and Karen Skelton. David Skelton has been scorekeeper for the Panthers for 30 years.
Skelton says he tends to have between 30 and 40 players in the program each season.
During the current IHSAA limited contact period, Snider players are working to get their arms in shape while position players and hitters are also getting in their training.
“We’re getting pitchers arms built up so we avoid injuries down the road,” says Skelton, who can take his team to a couple of tunnels in the gym to get things done.
Snider (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Concordia, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne as baseball affiliates).
SAC teams play each other in a home-and-home series, usually within the same week, to determine the conference champion.
“Theoretically, you need more than one pitcher to do it,” says Skelton.
Non-conference opponents include Blackhawk Christian, DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fort Wayne Carroll, Homestead, Huntington North, New Haven and Norwell. The Panthers play in the Warsaw Invitational on May 18. DeKalb and Penn have been a part of that even in the past.
The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Northrop. DeKalb and Carroll have rotated as the host site in recent years. Snider has won 11 sectional crowns — the last in 2017. State championships were earned in 2006 and 2009.
Snider plays its home games at Hawley Field, which is about 2 1/2 miles off-campus on Long Road. The facility is owned by Fort Wayne Community Schools and is maintained mostly by the baseball team.
The 2019 season marks the third of the IHSAA’s pitch count rules (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). This year, the standards will be the same for varsity and below varsity.
“It’s for the health of the arm so it’s a good thing,” says Skelton. “We want you to throw strikes because you are on a limit. Pitch to contact, so to speak.
“Strikeouts are boring. Work quick so the the defense doesn’t have time to wonder and can say sold behind you.”
Snider senior Mason McMurtry recently made a college baseball commitment to Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne. Recent graduates Michael Brewer (Eastern Kentucky University) and Matt Eastman (Ivy Tech Northeast) have gone on to the next level.
The Panthers get players from many sources, including Georgetown Little League and several travel organizations.
“The last 10 years it’s been going strong,” says Skelton of travel ball. “As long as they don’t over-do it, it’s a good thing they’re playing baseball. It gets them in competitive situations.”
Even though Snider is a large school, there are a number of multi-sport athletes in the school.
“We leave them alone during other seasons,” says Skelton. “When they come to us (in baseball), they participate with us.”
Skelton graduated from Indiana University in December 1989 and came back to Fort Wayne to be an educator and coach.
Blackhawk Middle School is where Skelton, Meyer and Terah Brogan (Skelton’s sister) are teachers.
Snider graduates have gone on to professional baseball.
Andy Replogle pitched at Kansas State University and two seasons in the majors with Milwaukee Brewers.
Right-hander Kevin Cahill pitched at Purdue University and in the Washington Nationals system.
Catcher-outfielder Kyle Day took the field for Michigan State University and in the Cincinnati Reds system.
Left-hander Adam Sheefel hurled at Ball State University and in the minors with the Reds.
Marc Skelton, a 1985 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School graduate, enters his eighth season as Panthers head baseball coach in 2019 after 22 as an assistant.