Just To Be Asking: Jarred HowardApril 23, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
As the baseball season gets underway (when the weather permits), the Dubois County Herald took some time to catch up with Forest Park head coach Jarred Howard. He talks about how he came to Ferdinand, shares his thoughts on America’s pastime, and talks about how much longer he could see himself in local dugouts at the helm of a ball club.
Editor’s note: Questions and answers are curated for clarity and brevity.
Q: How did you wind up coaching at Forest Park?
A: I played baseball at Oakland City University, then I stayed there and coached for two and a half years. I did my student teaching at Heritage Hills, and was at an award ceremony where there happened to be an administrator from Southeast Dubois (School Corp.). They had a teaching position open so I interviewed right after college and got the job. Mr. (Jim) Mehling, the longtime coach before me, came to me and said he’d like to get out of coaching. He asked if I would be interested in the job, I told him I’d try it for a few years, and here I sit 19 years later.
Q: How did you get your start in baseball?
A: My family loved baseball. My dad loves baseball, my grandfather was a big (St. Louis) Cardinals fan. Hanging out with those guys they always had the Cardinals game on, so that was part of it. I grew up in a small community; we basically got up in the morning, rode our bikes to the park and played. We played Little League of some kind. We moved to Shelbyville, Kentucky, and Little League was a big deal there. They took it much more serious than where I was from, that was kind of the first eye-opening experience of having organized baseball.
Q: What positions did you play?
A: I was an infielder growing up. When I was a freshman in high school, whoever the pitcher was I played their position. I would catch some, play outfield and infield. Sophomore year of high school I caught almost the whole time. We had a shortstop who had gotten drafted by the (Cincinnati) Reds, when he graduated I played middle infield. (I) played middle infield in college as a freshman, then moved to third base my last three years.
Q: What was your favorite spot to play?
A: My favorite was catcher, you were into the ball game with every pitch. I liked middle infield, third base was not my favorite. You had to take what was given to you, you couldn’t read a hop or anything like that.
Q: What were some of your best skills and talents as a baseball player?
A: I hit it. Most teams that I played for I always hit in the middle of the lineup. That was the thing that kept me in the lineup wherever I went. I wasn’t a great infielder, I was serviceable. But I could swing it and I had a pretty good arm.
Q: Who were some of your baseball idols?
A: Dale Murphy. We had some good players ahead of us in high school that were really nice players. Jimmy Rice got drafted by the Reds and went to Wright State, he was a guy I looked up to. There was a guy that went to (Owensboro) Apollo High School by the name of Chuck Jones, he was the best player I played with.
Q: As you made that shift from player to coach, what was that transition like?
A: As a young coach I was probably pretty difficult to deal with. You start off coaching how your favorite coaches coached you, because that’s kind of all you know. I had a real good high school coach named Ben Norris. He was a laid back coach, but he was hard on us. Then I had a legion coach named Jim Haaf, he’s a hall of famer. He was the first coach to really get after me. Coaching at the high school level, I had to adjust it. My first five years I was too hard on kids. Now that I have my own kids it’s changed the way I coach for sure.
Q: What are the core principles you try to operate by when building a foundation for a baseball team?
A: We know what we have coming and we work with our feeder system. You try to coach kids at an early age, so you can teach them what you’re looking for in high school. I’m looking for work ethic, I want kids that want to be there and play hard. In the winter time we spend a good deal of time conditioning and getting our arms in shape.
Q: Historically, what kind of teams have you worked with when it comes to Forest Park baseball?
A: It’s been a wide variety, we have to adjust to whatever talent we have. When I first started coaching, our bats were hot. We crowded the plate and tried to hit the ball out of the park. Now that bats have changed, we might take a round of (batting practice) and hit one ball out. We’ve had teams where I’ve had really good speed and stole bases. We had teams that didn’t run real well. Every year is different. I’ve never been a big small ball guy. We bunt some, but I wouldn’t classify us as a small ball team.
Q: Defensively, what are some of the keys to a solid infield?
A: There’s three positions you need to be strong at: catcher, shortstop, and center field. The best teams that I’ve had, had catchers that could keep runners honest and throw runners out. Up the middle is the key, there’s no doubt about it. You’re not going to be a good ball club unless you're strong up the middle.
Q: During your 19 years of coaching, what have been some of the high points you experienced?
A: We started off in the Blue Chip Conference and we were very successful. Then we jumped into the PAC, we’ve won it a time or two. Of course our sectional win. We had a stretch where we won 90 games in four years. One of the biggest highlights I had was the number of kids we’ve had play collegiate baseball. We’ve had 17 or 18 kids play collegiately and had several more that could have. That’s a testament to the athletes we’ve had.
Q: How much longer do you see yourself coaching?
A: I’d love to do it as long as I enjoy it. My oldest son (Drew) is a freshman and I have a younger son that’s a seventh grader. I’d like to see those guys through, so that’s six more years. At the end of those six years if I’m still enjoying it, then great. Every year is a different challenge, but I’ve loved it. I love practice and player development. Even if I got out of coaching I would still give lessons or work with hitters, catchers, infielders, and do those things.
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