September 12, 2013

Clary completes 50th year as a baseball/softball player

By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune

---- — With four high school state championships and countless youth state titles, Logansport has long been known as one of the best baseball towns in Indiana.

Steve Clary has a claim to fame that is a first in Logansport history, as he just completed his 50th year as a baseball/softball player this summer.

“It’s been 50 summers of never stopping the routine of playing ball,” Clary said. “It’s just been a constant.”

To be fair, most of those summers have been spent playing slow-pitch softball. But all the playing has still taken a toll on the 60-year-old, who started playing in the Logan youth leagues at the age of 10.

“The only thing I ever told myself is that if I didn’t think I could help the team I was playing for I’d quit,” Clary said. “I’d quit if I was unproductive.”

Clary was a shortstop since bell bottoms were in style. But five years ago he had to give in to lower back pain.

“After all those years I had to carry myself off one night with a twisted back,” he said.

Clary was not ready to throw in the towel yet. So he made the switch to pitcher, mostly out of need for his team that year, where he’s been ever since.

As for slow-pitch softball strategy as a pitcher, he said, “There is a little. I didn’t have anybody to teach me, to talk to me other than watching guys as a hitter or playing shortstop. No. 1, you don’t want to walk guys. That’s the worst thing you can do is make your defense wait pitch after pitch. I knew that as a pitcher that was my No. 1 goal.

“But on the flip side of that, if you’re too good at throwing strikes everyone can zone in. The only thing you figure out is you have to walk a guy now or then or at least throw some balls intentionally. If you know a guy is a first-pitch hitter throw him a ball. It’s not always easy in softball because the range to hit is so much bigger than baseball. But I’ve learned a backup curve or a curve and to move the ball around, and you have to field your position.”

Clary is a 1970 grad of Logansport. He played third base for coach Jim Turner for the Berries.

He said his teams then were good but not great. The IHSAA tournament started his freshman year and the Berries won three straight sectional titles to start that off. Not long after Clary graduated the Berries won 24 sectional titles in a 25-year span and their four state titles.

“We were the forerunners to that,” Clary said.

Clary said legendary Logan assistant Rich Wild was his biggest influence as a coach and player over the rest of his life in the sport. He said his long career in the sport can be attributed to his LHS coaches.

Clary said he tried out for Purdue’s baseball team his freshman year as a third baseman but did not make it. He said he wished he would have tried out as a pitcher because the team kept a lot more pitchers and he would have had a better chance of making the team.

He ended up playing intramural ball at Purdue where he was an “intramural king.”

His senior year his intramural team won the dorm title and finished second in the campus.

Clary came back to Logansport after graduation and taught at LHS for 10 years.

He then took a job as a data processor at TM Morris in 1985. He said at it’s peak TM Morris had 900 employees between three plants before the company was purchased in 2006.

When the company was sold to Kauffman Engineering, he said his office was scaled back from 45-50 employees to 10 or less.

He said the writing was on the wall, so he decided to return to teaching. This is his sixth year back as a teacher at LHS where he teaches geometry. He also teaches one class at Ivy Tech.

He said he’s glad that many of his former co-workers at TM Morris have remained employed at Kauffman.

“They’re fortunate to have least kept their doors open. A lot of places have not had that fortune — Logan Machine, Metal Culvert, White-Rodgers which used to be in the RBM building, we had the battery factory, there’s a lot of places.”

One issue facing manufacuring throughout the nation is there are reportedly a lot of jobs available that are not getting filled because of a lack of qualified workers. Clary said he hopes the Century Career Center at LHS can help fill the void locally.

“I hope the state finally figures this thing out. They’re starting to talk about it again,” he said. “We have a great facility at the Century Career Center. The problem is the state still keeps the academic standards so high, so great, you don’t have enough opportunity, I think, to say I’m going to be vocational, I want a trade, I want a skill and just go that direction and not have to take all the science they are requiring, all the math. You’re still going to get some in the vocational side of it.

“They can train them right here [at the Century Career Center.] Then they could get a two-year jump on working somewhere. That’s my opinion on it.”

Clary played one year of fast-pitch softball in its final year in Logansport. He’s played slow-pitch for 42 years. He estimates he’s played in over 2,500 contests overall over the last 50 years.

He started coaching Babe Ruth at the age of 19. He’s coached at the youth league level for 18 years which includes over 300 games. He was the president of the local Babe Ruth in 2004 when he unofficially retired from coaching after leading the team to the league title. He coached the 14-year-old state finalist team that year as well. He’s been a Cal Ripken player agent and vice president over the last six years.

He met his wife of 37 years, Kit, at Steinman Field. Two players on the first Babe Ruth team he managed in 1972 eventually became his brother-in-laws.

His two sons, Chris, 31, and Shawn, 26, both played Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth and JV baseball. His 2-year-old grandson, Nolan, is already a veteran of attending Berry games.

There’s even a chance Grandpa will still be playing when Nolan starts his baseball career.