Vigo County —
You often hear about coaches imparting life lessons to their players.
That is certainly true for all three Vigo County high school baseball coaches. So much so, they have their players thinking green too.
No, not green as in money, but green as in grass, creating a trio of beautifully manicured ball diamonds where the players have a large stake in their appearance and upkeep.
A specific life lesson for the players? If you believe the many comic strips where teenage boys are involved, it might be analogous to “cleaning their rooms."
Fans might have noticed while attending games at Terre Haute North, Terre Haute South and West Vigo that the players all have groundskeeping duties, a choreographed effort to keep their respective diamonds shipshape.
All three coaches, Steve DeGroote (West Vigo), Kyle Kraemer (South) and Shawn Turner (North), like to defer credit for the appearance of their ballparks, but they are the driving forces.
“You see the kids here working on the field like that, I think this is important,” DeGroote said. “One thing about baseball, players did a lot to develop this field. They raise money, just a lot of little things our kids did. They really take pride in all this.”
“Every kid on all three levels [freshman, JV, varsity] is assigned one thing to do after every practice, after every game,” Kraemer said. “We don’t believe in outside sources or parents having to take care of [the field]. Gives the players a sense of responsibility and ownership in the field.”
“Our players take pride in our field,” Turner agreed. “It means a lot to them that visiting teams and fans think highly of our field. American Legion fans from all over the state come here in the summer, so they see how nice the field is too.”
All three coaches are certainly familiar with riding mowers, spending a lot of their own time mowing their respective fields season after season.
In fact, DeGroote made his observations while sitting astride his mower, taking a break from smoothing the infield dirt after a recent game this season, which is not unusual. For practically every interview of DeGroote after a game at Dick Ballinger Field, he has to be flagged down while riding his mower.
Asked how much time he spends on a mower, he chuckled.
“A lot,” DeGroote admitted. “Sunday is four to five hours. I’ve been out here on our anniversary for four or five hours. Right now it takes mowing at least every other day, if not more, which I love.
“It takes a lot, but you know what? The kids deserve it. When I’m doing this I’m thinking, ‘These kids work so hard to play, they deserve this.' It’s the least I can do so they have something nice to play on.”
Turner had just finished a long mowing session before this interview late Sunday. He quickly credits a lot of people along the way, including his team’s booster club, in assisting his efforts at Jennings Field.
The Patriots’ diamond has come a long, long way from the time of the school’s first coach, Hall of Famer Don Jennings. His inaugural season in 1972 began without even basics such as grass or dugouts.
“We start every year with our parents and players, telling them how to go about things in helping us work on our field,” Turner said. “We take pride in our effort . . . we don’t go through the motions.”
Turner says his players drag and rake the diamond daily, keep their eyes open for grass in the baselines, monitor the wind screen around the field and, last but not least, weed the bullpens.
Mowing is also a family affair for Turner with his wife and two sons regularly assisting him. Turner freely admits he’s spent a lot of special family occasions at Jennings Field.
“On our 10th anniversary in 2005, my wife and I had to get the field ready for an American Legion tournament, then turned around and drove to see [former player] John Cummins play in an All-Star Tournament,” Turner recalled.
“My two sons were born in the spring and summer, so we’ve spent a lot of their birthdays at the ballpark too.”
One big help in maintaining North’s green grass is the whole field being irrigated since 2006, complete with 17 zones of coverage.
South’s ballpark began its metamorphosis about 12 years ago, according to Kraemer.
“We stripped the infield and put new sod down . . . the reason was so we could get rid of our dirt basepaths and have them grassed in,” Kraemer said. “About 10 years ago, we had the best investment we’ve made, purchased an irrigation system, because all that grass needs water.”
Kraemer says his entire infield and about one-third of the outfield is irrigated.
“Our wish list is to get the rest of the irrigation installed, “ Kraemer added. “We’ll have really plush grass, even from late June and beyond.”
Kraemer has spent a lot of time on a riding mower too. He says prior to the last two years, he regularly cut both the fair and foul territories, seeded the infield and outfield too.
A lot of the workload for all three coaches has been eased by Bill White, a groundskeeper with the Vigo County School Corporation. All three coaches singled out White for his contributions, from generating new grass growth to mowing.
“Last fall, this field looked the worst it's ever looked,” DeGroote said. “I said ‘Omigosh, it looks bad’. [White] came out here, aerated, seeded it, fertilized it … now it looks awesome.”
