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John Bogner named ‘Coach of the Year’

John Bogner, a 1992 Southwestern Michigan College graduate named Coach of the Year by a Chicago Tribune property, remembers his time at SMC as “two of the best years of my life.” “SMC had such a great impact on my life,” influencing Bogner to switch to teaching mathematics/coaching instead of continuing in mechanical engineering. “My time there I wouldn’t trade for anything,” said Bogner, 45 in August. He managed Highland to its first 20-win baseball season since 2009, when it finished the season 23-7.

Each of Bogner’s four years the Trojans improved, from 10-14 in 2014, 15-10 in 2015 and 16-9 in 2016 to 21-8, prompting the accolade from The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, owned by the Chicago Tribune Media Group.

Highland beat Andrean for the first time since 2011 and snapped a 10-game losing streak against Munster, prevailing in the rivalry for the first time since 2012.

In Bogner’s 21 years, he served as freshman head coach for five years and as varsity assistant for 12 years to Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame 2012 inductee Dan Miller, who amassed more than 600 wins over 30 years.

Highland is southeast of Hammond. Griffith, Bogner’s alma mater, is southeast of Highland in Lake County, the second most populous county in Indiana.

“My high school never beat” Highland, Bogner said.

Bogner’s SMC coach, Courtney Jasiak, in 1992 with the Kalamazoo Maroons 18-and-under summer team, coached a notable player graduated that year from Kalamazoo Central High School.

Future New York Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter became the 28th man in Major League Baseball History and the first wearing pinstripes to reach 3,000 hits in 2011, while Jasiak was coaching baseball at Schoolcraft High School.

Jasiak teaches physical education for Portage Community High School.

Jasiak wasn’t many years older than SMC players he led to Cocoa Beach, Fla., during spring break in 1991-92. That first year the Roadrunners lived up to their name, stealing 40 bases in six games.

“Jasiak was so passionate,” more like an older brother, “but I always knew he was my boss. I met him at the right time of life,” Bogner said. “I was raw. He molded me like clay. I was a sponge and he was great at technique. I caught, but was not a catcher until I met him.”

Jasiak sealed the recruiting deal with Bogner by showing up at his Gravel Lake cottage near Lawton and playing catch.

Bogner lived at Garver and Pleasant lakes near Edwardsburg and in a Riverside Drive apartment while attending SMC.

One summer Bogner played for four different teams, with a game every night and weekend doubleheaders, balanced with working and conditioning.

He relied on time-management skills he began developing at SMC, where he juggled a 44-game schedule (playing home games at Dowagiac’s Rotary Park) with classwork.

He also wrestled for James Judd.

SMC’s travel opportunities broadened Bogner, who had never been to Indianapolis or seen mountains before spring swings to the Sunshine State.

He obtained his chauffeur’s license to pilot the team van south.

Bogner appreciated the personal attention SMC students received and particularly remembers John Hartman, who taught psychology at SMC for 25 years until claimed by cancer in 2008 — the same year his teammate, third baseman Bret Wilmarth, passed away.

Hartman’s students kept “classroom experience” (C.E.) journals, and he encouraged them to “find your wow” each day.

Bogner said seven of his starting nine return for 2018. He’s welcoming a sophomore class which went 17-4 as freshmen.

Bogner, who also coached middle school wrestling and varsity football (he was a 170-pound guard, defensive end and special teams player) hopes to coach baseball seven more seasons, until his younger boy graduates.

John and Mandy, his wife of 18 years, have two sons.

Justin, 15, plays football, baseball and wrestles, like his dad.

Jason, 11, a sixth grader, plays three sports, too, but one is basketball.

Bogner earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, secondary education and teaching in 1996 from Purdue University Calumet and joined School Town of Highland that August.

School Town of Highland includes one high school, one middle school and four elementaries.