By STEVE KRAH
Attention to detail.
Sweating the small stuff because it can lead to big results.
Understand that there is more than one way to do something better.
These are some of the concepts that Jason Rahn brings to his players as the head baseball coach at Westview High School in LaGrange County, Ind.
“You’ve got to be good at that stuff to be able to play at a high level,” says Rahn, who enters his eighth season as Warriors head coach after serving three years as an assistant to Joel Mishler. “We’re fortunate at Westview to be good with things that often get overlooked.”
One area where Rahn looks for improvement is on the basepaths— not just stealing bases, but being aggressive and knowing how to make a dirt-ball read to take an extra base.
“I learned quickly in college that if you know how to run bases you were going to be effective,” says Rahn, who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Mike Frame at Huntington University and graduating from Huntington North High School, where he was on squads led by IHSBCA Hall of Famer Don Sherman and then Chad Daugherty. “You can steal a bag or catch a guy sleeping with the ball in his hand.”
Rahn expects his pitches to throw strikes. But not just pitches in the strike zone.
“Where do you want the strike thrown?,” says Rahn, who knows some strikes can’t be barreled up and others can be crushed.
Rahn goes into each practice with a plan. There is a playbook (written in a way that high school players who have many other things in their life besides baseball can understand).
“It’s repetition and building muscle memory,” says Rahn. “We break down moments and tell why we’re doing it this way. When you see the light bulb come on, you see a huge transition in the kid.”
Mishler, who has experience as a college player, college and high school coach and pro scout and is the founder of the Indiana Chargers travel organization, gets credit from Rahn for his way of teaching game situations.
“He makes it make sense for the kids. You have to realize that some of these kids are 15-year-olds.”
Another dynamic Rahn enjoys is seeing olders players explain things to the younger ones.
“You see who your leaders are just by posting the practice schedule and seeing what happens,” says Rahn.
As a young player on Sherman-coached team, he saw how he interacted with upperclassmen.
“He would push them, but he was also working alongside them as a teammate,” says Rahn. “He was teaching the game as a fan of them.”
Sherman coached the Huntington North baseball team for 38 years until he retired in 2001.
Rahn said some of his best conversations with Sherman came over the fence when first baseman Rahn was playing in college and Sherman was there to watch.
Those moments almost didn’t happen.
In high school, Rahn was all-in for basketball and thought that would be his path in college. He didn’t go out for baseball as a sophomore then watched best friend Thad Frame (Mike’s son) start at shortstop as a freshman.
An ankle injury helped Rahn decide to switch his focus away from the hardwood and onto the diamond.
He was part of a large senior class who enjoyed a special final season in 2003.
He recalls the enthusiastic words of a teammate who said he should be grateful for the opportunity to play and be outside under the blue skies.
As a Huntington University player, Rahn got close with his teammates got to know Mike Frame even better.
“When you sweat and cry next to a guy long enough, you have these tight relationships,” says Rahn. “(Coach Frame) was leading that.
“There has always been a level of intensity about Coach Frame in all aspects of life. He has never been one to not wear his emotions on his sleeve. He’ll always let you know how much he loves you. Coming from a guy who is pushing you physically and mentally, that goes a long way.”
Rahn also gained knowledge from HU assistant coaches Dennis Kas, Brian Abbott and Dave Kennedy. Kas is an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. Abbott is the IHSBCA Executive Director.
At Westview, Rahn guided the Warriors to an IHSAA Class 2A LaVille Sectional title in 2011. His team enjoyed a memorable 2014 season that included a Westview Sectional championship and 18-inning marathon loss to Lafayette Central Catholic championship game of the Whiting Regional.
Five of those Warriors had played for the Indiana Chargers.
Three of them are in college baseball — Judah Zickafoose (Northwestern Oklahoma State University), Tarrin Beachy (Huntington U.) and Jamar Weaver (Huntington U.).
“I knew they were being taught well,” says Rahn, who has also had travel ball players with the Michiana Scrappers, Hitters Edge and Elkhart Titans.
A direct feeder program is Warrior Youth Baseball, which has been overhauled and has Rahn’s thumbprint on it more than ever.
“They use more of my verbiage,” says Rahn, who will have the 12U Warriors (coached by former Westview head coach Mark Engle) playing around 60 games by July 4. There will also be a limited travel scheduled for a 13U/14U team.
Westview is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (along with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights and West Noble).
Rahn’s 2018 high school coaching staff his a family feel to it. Varsity assistants include Steve Christner, Adam Christner and Nate White. Derrike Johns is the junior varsity coach.
Steve Christner’s is Rahn’s father-in-law and Adam Christner his wife’s brother.
Jason, who is employed at Jayco in Middlebury when not coaching, and Whitney Rahn first met at Huntington University. They got to know one another better when Jason was living in Fort Wayne and Whitney was attending Indiana Purdue at Fort Wayne. The couple has three children — son Brigham (6), daughter Preslee (6) and son Sullivan (1 1/2).
Jason Rahn, a product of Huntington North High School and Huntington University, is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at Westview High School in LaGrange County, Ind.