BY STEVE KRAH
It wasn’t a direct route. But Connor Christman’s path has led him to coaching.
Christman, who is in the second year as a graduate assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., grew up with a father as a baseball scout/agent and a skilled older brother.
The youngest son of Kevin and Linda Christman developed into a good player at Noblesville (Ind.) High School and followed Garrett Christman to Butler University in Indianapolis.
Connor earned four varsity letters at Noblesville (2013-16) and was a .319 career hitter under coach Justin Keever. He was a sophomore starting third baseman on the Millers’ 2014 IHSAA Class 4A state champions.
“Coach Keever taught us like a summer coach would which is great,” says Christman, 25. “When I look back on our state run, we definitely put the work in. A lot of our practices at Noblesville were structured and ran similar to college practices.
“I’m making practice plans now and it’s pretty similar.”
Christman was recruited by Steve Farley but played at Butler for Dave Schrage.
“He was a really good coach and a really nice guy,” says Christman. “It was fun. Everyone came in open-minded and it was competitive off the bat.”
An injury suffered his junior year at Butler led to surgery and Christman redshirted in 2020 while earning a Marketing degree. He had more eligibility remaining with his injury plus the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was kind of a big mess so I decided to get into the real world and get a job,” says Christman. “I did sales for a little less than a year (in Louisville and Philadelphia).
“I enjoyed sales, but I was away from everybody and everything I knew. With everything closed down, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore and moved home. I wanted to get back into baseball.”
In March 2021, Christman began giving lessons at Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield and coached a 16U Indiana Mustangs team that summer.
He also assisted his father with a team in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield.
“I learned everything about the game from my dad,” says Connor. “I know it might sound cheesy.
“Being around him definitely helped with the (Baseball) I.Q. and all that.”
Kevin Christman was a professional player and scouted in the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants systems and has served as a player agent. He is a senior advisor to the Indiana Mustangs and Roundtripper.
Garrett Christman graduated from Noblesville in 2014, played four seasons at Butler (2015-18) as a shortstop/pitcher and pitched briefly in the Giants organization before going into independent pro ball. He was the with the Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts in 2022 and is on the current roster.
“My brother always put his nose down and got to work,” says Connor. “He’d always go above and beyond with his craft and his training.
“That’s probably why he’s still playing.”
Connor was college teammates not only with Garrett but former travel ball mate Ryan Pepiot (who is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Harrison Freed (who was in the Giants system).
Connor says Garrett tends to be more serious with baseball while he is more on the laid-back side.
“We both put the work in but there’s two different ways to do it,” says Connor.
Right before the summer of 2021 Connor learned about the position at North Central, where he could coach and pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. He is on schedule to complete it this spring.
“It’s too early to say where I will be because you never know,” says Christman of his immediate future. “I know I’m going to stay in the game of baseball.
“I can see myself staying in college baseball coaching.”
American Baseball Coaches Association member Christman is part of a North Central staff led by Ed Mathey that also features former big league pitcher and East Chicago Washington High School graduate Tim Stoddard plus Joe Heller, Todd Trunk, Tim Peraino, Alex Khoury, Joe Keenan, Tom Errico, Brian White and Mike Duckhorn as assistants and Tim Davoren as a student assistant.
Gameday sees Christman coaching first base. He helps at practice with hitters, catchers and corner infielders while hitting balls to outfielders. He also develops scouting reports, coordinates on-campus events and goes out to look at potential North Central recruits.
The majority of the roster comes from the Chicagoland area.
“Recruiting never stops,” says Christman. “Even during the season.”
During Mathey’s two stints, North Central has gone to the NCAA D-III World Series (2017) and won numerous conference and regional titles while developing eight College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin Players of the Year.
“On the baseball field he definitely lets the players play,” says Christman of Mathey. “He gives guys opportunities.
“We have fun here, too. It’s not just baseball 24/7. We have a good time and do very well on the field as well.”
The 2023 Cardinals went into play April 4 at 11-7 overall and 0-3 in the CCIW.
Christman appreciates the amount of baseball that Stoddard knows from his years in the game.
“He comes with a lot of knowledge besides pitching,” says Christman. “It’s fun to be with him on the golf course.”
As a D-I athlete, Christman played and practiced in an atmosphere where it seemed like coaches and players were constantly in-contact from the fall to the spring.
“Here we’re allowed four days for four weeks or 16 days in the fall,” says Christman. “That’s pretty much just the month of September. “After that there’s no hands-on coaching. The coach can’t be there. Captains ran some stuff.
“It’s definitely different. After the first month there’s no baseball until the end of January.”
In the off-season, there were things to plan like the golf outing and lead-off banquet as well as prepping for February through May.
North Central has enjoyed success in many sports. The Cardinals went 15-0 and won the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl and D-III national championship in football in 2022.