Vet coach Goodmiller now leading Norwell Knights baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coaching baseball at the levels he has for decades has been rewarding for Dave Goodmiller.

“I like high school and college so much because you see kids who get physically stronger and mature,” says Goodmiller. “It’s a time of growth — physically, mentally and skill-wise.”

“I really like developing the kids. That’s why I’ve enjoyed my time as an assistant coach. I like seeing kids get better.”

He used former big league pitcher Jarrod Parker as an example.

“He was probably 140 pounds as a freshman,” says Goodmiller of Parker, who graduated from Norwell in 2007. “By the time he was a senior, he was 180 pounds and a really good athlete.”

Goodmiller enters his first season as head coach at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., after 11 seasons as a Knights assistant — five on the staff of Kelby Weybright (now Norwell athletic director) then six helping Andy McClain (now head coach at Lawrence Central).

Retired after 35 years of teaching (he last taught sixth grade at Riverview Middle School in Huntington), Goodmiller now works part-time as a maintenance man at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne and has been conducting limited contact practices two times a week for two hours after school at Norwell.

“I’ve changed things a little bit,” says Goodmiller of putting in his own system. “The kids have been very receptive.

“I give the kids a daily plan and they know what to expect at various times.”

Goodmiller likes the opportunity to have more access to players, noting that about 10 to 12 attended fall sessions and there were 23 at Wednesday’s workout.

“That’s been beneficial as a new head coach,” says Goodmiller. “The kids have worked very hard.”

Goodmiller’s Norwell staff features former Norwell and Butler University pitcher Jamie Feldheiser on the varsity with Neil Stinson leading the junior varsity. A search is on for another JV coach.

The Knights program has enjoyed plenty of success, winning 16 sectionals, six regionals, three semistates and three state titles (2003, 2007, 2013). The are currently part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Bellmont, Jay County, Heritage, Marion and Mississinewa.

Norwell (enrollment around 815) is a member of the Northeast Eight Conference (with Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Huntington North, Leo and New Haven). Each team plays each other once to determine the conference champion.

The Knights have produced several college and professional players. Josh VanMeter, a 2013 graduate, was recently invited to major league spring training camp with the Cincinnati Reds.

The Dave and Cheryl (a retired teacher and guidance counselor who worked at Huntington North as well as Crestview and Riverview middle schools), Rhett Goodmiller graduated from Norwell in 2008 and played at Central Michigan University and Taylor University. He coached at Ball State University and other places and now works for Grand Park, Bullpen Tournaments and Prep Baseball Report Indiana.

The summer of 2008 saw son Rhett as a player and father Dave as a coach in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.

Garrison Brege, a current Norwell senior, has signed with the Indiana University-Kokomo.

Why the Norwell success?

“It comes from the parents and community,” says Goodmiller. “They’re very supportive. We have good kids who are competitive. They work hard and are coachable.

“There are good feeder programs and kids are involved in a a lot of sports. They get along and work together. I feel like I’ve developed a lot of friends with the players and parents along the way.”

Prior to Norwell, Goodmiller was an assistant to Kyle Gould at Taylor University.

“He is innovative,” says Goodmiller of Gould. “He also brought in local coaches with a wealth of knowledge like Rick Atkinson (an IHSBCA Hall of Famer) and Larry Winterholter. “He lives the values of Taylor University. He has built good relationships with his players. He challenges them.

“He’s very detailed with scouting reports and knowing the opponents. He has ready for each series. He had a good grasp on the entire roster. He is well-rounded in all phases of the game.”

Before Taylor, Goodmiller aided former college teammate and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Frame at Huntington University.

“He’s just a tireless worker and recruiter,” says Goodmiller of Frame. “He’s a loyal friend. I enjoyed working with him.

“He was very fair and dedicated to his program and the school. He’s a good Christian man.”

Goodmiller spent a decade as an assistant at Huntington North High School — the first five as junior varsity coach and the last five as varsity assistant and all on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Don Sherman.

“He had enthusiasm for the game and the kids,” says Goodmiller of Sherman. “Those first five years, we practiced separately once we got outside. “I was learning on the fly as a new coach. It was good for my individual experience.”

“I went to college to be an elementary teacher,” says Goodmiller. “I had not given any thought to being a baseball coach.”

He loved the game. He played a decade or more in Fort Wayne’s Stan Musial League after college.

After he was asked to give coaching a try, the son of two educators (the late Leon Goodmiller was a high school math teacher, coach and athletic director who started at Lancaster High School and finished at Huntington North while the late Marvel Goodmiller taught kindergarten and first grade at Northwest Elementary in Huntington) was hooked.

For several summers in the 1990’s, Goodmiller coached with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and the Dox in the Fort Wayne-based Connie Mack League. He had played for Lister’s Fort Wayne Komets while in high school at Huntington North.

Goodmiller graduated from Huntington North in 1977 and Huntington College (now Huntington University) in 1981.

His coach with the Huntington North Vikings was Roger Howe.

“I really enjoy him,” says Goodmiller of Howe. “He was demanding but fair to everybody. He taught the game well.”

