While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
NEW PALESTINE — The baseball talent factory that is New Palestine stretches back decades. Each year, a successful Dragon squad will inevitably be lined with players who spent their youth as teammates dotting the diamonds at various area ballparks.
This was true of the 2014 squad – which qualified for the program’s second semistate in three years – and it was also true 10 years ago, when sophomore Shane Highsmith and his gifted group of classmates guided NP to its only baseball state championship.
Highsmith recalls making an 8-year-old all-star team as his first memorable moment in baseball.
“As a kid in New Pal, I played with a lot of the same players through my career. We were all friends through school and played ball together,” said Highsmith, now the Co-Owner of Highsmith Guns in Greenfield. “It was fun through the summer. We won 22-25 games and lost maybe three times.”
Fast forward to Highsmith’s second year at New Palestine High School. The Dragons were coming off a 27-7 season that culminated with a 3-1, eight-inning loss to Norwell in the Class 3A State Finals.
NP was even better in 2004, riding a 29-4 record to the 3A state title game behind by a group of sophomores – most of who played freshman ball in 2003.
“I don’t want to sound conceited; we didn’t go out there and think about winning or losing. We showed up and things happened,” offered Highsmith, the team’s starting third baseman. “I never felt like we were going to lose. It was more of a steady team and we took care of business.”
Highsmith, who had a 2.44 ERA on the mound and drove in eight runs in 2004, was one of five sophomores that started in the state championship game against Andrean. Highsmith had a stolen base in NP’s 3-2 triumph. Fellow sophomore Andrew Clark earned the victory on the mound and hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the red-and-white up for good. Chris Ulrey, Danny Collier and Jake Lee were the three other sophomore starters for the Dragons that day.
“(Winning) was just second nature to that team. We knew what each guy was going to do and could rely on each other,” said Highsmith, now 26-years-old. “More or less, it just came natural to us.”
Highsmith has found continued success in the business world, as he and his father, Mark, co-own Highsmith Guns, which is located on North State St. in Greenfield.
“My dad has always been a gunsmith, someone who works and cleans guns. It’s just what he did. When I went to business school, I thought, ‘What if my dad and I get a store selling guns? I can start selling guns and he can work them,’” said Highsmith, who earned a marketing degree from Ball State. “I worked on it as a school project my senior year of college. We had a little shop and it took off – I hadn’t even graduated from school yet.”
The Highsmiths hired some help to keep the business going while Shane finished college. Now, Shane’s mother, Cheryl, and his sister, Sarah, also assist with the family business.
“My dad had made a name for himself, the market was good in Greenfield and there wasn’t another store around,” said Highsmith, who also credited Al Cooper (his varsity baseball coach at New Palestine) and Doug Armstrong (his varsity football coach at NP) for being a constructive influence on him.
After reaching the top of high school sports with a close-knit baseball family, Highsmith is now thriving with the team that raised him.
“It’s worked out for the best,” he said. “My father was a huge influence and it’s something I enjoy doing. It was the right place and the right time.”
Co-Owner, Highsmith Guns
Resides: New Palestine
Education: New Palestine High School; Ball State University (Undergraduate)
Family: Father, Mark; Mother, Cheryl; Sister, Sarah