Baker receiving, offering knowledge as Manchester U. assistant

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kyle Baker has been on the job as a baseball assistant coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., for less than two months.
He took the full-time job after 1 1/2 years as a volunteer at University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was also a player.
Baker has been involved in recruiting and is getting ready for practice to resume at NCAA Division III Manchester on Jan. 30. The Spartans open the 2023 season Feb. 25-28 with games in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Manchester is to play DePauw in a March 4 doubleheader at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.
The home opener at Gratz Field is slated for March 8 against Olivet College.
Baker will be working with catchers and hitters and has talked with veteran Manchester head coach Rick Espeset (2023 will be his 27th season in charge of the Spartans) about how they will take on first base coaching duties.
While Baker sets up routines for infielders and outfielders, Espeset is crafting regimens for pitchers.
“I want to gain his insight on what practice plans should look like for Manchester,” says Baker. “(Coach Espeset) been doing it for a long time. He’s really good at what he does. I’m fortunate to learn from him.”
The rest of Espy’s staff includes Josh Brock and volunteers Keith Shepherd and Peter Shepherd.
Baker, who grew up in Monroe, Ind., traces his drive to coach to his senior year (2014) at Adams Central High School in Monroe, where he played baseball for Jets head coach Dave Neuenschwander.
“I learned a lot from Newy,” says Baker. “I enjoyed playing for him. I liked it so much I went back and coached with him.”
AC’s Lance Busse, Josh Foster (who is now head coach), Jalen Hammond, Joel Reinhard and Thad Harter also have a place in Baker’s heart.
Most of Baker’s time as a player was spent at catcher and he sees the connection between catching and coaching.
“You see a lot of big league catchers go into managing and they are typically successful because they know every facet of the game,” says Baker. “There’s always so much going on.”
Baker is demanding with his receivers.
“I expect a lot out of my catchers,” says Baker. “I tell them mid-play if a pitcher is not backing up (a base) where he’s supposed to be. You’ve got to remind them while watching the runners and trying to decide where the ball needs to be redirected. I expect them to compete at a high level all the time and be able to block the ball whenever they need to.
“The key to a successful baseball team is having a really talented and baseball-savvy catcher.”
Baker places receiving, blocking and calling pitches as high priorities for catchers and plans practices accordingly.
He throws in game situations like fielding pop-ups and backing up bases.
“Knowing where everyone is supposed to be on any given play is pretty high up on my list,” says Baker. “You really set your team up for success when you’re able to know what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Knowledge of each pitchers’ repertoire is key.
“What’s their best pitch and what are they’re not so comfortable with?,” says Baker. “How can you talk to them? Is this a pitcher that you can scold a little bit or is this a pitcher that you need to talk to more calmly?
“Just what type of pitcher are they and how are you going handle specific situations? There are 100 different situations.”
Baker also wants his catchers to develop relationships with umpires.
Before every game, they introduce themselves to the official and get their first name. They find out what they can do to make the umpire’s job easier that day.
“Ultimately, we want to have umpires that want to come back to our field and the person that they talked to the most has to probably be the nicest, too,” says Baker.
A topic in the catching world in receiving the ball with one on the ground. Baker is both new school and old school on this.
“When (runners) are on-base or there’s two strikes on the batter we need to be on two feet (because it allows more lateral movement than one knee down, which is a knee saver),” says Baker. “Why not use the best of both worlds?”
Baker says coaching college hitters often comes down to making one minor adjustment as opposed to a total overhaul of their swing.
“They’ve probably been successful at some point in their career,” says Baker. “What I teach may work for you, but it may not work for your teammate. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.
“Coaching hitting is a really tough thing to do because it is so individualized. You get into it and see how they hit and react to certain things.
“If you’ve got a team of 50 players there’s probably going to be 50 different swings that you have to learn and adapt to as a coach.”
As a coach at NAIA’s Saint Francis, Baker gained an appreciation for giving college players a good experience from Cougars head coach Dustin Butcher and assistants Connor Lawhead and Kristian Gayday and for Butcher’s running game.
“That’s something I’ll probably keep forever because (Saint Francis) is very successful at it,” says Baker. “It’s aggressive and knowing when to run.
“We talked a lot about the ‘free base war.’ When the defense is not paying attention but the ball is still in-play why not try for that extra base?”
Baker attended the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville.
This gave him a chance to network and bounce ideas off of other coaches.
“Nobody ever knows all the answers in baseball,” says Baker. “It’s just an endless pool of possibilities and outcomes. Someone in California many have seen something that I have not seen here in Indiana yet.
“There’s always stuff to learn at these clinics. Some of it you may use, some of it you may not use. It all just depends on how it fits your program.”
Baker is coaching athletes, but it goes further than that.
“I want to develop them as baseball players but also as student-athletes and people who are going to grow and maybe one day have their own families if they so choose,” says Baker. “Whatever they want to do in life. I want to put them on a path for their own success as much as I can.
“You’ve got to be a really good time manager when it comes to college. You typically find out right away if you’re going to be good at it or it’s something you need to improve upon.”
Baker has been dating Goshen (Ind.) High School and Goshen (Ind.) College graduate Lourdes Resendiz for more than two years.
Kyle’s parents are Richard and Yolanda Baker and he is the middle of three brother, between Randall Baker and Matthew Baker.

