Former Center Grove coach earns national honor

Dave Gandolph’s career coaching high school baseball, now in its sixth decade, rounded third base some time ago.

Later this evening, it touches home plate.

Gandolph, 71, who presided over the Center Grove program for 33 seasons, will be inducted into the National High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame tonight at its conference in Sanibel, Florida.

The distinction marks a third call to the hall for Gandolph, who was previously inducted at his alma mater (St. Joseph’s College) in 1988 and the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

“This is nice because it’s national, but obviously, anytime anyone puts you up for something like this, it’s an honor,” said Gandolph, who’ll soon begin his ninth season as the coach at Scecina and whose career spans 43 seasons counting a two-year stint at Cardinal Ritter in the mid-1970s.

“They’re all special.”

A native of the eastside of Indianapolis, Gandolph starred as a standout football player and pitcher/shortstop in baseball at Scecina before graduating in 1968. He later was a three-sport athlete at St. Joseph’s before embarking on a baseball coaching career that has produced in excess of 800 victories, along with numerous conference and sectional championships.

That includes the 701 wins his Center Grove squads achieved, an average of 21 per season.

“He had an ability to strategize to give us the best opportunity to win,” said 1988 Center Grove graduate David Gandolph, a hard-throwing pitcher who played for his father and was eventually taken in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers.

”Our practices were, let’s do what we have to do. He put us right to work when we got on the field. It was a lot of repetition. It’s his passion for the game. My dad eats, drinks and sleeps baseball. He loves the games and the kids the way he always has.”

The elder Gandolph also served as a Center Grove football assistant for 20 years, his final two being as the special teams coach for current head coach Eric Moore in 1999 and 2000.

He retired from teaching at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year, which also was his final season coaching baseball at Center Grove. His deepest run came in 1996 when Gandolph led the Trojans to the final single-class state final at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.

Over 100 of Gandolph’s players have gone on to compete at the college level; seven have been drafted.

Asked to define his coaching style, Gandolph said preparation is key.

“I’m hoping that by the time we actually get to the game that I don’t have to do all that much coaching,” he said. “I do talk a lot during games, but it’s encouragement and reminders. Sometimes, I’m probably a little too no-nonsense during practices.”

Whatever the case, Gandolph’s formula works now the way it worked then.

In 2018, Scecina, which hadn’t captured a sectional in 26 years, advanced all the way to the Class 2A semistate in Jasper.

Once a teacher, always a teacher.

“I guess I tried throughout the years to teach the kids not to be just good baseball players, but good students, and fundamentals of life so that they could be well-rounded adults,” Gandolph said. “My oldest former student-athletes are in their 60s now, and hopefully they learned something. I think they did.”