Cats staying flexible as season beginsMarch 24, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER — Attention to detail becomes prevalent when baseball season arrives. Blades of grass are trimmed to precise heights. Foul lines are coated in clean streaks of white. Bats and bases gleam with sun-kissed shines.
Jasper head coach Terry Gobert finds the beauty in the idiosyncrasies and cherishes the thrill of taking the diamond.
“I’ve been trying to seize every moment my whole life,” Gobert said. “It’s been a whole year. If that doesn’t make you appreciate baseball, I don’t know what would.”
Juniors and seniors comprise the entirety of Jasper’s varsity roster. Most of those players can play multiple positions — a pliable squad can be a boon down the road. The junior class consists of Tanner Erny, Jack Ahlbrand, Ben Henke, Kody Morton, Will Weinzapfel, Chris Hedinger and Connor Foley. Jobe Luebbehusen, Will Troxler, Caleb Burger, Ross Peter, Eli Hopf, Blake Mann, Grant Stratton, Andrew Wallace and Kaleb Werner are the seniors.
Hopf started in center field as a sophomore, and Wallace supplied some left-handed pop. Peter earned time behind the dish, while Stratton gained some experience on the mound. That experience can help the Cats achieve consistency across the board. Fielding positions and designated hitters could change frequently throughout the year.
“You look at five or six guys and figure like they’ll be in the lineup somewhere,” Gobert said. “Are they going to be at first? Are they going to be at third? Are they going to be in the corner outfield? Are they going to be a DH?”
Mixing and matching the malleable lineups presents a unique challenge, but Gobert has traveled down this road before. He mentioned the 1996 state championship season — a campaign where the starters often shifted.
“I don’t worry a whole lot about that,” Gobert said. “We move a lot of guys in and out in practices and games. I’m a big believer in finding the nine that play together the best.”
Last year, the Cats hosted a scrimmage with graduates and alumni players. The friendly action helped the group find some normalcy in an unprecedented time.
“It was a lot of fun,” Gobert said. “We worked out with our returning guys a few times, but we never really had everybody together with other sports’ workouts and things like that.”
Gobert eclipsed the 800-win mark in 2019 and is firmly entrenched as a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. By his own admission, it is “amazing what you see when you walk around here for 30-plus years.” Many baseball seasons have drifted through the balmy spring air, but he still finds peace within the nooks and crannies of Ruxer Field.
“For all these years, it’s been my go-to place,” Gobert said. “I’ll coach for as long as they let me or the day I don’t want to be here. I still appreciate it.”
The Cats are scheduled to scrimmage Northeast Dubois today at home, and open their campaign with a 6 p.m. game on Tuesday in Boonville.
“If you love baseball at all, you’ve got to be thrilled to get out,” Gobert said.
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