Kyle Baker. (Steve Krah Photo)

Stoltzfus sharing diamond know-how as Goshen College assistant

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It wasn’t that long ago that Brad Stoltzfus was leading off and playing on the right side of the infield for the Goshen (Ind.) College baseball program.
The righty swinger from Souderton, Pa. (northwest of Philadelphia), appeared in 199 games for the Maple Leafs from 2015-18. After getting his broadcasting degree, Stoltzfus took a job in town (he’s a shift leader at Goshen Brewing Company) and became a volunteer assistant on head coach Alex Childers’ staff. Justin Grubbs is Goshen’s pitching coach. Michael Walker is the other assistant.
As the Maple Leafs get ready for 2023, Stoltzfus is now in a paid position and is guiding hitters and infielders.
Stoltzfus wants his hitters to know their strengths and weaknesses.
“Know where you can get beat and know the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish at the plate,” says Stoltzfus. “We want you to be good at situational hitting.”
It always pays to be selective and not swing at every pitch that comes a hitter’s way.
“We have good pitchers in (the NAIA Crossroads League) but we also have pitchers that’ll walk you if you let them,” says Stoltzfus. “We want some guys to be a bit more aggressive because they can hit it in the gap.
Clinton Stroble was one of the best hitters to go through this program
I played with him for three years. He and I had very different approaches because he could put one 400 feet away and I couldn’t.”
Stoltzfus worked to get on-base so Strobel could knock him in.
A student of big league players, Stoltzfus likes the way Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman plays the game.
As a hitting coach, Stoltzfus talks about recognizing pitch shapes.
“(Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander) Clayton Kershaw is a good example,” says Stoltzfus. “You see a fastball out of his hand and it’s slightly down. Whereas, his curveball is slightly up. If you can see it out of the hand forget the spin.
“If you can recognize (shape) right away you know what pitch is coming now and it’s all timing. Timing is a big thing. It’s getting your load and timing down and reacting to the pitch. Put a good swing on the pitch you want.”
As a GC player, Stoltzfus was a second baseman as a freshman and sophomore and a first baseman as a junior and senior.
As an infield coach, he stresses the ready position and knowing what to do with the baseball when it is hit to them.
“I’d like to think I had a very good Baseball I.Q. and was a very good defensive player,” says Stoltzfus. “I would always figure out ways to gain an advantage on my opponent on the mental side of things.”
From a teacher at Souderton Area High School. Stoltzfus learned how to visualize success and avoid negative self talk in favor of positive.
If you see yourself striking out with the bases loaded or making a crucial error that can lead to it happening. Replace that with getting the key hit or making the right play.
The Maple Leafs open the 2023 season Feb. 4-5 with doubleheaders at Union College in Barbourville, Ky.
Goshen opens Crossroads League play March 2 at Marian. The first home date is March 4 against Marian.
While getting ready, Friday practices will be dedicated to individual player skill development. Sometimes technology like HitTrax or Rapsodo is used to mark progress.
“We break down what we think they can do better,” says Stoltzfus. “I try to put myself in their shoes because I know I was in their spot once before.
“We’re just trying to go out and get better each day and progress as coaches and players.”
Stoltzfus, who graduated in 2018, is grateful for his Goshen education and his experiences at the campus radio station — 91.1 The Globe (WGCS-FM). “Uncle” Duane Stoltzfus is a Professor of Communication.
“My parents (Barry and Ingrid) gave me the option to explore and go wherever,” says Brad, got a diploma at GC following his father (business), mother (nursing) and older brother Drew (music) while sister Leah was Brad’s biggest fan. “Ultimately I landed here. I really appreciate the degree I got here because there’s so many things take from what I did in a radio setting and apply that to everyday life and my job (including customer service).
“(Assistant Professor of Communication and The Globe advisor) Jason Samuel was an awesome mentor.”
Both from the Philly area, Stoltzfus and Samuel have had many discussions about City of Brotherly Love sports teams.
Barry Stoltzfus, who went to South Bend (Ind.) Riley High School, was at Wrigley Field in Chicago the day that Mike Schmidt belted four home runs (April 17, 1976) in an 18-16 win for the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cubs.
Brad grew up wearing No. 11 on the diamond. When he was making the transition to the bigger field he landed on a team with a player already donning that digit. Consulting with his dad, he decided on No. 20 (Schmidt’s number) and wore that through high school. Stoltzfus sported No. 44 as a Goshen player.
On May 25, 2011, Brad and three friends were in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play the Cincinnati Reds. The game went 19 innings and the foursome stayed for the whole thing, even gathering three baseball including a home run ball by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce.

