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An infielder much of his life, Dawson roams Schaumburg Boomers outfield

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chase Dawson was an elementary school student the last time he was a regular in the outfield.
At that time he was with the Zuni’s House of Pizza, a travel team that went 44-4 during Dawson’s 8U and 9U travel ball seasons and played in the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series.
Now 24, Dawson is back in the outfield for the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers in his second professional baseball season. He’s been mostly in center field or left field during the team’s first 35 games in 2021.
“It’s been a fun little transition,” says Dawson, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder. “Going into the 2020 season (Boomers manager) Jamie (Bennett) said to be ready for it so I trained my arm a little more.
“I did well the first couple of days of spring training and we brought in some pretty good infielders. Jamie trusted me that I’m athletic enough to make the switch.
“It might sound goofy but one of my best qualities as an athlete is my athleticism. I can do just about anything in any sport.”
Dawson played four years of baseball (two varsity), three years as a soccer midfielder and one as a football defensive back and kicker at Andean High School in Merrillville, Ind., where he graduated in 2015.
A lefty batter and righty thrower, Dawson was the starting second baseman for the Dave Pishkur-coached 59ers’ back-to-back IHSAA Class 3A state champions in 2014 and 2015 (he batted second and scored a run in a 6-0 win against Gibson Southern in ’14 and led off and went 2-of-3 with a triple and tallied the first run in a 2-1 triumph against Jasper in ’15) and was a second sacker the majority of the time in his four seasons at Valparaiso (Ind.) University (2016-19), playing for head coach Brian Schmack.
Dawson says Pishkur has a knack of teaching the fundamentals and getting talented to players to reach their potential.
“It seemed like he out-coached any team we ever played,” says Dawson of Pishkur. “He was definitely hard on us and it stunk at the time, but it’s starting to add up for him.”
Pishkur has more than 1,000 career victories, seven state titles and currently has former players Sean Manaea and Mike Brousseau in the big leagues.
Schmack’s lessons about leadership and tenacity stuck with Dawson, who earned a Business Management degree at Valpo U., in 2019.
“He’s such a good role model,” says Dawson of Schmack. “He brought a lot out of me in my four years.
“He made mentally-tougher player.”
Dawson played in 199 games (152 starts) at VU, hitting .276 (199-of-722) with seven home runs, 13 triples, 30 doubles, 88 runs batted in, 145 runs scored and 28 stolen bases in 37 attempts.
He was named to the Horizon League all-tournament and all-freshman team in 2016 and was all-Missouri Valley Conference second team in 2019.
The summer of 2018 was spent with the Coastal Plain League’s Martinsville (Va.) Mustangs, where he hit .395 and was all named all-CPL first team and the CPL select team that competed against the USA Collegiate National Team in a midseason all-star game.
In 13 contests with the 2019 Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, Dawson’s primary position again was second base.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the RailCats in 2019 and Dawson did not play.
“I shut down baseball activities for five or six months,” says Dawson. “It was a good decision. I came back twice as eager.
“I’ve tried to find positives out of the situation.”
Pat and Lindy Salvi own both the Gary and Schaumburg franchises and RailCats manager Greg Tagert and Schaumburg skipper Bennett are good friends (Bennett pitched for Tagert with the Dubois County Dragons and the RailCats and was Tagert’s pitching coach at Gary). Dawson landed with the Boomers.
“It’s been a very good fit,” says Dawson, who has come to appreciate Bennett’s approach. “He’s very easy to play for because of how relaxed he is.
“He’s very positive and a go-get-the-next-one type of guy.”
Dawson was born in Munster, Ind., and moved to Chesterton, Ind., at a young age. He attended St. Thomas More School in Munster for Grades K-8 then entered Andrean.
Dave Griffin’s Indiana Playmakers were Dawson’s travel team from 10U until high school when he went to Shane Brogan’s Midwest Irish.
Chase is the son of Rick Dawson and Tonia Michalski.
“My dad’s my biggest idol,” says Dawson. “He works his butt off so I can play baseball.
“My little brothers (Kingston, 10, and Maverick, 6) mean more than anything to me. It’s fun to hang out and teach them baseball and basketball.”

