When Ryan Kruszka came up from Elwood, Illinois, to South Central to interview for the baseball coaching job back in 2012, he didn't know much about the small La Porte County school.
"My wife (Lexy) asked where we were going and I just said, northern Indiana," Kruszka said.
Pulling on to the campus, the first thing he saw on his left was the baseball field. As he drew closer, Kruszka saw the program's list of accomplishments.
"I thought, these guys can play some baseball," he said.
Kruszka would soon take over the sport, already on solid ground at the school, and maintain that tradition of success, garnering five sectional and two Porter County Conference round-robin titles over the next seven years.
"Baseball means a lot to the community," he said.
As S.C. continued to grow on the diamond, so did the Kruszka family, reaching the point now where he has chosen to give up the former for the good of the latter.
"It's a family decision," Kruszka said of his resignation Tuesday as baseball coach. "Our two little girls are getting older, Rowan's getting into softball. My wife's been amazing, everything she's done, being supportive of the long nights. It's time to start looking more at my family, being a dad, getting more involved with the kids, make sure I can be there for them."
While the move wasn't widely known, Kruszka and Jarad Miller, the S.C. athletics director who also stepped down as assistant coach, had talked about it during the season.
"We have a two-year old and one on the way. Ryan and I both have new jobs and it was going to be tough to uphold," Miller said. "The four of us all talked. We live not too far away from each other. Ryan and I are good friends and our wives are great friends. We didn't plan on it being the same time, but we've done it for so long together (six years), it's nice to go out with him."
Knowing what they knew in the backs of their minds made Saturday's loss in the regional final even tougher.
"There were probably a few rumors going around, but we wanted to keep the focus on the season, on the guys, giving them everything we had," Kruszka said. "We both knew it was a time to enjoy the guys, the process. Those seniors were a special group. Those six guys were my first as a teacher, too. South Central's definitely a special place. It's a tight-knit community. There are great kids here. They're raised right and they do the right things. Everybody's greatly supportive. It's a great place to be a coach and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Miller came to S.C. in 2014, but knew Satellites star Kyle Schmack since he was 7, having played at Valparaiso University while Schmack's dad Brian, now the Crusaders' head coach, was on the staff.
"It's hard, especially this group of seniors," Miller said. "It was a little of an emotional time."
It was during Miller's first season that Kruszka recalled the team going through a slump when one day at practice, he remembered Lexy pulling up next to the field. His first thought was that something was wrong with one of the kids, but then on closer look, he saw a car-full of water balloons.
"We had a water balloon fight," he said. "It's become a tradition. That was some keen insight, one of the best coaching decisions ever."
Though Kruszka isn't leaving South Central, remaining in his assistant principal's position, giving up baseball is a significant life move for a 32-year old who has been involved with the game since he was 5. The same goes for the 30-year old Miller.
"It's crazy to think about," he said. "Next spring will be the first spring I won't be looking at a little white ball since Kindergarten. It's been my life. The relationships I have — I met my wife at Butler — the common thread throughout is baseball. You want to win as many as you can, but the wins and losses isn't why you coach. It's the opportunities I've had because of it. I can't thank the parents, the fans, especially the players, enough. They've taken us into their families and we've made them a part of our own."