Goodmiller pitched 38 consecutive scoreless innings during the 1977 season and was an IHSBCA All-Star.

As a Huntington Forester, he was guided by Jim Wilson.

“He was very organized and a good people person,” says Goodmiller of Wilson. “He really built a solid program.”

Wilson took teams to the NAIA district playoffs and had three players sign to play professional baseball — Doug Neuenschwander, Mark Parker and Terry Zorger.

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Dave Goodmiller is the head baseball coach at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind. The 2019 season is his first in the post after 11 seasons as a Knights assistant. He has coached at Huntington North High School, Huntington University, Taylor University and with Dox of Fort Wayne’s Connie Mack League.

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Southwood Knights baseball coach Dailey splits time between field, force, family

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Warren Dailey dons two different uniforms on most days during the spring.

One of them has a ball cap. The other has a badge.

Dailey enters his third season as head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., in 2019.

As a patrolman for the Marion Police Department working third shift, Dailey sometimes goes right from a game to the beat.

He efficiently juggles the two roles.

“I do what I can in the time that I have,” says Dailey, a former high school and college player.

Dailey is a 2001 graduate of Eastbrook High School in Marion, Ind., where he played for head coach Brian Abbott.

“He always cared about you as a person,” says Dailey of Abbott, who is now pitching coach at Huntington University and executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association. “That came first for him. I’ve grown to understand that. It’s probably even more important now than it was then.”

As a college player, Dailey spent one season at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne for head coach Billy Gernon (now head coach at Western Michigan University) and two at Indiana Wesleyan University for head coach Mark DeMichael (now IWU athletic director).

“(Gernon) was pretty hard core,” says Dailey. “He played for Bob Morgan (at Indiana University) and that’s where he got everything from. Of course, it was college and you were going from a child to an adult.”

DeMichael often coached 30 or more players and had just one assistant. Dailey still marvels at that.

“You need to surround yourself with plenty of good people,” says Dailey, whose 2019 Southwood staff includes Dalton Gentry, Cory Blocker, David Glickfield and E.J. Devarie.

Gentry (a Southwood graduate), Blocker and Glickfield are back for their third seasons with Dailey. Devarie is entering his first season.

Dailey was as assistant for two seasons at Eastbrook — one on the staff of Ben Irwin and one working with David Day. He spent one season as an assistant to Bengie Rodriguez at Madison-Grant before joining head coach Kris Holtzleiter at Southwood, beginning with the 2013 season. Holtzleiter is now an assistant at Indiana Wesleyan University.

During Dailey’s time on the staff, Southwood has produced three Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association all-stars — outfielder Jackson Blair (2014), pitcher Robbie Cole (2015) and first baseman Clay Hinrichsen (2016). Left-hander Brennan Kelly is on the baseball roster at Eastern Kentucky University.

Southwood (enrollment around 280) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). TRC games are played on Mondays and Wednesdays with each team playing one another once to determine a champion. The Knights reigned as conference champions in 2015 (7-0) and 2016 (7-2 after Maconaquah and Peru joined the TRC).

“It’s an extremely competitive conference,” says Dailey. “There’s no holding back. You try to navigate the best you can with your pitching staff.”

Dailey says the last week of the conference season has often been crazy with an unexpected result tightening the race.

Southwood has been invited again to participate in the Fort Wayne TinCaps/Parkview Sports Medicine High School Baseball Series at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. Wabash County Night is slated for Thursday, May 9 with Southwood taking on Wabash at 4:30 p.m., followed by Northfield vs. Manchester around 7.

Among non-conference opponents on Southwood’s schedule are Alexandria-Monroe, Blackford, Bluffton, Eastbrook, Eastern, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Huntington North, Marion, Mississinewa, Oak Hill, Taylor and Western.

The Knights are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, South Newton and West Central. Southwood has won four sectional championships — the last in 2014.

Multiple-sport athletes are the norm at Southwood. Dailey sees a handful of athletes at fall and winter baseball workouts.

“I encourage our guys to do as many sports as they’re able to,” says Dailey, who plans to approach Knights head boys basketball coach John Burrus soon about giving some of his pitchers some time to throw so March 11 (the first official preseason practice date) is not the first time they’ve touched a baseball in months.

Last winter, Southwood had a prolonged basketball run, finishing as 2018 Class 1A state runners-up. Neighboring Oak Hill, coached by Shane Edwards, started its baseball season a little later than originally scheduled after a Class 2A state championship run on the hardwood.

The Knights play their home baseball games on a field affectionately known as “The Launching Pad” for its smallish dimensions.

“It’s just a tiny field,” says Dailey. “The fences are not very far back. I’ve never measured them. I never wanted to put a number on it

“Hitters light up when they show up at our field. It holds more baseballs than it probably should.”

There are a fair number of home runs clubbed at the field, which has a pasture beyond left field and a storage barn down the right field line which sometimes creates a bit of a wind tunnel.

Dailey says the administration considered moving home plate back, but that meant re-doing the infield so the plan never gained any traction.

While there is no junior high baseball at Southwood (the idea has been kicked around), there is the Wabash Little League and Wabash Babe Ruth League prepping younger players.