Brad Stoltzfus. (Steve Krah Photo)

James-led Purdue Polytechnic Englewood eligible for IHSAA tournament in 2023

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Purdue Polytechnic Englewood — a charter high school on the Near East Side of Indianapolis — becomes IHSAA baseball tournament-eligible in 2023.
The Techies are part of a Class 3A sectional grouping with Beech Grove, Christel House, Herron, Speedway and Washington.
Purdue Polytechnic Englewood (enrollment around 580) is a member of the Greater Indianapolis Conference (with Christel House, Eminence, Indiana Math & Science, Irvington Prep, Metropolitan, Riverside, Tindley, Victory Prep and Washington). IMS and Victory Prep are not expected to field baseball teams in 2023.
Eric James, who is an IT Specialist at the school and coached offensive linemen for the past four Purdue Polytechnic Englewood football seasons, is the Techies first-year head coach for the third-year baseball program. James was an assistant to Ryan Broadstreet in 2021 and 2022.
Player development is a priority for James.
“At our school a lot of the students don’t come to the school for athletics,” says James. “The guys that do come out have a love of baseball. I want to see strides of improvement. That’s my satisfaction.”
James is a 2013 graduate of Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis, where he played football, baseball and golf and participated for a short time in wrestling.
He was an Information Technology major and Management Information Systems minor at Indiana State University, graduating in 2017.
Purdue Polytechnic Englewood players participated in the Indianapolis RBI program in the summer and fall.
“That allowed them to get more reps and opportunities to play the game,” says James, who is assisted by Donald Baker III and Derrick Strode and expects around 18 players for a varsity-only season at Purdue Polytechnic Englewood in the spring. “We’re trying to get some recognition so our guys can play at the next level.”
The winter IHSAA Limited Contact Period is going on now.
“We’re just trying to get in as much of the fundamentals as possible,” says James, who has his Techies improving their footwork, agility as well as catching and throwing techniques. “We’re putting emphasis on fundamentals and why they do things and how it effects them on the field.
“We’re getting them as much baseball knowledge as we can.”
James attended his first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 12-14 in Indianapolis.
He picked up many pointers on drills, strength and conditioning and more.
“It was very informative,” says James. “I did enjoy my time there.”
The Schweitzer Center at Englewood houses Purdue Polytechnic Englewood and Paramount Englewood (elementary). The schools are in the renovated P.R. Mallory Building.
Techies athletics use the facilities at T.C. Howe Community High School located about two miles to the east.
Purdue Polytechnic North is located in the former Broad Ripple High School. The Lynx have separate sports programs.

Eric James.

