PLYMOUTH — When Plymouth’s Pilgrims take the field against South Central on Tuesday, it will be the first time since 1968 that someone other than Bill Nixon or a former player of Bill Nixon has led the team on the field that bears his name.
Taking the helm for his first year is Ryan Wolfe, who has a no less impressive pedigree in his first year on the job. An Indiana All-Star at another great Indiana high school program at Highland, Wolfe also played four years for Rick Espeset at Manchester College — one of the top small college programs in the country. He was also previously a head coach at West Central High School
Being a part of successful programs has left Wolfe with a good education on how to continue the Hall of Fame tradition at Plymouth.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for team’s that have been successful,” said Wolfe. “I’ve been around some good baseball, some great coaches and doing things the right way, teaching your kids the right way to play the game, respect for the game, respect for the right way to play the game. I want our kids to have respect for this field, respect for the tradition here and what’s gone before, and that’s all things that have nothing to do with winning or losing. In the end we want our kids to play the game the right way, and if we do that wins will come.”
Learning from others, Wolfe says he’s watched the program of Plymouth basketball coach Ryan Bales and taken some lessons from his early success at the school.
“I’ve tried to watch what coach Bales has done here, and I hope what our kids will understand is that this is more than just baseball to me,” said Wolfe. “I want them to understand I care more about them than just as a third baseman or whatever. I care about them becoming men of integrity that go on to success beyond anything they do in baseball. I’m going to be hard on them because I expect a lot of them, but I hope they understand I do it because I believe they can do it. I’m not going to waste my time being tough on somebody if I don’t believe they can do it.”
Like Nixon, Wolfe was a pitcher in his playing days and understands that the bottom line for any successful team is on the mound.
“I feel really good about where our guys are physically. We’ve been throwing for awhile so I think we’re ready to go,” he said. “We’ve got a ways to go to learn how to pitch. That’s going to be a process with our pitchers and catchers learning to call a game, but I think we’re going to get there. We don’t have quite the ‘bulldog’ mentality I want in our pitchers, but that will come.”
The Pilgrims will be very young, but that can also be a positive.
“The good news is I’ll have them for at least three and maybe four years for some of them, and we’re going to get better as we go on,” said Wolfe. “I really like our intangibles. We have a lot to learn, but we’ve got kids that really understand the game. They know how the game is played and I’ve thrown a lot at them here early on, but the fact that they understand the game makes my job a lot easier.”