The Babe Ruth League feeds three area high schools — Southwood, Northfield and Wabash. A few years ago, players were separated based on their high school affiliation and the high school head coach is responsible for finding the head head coach. For Southwood, that’s former Knights player Christian Dieter (who played for head coach Holtzeiter and assistant Dailey).

There are usually about six league teams — one or two for Southwood, two for Northfield and two or three for Wabash. There also some players from the surrounding area that will end up at Maconaquah, Manchester or Peru.

Zach Dials, a 2003 Southwood graduate, was selected in the 28th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays out of the University of Kentucky. A right-handed pitcher, he was a first-team all-state selection as a senior and played at John A. Logan College before UK. He appeared in 157 professional games through 2010.

 

Warren and Kelly Dailey live in Sweetser, Ind., and have four children — Corbin (11), Brianna (8), Chase (6) and Knox (4).

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Corbin, Knox, Brianna and Chase Dailey hang out with “The Colonel.” They are the children of Warren and Kelly Dailey. Warren Dailey is head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., and a patrolman with the Marian Police Department.

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The Dailey family attends church (clockwise from left): Warren, Corbin, Knox, Kelly, Chase and Brianna. Warren Dailey is head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., and a patrolman with the Marian Police Department.

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Kelly and Warren Dailey share a vacation moment. Warren Dailey is head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., and a patrolman with the Marian Police Department.

Bridges wants Hanover Central Wildcats to be smart, aggressive on bases

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Power may not show up at the field every day.

But there’s no reason aggressiveness on the base paths can’t be a part of each game.

That’s the way third-year Hanover Central High School head baseball coach Ryan Bridges sees it as he looks forward to the 2019 season.

“We did a very good job last year of taking the extra base,” says Bridges, who played four seasons at Griffith (Ind.) High School and five at Purdue University. “We’d see the ball in the dirt and were gone. It’s something I expect out of each one of my kids — to be a good, aggressive base runners.

“We always try to put pressure on the defense and make them make a play. High school kids are prone to make mistakes — even the best of them. A little bit of pressure can go a long way.

“You’re not always going to have those boppers. You can teach these kids to run bases and keep going. I can keep playing that style.”

Bridges and his Wildcats are part of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, Wheeler and Whiting as baseball-playing members).

To get his team ready for the postseason, Bridges has beefed up the non-conference schedule. It includes contests against IHSAA members Crown Point, Hammond Morton, Highland, Hobart, Kankakee Valley, Lowell, Munster, Portage and Valparaiso and Illiana Christian, an Illinois High School Association school in Dyer, Ind.

A year ago, Bridges took his team to McCutcheon (now led by former Purdue head coach Doug Schreiber).

A game in the annual High School Baseball Challenge hosted by the Gary SouthShore RailCats at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary is scheduled against Lowell on Friday, April 12.

Hanover Central (enrollment around 715) is part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Andrean, Kankakee Valley, Knox, Twin Lakes and Wheeler. The Wildcats have won one sectional crown — 2011. That team went on to be 2A state runners-up.

Bridges played for head coach Brian Jennings at Griffith and graduated in 2007.

A corner infielder and designated hitter for Purdue, Bridges appeared in 126 games (85 as a starter) and hit .288 with six home runs and 61 runs batted in. A back injury in his freshmen season led to a medical redshirt.

“I enjoyed every second of all five years of it,” says Bridges of his Purdue days.

He credits Schreiber for his attention to detail whether it was a bunt play, study tables or the amount of commitment it took to achieve excellence.

“He likes things done a certain way,” says Bridges. “If kids understand the level of commitment needed at the next level, it will help them for the four years of high school.”

Recent HC graduates with college programs include Troy Cullen and Jose Sanchez at Indiana University South Bend, Michael Biegel at Calumet College of St. Joseph and Eric Lakomek at Wabash College. Among players Bridges coached at Griffith there’s Kody Hoese at Tulane University and Amir Wright at Saint Leo University.

Current Wildcats shortstop Nolan Tucker has signed with Valparaiso University. Sophomore center fielder Jared Comia has received D-I offers.

Purdue was Big Ten Conference champions in Bridges’ final season (2012). Two of his Boliermaker teammates — catcher Kevin Plawecki and pitcher Nick Wittgren — are now with the Cleveland Indians.

Bridges graduated from Purdue and has a special education endorsement and masters degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. He taught in the Griffith system and was an assistant on Jennings’ baseball staff for four seasons before going to Hanover Central, where he teaches physical education at the middle school in addition to going baseball.

While he may not have been that way when he was playing for him, Bridges says he saw Jennings come to the see the value of giving his players a physical and mental break when it’s needed.

“We get the whole week off before tryouts,” says Bridges of his Wildcats program. “Once it starts, there’s no break.

“That’s pretty important.”

During this IHSAA limited contact period where coaches can lead their teams in baseball activities for two hours two times a week, Bridges has players coming in at 5:30 a.m.

“We have quite a few basketball kids,” says Bridges. “Coach (Bryon) Clouse is nice enough to let my pitchers throw.”

“I the way they have it set up now,” says Bridges. “Coaches are aren’t running these kids four days a week in January and February.

