Legacy of love

SHS baseball coach creates a family wherever he goes

Kevin (left) and Tristan Keefe (right) hold their uncle, Brendan Dudas, at the SHS baseball field on March 8. Dudas took the boys in after the family decided their mother couldn’t care for them anymore. (Grace Elder)

It all began in high school with a simple search for the highest paying college majors. That’s when Brendan Dudas knew he had his whole life figured out.
He intended to accept an out-of-state offer for baseball and major in supply chain management, and the rest of his neatly-planned life would follow. But that’s not how the narrative of Dudas’ life played out. Instead, things took a turn.
This turn came in the form of a family member’s addiction that led Dudas to two boys that would change his life.
“They’ve taught me more about life than anything has,” Dudas said.

Dudas’ older sister, Angie, struggled with heroin addiction ever since he was in high school. And as soon as her struggle started to affect her kids, Dudas began to raise them as his own, leading him to where he is now.
Angie’s addiction became apparent to Dudas as early as his freshman year of high school in 2009. But, it began to have major effects on the family late into his junior year.
Her struggle went in phases, going between addiction, rehab and getting clean. Because of the cyclic nature, it was hard to predict her day-to-day actions.

Dudas smiles as the baseball team rallies around him on March 8. This spring will mark his second year as coach. photo by Grace Elder (Grace Elder)

With the unpredictably of those phases, Dudas’ family realized that it was beginning to have a toll on Angie’s two younger sons, Kevin and Tristan. They saw glimpses of their selfless mom, but at the same time, saw her go through the struggles of addiction, and the family knew that this situation wasn’t healthy for the boys.
“We were all aware of the negative effects it was having on the boys,” Dudas said.
At the time, the boys were jumping apartment to apartment with their mom when she was clean, but they moved in with their grandparents during her relapses.
“It was a tough balance to strike where we’re looking out and being protective of the boys,” Dudas said, “but then giving Angie the support she needed.”
But throughout all of this, Dudas was still juggling the responsibilities of being a high school student while also trying to be there for the boys in any way possible.
With the boys appearing more and more into Dudas’ life, he realized that any out-of-state college baseball offers he had were out of the picture.

“It became apparent that raising the boys was going to be a responsibility in my life,” Dudas said.

Because of this, Dudas decided to attend the University of Indianapolis to play baseball after he graduated from Perry Meridian in 2013.
But before his journey at college began, a major change occurred in Kevin and Tristan’s life. Angie’s addiction took a turn for the worse.
One day, Dudas’ mom found Angie coming down from a high and passed out on the couch. The boys, who were just 3 and 4 years old at the time, were there. This was the final straw that made her realize that Kevin and Tristan needed to start permanently living at her house while Angie worked to get clean.
“It was kind of that moment where we realized that there needed to be some sort of intervention and make sure the boys were okay and Angie got the help she needs,” Dudas said.
With the boys out of Angie’s care, Dudas realized that they would be in his life more than ever before.
Though this new chapter presented many challenges, Dudas and his family weren’t facing it alone. Dudas and Madison Harris, now his wife, began dating in 2011 during their junior year of high school. That meant she was there for Dudas and the kids during this major transition.
Although the situation was complicated, Harris realized that this was Dudas’ normal, which made her realize it was now her new normal too.
As college began, with Dudas at UIndy and Harris at IUPUI, they both lived on campus at their respective universities, allowing them to adjust to their class schedules and Dudas’ busy baseball schedule.
Starting in 2016, their sophomore year, things became more chaotic when both Dudas and Harris moved back home. At the time Dudas had a very strict schedule with baseball games and practices, and that’s when Harris began to take on a major role in the boys’ lives.
“Maddie steps out like a saint and starts pulling them out of the mud,” Dudas said.
Even while double majoring in neuroscience and biology and triple minoring, Harris would go over to Dudas’ parents’ house every day to get the boys off the bus and help them with their homework.
She even went as far to take night classes and online classes so she could be there for the boys while also allowing Dudas to pursue his college baseball career.

