By STEVE KRAH
Brian Abbott has been an educator, coach and administrator for a long time.
In all his roles, he has strive to follow the model of servant leadership.
“I like serving others,” says Abbott, who will go into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame with George Cuppy, Clint Barmes, Scott Upp and Tony Uggen during a Jan. 17, 2020 banquet as a contributor/coach. “I like baseball. I’ve met a lot of good people.
“I have a lot of good friends that I never would have met if I was not involved.”
Abbott, who grew up in Carroll County and graduated from Delphi (Ind.) High School in 1979, began his coaching career as a teenager at the local Babe Ruth League level. He led a group of 13-year-olds to the state tournament in Noblesville.
He pitched at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University), graduating in 1983, and served one year as an assistant at Brookville (Ind.) High School (now part of Franklin County High School) followed by 21 years as a high school head coach at Eastbrook and Huntington North. His teams won more than 300 games, seven county championships, four conference titles, three sectional crowns, one regional title and made one Final Four Appearance (1999 with Eastbrook).
As Eastbrook coach, Abbott got to compete against baseball minds like future IHSBCA Hall of Famers Ty Calloway at Western, Greg Marschand at Lewis Cass and George Phares at Taylor.
“I always thought the (Mid-Indiana) Conference was tough when I first started,” says Abbott. “The teams were all good because their coaches were really good.”
Abbott had the distinction of pitching the first no-hitter on the new lighted Delphi diamond when he was a junior for the Oracles. He played for three coaches while in high school — Greg Fisher, Dave Young and Mike Lane.
Long before Abbott was associated with high school baseball, he regular at the IHSAA State Finals and remembers seeing Paul “Spider” Fields lead Lafayette Jeff to its second state championship in 1973. Another found memory is going with his father and grandfather to the Colt League World Series, an event organized by Hall of Famer Harry Bradway and staged at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. One year, he saw future big league pitcher Sid Fernandez compete there.
During the single-class era, Delphi played in an IHSAA sectional with Lafayette Jeff (coached by Fields), West Lafayette (coached by Hall of Famer Fred Campbell), McCutcheon (coached by Hall of Famer Jake Burton), Harrison and Lafayette Central Catholic.
Abbott and Burton first faced off back in the ‘70s Babe Ruth coaching days when Abbott was in Delphi and Burton in Dayton, Ind.
As a Huntington Forester, Abbott played for three head coaches — Jim Wilson, Fred Vonderlage and Tim McKinnon. Current HU coach and Hall of Famer Mike Frame was a third baseman and classmate of Abbott.
In Brookville, the hometown of Brian’s wife, Trisha Abbott, he got to work with another coach bound for the Hall of Fame — Jim Hughes.
“He was a good mentor to me,” says Abbott of Hughes. “He loved baseball. He loved sports. He was a positive person. He always had something good to say about everybody.
“He was one of those people you hate to lose.”
Abbott currently as a pitching coach at Huntington U. and held that position at Indiana Wesleyan University.
A math teacher for 37 years, Abbott currently instructs eighth graders at Riverview Middle School in Huntington. He holds master’s degrees in mathematics and administration from Ball State University.
He often drives to the nearby Crossroads League games himself. When Huntington makes weekend trips to places like Tennessee in February, Abbott and a friend get on the road about 2 a.m. and then come back to Huntington after the last game.
For several summers, Abbott has worked for Hammel Floor Service, sanding, re-lining and lettering basketball floors. He uses his math skills to put down and fill in the patterns.
“It’s really been neat,” says Abbott. “I’ve had a chance to go to a lot of different venues.”
Abbott has been part of a crew that did gyms at most of the North Central Conference schools as well as Market Square Arena, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University and many more.
He knows about the intricacies of sanding a parquet floor, such as the one at Carmel High School.
He’s met many accomplished coaches — men like George Griffith, Norm Held, Bill Stearman, Howard Sharpe, Jim Miller and Steve Shondell — and had the privilege of putting the name of John Wooden on the hardwood at Martinsville High School.
“Growing up, he was a guy I respected,” says Abbott of Wooden, the coaching legend. “I read his book.
“I feel like I have a good feel of the high school land. I follow high school sports and I love baseball. Being in the association is a good role for me because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for a lot of different things.”
After serving as associate executive director to Hall of Famer Bill Jones, Abbott has spent the past eight years at IHSBCA executive director.
He was nominated for Hall of Fame induction by the IHSBCA executive council.
“I was very humbled by it,” says Abbott. “I’m a mule. I’ve coached.
“It’s been a really good experience.”
Abbott got his start in the IHSBCA when future Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson of Mississinewa invited him to his first State Clinic.
“Little did I know what he was trying to do,” says Abbott. “I didn’t figure it out until about a year later.
“I kind of got drafted into service.”
Atkinson would take statewide IHSBCA office and turn over his district representative duties to Abbott, who led the group that fed the old Kokomo Regional for years.
In that role, he got to know one of the association’s founders and leaders in Jones.
“Bill was very thorough and very complimentary,” says Abbott. “He was very nice to me. He would take me underneath his wing and teach me things.”
Abbott has seen the IHSBCA membership grow. Each January, the association’s state clinic brings around 500 coaches to Indianapolis.
The latest renovation at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper is almost paid off.
“We’ve been working real hard at that the last couple of years,” says Abbott. “The coaches association put in about a third of that money — in the $240,000 or $250,000 range.
This week, the IHSBCA presented five proposals to Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and is hoping for action by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
“I’m just trying better baseball,” says Abbott. “I think my strength is as an organizer and listening to other people and figuring out how I can serve them better.
“I haven’t been afraid to change things. When Bill (Jones) started I’m sure he had to make some adjustments.
“As we’ve had solutions and suggestions come along, I’ve been willing to be open and say let’s give it a shot.”
One of those things was starting a Futures Game last year as part of North/South all-star activities.
“It’s a good adjustment from the Junior Showcase,” says Abbott.
The 2020 Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be held in Evansville.
Brian and Trisha Abbott have two children — Tyler (who is married to Chelsie and have a son named Quinn) and Briley.
Brian Abbott, the executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, will go into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2020 as a contributor/coach. He is also an eighth grade math teacher in addition to serving as pitching coach at Huntington (Ind.) University.