“But I wish they would let pitchers throw a little more. Arm care is important and some of these kids have nowhere to throw — not only pitchers, but position players.”

Hanover Central pitchers began bullpens this week. Bridges will slowly progress their pitch counts moving up to the first official day of practice (March 11) and beyond.

“I’ll use more arms earlier in the (season) before I can get arms in shape,” says Bridges, who does not recall any of his hurlers reaching the limit of the pitch count rule adopted in 2017 (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days). I’m very precautionary when it comes to that. Some of these kids have futures (as college pitchers).”

Bridges’ coaching staff features Nic Sampognaro, Cole Mathys, Anthony Gomez and Mike Halls. Sampognaro is a 2011 Hanover Central graduate who played at Saint Joseph’s College. Volunteer Mathys is also an HC graduate. Gomez played at Munster and moved on to Vincennes University and Ball State University. Halls is in charge of the Wildcats’ junior varsity.

Noting that the community is growing and that there are a number of baseball players in the eighth grade, Bridges says there is the possibility of having a C-team in the future.

Hanover Central is located in Cedar Lake, Ind. Cedar Lake also sends some students to Crown Point. Some St. John students wind up at Hanover Central.

Hanover Central Middle School fields a team for Grades 6-8 in the fall.

In the summer, there is Cedar Lake Youth Baseball and Saint John Youth Baseball. Both offer teams for Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth players. There are also a number of area travel ball organizations.

Bridges has known John Mallee for two decades. He went to him for hitting lessons as a kid. He is now a hitting advisor for Mallee and this summer will coach the Northwest Indiana Shockers 16U team. Indoor workouts are held at All Aspects Baseball and Softball Academy in South Chicago Heights, Ill., and The Sparta Dome in Crown Point, Ind. Mallee is the hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Catcher Jesse Wilkening, a 2015 Hanover Central graduate, made his professional debut in the Phillies system in 2018.

Hanover Central plays it home games on-campus. Since Bridges has been with the Wildcats, they have added a batting cage behind the home dugout and got a portable “Big Bubba” portable batting cage and pitching machine.

“We always looking to improve the field,” says Bridges. “But I want to help the kids first with their skills.”

Ryan and Nicole Bridges have a daughter. Harper turns 2 in March.

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The Hanover Central Wildcats (Hanover Central Graphic)

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Head coach Ryan Bridges and his Hanover Central Wildcats baseball team.

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The baseball team from Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., gathers at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary. The Wildcats, coached by Ryan Bridges, are to play at the home of the Gary SouthShore RailCats again April 12, 2019.

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The Bridges family (from left): Ryan, Nicole and Harper. Ryan Bridges is head baseball coach at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind. He teaches physical education at Hanover Central Middle School.

 

Purdue Fort Wayne’s Birely helps pitchers navigate a world of knowledge

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Blending various talents into a cohesive unit, helping them navigate a world of knowledge and encouraging a flow of ideas.

This is what Grant Birely gets to do as pitching coach at NCAA Division I Purdue Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne).

Birely, 36, has been on the job since the 2009 season. The Mastodons are scheduled to open the 2019 campaign Feb. 15-17 with four games at Alabama A&M.

The Purdue Fort Wayne roster features 14 active pitchers with two who will likely be medical redshirts.

“I make an individual plan with each of them to become the best they can,” says Birely. “As they get older and go through the program, they take a lot of ownership of their own development and I become a consultant for them. With the young guys, it’s about teaching them what it takes to pitch at this level.”

Birely says the cornerstone of Mastodons pitching is throwing and learning to spin pitches.

“In some form or fashion, there is throwing each day,” says Birely. “It might be 60 feet one day just to get loose. It might be 350 feet if they’re going to long toss that day. I don’t put a distance restriction on them. We tell them to listen to their arm and see how it feels each day.”

The point is, collegiate pitchers are asked to throw a lot.

“There’s no better way to learn to throw than to throw,” says Birely. “We’re working on their craft every single day.”

Playing baseball at the college level, especially Division I, is a major commitment between school work and hours spend getting ready for and playing games.

“We spend everyday with them and they spend so much time on it, they have to love baseball and showing up everyday and working on it,” says Birely. “One thing they’ll leave with is time management when they head into the real world.”

Purdue Fort Wayne pitchers do a hybrid training program that includes band work, stretching and some weighted-ball movements.

“We don’t dive straight into a full weight-ball program because these guys are competing the minute they get on-campus,” says Birely. “They never really have that down time to solely focus on velocity or anything like that. We’re always trying to work on command (of the strike zone) and commanding a second pitch.”

When the weather keeps the Mastodons off the frozen tundra, they do their throwing in a spacious fieldhouse large enough to make tosses of up to 250 or 260 feet.

“We’re very lucky to have that,” says Birely. “It’s just high enough so they can get a little bit of air under the baseball.”

The top two pitchers from 2018 in terms of innings pitched and victories are gone. Right-hander Brandon Phelps, a Fort Wayne Snider High School graduate, pitched 83 innings and won five games as a redshirt senior. Left-hander Damian Helm worked 73 1/3 innings with four victories in his senior season.