Chase Dawson (Valparaiso University Photo)
Chase Dawson runs the bases for the 2021 Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers. (Tom Anson Photo)

Stevens making baseball important again at Bethesda Christian

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Raising baseball’s profile.

It’s the goal of Tom Stevens as the third-year head coach at Bethesda Christian School in Brownsburg, Ind.

Stevens took over the Patriots just a few months before the 2019 campaign, got through a year without games because of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and expects up to 20 players in 2021 at a private school of about 85 students.

“I’m trying to make this program relevant again,” says Stevens. “Baseball has been an afterthought for awhile.”

Bethesda Christian’s junior high baseball coach for a few seasons, Stevens was asked to head up the varsity in January 2019.

“We had to circle the wagons and get some practices going,” says Stevens. “We had no equipment and no set routine for the varsity schedule.

“We started building it basically from scratch.”

The school has replaced its rickety press box and Stevens would like to get a new backstop. 

The Patriots began workouts for 2020-21 in October and just finished the latest IHSAA Limited Contact Period for bat-and-ball activities. Players are now using a speed and agility routine devised by strength and conditioning expert Zach Dechant and a throwing strength training course put together by Jason Taulman, a former college coach who runs the Indy Sharks travel organization.

“I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in the speed on my baseball team,” says Stevens of Dechant’s system. “It really works.

“I use (the throwing program) with the entire team. We use med balls and J-bands and do core work.”

With Bethesda’s basketball teams getting first priority on gym time in February, a handful of baseball players were at the school a 6 a.m. Friday workout. 

Stevens’ assistant coach is Bethesda Christian graduate Josh Stroud.

Besides the junior high team, Stevens would like to establish a feeder system at the elementary level.

“I want to get them younger if I can,” says Stevens. “You have to build a program from the bottom up.”

Bethesda Christian is a member of the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference (with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic and University). Since Stevens has been involved, CCA and International have not fielded baseball teams.

PAAC teams are set up in two divisions and play each other one time.

The Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley and Traders Point Christian. Bethesda won sectional titles in 2008 and 2011.

A 1994 graduate of Southmont Senior High School in Crawfordsville, Ind., Stevens ran the Walnut Township youth league then headed Southmont Little League when it joined the national organization.

“Before that Southmont played Crawfordsville and North Montgomery (school system players) and that was it,” says Stevens, who helped the league branch out to find a variety of competition around Indianapolis.

Tom and wife Christy’s daughter, Madi, transferred to Bethesda when she was a ninth grader. She’s now an elementary education major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

When their sister changed schools, brothers Garrett and Wyatt — who began playing T-ball at Southmont — decided to also make the switch. 

Garrett Stevens is now a Bethesda senior. Bethesda is preparing to put stage “Beauty and The Beast” in March and Garrett is to play The Beast.

The Patriots’ top pitcher touches 90 mph on the radar gun, Garrett will be a teammate of freshman Wyatt. 

Garrett is committed to play baseball at Anderson (Ind.) University.

“(Ravens head) Coach (Matt) Bair knows baseball, but he’s a good mentor and cares about the boys,” says Stevens. “I’m more interested in these boys become good young men and that they become all-stars at leaders in their communities and their families.”

Bethesda Christian graduate Brayden Sayre is on the baseball roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.

Stevens is a licensed electrician, but has not worked in that field for about five years. He had a home improvement company in Crawfordsville. For the past three years, he’s been an apprentice to his wife in Winding Creek Ranch, a Crawfordsville-based dog breeding business specializing in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.

Stevens has coached travel ball, but he’s partial to the community leagues for younger players.

“Travel ball has no place for any kid below the junior high level and that’s pushing it,” says Stevens. “Let’s play ball locally.”

The Stevens family (from left): Madi, Garrett, Tom, Christy and Wyatt. Tom Stevens is head baseball coach at Bethesda Christian School in Brownsburg, Ind., and both his sons are on the team in 2021.