ELKHART — One of the most experienced high school baseball teams in Indiana — eight senior starters, several of them multi-year starters — has one of the state’s most inexperienced student manager crews.
It’s a crew that even includes a mid-season addition.
Not that any of that has disrupted the harmony of these Central Blue Blazers (31-1), who face Indianapolis Cathedral (28-0) around 7 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Victory Field in Indianapolis for the 4A state title.
In fact, that one mid-season pick-up — you can’t miss him — has even added to the harmony.
“We probably have the tallest manager in the state,” head coach Steve Stutsman said, referring to 6-foot-9 senior and Blazer basketball player Brian Harter.
It wasn’t Stutsman’s idea to bring Harter aboard, rather the repeated pleading of the players.
“It was four or five games into the season and the guys said, ‘Hey we’ve got a senior here, Brian Harter, who has come to every game and wants to be a manager,’” Stutsman recalled some of his players telling him. “And I said, ‘You know, we got three managers now.’ And a couple games later, they asked again, and finally I’m like, ‘All right, let’s bring him on,’ and he’s been one of the pleasant surprises. I think he has brought even more unity to the team. He’s just like part of the guys.”
Harter says he has attended virtually every Central baseball game the last four years, but couldn’t commit to managing his freshman through junior years because the practices might’ve interfered with his AAU basketball commitments.
This year, though, Harter, who has signed to play basketball at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich., felt managing might be doable.
“I’ve got good friends on the team going way back, and I wish I would’ve kept playing baseball,” Harter said. “I stopped playing after eighth grade, when my height really took off.”
“Brian’s just a great guy, probably the friendliest guy at Central, the friendliest guy I’ve ever known,” Blazer star Cory Malcom said. “He’s been at every game since his freshman year, he’s the coolest dude and he’s brought this team together a little more.”
Harter does get some actual baseball activities in during practices and catches the ball for assistant coach Lonnie Weatherholt in the outfield during pregame warm-ups, but says he’s also up for any of the less glorious chores as well.
“To have a basketball player going on to college and wants to be a manager on the baseball team, I think that’s pretty special for the young man,” Stutsman said. “He’s part of the program.”
As are Natalie Snyder, Hollie Weidner and Hayley Working, all underclass girls who are first-year managers as well.
“They’ve done a super job,” Stutsman said. “Usually, when you have female managers, they just come to the games, but these three, they’ve missed a few practices, but 90 percent of the time, they’re there. And they do what they need to do. I don’t have to tell them what to do. We’ve got a good group of managers.”