BY STEVE KRAH
These are the main goals of the baseball program at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School, where alum Matt Brumbaugh is entering his ninth season as head coach in 2020.
“We will play small ball and try to hit the ball gap-to-gap,” says Brumbaugh. “We run the bases. We hit-and-run. At the higher levels you hardly see it at all. We probably use it more than most teams.”
Brumbaugh will take a hitter that may be struggling at the plate and ask them to hit-and-run.
“They can go up there thinking about nothing but putting the bat on the ball,” says Brumbaugh.
A 1985 Northrop graduate who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chris Stavreti, Brumbaugh was the starting second baseman and lead-off hitter on the Bruins’ 1983 state championship team. He was first-team all-Summit Athletic Conference, first-team all-area and second-team all-state in 1984. He is among Northrop’s leaders in career (104) and single-season (46 in 1984) for base on balls.
“It was a great opportunity for me to play for a coach who really stressed fundamentals,” says Brumbaugh of Stavreti. “He was a fiery guy who wanted to get the best out of every player he coached.”
Brumbaugh appreciates that Stavreti allowed him to immerse himself in every aspect of coaching as a Bruins assistant.
“He helped me to develop my overall skills as a coach,” says Brumbaugh, who sports a career record is 160-79 with four SAC titles.
In 2016, Northrop earned a sectional championship and Brumbaugh was IHSBCA Regional Coach of the Year.
Northrop has played on its current field since 1982. Since 1999, it’s been known as Stavreti Field. A project was recently completed on Stravreti Clubhouse, a structure with concession stand, rest rooms and coaches office on the first floor and a 37-stall locker room and press box on the second level.=
The field does not have lights. The diamond is sometimes in the flight path of planes flying in or out of nearby Fort Wayne International Airport.
One of Brumbaugh’s Northrop teammates was Eric Wedge, who went on to play and manage in the majors and is now head coach at Wichita State University.
“When he was a player, he was such a hard-nosed, goal-driven person,” says Brumbaugh. “He was a freshmen playing at the varsity level and had goals and ambitions beyond high school baseball.
“I’m really happy for him he’s back in the game at Wichita State, where he won a College World Series. It’s going to be a challenge. But he’s the kind of guy who can rise to challenge. You could see that coming from a young age.”
Brumbaugh and Wedge has stayed in-contact over the years and he has been known to visit Northrop players when he’s in Fort Wayne.
A 1990 graduate of Huntington (Ind.) College, Brumbaugh was a first-team all-Mid-Central Conference shortstop 1987-89 and first-team all-NAIA district shortstop in 1988 and 1989, playing for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Frame.
After college, Brumbaugh played for Crumback-Symons, a five-time Indiana state champion in Stan Musial baseball. The 1996 team placed third at the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series.
Brumbaugh was a Northrop assistant coach 1990-97. The 1997 Bruins were a Final Four team in the final year of single-class baseball in Indiana.
From 1998-2005, Brumbaugh was an assistant to Lance Hershberger at Indiana Tech. He was the three-time acting head coach at the NAIA World Series. The Warriors won the NAIA World Series in 1998.
Brumbaugh was Hershberger’s assistants at Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School 2007-10.
“He’s one of the best teachers of the game. He’s a stickler for details,” says Brumbaugh of Hershberger, who started the baseball program at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne. “He’s a master of all aspects of the game. He’s a tremendous coach. You can’t learn enough from him.
“He’s intense, but he gets his point across.”
Brumbaugh leads a Northrop coaching staff that features Gary Gatchell (who works with hitters), former big leaguer Dustan Mohr (outfielders, base runners and hitters), Jeremy Downs (infielders), Chad Kohli pitchers), Ben Kline (infielders) and Caleb Wynn (catchers) at the varsity level. Mason Neuman is the head junior varsity coach and is assisted by Trevor Snyder and Northrop graduate David Keating.
It’s a big staff, especially considering that Northrop usually has 25 to 30 players for its two squads.
“Only two are paid and the rest are volunteers,” says Brumbaugh. “They love the game and they love the program.”
In recent years, Northrop has sent players on to college programs. Among them are 2017 Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year Garrett Schoenle to the University of Cincinnati. Ben Yoss went to Rose-Hulman Institute, Anthony Miller to the University of Saint Francis and Mike Snyder, Jack Hayden and Braden Klinedinst to Indiana Tech.
Current senior Jackson Foote has committed to Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Northrop (enrollment around 2,100) plays 14 SAC games against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne.
Most are home-and-home series in the same week or doubleheaders with the teams trading last at-bats. One of the Northrop-Snider games is slated as part of the Parkview Sports Medicine Series at Parkview Field on April 21.
Non-conference opponents include Bellmont, Carroll, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Homestead, Huntington North, Leo, New Haven and Norwell.
The Bruins are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Carroll, DeKalb, East Noble and Snider. Northrop has won 15 sectional titles — the last in 2016. Besides being state champions in 1983, the Bruins were state runners-up in 1981.
Over the years, St. Joe Little League and Wallen Baseball, which serve players up to age 14, have been a feeder system for Northrop though more and more players are going the travel baseball route.
Matt and Karen Brumbaugh have been married for 22 years and have two daughters at Indiana University – Jensen (20) and Kendall (18).
Matt Brumbaugh, a 1985 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School graduate, enters his ninth season as the Bruins head baseball coach in 2020.