As the Mastodons head into the only four-game series of 2019, Birely says junior right-hander Chase Phelps (Brandon’s brother and also a Fort Wayne Snider graduate), junior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) and redshirt senior right-hander Shane Odzark will get the first opportunity to be starting pitchers.

The bullpen is being built with establishing strength in the late innings as a priority.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are excited to try to go and finish games,” says Birely, who counts freshman left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead), sophomore right-hander Sean Ferguson (New Haven) and freshman right-hander Jarrett Miller in the closer mix.

Other right-handers include sophomore Trevor Armstrong (Fort Wayne Snider), sophomore Nathan Hefle, freshman Garrett Hill (University), junior Tyler Kissinger, junior Duane Miller, sophomore Brian Skelton (Westfield) and redshirt freshman Cade Willard (Eastside).

Another lefty is sophomore Spencer Strobel (Avon).

Birely says two freshmen right-hander — Grant Johnston (Hamilton Southeastern) and Drew Pyle (Hagerstown) — have had injuries that will likely make them redshirts.

The pitching coach has learned that he is dealing with players who have different ways of learning. They might be visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

“We have some guys who like to see themselves on video and they can make adjustments based off that,” says Birely. “Some guys I have to put in a position kind of in a kinesthetic way so they can feel it.

“It’s definitely a challenge to figure out each guy.”

And figuring it out is key.

“Anyone who is teaching might be the smartest person in the world but if they can’t get that information to the players, it doesn’t really work and it doesn’t help,” says Birely. “It’s been fun finding different ways to teach and different ways to convey information that I have to them.”

Birely notes that the current generation — Generation Z — gets a bad rap for asking so many questions.

“They have all this information at their finger tips,” says Birely. “Some of it is good and some of it is not good.

“I’d rather have them ask me a question or to try to figure something out than to just go and do it on their own.”

Group chats are a way that information is exchanged.

A pitcher will see a video in social media and ask, “what do you think of this, Coach?.”

Birely asks his hurlers to identify their favorite major league pitcher.

“That gives me some insight of who they’re going to watch,” says Birely. “My favorite pitcher to watch growing up was Greg Maddux. I was never the big velocity guy. Watching him throw a baseball looked like watching a wiffleball.”

He also followed the fortunes of another future Hall of Famer. Roy Halladay went to high school just a few years before Birely in nearby Denver suburb of Arvada.

Birley is a graduate of Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo. He played for current Purdue Fort Wayne head coach Bobby Pierce at Central Arizona College (the Vaqueros won the 2002 National Junior College Division I World Series) then finished his collegiate career at the University of New Orleans. That’s where he met his future wife, Bonnie. The two were living in the Big Easy when Hurricane Katrina hit and they moved closer to Grant’s family in Denver.

Retired as a player after one season of independent baseball with the Mesa Miners, Birley went into the business world when a friend asked him to help with freshmen tryouts at Regis Jesuit High School, figuring it would just be for a few hours on a Saturday.

“From the moment I walked out there, I was hooked,” says Birely, who spent two seasons at Regis Jesuit in Aurora, Colo. When Pierce became head coach at Metropolitan State University of Denver, he invited Birely to become Roadrunners pitching coach. When Pierce moved to Indiana to lead the IPFW Mastodons, he asked Birely to come with him.

“I wouldn’t have this opportunity without him,” says Birely of Pierce. “He’s been a mentor and a great person to learn from.

“The best thing about him is that he lets everybody in the organization from players to staff go do their job

he gives them the freedom and creativity to make the program better.”

Pierce promotes a spirit of working together for a common goal.

“He’s very positive,” says Birley. “He’s great to work for. He’s awesome to play for. He allows the players the freedom to exchange ideas.

“Let’s figure it out together.”

Grant and Bonnie Birely have figured out how to balance baseball and family life. The couple has two children — Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School senior Tyler (who is active in theater and show choir) and sixth grader Kaylee.

“Like everyday says you’ve got to have a very understand wife,” says Grant. “She’s on this journey with me. Otherwise, I couldn’t do this.

“She keeps the fort going at home.”

Purdue Fort Wayne plays in the Summit League (with North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois). That makes for a good deal of travel. When the Mastodons go to the Dakotas, they often leave campus on Wednesday night and return at noon Monday.

“(Players) do a great job of doing their schoolwork on the road,” says Birely. “It’s not uncommon to walk through a hotel lobby and there’s 25 or 30 guys doing their homework.

It’s not uncommon for players to ask for the movies to be turned off on the bus to study for an upcoming test.

“We’ve had guys who understand what it means to be a true student-athlete,” says Birely. “It goes back to time management. They have to rely on themselves a lot to make sure they’re getting their work done.”

Coaches will proctor tests for professors, who email the exam and set the time limit and have the coaches sent it back. Other take online classes to allow flexibility and no requirement to be in a classroom.

Christine Kuznar is Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics and meets with players each semester to them on-track toward getting their degree as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“She’s the rock star behind the whole thing,” says Birely.

