John Bogner isn't taking his first head coaching position lightly.
After 17 years as an assistant in three different sports — football, wrestling and baseball — Bogner was tabbed this week as Highland's newest baseball coach.
"I'm probably the oldest rookie in the state," Bogner said. "Most guys take over at 25. I'm taking over at 40."
Being a rookie is relative. Bogner cut his teeth as an assistant for the last 17 of Dan Miller's 32 years as the head coach at Highland.
When Miller retired this spring, the job was Bogner's to lose, and Highland made a good pick.
They found a true Trojan, someone who says he tosses extra baseballs to kids in town playing catch with their dads. He sees the program as an extension of himself and something he isn't going to let go lightly.
Miller retired with a Hall of Fame career. Bogner is 17 years into his.
"It's tough to replace a legend," Bogner said. "I've seen him do it so long, I've got a lot of it down pat."
He brings his own ideas, of course.
A math teacher who's technologically advanced , Bogner has already used the Internet and web as a teaching tool for his players. He tracks stats and tendencies, now he wants to find other ways to allow automation to fix mechanics.
"I want to start video taping their swings and posting those online to show them what they're doing right and wrong," Bogner said. "I want to use some of those tools to try to evaluate the kids that way. You might tell a kid, 'hey, you're doing this or that,' but until they can physically see it themselves, it doesn't make the same impact."
He's already started pushing the players in stronger directions. He's set strength training workouts, something other teams have done in the last five years that has helped produce sectional titles.
"Baseball can be a lazy man's sport if given the opportunity," Bogner said. "In order for us to even talk about competing in our sectional and start beating some of those better teams, we have to continue to go above and beyond what we're already doing.
"I hear (Lake Central) Coach (Jeff) Sandor say he's got kids that can clean and jerk 225 (pounds), and I don't know if we have a kid that can lift 225 off the floor. ... Hopefully soon, though."
Bogner doesn't want to replace Miller and the legacy he left behind, he just wants to advance it.
With time to start now — and as he hopes to be the middle school wrestling coach, time to continue it in the winter — Bogner is on his way to keeping Highland a part of the baseball discussion in the region.
Highland has produced baseball players who have advanced to impressive careers. With Bogner in charge, the tradition will continue.
This column is solely the opinion of the writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.