FAMILY BOND

For the past 11 years, Ben McDaniel has been his son Brice’s baseball coach.

Starting with coaches-pitch baseball when he was 7 years old through the present, Brice’s senior year at Columbus North, Ben McDaniel has been there every step of the way. But that will change next season when Brice heads off to Purdue.

“It’s going to be weird not trying to ignore his yelling at you,” Brice said. “It’s been 11 years, so it’s going to be a different world.”

But the McDaniels aren’t in any hurry to end their time together. They’re in the middle of an 11-3 season that will continue today at Southport and Wednesday at home against Columbus East.

The Bull Dogs are looking to defend their Conference Indiana title and recapture the sectional crown they won in 2014, Ben’s first year as head coach.

“It’s always a goal to make it as far as we can,” Brice said. “I think last year, we kind of rode our talent out maybe a little too much. We were underrated coming into this season. The Seymour loss kind of hit hard with some of us, but ever since then, I think we’ve turned a corner.”

Brice McDaniel began playing travel baseball for his father at age 8 in Marysville, Ohio. As a 9U team, they won their first 48 games before playing in the USSSA World Series in St. Louis.

The family moved to Columbus when Brice was 10. Ben coached Brice’s Indiana Blazers team from ages 11 to 14, then Indiana Outlaws from ages 15 to 17.

Ben McDaniel also coached North’s incoming freshman team the summer before Brice’s freshman year, then joined the staff as an assistant. He took over as head coach Brice’s sophomore year and is now in his third year at the helm.

“The elementary school days were kind of rough because when you’re that young, you think you know everything and don’t really want to listen,” Brice said. “Now growing up, it’s just minor adjustments that I know I need to make. But it’s pretty cool having your dad coach you from when you’re 7 all the way up until you graduate high school.”

In baseball, Brice has been a four-year starter at first base. Last year, he batted .341 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in earning All-Conference Indiana and honorable-mention All-State honors.

Brice also was a three-year starter and three-time All-Conference linebacker in football. He was a Junior All-State selection by the Indiana Football Coaches Association and an honorable-mention All-State pick by the The Associated Press as a junior.

“I’m proud of the young man that he’s become,” Ben McDaniel said. “He’s respected in the school by his other coaches and the teachers. I’ve watched the relationship he has with our principal (Dave Clark) and his other coach (football coach Tim Bless), and I sit back and admire the sense of maturity and the way he’s handled himself.”

Brice was voted captain by his teammates in both football and baseball. He carries a 3.79 GPA and was named Academic All-State in football.

Brice also became a member of North’s first Student Athletic Board this year.

“I’m proud of everything he’s accomplished on the field, but I’m more proud of what he’s accomplished off the field,” Ben said. “I want these guys to be successful when they leave, and I think Brice is headed down that path.”

Ben said he asked Brice’s permission before he took the high school coaching job because it was Brice’s chance to branch out. Ben is thankful that Brice allowed him to continue to do something he loves to do.

While Ben has been coaching Brice since he was 7, he is coaching his younger son, Hayden, for the first time this year with the 13U Outlaws travel team. But this is the final spring that he will be coaching Brice.

“I’m excited to be a dad and watch,” Ben said. “I’m also excited that he’s going to be coached by somebody else. I’m huge fans of (Purdue head coach Doug) Schreiber and coach (Wally) Crancer and coach (Tristan) McIntryre. I couldn’t be happier for him and the situation that he’s walking into at Purdue.”

If you go

What: Columbus North vs. Columbus East baseball

When: 5 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Southside Elementary

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.