Owls baseball coach focuses on building relationships, constantly improving program

When Jeremy Richey graduated from college, he planned on one day becoming the head baseball coach at Seymour High School.

That goal became a reality in 2012.

After playing baseball in high school and college and working as a member of the baseball coaching staff for nine years, he became the leader of the program.

He recently reached a milestone by earning his 100th win as head coach of the Owls on April 21 against Clarksville.

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Above all of the accolades, building lasting relationships with the young men means the most to Richey.

“Coaching, to me, is a lot about relationships — creating relationships with your team and going through a lot of great times and a lot of tough times and showing that during tough times, we can come back and still get something positive out of the negativity,” he said. “I love coming to practice and working with our guys every day.”

Growing up, football was typically the conversation at the Richey household.

“Growing up with football coaches in my basement most nights of the week, football was my first love for a long time, but when I got out of college, college baseball was so much fun for me,” Richey said.

“I really started to enjoy the game a lot more when I got to college, and when I came back and was coaching football and baseball, the more I coached the two of them, I knew baseball was more of the path I wanted to go.”

In 1999, Richey graduated from Seymour High School, where he played football and baseball.

After high school, Richey attended Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) in Williamsburg, Kentucky. He played one year of football and two years of baseball there.

He said he thought about attending the University of South Alabama to only play baseball, but he wanted to also play football in college, so he decided to go to Cumberland.

Richey then transferred to Indiana University Southeast, where he played baseball for two years, before graduating in 2005.

“I went right into playing, but because of schooling, it added two years because the first two years didn’t really count,” Richey said. “My hours transferred, but they had different requirements when I got to IUS.”

In 2003, he was a volunteer baseball coach at Seymour High School under Bob Bowman. He was the freshman coach in 2004 and became a varsity assistant coach the next year.

Richey said Bowman allowed him a lot of freedom with his coaching in the early stages of his career.

Richey was an assistant coach from 2005 until 2011 and became head coach in 2012. He also coached football in Seymour for 12 years, starting with seventh-graders before moving up to freshmen and then to varsity assistant.

In 2012, he posted his best season as baseball head coach at 21-5.

“Baseball is baseball,” he said. “It’s still catching the ball, it’s still throwing the ball, it’s still hitting the ball, but who’s doing it is so much different, and it’s everywhere.”

While the basics have stayed the same, the training has changed over time.

“The weight room is so much more important (now),” Richey said. “The weight room has created bigger, stronger, more athletic kids. The technology has changed a lot. Science has changed with some of the programs that these guys have now.

“We do a lot of things with the drive-line throwing program. We’re about ready to start our guys in the drive-line hitting program. There is just so much more technology out there to make the game better. Velocities have increased tremendously, and part of that is just the kids are physically different, but the other part of it is there is so much more knowledge out there now about the game.”

In terms of the way the game is played, Richey said he doesn’t think it’s much different within the framework of baseball.

“But the kids that are playing definitely look different now than when I played,” he said. “You see that in every team.”

Richey said the Hoosier Hills Conference is one of the best in the state.

“Even my senior year, we had some really good teams and players in this conference with Bryan Bullington (Madison), who ended up being the No. 1 pick in the draft,” Richey said.

Seymour, like many other schools, also has changed for the better in terms of sports medicine.

“Schools now have weights in school and trainers,” Richey said. “(Seymour trainer) Kyle Coates has been great for us because he has dealt with some stuff. We’ve dealt with with a hamstring a couple weeks in a row now, and he does a good job of working on that. We’ve had some thumb injuries.

“Kyle has really helped us out with getting guys in and out, and the concussion protocol now is so much better than it used to be, and Kyle definitely makes our program better.”

Since 2009, Seymour has boasted an indoor practice facility, where baseball and softball players and other athletes have had a place to work in the offseason and preseason.

“We started to expand the time period that they can be in there,” Richey said. “With me out of football altogether, we do a little bit of work in the fall, but it’s so laid back because IHSAA rules only allow us to coach two kids at a time, so a lot of this stuff is leader-driven.”

One of the biggest changes with practicing at Seymour has been the addition of a turf soccer field on campus.

“The soccer field has been a game-changer for us,” Richey said, adding it especially helped infield work. “I think we were second in school history last year in terms of defense. This year, we’re right there on pace to do that again or maybe do a little bit better.

“We don’t miss practices anymore. Before, we had the facility, so we could hit. The gym is really not very good for us because there is not enough room, but now, if it rains in the morning and we can’t get on our field, that soccer field is available, and we can still go out there and get a lot of defensive stuff done.”

He said the defensive improvement has happened because the players were able to take ground balls, work on footwork and play more on the scale of a field instead of rolling balls on a gym floor.

Richey said the aluminum bats also have changed over the years.

“The bats have changed, but not for the better,” Richey said. “They’re trying to monitor how hard the ball comes off the bat. When I was in high school, I think we were in a drop five. It all looked at how long the bat is, how heavy the bat is, so a lot of us in high school were using a 32-27.

“They made it a drop three after I got out of high school. It still had some pretty good pop during the BESR years. Now, they’ve gone BB core. They’ve really deadened the bats a lot, and you don’t see as many home runs as you used to.”

All year long, Richey attends workshops and clinics to keep up on the latest coaching techniques.

“Almost everything you do now, there’s difference of opinions whether it’s mechanics of the swing, whether it’s mechanics pitching,” Richey said. “Those places do a good job of giving you information and allowing you to kind of fit that within your system. As a head coach, a lot of the things I want to watch are program development things and making our program better and drills that we can do with a lot of people doing.”

Richey brings a group along with him to many events and praised his assistant coaches for their dedication to the program.

“We take nine coaches up to the state clinic,” Richey said. “I want nine guys getting better at baseball. Coach Elvis (Hernandez) is going to want to be with the pitching stuff, and coach D.J. (Henkle) is going to go with the hitting and the catching. I went to the national clinic in Indianapolis this year, and I bought a bunch of the coaching DVDs. I’m a lifelong learner, always trying to find new things.”

Richey said he enjoys games at American Legion Field. He said he would like to see turf put on the Owls’ home field in the future.

“The atmosphere that we create here, I don’t think that anybody else on our schedule creates that,” Richey said. “There are fields that are nicer than ours, but when you start to put it all together, all the banners with businesses that support us, the scoreboard, the way that our field looks, the way Curt (Nichols) and Jay (Hubbard) announce the games, and Jay announces all our home games and some away games, nobody else does that.

“I think the atmosphere that we create here at American Legion Field is something that is really good for the fans. I think they really enjoy it. Our kids get a great experience at baseball, and that’s evident in the number of kids that want to go on and play college baseball.”

While the list of accomplishments keeps growing, Richey said he is grateful for all he has experienced thus far in his career.

“In seven years, I’ve been able to do some things that some coaches don’t get to do over their whole career,” Richey said. “When you talk about getting a player (Zack Brown) drafted, being a coach in the North-South All-Star series, I was just recently elected the third vice president of the state coaches association, I’ve had a lot of really neat experiences with Coach of the Year in the district and conference and all those things.”