PENDLETON — A spring day rarely goes by when Bill Stoudt isn’t playing caretaker at the Field of Dreams. Proudly manicuring the home of the Pendleton Heights Arabians with a serene grin on his face, his sleeves rolled up and his timeworn hands wrapped around a rake, the legendary baseball coach knows how to relish the simple tasks in life.

After all baseball and the accompanying intangibles are just part of the game.

His smile, however, stems from a much deeper understanding of tradition.

“There comes a point in the early years where it’s all about winning,” said Stoudt. “As you get a little bit older and the more you talk to coaches from around the state and around baseball. There are other things that become important. It’s how you respect the game and how you handle yourself.”

For 26 years at Pendleton Heights, Stoudt has done nothing less.

Focused on shaping upstanding young men, ball players and citizens, the recently inducted Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame coach doesn’t believe success is measured in the numbers flashing on a scoreboard or by the gleaming riches found in a trophy case. Accomplishments are a byproduct of prioritizing what truly matters and never forgetting where and how it all started.

“You love the honors and you’re humbled by them, but it’s not anything you set as a goal. You don’t set your goal to be in the hall of fame or get any awards or anything. I’ve never been that way. It was ingrained in me earlier that those kinds of things didn’t matter by coaches I had,” said Stoudt, a 10-time Hoosier Heritage Conference coach of the year.

“They were real adamant about what was really important in life. I grew up in an era as other guys my age did where they had coaches that were World War II veterans. They wanted to win and were competitive, but it was all about the things that were going to happen to you in life. Those are the things that are the most rewarding. They showed you the love of the game.”

Stoudt’s passion took root at a young age where he was an active student of the game. Embracing the essence of hardball, Stoudt grew up in the small, but fierce, baseball-crazed town of Winamac.

A Little League, American Legion and Star City High School baseball product in a time when the former St. Louis Browns organization thrived, the eventual father of two daughters, Molly and Susan, became enthralled by the game’s magic.

With his high school playing days ending in 1963 and his collegiate endeavors staggered by the turbulent nature of the times, which led to a tour of duty in the Army during the Vietnam War, Stoudt’s path toward baseball immortality gained momentum after graduating from Ball State University in 1970.

Following a brief stint in Markleville before getting a teaching position at Pendleton Heights Middle School at the age of 34, Stoudt spent four years as a basketball, track and football coach before Pendleton Heights Athletic Director John Broughton brought his friend to the high school level as an assistant football coach.

The next move put Stoudt in the dugout, where in 1980 the two-time BSU Alumni Association coach of the year accepted his first and only head baseball coaching position.

“I guess I was just at the right place at the right time,” said Stoudt, who has four regional and 12 sectional titles to his credit. “When we first started you just try to survive in hopes you’re good enough the kids want to play and be competitive. Then all of a sudden things go well enough that you know we’re going to be competitive.”

With 20-plus winning seasons, a career record of 516-211 during Stoudt’s run and a dramatic sectional championship the first year, the program has captured 10 conference titles, produced 70 collegiate athletes and has had five players drafted by Major League Baseball franchises.

On paper, Stoudt’s Indiana Hall of Fame induction last month seemed long overdue, except to Stoudt, whose instinctive modesty keeps him grounded despite his logjam of accolades.

“It was really nice to be acknowledged by your peers and people we’ve been around for a long, long time,” said Stoudt, a two-time South All-Star assistant coach. “If I hadn’t had some really good assistants in those early years, it would have been really tough. I’ve always had a group of people that really love the game. You just can’t do it by yourself. It’s an impossible game to coach with all the things you have to do. It all worked out. It’s just what it is.”

Voted into the Hall of Fame after receiving 65 percent of the total votes cast by a sponsoring body of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, Stoudt becomes the fourth Madison County representative to have his likeness displayed in silver on the historic walls in Jasper.

Stoudt joins an exclusive fraternity including Anderson native Carl Erskine, a 1979 inductee, Anderson University’s 1998 inductee head coach Don Brandon and Anderson’s Don Barnett, who was enshrined in 1983.

Stoudt was one of a five-man induction class and the 125th member honored, which brought him shoulder-to-shoulder with names such as Doug Jones, a former Lebanon High School standout and MLB All-Star pitcher, George “Hooks” Dauss, East Chicago multi-sport legend Tim Stoddard and Andrean High School coach Dave Pishkur, who led the Fighting 59ers to a Class 3A state title last season.

“It was kind of surprising being around those guys,” Stoudt said. “You just got to be pretty darn lucky to be in a situation where you can win some games and do some things.”

One thing buried deep on Stoudt’s to-do list entails a leisurely drive down to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame with his wife, Martha, to make sure his plaque is hanging straight.

“When I retire maybe I’ll go and check it out. I’ve seen it before,” the coach said. “The only reason I want to go back to Jasper is to go to a semistate. I don’t care too much about the other stuff. I care about going back and winning. (State) is the one thing left on the playing field we really want to accomplish.”

With plenty of grooming errands left to attend to around the Field of Dreams and retirement nowhere in sight, the state finals seems just another spring day from reality for Pendleton’s most respected living legends.

Trending Video