For Matt Hogan and his fellow coaches, playing baseball to win and developing Christian character are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, the philosophy of the Indianapolis Kings baseball team places an emphasis on both.
The Kings are a baseball program for home-schooled students, featuring varsity, junior varsity and junior high teams. The program allows home-schooled students to play baseball on a school team, with competition against public and private high schools from around central Indiana, as well as a season-ending tournament against other home school teams from the Midwest.
Hogan, a Greenwood resident, is the program’s athletics director and varsity head coach. Although his interest began with his son Abe, now a senior on the team, Hogan and the other parents guiding the team share a strong sense of community, emphasizing fraternity and togetherness, both for the players on the teams and the families of which they are a part.
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“With Christ being our model and example, we mean it when we say we are a Christian organization,” Matt Hogan said. “As parents, we work together to teach discipleship and help the boys grow spiritually. We’ll have dads come in and speak on spiritual disciplines.
“We focus a lot on developing leadership, and we’ll talk about how we represent ourselves.”
Victory on their minds
But make no mistake about the Kings’ competitive spirit: They play to win.
Last season, the Kings finished 19-9, with a win against Greenwood Community High School among its victories. This season, the Kings have a 46-game schedule, with opponents including IHSAA members Brebeuf, Bishop Chatard and Bloomington South.
Of the 41 players in the program, several play travel baseball, and a handful are from Johnson County. The Kings were established in 2004 by Greenfield resident Mark Judy. That first team played about a dozen games and had a similar number of players.
Competition and camaraderie
Matt Hogan became involved in 2012 when Abe Hogan, a shortstop, wanted to play high school baseball in addition to playing travel ball.
For Abe Hogan, the Kings offer the perfect blend of competition and camaraderie.
“To me, the brotherhood is what I enjoy more than anything,” Abe Hogan said. “That’s why I’d rather play for Kings than any other team. We call ourselves a mini fraternity.
“These are my brothers, and we’re serious about doing our best for each other on and off the field.”
For Chance Lytle, a sophomore outfielder and pitcher who played travel baseball with the Johnson County Jaguars for four years, playing for the Kings has helped his development as a player.
He recalled having visited a practice before deciding to join the team and was impressed by what he saw.
“The drills were good, but I liked that there was also a point to the instruction and that they were giving us a lot of tips we could use,” Lytle said. “One of the coaches drives two hours to practice and he has helped me a lot, specifically with my pitching.”
The Kings practice and play most of its home games in Westfield, drawing players from around central Indiana. The self-funded program’s successes include three championships at the Midwest Home School World Series, a competition involving top home-schooled teams from a multistate area. The Kings didn’t win the event last year. They are hosting it this year, and winning it is an objective.
But not necessarily the main objective.
“It’s just a great group of families and boys,” Matt Hogan said. “We were all united by the fact that we wanted a chance for the boys to play baseball at the high school level and to play it well, but also that we wanted it to be in a very Christian context.”
Lytle sees the two ideas as fitting together seamlessly.
“We have a goal in mind to win, but also to honor God, so I think that’s really cool,” Lytle said. “We’re not just in it for ourselves, and that gels us together as a team.
“It makes it that much more fun.”
ABOUT THE INDIANAPOLIS KINGS
Team: Indianapolis Kings
What: Home school baseball team for junior high and high school students.
2014 Record: 19-9
Program Highlights: Three championships at Midwest Home School World Series
Head Coach: Matt Hogan (Greenwood)