Britton explains importance of body language in baseball

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Phil Britton was attending the Culture & Leadership Hot Stove at the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville when Jerry Weinstein began talking about body language.
As the ABCA Hall of Famer spoke, a slide went up which read: Body Language Is The #1 Form Of Communication. “What You Do Speaks So Loudly I Can’t Hear What You Say.” Immediate Attention Away From The Group.”
“When you’re trying to be competitive and put together a good ball club it starts with your values and what you’re trying to achieve,” says Britton, who played college and professional baseball, runs a training business in southern Illinois and southern Indiana and coaches travel ball. “It’s a lot easier to achieve those things when you don’t have to coach body language.
“Don’t get me wrong. The game’s hard and everybody gets down. But if you’re recruiting Player A and Player B and they’re both really talented and have the same skill set but one has body language that communicates that they can handle defeat and the other one has the shrugged shoulders, eye rolls and the stuff that really projects bad energy you’re going to select the player that doesn’t have that.
“If you’ve got those guys on your team it’s going to be a long year. It comes down to what kind of player am I — the one who pouts or the one who says ‘I’m going to get the next one.’”
Britton graduated from 2003 graduate of East Richland High School in Olney, Ill. (now consolidated into Richland County High School), where he played for Andy Julian of Newburgh, Ind., spent two seasons under National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Famer Dennis Conley at Olney Central College and turned down an offer from the University of Kentucky to go pro. The catcher was in the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles organizations and with the independent league Fargo (N.D.)-Moorhead (Minn.) Red Hawks and Evansville (Ind.) Otters. He has been on the Otters coaching staff of manager Andy McCauley since 2012.
As his playing career was winding down, he started Britton’s Bullpen in Olney and has expanded to Indiana locations in Boonville and Fort Branch.
“I’m always watching body language,” says Britton. “I try to see what my body language is. If somebody strikes out in a big spot, how am I handling myself? Am I moping in the dugout or the third base coach’s box?”
As a manager, Britton wants to project a confident, stoic approach.
“I’m not sure how many kids understand (body language),” says Britton. “Everybody’s got body language. Your body speaks way bigger than your words. You can tell when somebody’s up. You can tell when somebody’s down.
“It’s difficult for a team to continually progress if you’ve got guys with bad body language. It’s a sign that they don’t want to be there. Why would you want somebody that doesn’t want to be there?”
Britton says players can’t project poor body language and be ready for the next play.
“If you’re putting yourself in position to make a play and you don’t make the play that’s not a bad inning that’s just not making a play. There’s a humungous difference.
“I can handle guys not making plays. That will never bother me. Not being in position will.”
Southern Smoke Baseball will field 8U, 11U and 13U teams out of Fort Branch and 12U, 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U and 18U out of Olney in 2023. Britton facilitates off-season workouts for Illinois teams, pops in with the younger teams and is a manager for the older squads.
He has an understanding with his players.
“Don’t mistake my intensity for getting after you,” says Britton. “The only time I’ll (do that) is if you’ve got it coming. By that I mean you’re a poor sport and showing up your teammates.
“I’m not going chew somebody’s tail just because they didn’t make a play.”
Britton expects his players to learn the game.
“We play half the season without base coaches and we do that to force kids to run with their heads up and make their own decisions,” says Britton. “There are some parents that are rubbed the wrong way. They want their kids to be coached every single play and they’re not learning anything. They’d be learning less with us controlling them.
“When you’ve got a kid crossing the road you want them to just put their head down and tell them it’s OK. Eventually they have to cross the road on their own with no one telling them.”
Britton, 38, was raised “old school” and spent a lot of time helping his grandfather. When he set his grandson for a tool, he didn’t ask where it was he just found it.
“You figured it out,” says Britton. “That’s how I grew up.”
It was this approach that Britton took into high school baseball.
“Coach Julian challenged me,” says Britton. “I was that player who needed someone to get up into my personal space and challenge me and Andy did a real good job of that.
“I wanted to be the best player everywhere I went.”
Jim Baker, who was from nearby Sumner, Ill., and pitched at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., and in Triple-A in the Toronto Blue Jays system, was an encouragement to Britton.
“I respected him because he was where I wanted to be,” says Britton. “He said to me, ‘you’ve got some tools. Keep working your tail off.’”
Growing up poor and rural, Britton did not have brand new equipment. He got the old gear left over when the youth league was cleaning out the closet.
When he was a high school freshman, he and a friend entered a radio contest. The 95th caller won Bruce Springsteen tickets. Britton won the contest, sold the seats to a teacher who was a fan of “The Boss” and took the money to buy his first set of new catcher’s gear.
In his two seasons at Olney Central, Britton hit .426 with 15 home runs and a nation-leading 89 runs batted in and .430 with 10 homers and earned NJCAA All-American honors while playing for veteran coach Conley.
“People who know baseball understand just how valuable the guy is,” says Britton of Conley, who has led the Blue Knights for more than 40 years. “I can’t thank Coach Conley enough for holding me accountable.”
Britton came to campus not recruited by other places and 160 pounds, won the starting catching job and caught all games in the spring, including doubleheaders on Saturdays and bullpens between games.
“You’ll find out what you’re made of in a heart beat. That’s why Coach Conley’s the best. He is going to challenge you.”
He was going to be a Conley assistant when he turned his attention to building his own business, which now has Josh Wetzel and (former Castle High School player) Conner Porter leading things at Boonville and (former Indianapolis North Central High School and Indiana University catcher and current Otters hitting coach) Bobby Segal and Matt Racinowski at Fort Branch. Britton’s Bullpen also trains softball players.
“The end goal has been to help as many players as we can,” says Britton.
McCauley was in his first season as Otters manager when Britton came in at the all-star break in 2011. Bill Bussing has been the team’s owner since 2001.
“There’s nobody better than Mr. Bussing when it comes to independent baseball,” says Britton. “He cares about his people.
“That guy is there to help anybody he can help. He’s there to set a good example. We have got an extremely short leash in Evansville. We’ve got to bring in high-character dudes. If we swing and miss, you move on down the road.
“The guy at the top sets the standard. That’s true anywhere you go. Mr. Bussing is our standard.”
Britton credits the ABCA — the largest organization dedicated to baseball coaches in the world — to saving his coaching career.
“Getting a change to hear Patrick Murphy, Augie Garrido, Ken Ravizza and Matt Deggs — you talk about some very humbling individuals,” says Britton. “There is so much to learn than what I know.”
Britton’s Bullpen is on Facebook and Instagram and has a YouTube channel.

