NEW PALESTINE — The team huddled together at the end of a recent batting practice at Chix-Fastpitch indoor hitting facility.
New Palestine High School softball players and their coach, Ed Marcum, meet there often to work on their hitting and pitching skills.
Marcum built the indoor hitting facility, located inside a barn at 5528 W. U.S. 52 — just behind the house where he grew up — in 2001, when his two daughters were young and playing travel softball.
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Now his team uses the barn to hone their batting and pitching skills.
The coach had gathered his team at the end of recent practice to watch a funny video on a cellphone.
“Keep watching the home plate area,” he said.
Within a few seconds the group erupted in laughter, with their coach grinning from ear to ear — the video shows one of the girls accidentally hitting a teammate on the head as they celebrate at home plate. Marcum loved seeing the reaction to the video, which recapped a funny moment from a recent game.
It was particularly special, he said, seeing his daughter, Alyssa (Marcum) Dillard, right in the middle of the group, smiling broadly.
“We’re really more like a big family than a team,” the coach said. “It’s so awesome.”
Family is what Marcum is all about.
Marcum, 55, is in his 14th season leading the Dragons. He coached in his 400th game Wednesday, May 10, a non-conference game against Fishers, winning 16-9.
With the win, Marcum compiled a sparkling 346-58 record.
It includes three state, seven sectional and six regional championships, with his family at his side every step of the way.
Marcum was able to coach both daughters, Alyssa, 27, and Michelle (Marcum) Hokl, 25, together back in 2008, when they played for the Dragons and won a state championship together.
It’s a time he remembers with pride, he said. But, he’s enjoying the present day just as much because his whole family is on the same playing field once again.
This time his daughters are helping him coach the Dragons. The family affair includes his wife of 33 years, Becky Marcum, who has always been his sounding board and team scorekeeper, and his father, Ray Marcum, who attends nearly every game.
“I thank God every day for the opportunity to coach with my girls,” Ed Marcum said. “I just feel glad they like it as much as I do.”
Alyssa is her dad’s assistant coach and handles first base coaching duties, while Michelle works with the players in the dugout.
While both girls are grown and married, they all live in close proximity to each other in New Palestine, with Alyssa living the farthest away — about three miles.
Alyssa, a teacher, is also the mother of two boys. She’s been coaching on a limited basis with her dad since 2009, when she was in college. She took on a larger role and stepped up to the varsity assistant job in 2014.
Michelle, a nurse, found she, too, still loved the game and slowly got into coaching last year. She jumped on board as an assistant this season.
“I’d always come to the games and watch, but it’s so much more fun being involved in them than watching,” Michelle said.
Michelle is expecting her first child, who Ed Marcum hopes will be his first granddaughter. After all, he wants to coach the child someday, he said.
When he coached his daughters, Ed Marcum tried to treat his girls just like any other players. Now they’re both helping him call the shots.
“Heck, Alyssa — she really wants my job,” the coach said with a laugh. “But, I’m not hanging ’em up anytime soon.”
Becky Marcum said she has enjoyed watching her girls grow up playing softball, head off to college, start their own families and have things come full circle to where it all started.
“To see them still enjoy and love the game is so special,” she said.
Ed Marcum said he loves having his daughters coach the team with him because they bring a sense of been-there-done-that and can relate to the players in ways he can’t.
He’s the authoritarian on the team, as is Alyssa, the family said.
They say Alyssa has more of a laid back personality off the field, like her mother, but becomes more intense — like her father — on it.
Michelle, on the other hand, is like her father off the field, but likes to have a little more fun in between the lines.
Together there isn’t much the family can’t figure out in a game. Plus, it’s great having coaches on the field who know exactly what the head coach is thinking and having a mom who can offer sound advice from the stands, they said.
“It’s ultimately my decision on things, but I always want their input,” Ed Marcum said.
Having his daughters around has given the head coach — who’s intense and always looking to win — a chance to lighten up and enjoy the games a little more, he said.
Game time is a great time for the Marcum family. Ed Marcum’s father, his sons-in-law and Alyssa’s two boys try to come to each contest.
When the softball season is over, it’s more family fun on the field. The whole family travels around the country visiting Major League Baseball parks and has been to 22 so far.
They’ll take in major league games in Georgia and Florida this summer, but softball is never far from their thoughts.
“It’s either superheroes, Marvel movies or softball,” Alyssa said with a laugh. “We really like hanging out together.”
Ed Marcum coached in his 400th game for the Dragons, here is his record break down in those games.
2004: 29-4 state champ
2006: 28-2, state semifinalist
2008: 29-3, state champ
2009: 30-1, state champ
2010: 28-4, state semifinalist
2011: 22-7, regional champ
2016: 24-3, sectional champ