Baseball: Hebron’s John Steinhilber is the P-T Coach of the Year
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 23, 2012 10:48PM
Hebron coach John Steinhilber is photographed on the baseball field in Hebron, Ind. Thursday June 21, 2012. Steinhilber, who led the Hawks to within one pitch of the state championship game, is the Post-Tribune Baseball Coach of the Year. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM
A week from now, John Steinhilber is going to sleep. A lot.
Perhaps nobody needs the impending IHSAA moratorium week more than Steinhilber, who guided the Hebron boys basketball team to the regional, then the baseball team to within one pitch of the state championship game in back-to-back seasons.
Two days after basketball season ended, baseball practices began. And two days after baseball season ended, summer basketball workouts began.
Not that rest was really an option after that gut-wrenching semistate loss to eventual Class 2A champion Northfield, anyway.
“After our game, us being so close to going to the state finals, I had a hard time sleeping,” Steinhilber said. “I kept thinking about that, kept seeing it over and over in my head.”
While he might still see those two pitches he believed should have been called strikes to end the game and send Hebron to Victory Field, he also can see just how magical the past seven months have been. Especially a baseball season in which Hebron won its first sectional in 35 years, then its first regional ever.
For guiding Hebron to the best baseball campaign in school history, Steinhilber is the Post-Tribune Coach of the Year.
“Every Hebron baseball player for 35 years, they’ve carried that chip,” he said. “They wanted to break through and win another sectional in baseball. I know most of those guys. A lot of those guys, I grew up with and still see now. I kind of even owned it, even though I didn’t go to Hebron.”
Heck, he doesn’t even teach at Hebron. He went to Boone Grove and teaches at South Central, but he lived two miles from Hebron, and his parents are both Hebron grads.
“I understood that burden,” he said.
It would have been easy for the Hawks to have had a letdown after beating Rochester for the breakthrough sectional championship. But instead, they kept their focus, stunning Bishop Noll 10-0 in six innings, then edging Bishop Luers 3-2 for the title.
“After we won the regional, I talked to the kids and said, ‘Raise your hands if you’ve been thinking, man, we’re one game away from the state finals,’” Steinhilber said. “They all raised their hands. I told them, ‘Me, too. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. But you’ve got to get it out of your minds now. You’ve got to focus.’ And I really like how they responded. To be a pitch away against the team that won it the next week, I’m so proud of my kids.”
Steinhilber deflected much of the credit to assistant coach Sean Riley, whom the team nicknamed Carl (as in Bill Murray’s character in “Caddyshack” for how much time he spent grooming the field) and who ran practices until Steinhilber arrived from South Central each day.
But his players — four of whom were with him throughout basketball season, too — admired Steinhilber for putting in just as much time and effort as they did, and for carrying over that success from the winter to the spring.
“He’s a different guy in basketball and baseball,” Kyle Joyce said. “In basketball, he’s a little more uptight. In baseball, he loosens up a little bit. You’re outside, you’re having fun. He’s a great coach to play for.”
And the results speak for themselves.
“It’s been a dream year,” Steinhilber said. “A year that probably will never come around again. That’s the spot I’m in right now. As a family, we’re celebrating it and trying to relax a bit, but then pretty soon, we’ve got to switch gears and do it all over again.”