By STEVE KRAH
New Albany High School is proud of its past and looking forward to its future.
Founded in 1853, New Albany is oldest public high school in Indiana and one of the oldest west of the Alleghenies.
There are many proud alums sending their children to the school where they attended.
It’s at this place that Chris McIntyre heads into his 24th season as head baseball coach in 2018.
“We have a lot of tradition,” says McIntyre, who has led the Bulldogs to a 487-206 mark with 10 sectional championships — the most-recent in 2016 — and five Hoosier Hills Conference titles and 12 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participants in his first 23 seasons. “Our kids take a lot of pride in wearing the uniform. They really put New Albany first as to where their priorities lie.”
While some of his top players go with travel baseball organizations, McIntyre, the former IHSBCA president and an all-star series coach in 2000 and 2016, still coaches a summer high school team through a schedule of about 25 games in an urban school district that has 50 percent of its students on a free-or-reduced-lunch program.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to find high school teams to schedule games,” says McIntyre. “But there are some players who would never get a chance to play the next season without it. It’s an important part of our program. If we ever lose that, it’s going to hurt us.”
While the Bulldogs don’t have an indoor hitting facility, they do have Mt. Tabor Field.
Located on the Mt. Tabor Elementary School grounds about four miles from the high school campus, the field sports a Bermuda grass playing surface that was recently laser-graded. To save on maintenance, there is turf around home plate and baselines have been sodded.
Since the facility is land-locked by a road and a drainage ditch, high fences — 12 feet in right and left fields and 18 feet from gap to gap — were installed a few years ago.
“We’ve taken away some of the cheap home runs,” says McIntyre.
More improvements are on the way following the 2018 season, including new dugouts, bleachers, press box and concession stand.
The land adjacent to the field has been the home of New Albany Little League. That organization has moved and the school corporation-owned land will go to the construction of the junior varsity field.
“It’s going to look a whole lot different than it does now,” says McIntyre. “We’re really spoiled.”
While there are bound to be exceptions, McIntyre does not expect the scoreboard to get a workout.
“We pride ourselves in always having good defensive teams and pitchers who throw strikes,” says McIntyre. “If the other team doesn’t score any runs, you have a pretty good record.
“We don’t tend to have too many high-scoring games. We don’t beat too many people 10-9.”
McIntyre says the ability to run can play a major role in a high school baseball team’s strategy.
“You can change the game with your overall team speed,” says McIntyre. “But that comes and goes. Sometimes you have those guys and sometimes you don’t. It’s the luck of the draw.
“At the 4A level, you face such good pitching, you’re not going to score a lot of runs.”
That’s where it comes back to making the plays on defense and pitchers holding the other team in-check.
McIntyre talks to his players about being mentally strong and disciplined and controlling the controlable.
“You can’t control the umpire or the other team’s pitching,” says McIntyre. “You can control where you are on defense, where you throw the ball, how you running bases, getting signals correct and all those things.”
The HHC does not play a regular-season conference schedule. The conference champion is determined during a tournament in early May. Games are pre-drawn and played Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
HCC teams are spread out. New Albany is about 75 miles from Bedford North Lawrence and 55 from Columbus East and does not see the Stars or Olympians unless it’s in the tournament.
The weekends are when the Bulldogs may travel to or host teams in Evansville like Mater Dei, North or Reitz. Jasper and South Dearborn are regulars on the schedule as is Fort Wayne Carroll, which comes to New Albany early in the season.
Lowell (Mich.) stops in town for a split doubleheader involving Seymour on the Red Arrows’ way back from spring break in Pensacola, Fla.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play games in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati.
IHSAA travel rules restrict teams from going more than 300 miles from the state line.
“We try to play a couple teams every year we’ve never played,” says McIntyre. “We can get into northern Alabama and the northern tip of Mississippi. Nashville (Tenn.) is as far as we’ve gone.”
New Albany, an IHSAA Class 4A school, is coming off a 17-10 season in 2017. The Bulldogs played six freshman and sophomores at various times.
First-team all-state first baseman Ryan Robison (who has not yet made a college commitment) and Chase Rudy (a Purdue commit) are already three-year varsity players expected back for their senior seasons in New Albany colors.
Josh Rogers pitched for Louisville and is now in the New York Yankees organization. The 6-foot-3 left-hander appeared in seven games at Double-A in 2017. In three pro seasons, he is a combined 22-11.
McIntyre is a 1986 graduate of Jeffersonville, where he played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Don Poole.
“He was a super guy,” says McIntyre of Poole. “You don’t realize it at the time, but look back on it and realize how little he ever raised his voice. You just respected him. When he raised his voice, he meant business. He wanted it done and he wanted it done now.”
Even years after his retirement, Poole amazes McIntyre with his baseball mind.
“He remembers every pitch from every game,” says McIntyre. “He knows the game inside and out.”
McIntyre did not play at but did study at Indiana University Southeast. He spent one season as an assistant to IHSBCA Hall of Famer Wayne Stock at Clarksville and three as an Evansville North assistant before taking the reigns at New Albany.
McIntyre recalls Stock’s prowess as an offensive instructor.
“He was an old school baseball guy and he was awesome at teaching hitting,” says McIntyre. “He never bunted. He was a true ‘Earl Weaver’ kind of manager, playing for the three-run home run.”
He also remembers Stock as a generous man that often went into his own pocket to help where he saw a need.
“There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for a kid,” says McIntyre.
Looking to coach his own personality, McIntyre wants his players enjoy the time spend with him.
“You just hope you leave a good impression with your players,” says McIntyre.
A math teacher at New Albany, McIntyre is married to biology teacher Shannon. The couple have two boys. Tyler (15) is a sophomore baseball player. Kevin (11) is a competitive swimmer.
Chris McIntyre is going into his 24th season as head baseball coach at New Albany High School in 2018. The 1986 Jeffersonville High School graduate is 13 wins shy of 500 for his career. (Tom Little Photo)