By STEVE KRAH
Madison-Grant Junior/Senior High School varsity baseball was building slowly leading into 2020.
With Scott Haley as Argylls head coach, MG won two games in 2017, three in 2018 and seven in 2019. The latter team won its first game in the IHSAA Class 2A Eastern (Greentown) Sectional.
Haley was stressing fundamentals.
“We had lost nine or 10 seniors when I took over,” says Haley. “We were returning little or no varsity experience. The feeder system was not very strong. We were really betting back to the basics of the game like playing catch the correct way.
“It was a rough first year.”
There was anticipation for the following season. But a pandemic took that away and players didn’t get on the field.
“We were ready for a breakthrough season,” says Haley. “My heart broke for them.”
Haley is now getting Madison-Grant ready for what its hopes will be a fun and successful 2021 campaign, which is slated to open April 5 against Wes-Del. The 2021 roster is expected to have plenty of seniors. Pitcher Nick Evans is expected back as a four-year starter and has gotten plenty of attention from college baseball.
When “Senior Night” comes along, Haley plans to also honor the five players from the Class of 2020.
Fairmount-based Madison-Grant (enrollment around 365) is a member of the Central Indiana Conference (with Alexandria-Monroe, Blackford, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Mississinewa and Oak Hill).
The Argylls are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Elwood, Taylor and Tipton. Madison-Grant has won six sectional crowns — the last in 2012.
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Madison-Grant concentrated on fundamentals.
“We got outside quite a bit and took advantage of the new pitching machine we bought through our fundraiser,” says Haley. “There were a lot of drills and live action.
“We allow junior high kids to come out also. It gets them excited about the game.”
Winter Limited Contact open gyms began this past week and Haley had 15 players Jan. 5 and 11 Jan. 7.
Madison-Grant plays its home games on-campus. Several upgrades have been made or are planned for the field, including installation of new bullpens, re-sodding, refurbishing of dugouts, new wind screens, edging in the infield and outfield and an overhaul of the mound.
“We’ve tried to do something every year to make it better,” says Haley, who hopes to get to show off the place when his team hosts the Grant Four tournament May 1 (with Eastbrook, Mississinewa and Oak Hill) and Argyll Classic (with Eastern of Greentown, Southern Wells and Tri-Central) May 15.
Besides Haley, the Argylls coaching staff includes Mike Evans, Gary Harbert, Norm Dailey (junior varsity) and Brock Massey (junior high). Haley says he anticipates having around 25 players for varsity and JV teams in the spring.
The well-received junior high program for seventh and eighth graders was established two years ago with about 15 players. Baseball will also be a part of the new Madison-Grant Youth Sports League.
“We’re giving them guidelines that we want them to follow so they’ll be ready when they get to high school,” says Haley.
Prior to taking over the MG baseball program, Haley was JV coach for three seasons on Todd Farr’s Eastbrook staff.
“He was a players’ coach,” says Haley of Farr. “He was good on practice schedules and fundamentals. The kids really enjoyed playing for him.
“He built that Easbrook program back up.”
Haley is a 1980 Eastbrook graduate. His baseball coach was Tim Sumner.
“He basically taught me almost everything about the game,” says Haley. “He saw something in myself that I had not seen.
“I owe a lot to him.”
Sumner, a 1965 Hammond Morton High School graduate, was a player and assistant coach Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and an assistant for College World Series teams led by Ron Polk at Mississippi State University. He was also an assistant AD at MSU and was director of athletic academics and athletic compliance at the University of Memphis. He established Batters Box Baseball in Collierville, Tenn. Sumner died Dec. 19, 2019.
Haley attended Huntington College (now Huntington University) for one year, but his playing career was ended when he twice re-broke a wrist he had broken already broken in high school.
He recently retired from a 26-year stint as a Walmart manager and works part-time at Lowe’s in Marion, Ind.
Scott and Barbra Haley have been married 31 years. Their daughter Adara (30) is married to Nicholas Smith.