A 40-year alliance: Brian Dudley is a staple with Wapahani baseball

<p>Former Wapahani High School Baseball head coach Brian Dudley coaches the Raiders from third base during their game against Cowan High School at Tiger Field in Yorktown, Indiana, May 17, 2022. The Raiders defeated the Blackhawks to advance in the 2022 Delaware County Baseball Tournament. (Kyle Smedley/DN)</p>

Former Wapahani High School Baseball head coach Brian Dudley coaches the Raiders from third base during their game against Cowan High School at Tiger Field in Yorktown, Indiana, May 17, 2022. The Raiders defeated the Blackhawks to advance in the 2022 Delaware County Baseball Tournament. (Kyle Smedley/DN)

If someone was to ask a Selma, Indiana, resident the definition of the word ‘success,’ they might say ‘Wapahani baseball.’ It seems accurate, as the Raiders are 828-320 in the last 40 years.

The program has recorded 18 sectional titles, 13 Delaware County titles, eight regional titles, three semi-state titles and one state championship in 2014. 

Yet, former head coach Brian Dudley won’t brag about the success. The Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer might give one  sentence about himself before talking about the players he led.

However, the community wants to recognize the Selma native, the Raiders’ baseball field is being renamed  “Coach Brian J. Dudley Field” Friday, April 19. 

“I said no 100 times,” Dudley said. “On the 101st, I said ‘Okay, that's good.’ That's great. To be quite honest, I'm not a big fan of things like that. I did not play in those games.”

To the community, it’s the only right way to honor him.

“The first thing that most people see when they’re going to Wapahani is when they look to their right and they see the wonderful baseball and field,” Wapahani athletic director Matt Luce said. “And the first thing you think of is Brian Dudley.”

‘No’  

When Dudley came back to his alma mater after getting a teaching degree at Ball State University, his career was the only thing on his mind. 

While he coached middle school baseball, the idea of coaching the Raiders’ varsity baseball team was not one he envisioned. When he was asked about taking the role before the 1983 season, he did not want to hear it. 

“No, I don’t want to do it. No, no, don't ask,” he recalled.  

After multiple students and some of his former middle school players kept badgering him, he fed into the idea and took the reins of the Raiders in February 1983. 

“We didn't start practicing with pitchers and catchers [until near the season],” Dudley said. “I thought I’d do it for a couple of years to get things back on track. And then it was 39 years.” 

The Raiders finished Dudley’s debut season with a 14-7 record. Five seasons later, he led the program to its first sectional and regional championship. One of the Raiders who helped hoist the trophies was Luce. 

“We were just hungry as a program,” Luce said. “Coach Dudley wanted to establish himself as one of the area's best programs and teams.” 

Heath Dudley runs.jpg
Wapahani head coach Heath Dudley runs April 19 during a game against Eastern Hancock at Eastern Hancock High School. Zach Carter, DN.

After winning the first sectional, the achievements never stopped. Some Raiders kept going after their four years in Dudley’s program. Players like Zack Thompson – who pitches in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization – and Jeremy Hazelbaker – who played for St. Louis and the Arizona Diamondbacks  as well – kept going and ended at the professional level. 

Dudley’s former and current athletes credit him for the success, but he thinks the community and the way the Raiders were raised were the main factors. 

“In a small community, parents are a big factor.  Thompson had great parents during his time, and now he’s in the big leagues,” Brian said. “I could go on and on because they raise our kids to be successful…The parents out here are blue-collar people, and their kids ought to work for their success.” 

Yet  Dudley said another component factored in years before his players ever became Raiders. 

“Well, [the little league fields] are on my way home,” he said. “I can watch kids playing and coaching, and that was kind of fun to watch and see those guys. [Because of those] kids and my kids [playing], I spent many hours with the diamonds.” 

It was common to see Dudley make a pit stop to watch incoming talent. When his children began playing on the same fields, he had two jobs: being a supportive father and a scout.

Since a lot of future Raiders played in the same league and some on the same teams, a bond was created before entering high school.  

“When the kids come into high school, they kind of expect to know what to do,” Dudley said. “So that's very helpful.” 

‘A driven man’ 

While Dudley won’t boast about his coaching record and achievements, everyone else in Selma will. 

“He is a driven man and a very hard worker,” Luce said. “I would say he is very goal-oriented with how he does things. He was the easiest person to work with and just a wonderful coach and a wonderful leader in our building.” 

His work ethic did not only show on the baseball field, but in the classroom as well. Luce loved his baseball achievements, but he also appreciated how Dudley taught, was an active member of the school and put himself in front of others. 

His love for Wapahani shined once again when the Raiders’ boys’ basketball team made it to the 2A State Championship game in March 2024.  

“It's a perfect scenario, because you have passion for your program, but [also] the community and you take pride in what you do,” Dudley said.  

While he considers the Wapahani community his family, Dudley had many seasons where he coached his own blood. His cousin, Heath, was one of those individuals. 

“It was fun, but it was tough,” Heath said. “He didn’t treat me differently than anybody. I had another cousin that played at the same time. I definitely didn't have a very long leash. I got kicked out of a few practices.” 

When Brian announced he was retiring from the head coach position in the summer of 2023,  there was some surprise. 

“Our community thought he would always coach,” Luce said. “At the same time, 40 years is a long time and I think it was a great opportunity for him to step back and have another role.” 

With the news, Luce and the athletic program went to work to find their next coach. When Heath – who is the principal at Selma Middle School – applied, it just seemed right to keep the position in the Dudley family. 

Luce pitches.jpg
Wapahani junior Nate Luce pitches April 19 during a game against Eastern Hancock at Eastern Hancock High School. Zach Carter, DN.

‘It’s my roots’

While he might play music and do some other things differently than Brian, Heath started the 2024 season with the same mindset. To junior Nate Luce, the two are similar. 

“They coach a lot like the same person,” Nate said via text. “(Heath) has learned from having played for Brian, and coaches close to the same. He has the same expectations towards our team.” 

Heath saidBrian has adapted to some of the changes, now in an assistant coach role. He even added some music to the Raiders’ practice playlist. 

“He's all about adding those Journey songs and all that 1980’s rock and roll,” Heath said, laughing. 

Even when he is not helping Heath around the program, Brian can be found working for the school. Mowing lawns, prepping the field and other hands-on activities are all done by Brian. 

Though the future of Wapahani baseball under Heath’s command is still new and the future is uncertain, two things will never change.

First, Brian will never lose his love for ‘America’s pastime.’

“When the NCAA [basketball] tournament was on, I watched college baseball,” Brian said. “I would check the scores, and then it was time to go back to baseball.”

Secondly, the former head coach, the hall of famer and the Wapahani loyalist will always be around the place he coached baseball for 40 years.

“It’s my roots. I had opportunities to go to bigger schools, but I'm happy where I'm at,” he said. “Why go somewhere else and start over?”

Contact Zach Carter with comments at zachary.carter@bsu.edu or on X @ZachCarter85.

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