Center Grove’s softball program benefits from the instruction of assistant coaches Brian Weidman and Bryan Turner, men with predominantly baseball backgrounds.
Weidman, 49, coached freshman or junior varsity baseball at Center Grove from 1993 to 2003. Turner, 41, played second base for the Trojans in the early 1990s and worked 17 seasons as an assistant at Center Grove and last season was a baseball assistant at Roncalli.
Neither coach is eager to return to his baseball roots.
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“I wouldn’t go back to baseball now if somebody asked me to come back,” said Turner, who coaches outfielders. “Softball is just a more intense, fast-paced game. I thought coming in there would be a lot of similarities, but the game is definitely faster in softball.
“The pitching is intense for these girls. The strategy of the game is different. I love everything about softball.”
With shorter distances between bases (90 feet in baseball, 60 in softball) and from pitching mound to home plate (60 feet, 6 inches in baseball, 46 feet in softball), softball condenses its action into abbreviated dimensions compared to baseball.
Moreover, outfield fences in softball range from 190 to 225 feet from home plate. In baseball, fences in straightaway center can run from 375 to 410 feet away from the plate.
Weidman, who works with the infielders and coaches first base when the Trojans are batting, prefers the coaching challenges of softball.
“Actually, this is my second stint coaching softball. In the spring of 1993, after my first season of coaching freshman baseball, there were two weeks left in the (softball) season. Russ and I teach science together, and he was in need of a coach for the rest of the year,” Weidman said. “I love it. I love the speed of the game, the competition, the work ethic of the girls.”
Another of softball’s selling points is the faster pace of practices and games. There tends be to far less deliberation between pitches — be it by the pitcher, hitter or both — than often occurs in baseball.
“We come in, we expect our girls to be ready for an intense practice, and we’re done in an hour and 10 or an hour and 20 minutes,” Turner said. “In baseball, games go about 3½ hours, practices were going three hours.
“It was just a long, drawn-out time.”
At the end of Roncalli’s 2014 baseball season, Turner had no plans to return to coaching. But at the urging of his wife, he answered a calling at Center Grove.
So retirement was brief.
“I’ve done everything with baseball and was basically retired (from coaching). I finished out the season with Roncalli and was ready to move to something different,” Turner said. “I got home and was sitting around the house, and my wife basically said, ‘You need to be doing something.’”
Turner originally corresponded with Milligan via email about possibly coaching during the 2015-16 school year. Milligan, however, wanted Turner for the 2015 season and beyond.
“He says, ‘Well, why not this year?’” Turner said. “I’ve known Russ for a long time, met with him, and he says, ‘I want you as varsity assistant in charge of the outfield, and let’s make a run at this.’”
Which is precisely what Center Grove is doing.
A component of Milligan having won 88 percent of his games (658-87) and four state championships since taking over the program in 1992 is the ability to surround himself with quality assistant coaches.
Weidman and Turner are helping keep this tradition alive.
“This year has been kind of a special combination. We’re all very intense and excitable but very adaptable. They have the same spirit I do and are just very good, proven coaches,” Milligan said. “They love coaching, they love winning, and they fell in love with softball.”
Just as Milligan suspected they would.
Family: Wife, Sara; son, Nolan, 22; daughter, Lauren, 20
High school: Perry Meridian (1984)
Coaches: Infielders/first-base coach
Family: Wife, Amanda; daughter, Mackenzie, 15; son, Clayton, 12
High school: Center Grove (1992)