PLYMOUTH – You could say all things kind of worked out for former PHS Kizer Award winner Nick Chaney.
After earning a degree in physics from Manchester College it all fell into place for a return to his hometown.
“It wasn’t really a plan but it just worked out that way,” said Chaney. “It’s just a good place to raise your kids and that’s something that (wife) Karmen and I talked about was having kids and where we wanted to raise them. It’s just a good community.
“I wanted to be an engineer. After four years I was kind of done with being in school and I wanted to pursue playing professionally,” he said. “When that all fell through I was lucky to get a job at Hoosier Tire as an engineer.”
It all started on the playgrounds and driveways in Chaney’s Plymouth neighborhood. He wasn’t particular.
“I just played whatever was being played,” he said. “The funny thing is that if I could have I would have played golf in high school. I was the Marshall County Youth Tour champion, but I liked baseball better than golf.”
Chaney had a clear favorite when it came to his favorite sport.
“Whatever we were playing,” he said. “On the baseball field at the Webster Rec Center, there was always a game going on. It was different people at different times of day but there was always a game you could get into.”
“Go by that field now and it’s empty,” he said. “All the basketball courts in driveways are empty.”
“We’d play all day,” said Chaney. “We’d play games in the park on what is the Pony diamond now, and they’d end up with a score like 140-120. We’d play all day.”
“For some reason now everything athletically has to have some kind of structure,” he said. “We never had that. We’d just play because we loved to play.”
Once in high school, the role of a three-sport athlete was busy but not pressured.
“Summertime you’d go to weights in the morning, there would be basketball at noon and then baseball at night,” said Chaney. “Nobody made you go, you just went.”
The time that Chaney played his high school ball in was one of those “golden eras” that schools occasionally have – a wealth of highly talented athletes in every sport. Chaney had a chance to play in a lot of “big games” in his time at PHS.
“I played in a lot of semi-states, three in baseball, two in basketball and one in football,” said Chaney. “We never got beyond that to the final. I don’t know that we ever thought about it as a ‘big game’ it was just another game so we just wanted to win it.”
“The football sectional in 1998 was a pretty big deal,” he said. “We hadn’t won a sectional since 1977 (ending in a state championship that year) so that was a pretty big moment. We knew we could do it. Our class didn’t lose a game in football until we were sophomores so it didn’t take a lot to convince us we had the ability to do it.”
Moving on to Manchester College as a two-sport athlete (baseball and basketball) Chaney had a bit of a journey but ended up as a first-team All American as a second baseman.
“I was a shortstop my freshman year, mostly because we didn’t have another shortstop,” he said. “We brought in a guy that was a really great defensive shortstop but I could swing it (hit) a little bit and that kept me on the field somewhere. I moved to third. Our second baseman the next year wasn’t very athletic so we swapped positions and it worked out perfectly. He was really good at third and I was good at second.”
“I was fortunate that I played with a lot of baseball guys,” he said. “You have a bunch of guys in the dorm and you spend all your time watching games talking about how to do things.”
Finally giving up basketball after his sophomore season Chaney still had to find a way to balance the demands of college sports and of pursuing a physics degree.
“You find a place on campus to be alone and away from everything,” he said. “I found that place.”
Now a member of the team at U.S Granules in Plymouth as Vice President of Operations Chaney knows what he enjoyed most about his time on the field.
“It’s the camaraderie, the things you share only with your teammates,” he said. “I don’t really remember much about any game I played in but there are all the stories you share.”
“I’m still in touch with all those guys. And that’s what you talk about,” said Chaney. “The things that somebody did on the bus on the way to a game. Those are the things that you are going to remember.”
After returning to his hometown, Chaney has taken time to dabble in coaching, spending time on Tony Plothow’s staff at PHS, and the staff of the American Legion team at Plymouth’s Post 27. Now he has his toughest coaching assignment, coaching his two sons.
“I just try to coach them the way I was coached,” said Chaney. “It’s a good experience it lets me spend time with them and that is something that is important to me to always be there. I’m going to be happy to just coach them until they get to high school.”
“My golf game has suffered and anything else that I do socially but it’s worth it.”