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Purdue Fort Wayne was formerly known as Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. In its new branding, the Mastodons have adopted black and gold as school colors with a hint of blue as homage to the IPFW brand. (Purdue Fort Wayne Image)

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Grant Birely, the baseball pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne, is a native of Colorado who played and coached for Mastodons head coach Bobby Pierce before following him to Indiana. (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

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Grant Birely has been baseball pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) since the 2009 season. (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

 

 

Alum Stang now guiding Franklin County Wildcats baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Derek Stang received more and more responsibility from the two previous head baseball coaches at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind., and now he’s the man in charge.

After serving two seasons each on the staffs of Tony Windle and Dave Miley, 2007 FCHS graduate Stang is leading a Wildcats program that is used to success.

Franklin County has won 15 or more games in five of the past six seasons. The Wildcats have been consistent contenders in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and earned seven sectional crowns — the last in 2013.

Stang played for Windle as a young boy and at FCHS.

“(Windle) always stressed relationships with kids,” says Stang. “He made them feel comfortable around the coaches. It’s their program. They respected him and enjoyed playing for him.”

Miley brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to Franklin County. He managed or coached many years in professional baseball, including 2003-05 as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

“Learning from him the last few years has been a great thing,” says Stang. “Dave had me coach third base the past two years. He gave me the freedom to do what I need to do.

“It won’t be a huge transition.”

Miley’s wife, Andrea, is from Franklin County and he is still local and in contact with Stang.

With his connections, Miley has helped bring Marty Brenneman, Tom Browning and Ron Oester to town for “A Night With A Legend” team fundraisers.

There is continuity on the staff since pitching coach Brett Rauch, junior varsity coach Scott Carie, freshmen coach Randy Bolos and volunteers Roger Miller and Gene Hodges are all returnees.

“That consistency is going to help a lot,” says Stang. “We know how we want to play.”

Stang plans to have his Wildcats playing a lively brand of baseball.

“We want to be aggressive — at the plate or on the bases,” says Stang. “We want to put pressure on the defense and make them make plays.”

When the other team is at the plate, he wants Franklin County fielders to make the the routine plays.

“We do not want to get too sped up on defense,” says Stang. “That starts with pitchers throwing strikes.”

Pitchers who can’t find the zone have a tendency to put their defense to sleep.

“Staying in the game is half the battle sometimes,” says Stang. “We also want to cut down on our number of strikeouts. Even the guys with the most RBI’s last year had too many strikeouts.”

During the current limited contact time when teams can practice two times a week for two hours, Stang and his coaching staff are trying to make the most of the opportunity.

“It’s a challenge this year,” says Stang. “We’ve got varsity, JV and freshmen in a two-hour time period and trying to get pitchers to get their pitch counts up.”

Players spend half their time at hitting stations then rotate to an agility station.

When it comes to defensive work, players are grouped by position. Catchers do a progression drill that focuses on receiving the ball, a POP drill that emphasizes footwork and a blocking drill.

In the old Brookville High School gym, infielders concentrate on fundamentals and take some ground balls. Middle infielders get some double play reps and work on communication.

Outfielders do zig-zag and angle drills — the latter to help prevent a gapper from turning from a single into a double.

“We utilize every foot of that space,” says Stang. “We make the most of it and get done what we can get done.”

Stang expects to have program numbers in the high 30’s this year.

In recent years, the Wildcats have sent players on to college baseball. Joe Monroe, Blake Ripperger and Jake Fields went to Miami University Hamilton and Brennan Meyers to Wright State University-Lake Campus.

Many players take part in travel baseball while participate in the Franklin County Recreational Baseball League (T-ball through age 12) and Franklin County Babe Ruth League (ages 13-15).

Each June, Stang, Rauch and some FCHS players conduct a youth camp. The youngsters who look up to the high schoolers enjoy being taught by them. There is also a youth night during the spring where kids get into the game free by wearing their uniform and are recognized on the field.

Franklin County plays its home games on its campus. This year the facility will be named Jim Hughes Field in honor of the former coach and educator at Brookville and Franklin County. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer died Nov. 12, 2018.

Franklin County (enrollment around 750) is part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Madison Consolidated, Rushville Consolidated and South Dearborn.

A member of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, Franklin County competes with Batesville, Connersville, East Central, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated and South Dearborn. In 2018, the EIAC went to a format where each team played a home-and-home series against each other on Mondays and Thursdays and that will continue in 2019.

Stang also played basketball at Franklin County for coach Josh Johnson. He was an assistant coach at the high school the past four years and switched to eighth grade this winter.

He has also been a baseball and basketball assistant at Daleville High School and coached basketball at the AAU level for the Spiece program and at Zionsville Junior High.

A math teacher at FCHS, Stang attended Indiana University in Bloomington and received his degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.

Derek and Heather Stang have a daughter — Amelia. She turned 1 on Thursday, Feb. 7. Heather is a sixth grade teacher at Mt. Carmel Elementary in Cedar Grove, Ind.

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Derek Stang is heading into his first season as head baseball coach at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind. He is a 2007 FCHS graduate and has served the past four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater.

 

Haley sees importance of building culture, knowing how players learn

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Every head coach or manager has to find a coaching style and a way he is going to run his baseball team.