Body language is important in baseball as American Baseball Coaches Association Convention attendee Phil Britton will attest.
Phil Britton bumps fists with Southern Smoke Baseball travel players.
Phil Britton. (Evansville Otters Photo)

Developing quality people drives North Montgomery’s Voorhees

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Voorhees has won regularly in his two stints as head baseball coach at North Montgomery High School in Crawfordsville, Ind. He eclipsed 100 wins 2009-14 and saw the Chargers go 17-11 in 2022.
But that’s not the focus for the graduate of Crawfordsville High School (1993) and Wabash College (1997).
“At North Montgomery we truly believe in developing the person above the player,” says Voorhees. “Our coaches truly invest in the individual and talk about the importance of helping them become quality people.
“We take an active interest in the academics and promote responsibility. Each player is held to a high standard.
“We promote team unity and try to make it a family atmosphere. Every player should have leadership qualities and we try to give them the opportunity to be leaders not only on the field but in their everyday lives. The better the person the more complete the player!
“Every player in our program should complete their high school career knowing that they mattered.”
North Montgomery (enrollment around 525) is a member of the Sagamore Athletic Conference (with Crawfordsville, Danville Community, Frankfort, Lebanon, Southmont, Tri-West Hendricks and Western Boone).
SAC teams play each other two times.
The Chargers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Frankfort, Northwestern, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. North Montgomery has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2018.
Voorhees is a law officer. He started with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and has been with the Indiana State Police the last 24 years. He has also served as an assistant coach at Marian University in Indianapolis and coached at Southmont High School in Crawfordsville.
As a high schooler, Voorhees played left field as a freshman and three years as a catcher. His head coach was John Froedge, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Rhett Weliever was an Athenians assistant and still fills that role.
“Coach Froedge was amazing in the development of men! His Christian values will always stick with me as he demonstrated great concern and care for his players.
“Every day I knew that he cared about our integrity and the quality of people that we were. It was easy to give maximum effort for a coach that
you admired and trusted.
“Never once did I doubt that his decisions were anything but pure and in our
best interest. He has gone on to win numerous conference and multiple State championships. He definitely left his mark on Indiana high school baseball.”
Voorhees was a catcher at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. Head coach Scott Boone and assistant Bill Boone then led the Little Giants.
“(Bill Boone) is an amazing coach that truly invested in our lives,” says Voorhees. “Bill was a person of character that went on to become the head coach at Wabash for a stint. He always would say, ‘Carpe Diem — Sieze the day!!!’ And boy did he live his life that way. Much like Coach Froedge, Bill left all of his players knowing that he truly cared about them. He was a great model for me.”
In 1997, Voorhees graduated from Wabash with a degree in English and minor in American Education. He earned a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Tech in 2020.
North Montgomery’s 2023 assistant coaches include Ryan Cole, Bill Warren, Alex Hall, Shawn Verhey, Kai Warren, Curt Dyson, Joe Swick and Griffon Lawson-Fuller.
Cole was a four-year starter at Purdue University and a former Indiana Bulls player. Bill Warren was a pitcher and catcher at Wabash College. Hall played middle infield at Wabash College. Verhey was an pitcher/outfielder at Glen Oaks Community College in Centerville, Mich. Kai Warren was pitcher and middle infielder at Wabash College. Dyson played at Crawfordsville and has been an Indiana Thunder coach. Lawson-Fuller played at North Montgomery and is a U.S. Army veteran.
There are currently 38 players for varsity, junior varsity and — perhaps — C-team games.
“We are very blessed to have such an interest in our program.
The Chargers have two on-campus diamonds.
“Our coaches take great pride in the field at North Montgomery High School,” says Voorhees. “We believe that it is the least we can do.
“Our players work hard on the game so we will work hard to give them a nice field to play on.”
Baseball is valued in Crawfordsville and the North Montgomery program is fed by recreation, club, middle school, travel and American Legion baseball.
“I cannot begin to thank all of the coaches that have an impact on our players development from 6-year olds all the way through high school seniors,” says Voorhees. “We have a lot of unity throughout the organization.”
“I’m just very blessed to work at a school like North Montgomery. The administration is phenomenal and does a great job in investing in the students.
“A special ‘thank you’ to our athletic director (and former Rockville High School and Butler University baseball player) Matt Merica. He is amazing to work with.”
Matt and wife of 28 years Buffie have two daughters — Jesika Voorhees (25) and Ashlynn Lawson-Fuller (23).

Family: Ashlynn Lawson-Fuller (left), Jesika Voorhees, Buffie Voorhees and Matt Voorhies.
North Montgomery High School baseball field.
Matt Voorhees pays mound visit for North Montgomery High School.
A gathering at the mound with North Montgomery High School head baseball coach Matt Voorhees.

