Elkhart Central baseball coach Steve Stutsman yells encouragement. Stutsman has his No. 2-ranked Blue Blazers in the regional for a third straight year. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Elkhart Central head baseball coach Steve Stutsman (left) and Concord head coach Jim Treadway meet at homeplate. Treadway was on Stutsman's staff for eight years and the two men have known each other more than 30 years. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Let's do the math on Steve Stutsman.
In his 18th season as head baseball coach at Elkhart Central High School, Stutsman has coached the Blue Blazers to 268 victories, four sectional titles (2001, 2011, 2012, 2013) and one Northern Indiana Conference championship (2013).
A special season was expected and it has been special so far.
Stutsman can also look at the schools in the Elkhart Sectional and count three head coaches - Memorial's Scott Rost, Concord's Jim Treadway and Northridge's Andrew Brabender - who were once on his Central staff.
Rost worked with Stutsman for one season, Treadway eight and Brabender three and all three have nothing but high praise for the man enjoying the ride in what is currently a 28-1 season (the senior-laden and No. 2-ranked Blazers play again in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional Saturday, June 1).
For Stutsman, coaching baseball goes deeper than the game and that fact is not lost on his friends.
"Stuts is the epitome of a guy who loves kids," says Treadway, whose Minutemen lost 3-0 to Central in the opening game of the 2013 Elkhart Sectional and a friend of Stutsman for more than 30 years. "His heart is in the right place.
"I'm tickled to death he's got this ballclub. I'm really happy for him."
Brabender, whose father Tom was an American legion coach in Illinois for four decades, has always been struck by Stutsman's rapore with his players and his genuine concern for them.
Stutsman cares about them when they are playing and when they come back after graduation.
"He just loves those kids and they come back a lot," says Brabender, whose Raiders lost 5-0 to Central in the sectional semifinals. "When you are a coach, you try to find things you like and don't like (and incorporate the things you like).
"I saw the importance of (relating to players on a personal level) to your program."
Brabender said Stutsman has always been good about remembering the history and tradition and letting the current players know what alumni did when they come to see the team play.
"That's really cool," says Brabender.
Rost appreciates the experience he had when working on Stutsman's staff and is grateful for time he has given to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association. Stutsman has served as a district representative and is currently second vice president and on track to be IHSBCA president in 2014-15.
"I was just with Steve for one year," says Rost, whose Memorial team lost 3-1 to Central in the sectional championship game. "I was a young coach at the time, but the thing I appreciated the most was Steve’s willingness to allow me to have responsibilities that made a difference.
"A lot of time head coaches are reluctant to give younger coaches any ownership in their program. Right away, Steve valued my input and allowed me to coach the players up without hesitation."
Elkhart Memorial coach Scott Rost (right) talks with Elkhart Central coach Steve Stutsman. Rost was on Stutsman's staff for one season as a young coach and appreciates the experience and the responsibility he was allowed to take. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Northridge baseball coach Andrew Brabender was an assistant for Elkhart Central coach Steve Stutsman for three baseball seasons and still counts Stutsman as a good friend. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)