By STEVE KRAH
Sometimes career paths don’t follow a straight line.
There can be curves in the road.
Brad King knows this.
He didn’t set out to be a high school baseball coach and counselor at his alma mater, but that’s where he wound up and he’s glad it did.
Baseball has long been important to King. He was a third baseman, right field and pitcher for New Castle High School in Henry County. At one time, he held the Trojans’ single-season and career record for saves and five and seven.
After excelling on the diamond for junior varsity coach Ed Gilliland and varsity coach Harold Huffman, King planned to attend college with the aim of teaching elementary schoolers.
He found out he wasn’t ready.
“I wasn’t prepared for it,” says King decades later. “I was not mature enough or organized enough.”
King went to work in a print shop. After half way through that 13-year stint, he was called back to the diamond.
Gary Brown, who had been New Castle’s first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star, was now the head coach and he invited King to be the JV coach in 1995.
“It was a great opportunity,” says King. “We had three coaches total in the program and I had no assistants. I really enjoyed it.”
In fact, he enjoyed it so much that four years into coaching he decided to go back to college. But this time he would prepare to teach geography and psychology to high school students. He took classes at the Indiana University-East satellite campus in New Castle and at the main location in Richmond.
Along the way, he decided to go for his masters degree and become a counselor.
It took him seven years to get his degree. All the while he was still working, coaching and being encouraged by wife Kellie.
“Not any of my successes would be possible with that continued support,” says King, who has two boys with Kellie (New Castle graduates Conner and Spencer). Conner set school marks for average (.429) and career hits (141) before graduating in 2012, playing one season at Indiana Wesleyan University and getting a degree at Purdue University. Because of a knee injury, Spencer switched to golf. He got his high school diploma in 2016.
The Kings celebrate 26 years of marriage March 9.
There have been plenty of baseball successes to celebrate, too.
After the 1999 season, Brown left as head coach and Corey Van Skyock took over as NC head coach for three seasons. King became head coach in 2003, meaning that 2017 is his 15th as head coach and 23rd in the program. He has three 20-win seasons in 14 seasons. That had happened just once in the previous 82 campaigns at New Castle.
King, the school’s 20th head coach since 1907, is now the all-time baseball coaching victory leader for the Trojans at 219-171-1 with North Central Conference titles in 2005 and 2013 (New Castle left the NCC for the Hoosier Heritage Conference after the 2012-13 school year). Trailing King on the victory list is Huffman (who passed away in 2009) at 195-179-3 (1978-93) and Rex Brooks at 169-150 (1958-76).
King, an IHSBCA district representative, has coached five all-staters and four IHSBCA All-Stars (King coached in the 2014 IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series), including 2013 Indiana Mr. Baseball Trey Ball (a left-handed pitcher and first-round selection by the Boston Red Sox). Ben Smith (Class of 2003) was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and is now out of baseball.
The student-athlete is also emphasized for the Trojans. The American Baseball Coaches Association recognized three programs from Indiana for academics in 2015-16 — Andrean, Lafayette Central Catholic and New Castle (3.44 team grade-point average).
The program has also grown. There were 27 players in King’s last season as JV coach. When he took over the varsity reins, he asked for a third squad (then known as C-team) and he now carries 40 to 45 players per year and has seven assistant coaches — Wayne Graham, Tony Gregory, Clint Garrard and Matt York (pitching coach) on the varsity with Rob Chesher, Josh Barber, Kelly Rector and Frank McMahon at the lower levels.
King draws a line between counseling and coaching. The are both about motivating students to achieve. It might mean giving an incentive to raise a grade or getting a more batting practice time.
On the field, the Trojans operate by the mantras of “you control what you can control” and “maximize your potential.”
“Not every ballplayer is going to be Division I or drafted and you can’t control calls by the umpire,” says King. “And be the best you can be everyday.”
For New Castle in 2017, it’s about getting back to basics and fundamentals. The Trojans “Trust the Process.”
Just like their coach trusted the winding path he was on.
Brad King enters his 15th season as head baseball coach and 23rd in the program at New Castle High School in 2017. The 1989 NCHS graduate is the school’s all-time wins leader.