ST. JOHN | When Johnny Gbur strikes out during an at-bat, he doesn't hang his head or sulk back to the dugout.
He stops to chat with the player in the on-deck circle.
"He's sprinting back to the dugout, he's talking to the kid in the on-deck circle about a breaking ball or a fastball, he's the epitome of a kid who hasn't let something that's gone wrong affect him," Lake Central baseball coach Jeff Sandor said. "He's been able to spin it for a positive and that positive energy he creates, that rubs off on us as coaches."
"That's what I feel like, I have to keep the team under control and calm and not get too anxious during an at-bat," Gbur said.
Gbur takes his energy and positivity into a 10:30 a.m. game against Concord at today's LaPorte Regional. The Indians (21-10) are playing in their fourth straight regional.
Gbur has been there for the last three. Even though he didn't play on the 2012 state championship team, the coaching staff made sure he was as much a part of the team as he could be.
"He was a guy in 2012 that we brought into the dugout and made a manager because he deserved a jersey, we just already had 20 spots filled," Sandor said. "He got the chance to see what it takes when you get into a postseason to win. There's residual to that. Winning in the postseason isn't easy. Beating Munster (in this season's sectional) on their field when they're ranked No. 2 in the state isn't easy. He got to see some big games, he got to see Victory Field with 5,500 people and the semistate when we're down in the seventh. Big players make big plays and we've told our kids that."
Gbur has made big plays for the Indians. In the sectional semifinal against Highland, he was caught in a rundown long enough to let the game's only run score in the seventh inning, putting his team in position to play in the title game.
"What Johnny's done as of late is become another coach on the field," Sandor said. "He's the highest of character kids and he's just a guy who makes our team better."
Gbur has committed to play football for DePauw University in the fall, though his coaches -- and his mother -- are trying to convince him to remain a two-sport athlete.
His father was Paul Gbur, a draft pick by the White Sox in 1979 who played four positions in the minor leagues before a fastball to the jaw ended his career.
"I couldn't turn down baseball," said Gbur, who lost his father when he was 12. "Baseball has always been in my blood. My brother went to play football, and my mom is trying to push me to play both because she wants to keep baseball around. She missed my dad and so it's like something to keep going for. My mom always said that my dad always said I was better than my brother at baseball. He always saw more potential in me. There are things that I have that my brother didn't, and there are things that my brother has that I don't."