Mark Haley, who coached and managed in professional baseball for more than two decades including 10 years as manager of the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks (2005-14), shared his ideas on team management at the monthly meeting of the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Four Winds Field.

Haley, who has talked about the presentation with friend and San Diego Padres manager Andy Green, emphasized the importance of building relationships and communicating with young athletes.

It is helpful to know the background of players.

What’s their family life like?.

What makes a kid the way he is?.

Because of the commitment of money and time, this is critical in professional baseball.

“It’s surprising how mentally fragile and insecure some of the best big leaguers are,” said Haley.

There are many differences in any given locker room.

These include cultural, social, economic, religious and in motor development.

“It’s a melting pot,” said Haley. “We (as coaches) have to dig deep. Give everything to your players and expect nothing in return.

“We’re here to help them. We’re here to develop.”

Haley outlined three primary learning styles (ways of processing information) — Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic.

Once the coach sees how an individual learns, he can find ways to get a message across the way that player will best receive it. The coach’s way is not always the only way.

“We pass judgement on kids because it’s not how we learn,” said Haley.

From working with him in the Chicago White Sox system, Haley knows that Hall of Famer Frank Thomas was a visual learner.

“He’s got to see it,” said Haley of The Big Hurt.

Visual learners want to see a picture and video. They notice things around them. They want information in writing.

A tip for this kind of learner is to use video to exaggerate the area that’s being worked on. Video can be used to anchor something visual and fix it in the player’s mind.

Auditory learners tend to use their voice and their ears. They remember what they hear and say. They want to know the “Why.”

They want no outside distractions.

Instructors need to repeat the information in “their words.”

It is also helpful to give the same instruction but in a different context.

Coaches are encouraged to make these auditory learners talk about the subject with a teammate.

Former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was auditory.

“You have to talk his language,” said Haley, noting that Konerko would use lingo that would have most running for a kinesiology book.

Aaron Rowand, a former White Sox outfielder, was kinesthetic. He learned by doing.

“He just wants to do drills,” said Haley.

Kinesthetic learners want to move, touch, create and physically interact.

They will be facially expressive and move around when they are interacting.

They want to know “How” to do something.

“They are the workers,” said Haley of kinesthetic learners. “They are the cage rats.”

With this kind of learner, coaches are advised to go over the area they are teaching with a step-by-step approach.

Haley talked about building a team culture. He defined it as “the formal or informal organizational systems the coach establishes to move the team towards its goal.”

Part of building a productive locker room is having a common goal.

“We have to have a commitment,” said Haley.

Roles include starter, key backup player or reserve/role player.

“Know your role and perform it well,” said Haley. “Clearly understand your role for team success.”

Players should understand complimentary roles.

“It gives them direction so they’ll know exactly where they’re at,” said Haley. “Never evaluate another kid to a player. You’re just creating animosity. Don’t humiliate them by saying ‘you’re not as good as him.’”

Haley accentuated the fact that it’s a performance culture that’s being built.

“Everything is done on how well we do, how well you coach etc.,” said Haley. “Feedback about performance has to be clear.

“It’s got to be productive. Don’t let them float off. Maintain communication.”

It’s important to find inspirational leadership.

Not a believer in naming team captains, Haley said the leader will naturally emerge.

If that leader is also bringing the team down with their attitude, Haley said the coach needs to override them or, perhaps, find another leader.

At the pro level, leaders who are negative need to be weeded out.

Haley wants to build an empowering climate where every player has a say in the fortunes and direction of the team.

There should be a compelling vision.

“We as coaches can keep that to ourselves,” said Haley. “Let the vision be known. Kids like that.”

Haley also believes in shared values. His are Honesty, Trust and Respect.

“Those are the three I preach,” said Haley. “You need to do that non-stop.”

Goal orientation is also a part of the plan.

“We’ve got to accomplish this as a team,” said Haley.

A “Can Do” attitude is a must.

“It radiates through the dugout and the locker room,” said Haley. “Young kids battle the fear of failure. As a coach, I’m never going to do that. Never be afraid to fail.”

For Haley, it’s about baseball development. But it’s also about making better people. That goal needs to be remembered.

Haley said coaches should take advantage of innovation that is constantly being developed in baseball.

“Find new ways of doing things,” said Haley, noting all the new metrics and devices available to coaches these days.

“Kids want instant feedback on everything,” said Haley. “We have to adapt to them. They are not going to adapt to us. We can influence them.”

Haley identifies three types of players on a team. There’s those who are seeking to get to the next level (No. 1’s). There are those who are satisfied with where they’re at (No. 2’s). Lastly, there are the players who are not even sure they want to be there (No. 3’s).

Haley, who is director of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and a South Bend Cubs travel baseball coach, will see the No. 1’s all the time at the Performance Center. The No. 2’s come less often. The No. 3’s are a rare sight.

Having a team of 1’s and 3’s is a recipe for major conflict.

Haley said there are areas that help create cultural identity on a team. Besides common values, symbols will help build the cohesiveness and he likes to see these originate with the players.

Common heroes can also bring teammates together. Maybe they all root for the same big leaguer. That’s something else they have in common.

