On April 25th WillCountyBaseball.org traveled out to Beecher and spent some time with Head Coach Brandon DuBois before his squad took on Chicago Christian. DuBois is Beecher’s de facto mayor of baseball. He serves as Beecher’s junior high baseball coach in the fall and the high school coach in the spring. DuBois is building his Beecher varsity program with a group he has coached since the sixth grade.
Unlike in many high school athletic departments baseball is king in Beecher. There is no football at Beecher, and DuBois works hard to make sure Beecher’s best athletes stay close to baseball. An enrollment of around 350 would be a challenge for lots of coaches, but DuBois and his Bobcats remain a force in the River Valley Conference.
WCB.org: Can you tell us how you do things a little differently here at Beecher, or what makes your program stand out in the area?
Beecher Head Coach Brandon DuBois:
“I don’t know if do anything different than the other coaches in the area. There’s a bunch of good coaches in the area. Look at Regez from Herscher, who each year, he wins 20 games. I think it’s 21 seasons in a row where they’ve won 20 games at least. Herscher is a top team in the area. Coal City is a top team in the area. Jerry McDowell does an awesome job there. Jerry Cougill from Reed-Custer, they all do an awesome jobs. I just try to do what they do. I see what they do and I try to implement those things here.”
WCB.org: Can you tell us a little bit about your history here in Beecher? What makes your position unique?
“I graduated in 2002. I was born and raised here. I taught one year at Bishop Mac. After the one year at Bishop Mac I came here in the 2007-08 school year. I took over as head coach in 2011. So this is my sixth season as head coach.
“The one nice thing about being in a small district is that I’m both the junior high head coach and the high school head coach. So, this group of juniors is a group that I’ve had since they were in sixth grade. It’s kind of nice in that regard. I have a good understanding of what they can do, and they know what I expect.”
WCB.org: Coaches all over the county deal with their summer situations differently. What kind of advice do you give your players to stay active during the summer?
“I still play myself. I tried to have a summer team one year. It was when I was still the assistant coach. And since I was playing myself I couldn’t be there all the time. And it was very difficult to make sure you had ten guys so you could play a game. That was the summer of 2008. Since then I don’t do a ton of stuff in the summer. I’ll try to direct guys to programs or coaches that I know have good teams. Part of it is I need a break from them like they need a break from me.”
WCB.org: Where do baseball players in Beecher play summer or travel ball, and how do those programs work with yours?
“When I was in high school I played some in Monee because we didn’t have enough people to have a team here in Beecher. I played on a team in Chicago Heights. I played on a team in Bradley. I got so much knowledge from a wide variety of coaches that it was, I thought, beneficial for my development as a player.
“So I like that they go out and hear some other opinions. And maybe what I’m teaching them or telling them to do doesn’t always work. Maybe they find something else that works for them a little better from another coach. And we can adapt that to make them better baseball players in the long run.”
WCB.org: How many of your guys play travel baseball?
“A handful, the top five of six guys play travel ball. They’ll play in the summer. They’ll play in a fall league. Not all of them do. But then again, if I have my top five or six guys playing in another summer league then what kind of team would I get during the summer?
“I’ve run into some issues where some underclassmen have played for their travel ball teams rather than play for the high school. I’ve talked to the coach at H-F as well. He’s said there’s issues with them and travel teams, and guys going to play travel ball rather than playing for their high school. I hope this isn’t a new phenomenon that stays around for a long time.
“I understand during the summer getting looked at. You want to get your name out there, and travel teams go all over the place. That’s good, but at the same time we don’t want to take away from our high school program. Especially here, I have 11 guys on varsity right now and 10 guys in the JV program. So we’re paper thin.”
WCB.org: What type of offseason program do you implement to keep your athletes focused on baseball?
“We’ll start some conditioning in early November. We’ll start doing some lifting. We don’t have football here. It’s a positive that we don’t have to deal with. Baseball is the primetime sport for athletes here. We come back in early January we’ll start doing some running stuff. Just to get guys back in shape. In all four grade levels I think I had twelve kids that didn’t play basketball or wrestle during the winter. So, I’ve got to get them inside doing something.”
WCB.org: How is your schedule working out, and do you think you’ll be ready for the state tournament?
“Our conference is the River Valley Conference. We’re 6-0 right now. We’ve played pretty well so far. The conference is down just a little bit. Illinois Lutheran won state a couple of years ago. Grant Park made it to the Sweet 16 a few years ago, and Gardner-South Wilmington made it to Sweet 16.
“We’ve won conference three out of four years. Zach Ruzich is a senior this year. He’s thrown 39 innings and he’s got 71 strikeouts in 39 innings and a sub 1.00 ERA. He’s thrown really well. I’ve got a lefty, Benji Cortez. He’s been sort of up and down this year. If we can get him on the right track we should be pretty tough to deal with.
“Last year we hosted a regional and we’re hosting again this year. We have a bunch of Chicago teams coming down. The sectional this year is at Seneca. The other sub-sectional is a tough sub-sectional. Reed-Custer is in there and they have two D1 pitchers. Wilmington is in there, and their offense is really good.”
Many high school coaches in Will County are trying hard to keep baseball an attractive option to the area’s best athletes. The bright lights and big crowds of football and basketball games are very tempting for high school kids. Coach DuBois doesn’t have to deal with the distraction of a football team at Beecher, but he has plenty of his own obstacles to overcome. So far, so good. Baseball is still king at Beecher and DuBois sees no reason to lessen high expectations for his varsity team. Beecher will be ready for the regionals, and they will will want more than a couple of feel-g00d wins. They want a deep run into the tournament.