“For the last two years, [White] has cut all the grass but the infield,” Kraemer said. “Cutting, aerating, feeding … this field would be one-fourth of what it would be without him helping.”
Other fields in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference — North and South are members — have nice fields too. But they don’t feature the hands-on approach of their Vigo school counterparts.
“Actually, some schools in our conference hire outside sources,” Kraemer said. He wouldn’t identify specific schools, but you can just imagine which ones fall in that category.
As for the player involvement in groundskeeping, Kraemer feels it will pay off in his player’s futures.
“My hope is that five or 10 years after [his players] leave South, they won’t be afraid to mow their own yards … or at least not to hire it done,” Kraemer laughed.
Prep baseball programs fashion diamonds in the rough
Vigo County —
You often hear about coaches imparting life lessons to their players.
- High School
Goatee, Bertoli ran away with Spring Athlete of the Year
When honoring athletes after a season of excellence, the phrase “what might have been” doesn’t usually come up.
But in the case of Terre Haute South’s Jackson Bertoli and Terre Haute North’s TaPring Goatee – the Tribune-Star’s Athletes of the Year for spring sports – there’s an air of unfinished business despite obvious recent successes.
Post 346 opens tournament with two victories
Preston Tofaute got on base enough to score three runs, Cody Thornton smashed a two-run triple in the first inning and pitcher Pete Lannoo scattered four hits over a seven-inning complete game.
All of that helped Wayne Newton Post 346 down Lafayette Post 11 by a 7-2 score in the opener of the Terre Haute Inviatational tournament for American Legion baseball Thursday afternoon at Terre Haute North High School.
North boys move up to 13th in golf state finals
Early Wednesday morning, Terre Haute North senior Ryan Baker and coach Abe Nasser headed out to the Legends of Indiana Golf Course for a range session.
Baker wasn’t happy with the 85 he shot in Tuesday’s first round of the IHSAA boys golf state finals.
“He was frustrated,” Nasser said.
Problem solved. Baker bounced back with a 2-over 74 Wednesday, helping the Patriots improve their team score by seven strokes.
The Patriots shot 304 as a team Wednesday, giving them a two-day score of 615, good for 13th place in the 15-team field.
Big hill to climb for North golf
Terre Haute North boys golf is 21 strokes behind leaders at IHSAA boys golf tourney.
Top of her game
There are a lot of surprising facts about blossoming volleyball prodigy Caitlyn Newton, including that shape-shifting thing she can apparently do, but maybe one of them stands out the most. She may only be scratching the surface.
Camp, Howe win, then lose in state tennis tourney
Miranda Camp and Nicole Howe of Terre Haute South won their first match of high school tennis Friday at the state individual doubles finals, then won the first set against a powerful Park Tudor team before falling in three sets.
Terre Haute North heading back to state finals in boys golf
Terre Haute North is going back to the state finals in boys high school golf for the first time in more than 10 years. The Patriots qualified for a trip to The Legends Course next week by tying for third in the Washington Regional at Country Oaks Golf Club and advancing with the better fifth score.
North, South, Sullivan to compete at golf regional
Boys high school golf teams from the Wabash Valley will compete in the Washington Regional on Thursday, seeking a spot in the state finals to be played next week.
Terre Haute North falls 6-1 to Brownsburg in opening game of Class 4A Regional
Terre Haute North coach Shawn Turner told the Patriots to raise their heads. He wanted to see their eyes at the close of their 24-7 high school baseball season.
Terre Haute North girls shine on dreary day at track state finals
Led by a record setting 3,200-meter relay team and Keirra Porter’s long jump, Terre Haute North turned in its best finish ever in the 40th annual IHSAA Girls Track & Field Championships on Saturday at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Valley teams will have to wait until Monday for baseball regionals
Rain and the threat of more rain caused postponements of high school baseball regionals involving Terre Haute North, West Vigo and Shakamak on Saturday.
Rockville's season ends at Lafayette Central Catholic
Lafayette Central Catholic ended Rockville’s tourney run in high school baseball Saturday, defeating the Rox 8-0 in the first game of the LCC Class A Regional.
IHSAA boys state track finals: Standing alone
It hadn’t been a particularly good day for Wabash Valley track and field Friday, and it wasn’t looking like a good one for Jackson Bertoli either.
Terre Haute North, West Vigo return to baseball regionals
Terre Haute North’s baseball team hasn’t participated in an IHSAA regional since 2006. West Vigo’s wait hasn’t been as long, but it was 2010 when the Vikings last advanced from a sectional.
