A romance that began in seventh grade, and continued through athletic careers at Gibson Southern and Oakland City University, will result in marriage,
“I’ve known Rachel since sixth grade at Haubstadt Community School. She was one of the first girls I became friends with and she became my girlfriend in seventh grade,” said Caleb Wagner, who caught and occasionally pitched for Gibson Southern’s 3A state runnerup baseball team in 2014, played one junior college season at Olney (Ill.) Central, and then caught and pitched three years at Oakland City University.
“We started dating when Caleb asked me go with him to Haubstadt Commnity’s Christmas Snowball Dance when we were seventh graders,” said Rachel Hanold, who earned four soccer letters at Gibson Soutnern including the 2013 state runnerup season, became 3A softball’s Indiana High School Athletic Association Mental Attitude Award winner after the Lady Titans’ 2014 runner-up finish, and then played two soccer seasons each at junior college Kaskaskia in Centralia, Ill., and Oakland City University.
As a 2016 sophomore, Hanold was named Kaskaskia’s Athlete of the Year. A few months after their 2018 OCU graduations, she was in the stands when Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save as the summer collegiate league Dubois County Bombers won the Bluegrass World Series on the field that is home to the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A farm club Louisville Bats.
While they became engaged in December, they won’t be married until Rachel graduates from Purdue’s Veterinary Medicine School in May 2022.
“That’s a long time to wait, but it’s best to wait until Rachel finishes her schooling,” said Caleb, who now lives in Darmstadt and schedules trucks as logistics operator for Newburgh-based Toyota Quality Logistics.
“She has always been my best friend, she has a good head on her shoulders and she always knows what she’s doing,” said the beau, who earned human biology degree at OCU and will turn 24 on April 1.
“You know, when we became friends in seventh grade, Caleb used to make fun of me. But I guess that attracted me to him for some reason,” said Rachel, who earned a bio technology degree at OCU and will turn 24 on May 9.
“I can always count on Caleb when I need him, we laugh a lot, and he’s totally honest with me.
“I wish our wedding would come sooner, but we’ll always be together.”
Grandparents Laura and Max Hanold aren’t surprised that the seventh grade friendship turned into love.
“We frequently picked up Rachel after school and drove her home,” Grandma Hanold said several years ago at a sports event.
“One day Rachel called and asked if she could walk home that day instead of getting a ride. I said okay.
“A while after that, shortly after the schoolday ended, Max and I were driving around and saw Rachel and Caleb walking together.”
It wasn’t far out of Caleb’s way.
“We lived only a block apart. From a running start, I probably could have thrown a stone and hit Rachel’s house,” said Caleb, who as a husband will have more company that he would have dreamed.
“Rachel has two dogs given by her mom (Jamie Tretter), two snakes given by her dad (Greg Hanold), and a cat,” he said.
“When Rachel is on break from Purdue, the cat stays with me. When the school year resumes, the cat goes back to Purdue with Rachel.”
Pets became a love for Rachel long before she met Caleb.
“It goes back to kindergarten,” she said.
“Our teacher assigned us to write a paper about what we wanted to do as grownups. I was always drawn to pets, and veterinary medicine is always what I wanted to do.”
No surprise that she’s willing to move around to wherever Caleb will go if his career wish comes true. He’d like to continue a baseball career that included three years as a Dubois County Bombers pitcher, the 2018 summer as pitching coach, and last season’s OCU alumni game in which he hit a home run and so enjoyed the trot that “I think I took the longest time ever to circle the bases.
“Now I’m coaching youngsters as part of Gibson Southern baseball’s feeder program. I’d eventually like to coach in high school or college or both,” he said.
“Knowing how much Caleb loves baseball, moving around would be fine with me because we’ll always be together,” said Rachel.
Several weeks after the OCU alumni game in which “I played left field for the first time in my life and also had a rough time pitching,” Caleb experienced “the most nervous minute of my life.
“Rachel and I were in Gatlinburg, Tenn., on her Christmas break. I’d bought her wedding ring, had it with me, and wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger. But when I got on my knees with the ring in my hand, I was so nervous that I couldn’t get the words out.
“But before I could say anything, Rachel said ‘yes.’ ”