Samardzija chooses baseball over football, makes majors, IHSBCA Hall of Fame

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeff Samardzija grew up in a hard-nosed atmosphere.
Father Sam’s favorite coach was Indiana University’s Bob Knight. His favorite team was the 1985 Chicago Bears. Dad played semi-pro hockey in the Windy City.
“My upbringing was pretty intense with my dad,” said Samardzija Friday, Jan. 13, the day he was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “Luckily I was the second son. He worked the kinks out with my older brother and I kind of loosened up a little bit on me.
“I ended up having a good run there out of Valpo.”
Sam Samardzija Jr., was an all-state football player who became an agent for Wasserman Baseball representing his brother. He is the first-born son of Sam and Debora Samardzija. She died in 2001 at 46.
Jeff Samardzija, who turns 38 on Jan. 23, played wide receiver and helped Valparaiso (Ind.) High School to an IHSAA Class 5A state runner-up finish as a junior. The 2003 graduate was runner-up as Indiana Mr. Football and Indiana Mr. Baseball as a senior. McCutcheon’s Clayton Richard won both awards.
“He is the standard,” said Samardzija of Richard, who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now head coach at Lafayette Jeff. “Quarterbacks — they get all the love.”
Samardzija, who is of Serbian decent, went to Notre Dame on a football scholarship and was also allowed to played baseball for the Fighting Irish.
“My first two years in football at Notre Dame I wasn’t very good and didn’t put up very good numbers,” said Samardzija, who caught 24 passes for 327 yards and no touchdowns in 2003 and 2004 for the Tyrone Willingham-coached Irish. “I had a lot of success in baseball my freshman and sophomore year.”
It was as a frosh football player that Samardzija received his nickname of “Shark.”
“When you start freshman year you get hazed by the older guys,” said Samardzija. “I didn’t have beautiful, thick facial hair like I do now.”
One day an ND veteran tagged him as “Shark Face” after an animated character.
“I had a good football season and somebody on ABC — (Bob) Griese or sometime said, ‘The Shark is running through the middle of the defense,’” said Samardzija, who caught 77 passes for 1,249 yards and 15 TDs in 2005 and 78 for 1,017 and 13 in 2006 with ND coached by Charlie Weis. “From then on people started calling me Shark.”
Samardzija did not pitch that much in high school.
“When I got to Notre Dame they made me pitch because football didn’t want me to play the outfield,” said Samardzija, who went 5-3, posted a 2.95 earned run average and was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine in 2004 then followed that up with 8-1 and 8-2 marks in 2005 and 2006 for head coach Paul Mainieri. “It was a great scenario. You don’t have to do off-season conditioning in football. You don’t have to do fall ball in baseball. You get to pick-and-choose where you want to go.
“Being on a full scholarship for football, the baseball coaches loved me. I was free. They didn’t ride me too hard. They just wanted me to show up on Saturdays and pitch. I threw a bullpen on Wednesdays. Everything else was football.”
After Samardzija did well as a collegiate pitcher and then excelled in football as a junior he now had to decide if his path going forward would be on the gridiron or the diamond.
“I had a dilemma on my hands,” said Samardzija. “I had given so much to football my whole life. It was never travel baseball. It was always travel football.
“Baseball was always my release. It was never work and it was never a chore to be out there on the baseball field.
“I had to fight for all my respect in baseball because I was labeled as a football guy.”
With the National Football League showing interest, two-time baseball and football All-American Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
He made his MLB debut in 2008. He was with the Cubs 2008 into the 2014 season when he went to Oakland Athletics. That was the same year he was chosen for the All-Star Game though he did not play.
Samardzija played for the Chicago White Sox in 2015 and San Francisco Giants 2016-2020. He won 12 games in 2016 and 11 in 2019.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander with a four-seam fastball that got up to 99 mph appeared in 364 games (241 starts) and went 80-106 with one save and a 4.15 earned run average.
“It’s tough when you have to choose a path,” said Samardzija. “I made the right decision.”
A gift from the family and more than 40 donors, Samardzija Field at Tower Park is a youth diamond in Valparaiso.
Mostly off the grid in retirement, Samardzija is an avid fisherman and has spent plenty of time in recent years on the water.
Sometimes “Shark” encounters sharks.
“When I’m in Tampa we’ll get out there,” said Samardzija. “You don’t want to catch them, but sometimes they show up.
“I’ve enjoyed kind of just pulling back. It was a go-go-go life there for a long time.”
Samardzija and partner Andrea have two children.

Jeff Samardzija. (San Francisco Giants Photo)
One of Jeff Samardzija’s career stops was with the Chicago White Sox.