Rituals — chants, team meals, championship belts — also tell players they are a part of a group.

Coaches should show an interest in each athlete’s achievements and show pride in the team’s accomplishments.

With all of it, there has to be consistency.

“You have to practice it all religiously,” said Haley. “Good coaches don’t just talk. Everything that comes out of their mouth is for a reason.”

Haley said there is no absolute one right way to coach and finding a coaching style comes through trial and error.

Having a mentor helps. Haley’s was Jim Snyder, who spent a lifetime in the game including stints as a coordinator of instruction in the White Sox organization.

The final Cubbies Coaches Club meeting of the off-season is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5. For more information, call (574) 404-3636 or email performancecenter@southbendcubs.com.

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Mark Haley, director of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and a South Bend Cubs travel baseball coach, talked at the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club meeting Tuesday, Feb. 5 about team management. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Bye getting small pack of Orleans Bulldogs ready for 2019

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Numbers might be low, but baseball spirit is high at Orleans (Ind.) High School.

The Bulldogs won an IHSAA Class 1A West Washington Sectional championship in 2018 and senior Duncan Gerkin was honored as an all-state catcher.

In 2015, Orleans went 26-6 and produced three all-state players — senior second baseman Burton Gerkin, senior first baseman Cale Hall and senior outfielder Jason Mosson. Other recent first-team all-staters include junior outfielder Steven Phillips in 2014 and junior shortstop Terry Bradley in 2012.

Jeremy Bye was an assistant to Mark Wheeler for 10 years then took over the Bulldogs program for the 2016 season.

“I had no intention of ever coaching high school baseball,” says Bye. “But as the cards were dealt, I came to love it.

“I’m very fortunate to spend 10 years under a tremendous coach and motivator and learn from him.”

Bye heads into 2019 with 13 players in the program. For the for the first time since he has been in the program, Orleans does not plan to field a junior varsity team.

Off-season workouts have drawn five boys. These twice-a-week sessions include 45 minutes of throwing and 45 minutes of running or weightlifting.

The other baseball players are busy with basketball.

“In southern Indiana, basketball is king,” says Bye.

Basketball the winter sport for boys at Orleans. Cross country is offered in the fall with baseball, track and golf in the spring. There is no football and some potential students go to nearby schools that do have football.

With an enrollment around 225, Orleans is the member in the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference, which also feature Crawford County, Mitchell, Paoli, Perry Central, Spring Valley and West Washington.

PLAC teams play each other twice during the season in home-and-home series. Only the first meeting counts in the standings.

The Bulldogs are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Crothersville (enrollment around 100), Medora (50), Trinity Lutheran (150) and West Washington (280).

Orleans has won nine sectional titles, including four since 2006 (2006, 2014, 2015 and 2018). The Bulldogs won regional crowns in 2006 and 2015. The 2006 team bowed out to Hauser in the semifinals of the Avon Semistate. Eventual 1A state runner-up Shakamak bested Orleans 3-2 int he 2015 Plainfield Semistate.

Graduate Adam Poole was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 32nd round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but did not sign. The left-handed pitcher played at Lincoln Trail College and Indiana University.

Platted in 1815, Orleans stands as the oldest town in Orange County. Founded two months after Andrew Jackson’s famous victory over the British at New Orleans, the settlers named their new town to honor this event.

For the third season, IHSAA teams will abide by a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“We have always used a pitch count,” says Bye. “Our issues is having enough pitchers to play a 28-game schedule and be effective. It’s always been like that.

“Our better athletes are our pitchers and they are also shortstops, center fielders and third basemen. It’s harder to manage the other positions the kids have to play.”

While its not a school-sponsored sport, Orleans does have junior high baseball. Bye says 22 boys have signed up to play from April through early June. There will be 11 on the eighth grade squad with nine seventh graders and two sixth graders on the seventh grade team.

“The boys have to play,” says Bye. “It’s the only (baseball) avenue they have (from age 13 to high school).

The Orleans Baseball League is a recreation organization that starts with T-ball and goes through sixth grade.

Jeremy and Kristin Bye’s sons play both rec league and travel baseball — Breckin (10) with the Louisville-based Ironmen and Brayson (7) with the Southern Indiana Strikers of New Albany.

Orleans plays its home games on a lighted on-campus diamond. In recent years, the outfield fence has been raised and pushed back and dugouts have been replaced.

Bye mows the field himself and his players help line it and rake it.

“We’re our own field maintenance crew,” says Bye. “Everybody does their own spot. We take pride in it.”

Bye is a 1996 Paoli (Ind.) High School graduate. He played four years of baseball for the Rams — two for Tom Stuckwich and two for John Hahn. He earned a electronics technology degree at Indiana State University and works for Jasper Group in Orleans.

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Orleans (Ind.) High School won an IHSAA Class 1A sectional baseball title in 2018. It was the third season as head coach for Jeremy Bye. He joined the program as an assistant in 2006.

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The Byes (clockwise from left) — Jeremy, Kristin, Breckin and Brayson — celebrate a 2018 IHSAA Class 1A sectional baseball championship. Jeremy Bye has been a coach in the program since 2006 and head coach since 2016.