Jake Burton has been McCutcheon’s head baseball coach for almost four decades, but first and foremost, he is an educator.
For six sessions in the winter, he blends the two, teaching a course on the history of the program he has been in charge of since 1979.
The class begins after Thanksgiving break and is coupled by one-hour workouts run by former Maverick standout Clayton Richard, who has pitched for the White Sox and Padres.
“They are quizzed on the history of McCutcheon baseball and other things, putting them in situations. … You get tested everyday. There’s 100 questions,” Burton said. “We treat it just like a classroom session. It really is.
“We are trying to teach them the game of baseball. There’s a lot of ways to play it, but we want them to do it our way.”
The Mavericks partook in the course for the second time this winter.
Now well versed on the history of McCutcheon baseball, the current group is trying to add to it.
The Mavericks improved to 8-1 on Monday evening, defeating county rival West Lafayette 17-4 in five innings.
It was the 785th win of Burton’s career. At this pace, he’ll reach 800 by the end of the season, a mark matched by only Andrean’s Dave Pishkur, recently retired Evansville Memorial coach Quentin Merkel and former LaPorte coach Ken Schreiber.
“The things that the guys have done before these kids to lay the groundwork for the rest of the program, and you start that back in 1979, my first year, we had 12 seniors on that team that bought into some of my crazy ideas … I was a little nuttier then than I am now,” Burton said.
“The parents stayed with us. We’ve had great parental support. We have kids buy into it, parents buy into it. I couldn’t think of a better situation for me.”
Burton is passionate about what his teams have accomplished. He shares it through those one-hour class sessions in the winter.
Space doesn’t permit 100 facts about McCutcheon’s rich history, but here is the brief rundown.
Indiana University freshman outfielder Logan Sowers became the program’s second Mr. Baseball last summer, joining Richard, who received the honor in 2003.
Percentage-wise, the best of Burton’s 37 seasons came in 1994. That team went 32-5 and lost the state championship game to Penn 4-3.
McCutcheon’s next two trips to the state championship game resulted in titles in 1999 and 2003.
Seventy-five Mavericks have gone on to play college baseball, including Pat Lowrey, who now coaches rival Harrison and will face his alma mater Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ten have been named first-team all-state. Six have been drafted, including Sowers, who decided to play at Indiana rather than turn pro.
“As a Maverick, you appreciate the history here and everyone who helped bring the program to where it is,” said senior Walter Talcott, who led the team in batting average last season. “It is nice to come up in a program where people are valued.”
“Coach Burton doesn’t just build players. He builds men. That speaks a lot of the character of people who come out of this program.”
Those who exited after last season left their mark.
McCutcheon won a sectional championship in 2014, its 11th under Burton. But the quest felt somewhat unfulfilled. State champion Noblesville was swept by the Mavericks during the regular season. They would’ve played for the regional title if not for McCutcheon losing in the semifinals to Fort Wayne Carroll.
“Last year, it bit at the end because it definitely was not the way we wanted to end it,” said leadoff hitter Braden Giroux, who went 4-for-4 and drove in five runs on Monday. “This year we took a different approach on things, playing loose.”
By playing loose, senior Sean Roginski said you feel less pressure to perform and in turn actually perform better.
“When you play for this program, you are under a lot of pressure because the head coach has a good reputation and expects a lot out of you,” said Roginski, who had four RBIs on Monday. “If you are playing with a band of brothers behind you, you are going to feel good. You are going to play loose.”
Right now, the Mavericks are.
Even with recent injuries to shortstop Austin Turner and left fielder Kolin McCord, the Mavericks remain on a mission.
Here, history is important.
Because at McCutcheon, becoming a question on a test is something to strive for.