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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 19, 2017 1:00 am

Bulldogs baseball coach still has it

Bischoff remains motivated even after 600 wins

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

NEW HAVEN – A coaching career consists of three questions:

Do you have it?

Can you keep it?

Do you still have it?

Suffice it to say, New Haven baseball coach Dave Bischoff still has it – the ability to win. To lead a team, maybe not always the most talented one on the diamond, but a group of individuals that put the team first.

And with New Haven's victory over Bellmont on May 9, Bischoff led the Bulldogs to a win, his 600th. It's a feeling that remains fresh.

“Losing (gets old), but I haven't really gotten tired of winning,” Bischoff said.

There's something to be said for keeping that spark after 33 years of coaching. The key? Embracing the day-to-day effort.

“You can lose a little enthusiasm over the years, killing the same weeds, mowing the same grass, fixing the same sprinklers,” Bischoff said. “There's things I really enjoy. I really enjoy practice, I really enjoy working out with them. I enjoy the grind.”

It takes support on the home front as well. Bischoff credited his wife, Kristen, with keeping things together. Be it bringing their young sons to practice or getting the whole family to weddings and family outings, it's taken a family atmosphere to make things work.

“I would have missed a lot more family if it hadn't been for my wife,” Bischoff said. “I wouldn't have done this without her.”

Well before win 600 – well before No. 100, even – Bischoff built the foundation upon which his program stood. The biggest thing was ensuring all athletes put the program first, taking care of the little things.

“We've been adamant about having good character people, both as citizens and as students,” Bischoff said. “That makes some of the things you try to accomplish a little easier.”

And it wasn't easy at the start. Quite the opposite, as Bischoff found himself trying to keep up with the Joneses. Namely, three Indiana Baseball Hall Of Fame coaches – DeKalb's Bill Jones, Northrop's Chris Stavreti and Huntington North's Don Sherman.

“I had some great mentors,” Bischoff said. “They were kind enough to take me along to state clinics, and I've always been very appreciative of that.”

But the wins kept coming. That included an upset of then-unbeaten and second-ranked Elmhurst in the 1993 regional, when New Haven was only a .500 team.

“That was a big one,” Bischoff said. “We came from two runs behind with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to win our sectional, then drew No. 2 Elmhurst in the regional.”

Perhaps the biggest victory, at least in Bischoff's eyes – moreso than the over 50 athletes that have gone on to college baseball – seeing his players turn into successful businessmen and family men.

“They came back and told me 'some of the stuff I learned from you works off the field, too,' ” Bischoff said. “That's probably the greatest satisfaction.”

For last week's milestone, they've come back in droves, either in person or by phone to congratulate the New Haven coach.

“It probably hit me more, the number of people that responded, than when we actually won it,” Bischoff said. “I've been overwhelmed by the number of players that have taken time to note the occasion. I think that's created more emotion than the actual winning of the game.”