Illinois junior colleges tap into Indiana baseball talent

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Illinois junior college baseball has long been a destination for Indiana players.
Many have used the two-year institutions to springboard into a four-year school or the professional ranks.
Our neighbors to the west sport 41 National Junior College Athletic Association programs in Division I, II and III (Regions 4 or 24).
There is a difference between divisions.
NJCAA Divisions I and II can offer up to 24 athletic scholarships. Division III schools do not. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-I teams include Frontier Community College (Fairfield), John A. Logan College (Carterville), Kakaskia College (Centralia), Kishwaukee College (Malta), Lake Land College (Mattoon), Lincoln Trail College (Robinson), Olive-Harvey College (Chicago), Olney Central College (Olney), Rend Lake College (Ina), Shawnee CC (Ullin), South Suburban College (South Holland), Southeastern Illinois College (Harrisburg), Southwestern Illinois College (Swansea), Triton College (River Grove) and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel).
Wabash Valley went 59-9 and qualified for the 2022 NJCAA D-I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Wabash Valley coach Aaron Biddle, who is in his eighth season with the Warriors and first as head coach in 2023. “We’ve had some very good Indiana kids over the years. We’re just right across the border form Princeton, Ind. Getting into Evansville and going up to Indianapolis are great recruiting sources for us.
“Our conference is real competitive.”
John A. Logan, Kakaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois and Wabash Valley is in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
WVC plays mostly D-I schools with a few D-II’s sprinkled in.
“The more D-I opponents you have on your schedule the better it is for your (RPI) rankings,” says Biddle.
What does “JUCO Bandit” means to Biddle, who started his college playing career at former NJCAA D-III St. Catharine in Kentucky and finished at NCAA D-II Kentucky Wesleyan.
“Maybe he’s not be getting the offers he wants at (NCAA) D-I or a big school and he’s going to bet on himself and he’s going to go the JUCO route, grind for two years and get better everyday and definitely get that offer he’s not getting right now,” says Biddle. “We get to spend a lot of time with our guys. We get to be with them almost every single day. There’s not a lot of restrictions on how much practice time we have.
“The big things is that in the fall, we get to play 14 dates. We get to play every weekend. Guys are getting all those extra innings and they’re getting to compete. That’s a big thing for us.
“In baseball you’ve got to play to get better.”
Biddle says the funnest aspect of his job is seeing players land at their dream school.
South Suburban posted a 42-19 record in 2022.
Kevin Bowers has been head coach at Lincoln Trail since the 2010 season. That was the sophomore season of Justin Hancock (who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now an Indiana State University assistant).
Bowers was on the LTC staff since 2001 and was an assistant to then-Statesmen head coach Mitch Hannahs (who is now head coach at Indiana State).
Bowers coached at ISU for the 2000 season. Lincoln Trail is about 10 miles from the Indiana line and 40 miles from ISU.
“The talent level is just off the chart,” says Bowers. “I’m certainly not knocking the state of Illinois. We’ve had a great deal of success with kids out of Indiana.”
Bowers has a take on “JUCO Bandit.”
“We develop an ‘ask no quarter, take no quarter’ mentality,” says Bowers. “We don’t want for a lot. We don’t need a lot. But we try to get a lot done.
“’Bandit has that negative connotation to it. When you go to junior college your mindset is that you’re foregoing the 100,000-seat football stadium. There’s not a lot of nightlife. Campus activities are geared around the athletics. You develop a worker’s mentality.
“There’s not a lot of thrills, but the talent at this level is crazy good.”
Bowers said there was a time when junior college baseball was battling the perception that their players had got booted from another school or could not make grades.
“Our guys are getting it done in the classroom and they’re getting it done on the field,” says Bowers, whose program earned a 2021-22 American Baseball Coaches Association Team Excellence Award for posting a grade-point average of 3.0 or above. “It’s a situation where academically you’re not going to lose ground.”
Illinois’ NJCAA D-II squads are Black Hawk-Moline College (Moline), Carl Sandburg College (Galesburg), Danville Area CC (Danville), Elgin CC (Elgin), Heartland CC (Normal), Highland College (Freeport), Illinois Central College (East Peoria), Illinois Valley CC (Oglesby), John Wood CC (Quincy), Kankakee CC (Kankakee), College of Lake County (Grayslake), Lewis & Clark CC (Godfrey), Lincoln Land CC (Springfield), McHenry County College (Crystal Lake), Moraine Valley CC (Palos Heights), Morton College (Cicero), Parkland College (Champaign), Prairie State College (Chicago Heights), Sauk Valley CC (Dixon) and Spoon River College (Canton).
Heartland (49-10) played in the 2022 NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Okla.
The Mid-West Athletic Conference features Heartland, Danville Area, Illinois Central, John Wood, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Land, Parkland and Spoon River plus Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Also in 2022, Kankakee went 43-17, McHenry 40-18, Black Hawk-Moline 35-20, Lake County 32-20 and Morton 32-20.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-III features College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn), Harper College (Palatine), Joliet Junior College (Joliet), Oakton CC (Skokie), Rock Valley College (Rockport) and Waubonsee CC (Sugar Grove).
The Arrowhead Conference is made up of Black Hawk-Moline, Carl Sandburg, Highland, Illinois Valley, Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley.
Oakton (34-28-1) competed in the 2022 NJCAA D-III World Series in Greenville, Tenn.
Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference includes Lake County, Elgin, McHenry County, Moraine Valley, Morton, Oakton, Prairie State and Waubonsee.
Since 1993, Triton is a two-time D-I World Series runner-up (1993 and 1994).
D-II World Series titles were earned by Kishwaukee (1999), Lincoln Land (2000), Parkland (2002 and 2009) and Kankakee (2017). Parkland was also a runner-up in 2018.
Joliet earned D-III World Series championships in 1994, 2008 and 2012 and placed second in 1995 and 2015. Oakton reigned in D-III in 2018 and Waubonsee was runner-up in 1996.

