Column: Line Drives — Tribe’s leader calm, relaxed

[This is my column in the June 3 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Ask anyone on the Fort Recovery High School baseball team and they will give you the same answer.

“Laid back.”

“Relaxed.”

Take one look at the guy, and it is easy to see what they mean.

Watch him in action, manning the coaching box down the third base line or nearly walking on the field to give his defense instructions, his knowledge for the game shows.

What he’s done in five years leading the Indians has earned him the respect of his peers.

“I can’t say enough about Jerry Kaup,” said St. Henry coach John Dorner following his team’s 2-0 victory May 8 against the Indians. “What he’s done with this program here, to be (then) No. 1 in the state … He has done a tremendous job with this program and I wish him luck.

“I think (Fort Recovery) can go a long way in the tournament this year.”

Laid back? That’s just part of the mystery that is Jerry Kaup, a coach that has taken the Tribe from a 2011 season during which it won just two games, to two wins from the program’s first state championship.

His casual demeanor has helped him keep calm in pressure situations.

Friday during the regional championship against Cincinnati Country Day, Kaup’s Indians trailed 9-7 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Tribe was six outs away from having its dream season come to an end.

But there was Kaup, 80 feet down the third base line doing his job — giving signs, managing the situation and giving his players the best chance for success.

The team in the dugout was on edge. It had seen its three-run lead vanish twice. It battled to tie the game and then fell behind once more.

And when his team was trailing, Kaup remained calm. At least on the outside.

“It’s definitely nervous,” he said of the sixth inning Friday. “But we’re working. I’m working. I’m trying to think and work. I’m nervous, but not afraid to do anything.

“We’re not afraid to lose. We’re not afraid to win.”

Calm, cool and collected.

That’s Jerry Kaup.

The players feed off his behavior too.

“It’s better for us because we won’t freak out,” said junior Kyle Schroer. “We know everything is OK. Everything is going to be all right.

“We know to stay calm like him. He makes it easy for us to not get out of control and lose our composure.”

Calm, yes. Kaup is calm. Some may even say he’s not very stern, too.

Senior Derek Backs is one of those people.

“He’s not very strict, but when the work needs to be done it’s going to get done,” he said. “He’s going to make us do what we need to do. He’s going to make us put our time in.

“That’s the cool thing … he’s relaxed, but still gets us to do what we need to do.”

How have the players repaid him?

They’ve given him back-to-back 20-win seasons.

They’ve given him the program’s first district and regional titles in 62 years.

“It’s incredible,” Mitch Stammen said. “He’s definitely earned it.”

Schroer agreed.

“It’s awesome for him,” he said. “He’s taken so much criticism because he’s had two wins in his first season. (Four) years later he’s going to state.”

Backs, too, agrees.

“He doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does,” Backs said.

But in early May — before the Tribe’s 20th win of the season, the district championship and regional title — Dorner tried to give Kaup the credit he deserves.

“ … as far as I’m concerned he is the (Midwest Athletic Conference) coach of the year,” he said.

Kaup wasn’t awarded coach of the year. That honor went to Dorner. On Tuesday, Kaup was snubbed on another coaching nod — Division IV coach of the year.

Both were awards he should have earned.

“He deserves credit, but he doesn’t care if he gets credit or not,” Backs said. “It’s all about the team. It’s about us players.”

Speaking with Kaup, his voice rings nothing but confidence — belief that each of Fort Recovery’s 25 wins are warranted, and the certainty that the Indians are capable of winning two more.

Confidence? Of course.

Arrogance? Not even close.

“He is a really nice guy, so when he’s joking around he’s smiling and stuff,” Backs said. “But when he wants to get stuff done he’s going to be in that mode and you can tell.”

Despite the “mode” and the seriousness, his players genuinely enjoy playing for him.

“I love him,” said Backs, a senior. “I’m glad he’s my coach and I’m going to miss him.”

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