Patriots girls take aim at state track title
Terre Haute North’s girls have several potential state champions today at Indiana University.
South, North track athletes looking for big performances at state finals
Terre Haute South’s distance trio of Jackson Bertoli, Logan Hambrock and Riley Stohler appear to be the favorites to crack all-state status among Wabash Valley competitors today in the IHSAA boys track and field state finals at Indiana University.
- Internet site keeps area prep teams on airwaves
- PREP ROUNDUP: Locals to take part in Hoosiers All-Star Game
South Vermillion softball can't overcome errors, Tri-West
Uncharacteristic errors led to eight unearned runs and hard-luck hitting made that impossible to overcome for South Vermillion, which fell 8-0 to Tri-West in Class 3A regional play.
Clay City softball comes up short against Lutheran
Clay City closed its high school softball season Tuesday night with the best record ever for the program at 21-9.
The Eels wanted to add another win, the school’s first regional title, but they came up short.
PREP ROUNDUP: Rockville wins baseball sectional
Rockville won its own Class A sectional in high school baseball Tuesday, defeating Covington 10-4 in the rain-delayed championship game.
Class 4A Terre Haute South Sectional:The wait is over
Three minutes into an interview with various media members, Terre Haute North baseball coach Shawn Turner couldn’t react fast enough to avoid a bucket of ice water being dumped over his head from behind by his giddy players. The soaking-wet Turner could shake it off with a smile, however, because his Patriots had just won the IHSAA Class 4A Terre Haute South Sectional championship with a 13-3 six-inning triumph over Plainfield on Monday evening.
Class 4A Terre Haute South Sectional: TH North, Plainfield win squeakers
The high school baseball teams of Terre Haute North and Plainfield proved Monday that what a batter does early in the game is not necessarily indicative of what he will do in the late innings.
Class 2A Linton Sectional: Eastern rains on Sullivan parade
Mother Nature put Sullivan’s quest for a high school baseball sectional championship on hold Monday night at Linton-Stockton High School. Sullivan (14-15) and Eastern Greene (16-7) will resume play in the Class 2A Sectional 47 championship game at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Linton’s Roy Herndon Field.
Opening Day: Terre Haute Rex host Quincy
In his first season at the helm, first-year Terre Haute Rex manager Ronnie Prettyman is going to be surrounded by men he knows and trusts.
Class A Shakamak Sectional: Stout pitching leads Union, Shakamak to final
Trey Bedwell and Patrick Green made sure their respective high school baseball teams would meet for the championship of the Class A Shakamak Sectional by pitching shutouts in semifinal contests Monday afternoon.
Class A Rockville Sectional: Covington, Rockville title game postponed
Rockville and Covington won semifinal high school baseball games Monday to advance to the championship game of the Rockville Class A Sectional. Due to rain, the championship game was postponed. A decision was expected this morning whether the game will be played today or Wednesday.
South Vermillion, Linton, Clay City look to stay alive in softball
There might have been as many reasons to think they wouldn’t be winning sectionals this spring as evidence to show they would, but high school softball teams from South Vermillion, Linton and Clay City will be playing one-game regionals Tuesday with the chance to keep defying the odds.
West Vigo back on top of Class 3A baseball sectional
West Vigo won its sectional with a 6-4 victory over South Vermillion on a rainy night at Dick Ballinger Field.
South runs into ‘buzzsaw’ at girls tennis semistate
Postmatch interviews don’t often begin with a coach and a reporter ready to blurt out the same word, but that was the case for Bill Blankenbaker and his interviewer Saturday morning after the Center Grove Semistate for girls high school tennis.
Unfortunately for Blankenbaker’s Terre Haute South team, that word was “buzzsaw.”
Greenwood’s Kawamoto twins made quick work of the top of the Braves’ singles lineup, so despite stellar efforts by both South doubles teams the Woodmen’s 3-2 victory didn’t seem all that close.
Greenwood moves on to Fishers, where it plays Floyd Central or Jasper on Friday in the state quarterfinals.
Also playing Friday, but at Park Tudor, will be South’s Miranda Camp and Nicole Howe, who reached the individual doubles finals for the second straight season by virtue of their 6-4, 6-2 win over the Greenwood team of Taylor Hudnall and Brittany Toney.
“It’s really exciting,” said Howe of the prospect of a second straight finals trip, “but I wish our team could’ve gone with us.”
- More High School Headlines
- Goatee, Bertoli ran away with Spring Athlete of the Year