“He was able to do the things he wanted to do because I was there to make it happen in the background,” Harris said.
Throughout all of this, she and Dudas always remembered to follow their dreams, but they realized that the boys were going to be a part of that.
With their mom, the boys had almost no structure to their lives. Dudas and Harris knew that providing some structure would give the boys the stability they needed to adjust to their new lives.
“It was important to give them something they could trust and that they would know it was going to be there day after day,” Dudas said.
In 2017, things seemed to be looking up for the Dudas family, but many questions still loomed about the well being of the boys. Because of a multitude of reasons, Dudas realized that neither his mom nor Angie were equipped to raise them, and they would have to find another place for them to settle for good.

I think anytime you’re going through situations like that, you’re just trying to figure out the best way to survive and get through the next day.

— Baseball coach Brendan Dudas


photo contribued by Brendan Dudas

“I think anytime you’re going through situations like that, you’re just trying to figure out the best way to survive and get through the next day,” Dudas said.

At the beginning of Harris’ and Dudas’ junior year, the two decided they wanted to move out and get an

apartment together. But it wouldn’t just be the two of them. They wanted Tristan and Kevin to move in with them.

The couple faced many challenges throughout the process, but they made it happen. Help from both Harris’ and Dudas’ parents and a group of high school friends all made the move possible. They filled the apartment with donated couches and mattresses so the place felt like a home for them all.

Hearing the excitement in boys’ voices and seeing the looks on their faces as they realized they had their own rooms reassured Dudas that they had made the right decision.
“It was going to be worth it,” Dudas said. “We had to keep pushing along.”
Dudas and Harris began their senior year of college with a new lifestyle and a new mindset. Although they had less time to themselves and spent more time focusing on the kids, this taught them important lessons. They began to grow trust and respect for each other and with the boys.
“Brendan and I have faced our problems together,” Harris said. “We’ve gotten through things together.”

Once he graduated from college, Dudas began his job using his supply chain management major. But, two years later, in 2020, Dudas knew he wasn’t happy. In fact, he says, he “freaking hated going to work.” So he consulted a career coach who asked him the question, “What is something that you finish with more energy than you started with?”
After considering the question, Dudas realized the answer: His passion was helping kids.
That’s when Dudas shifted his plan and became a teacher, beginning as a long-term sub for a first grade class at Mary Bryan Elementary School. And at the same time, Angie got discharged from rehab and began rebuilding her relationship with her kids. The boys finally got to see who their mom really was.
“She was ridiculously selfless and always thought about other people,” Dudas said.
But, Angie relapsed. She overdosed on heroin in March of 2021.






Although Dudas says her death wasn’t unexpected, it still broke the hearts of everyone in the family.
All who knew Angie said she was a loving person, but they also saw that addiction had eaten away at her soul. Dudas and Harris made sure that the boys knew both sides of their mother. It was important that they knew the caring side but also that they knew the darker side that included her addiction.
“I didn’t hate my sister,” Dudas said. “I hated the addict she would become.”
While going through this tough time, Dudas still had a positive light to look toward: his job at SHS. When he originally interviewed for the job, he didn’t know if he would have much of a chance at the coaching position, as he was only 27. But, he made sure to focus on his love for the township and its students.
“(I said) I really, really, really care about this township, and I want this job … ,” Dudas said. “I love the kids that go to school here. I don’t think you’re going to find another person as passionate about these people as I am. I literally pour my blood, sweat and tears into kids (like they’re) my own kids.”
Dudas got the job and began working here in spring of 2022. He says being a parent at a young age helped turn him into a better teacher and coach. Now, as Dudas enters his second year as head coach, his players can tell how much he cares about each one of them.
“You can always go to him whenever you’re going through anything,” junior baseball player Bryce Calvert said, “and it’s nice having that figure around.”
Over the last several years, Dudas’ life has moved in directions that he never would’ve expected. He became a father to two boys who changed his life and started a job that never would’ve crossed his mind years ago. Despite all these changes, Dudas says that he has reached a point in his life where he has finally hit his stride.
“Like five years ago, I never would have imagined being in this spot,” Dudas said, “but right now I’m happier, more fulfilled than I’ve ever been.”