Rosselli sees Terre Haute Rex as community asset

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010.
Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start.
A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex.
He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital.
“I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity.
“I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.”
The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation.
In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team.
General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group.
Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players.
He sees the Rex as an asset to the community.
In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game.
“They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time?
“It’s entertainment.”
The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people.
Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
“We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary.
“We’re putting on this big show.”
Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority.
“We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.”
Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute.
“Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli.
Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community.
“They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay.
“We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.”
The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler).
Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers.
Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1.
“They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names.
“It’s a friend for life.”
Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony.
Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player.
There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark.
“We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli.
The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games.
“I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other.
“There’s two teams here.”
The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer.
“It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli.
Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball.
Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU.
Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.”
Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years.
In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs.
“I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors.
“Lowering the operational costs would help us all.”
The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31.
Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies.
For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium.
Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first.
Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces.
“It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres.
“I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.”
In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex.
In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.

Bruce Rosselli.

LaPlaca champion for sports vision training

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dr. Joe LaPlaca — founder of Ares Elite Sports Vision and Ares Sports Vision Academy — has long had a goal.
Graduated from Illinois College of Optometry in 2009, LaPlaca started his sports vision optometry practice in 2018.
“I noticed there’s a gap in the market for vision and how it relates to every sport,” says LaPlaca. “In optometry schools and athletics we’re missing it.
“There’s a big opportunity there and something I always wanted to do.
“Eighty percent of how we experience the world is through our eyes. How do we make this better?”
A lifelong athlete, LaPlaca has been involved in soccer, baseball, hockey, wrestling, tennis, football and martial arts and more.
“Sports has always been a passion of mine and understanding the nuances of the games and understanding how vision relates to all those sports,” says LaPlaca. “I take this very seriously. It’s primarily for research. I know what impact this can have on an athlete.
“This could be the thing that gets a kid a college scholarship or not. This is the thing that could take a Triple-A baseball player up to the major leagues.
“If we can clean things up and I can get them bought-in and processing — and I know I can — it’s huge for a lot of people.”
“I want to make the biggest impact I can on the sports world.”
LaPlaca’s practice is located inside Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind.
LaPlaca sees vision and cognitive training working together.
“How do we take all the information we’re getting from the vision side and how does our brain make decisions?,” says LaPlaca. “How does it orient in space?”
LaPlaca says athletes encounter visual discrimination.
In baseball, batters must learn to recognize pitches based on factors like rotation, release point and speed.
“The ones that excel at that are the ones who are able to make the decision once they’ve seen the actual pitch and process that information,” says LaPlaca. “It’s called choice reaction time. Do I swing or do I not swing? If we can break it down to simple steps of ‘do I go’ or ‘do I not go’ that’s what — hitters especially — are concerned the most about.
“That’s the holy grail that everybody is chasing right now. How to I train at that piece and how do I know I’m getting better at that thing?”
In LaPlaca’s practice, he makes it a point to track all the analytics.
“Through training we can equivocally say you’re getting faster in your choice reaction time,” says LaPlaca. “It should improve your batting average, your strikeout percentage (and more). Those are the things coaches are (seeking).”
LaPlaca says it is progressions that he puts athletes through that makes the difference.
“A lot of people train with their tablet or their phone,” says LaPlaca. “We do a lot more free space. We’re connecting the visual stimuli to an action for your right hand or your left hand or a closed fist or an open fist. There’s eye-hand coordination drills.
“All these things are custom for that specific athlete based on specific areas of weakness.”
Currently, the youngest Ares client is 9 and the oldest is 64.
“There’s no age limit to it,” says LaPlaca. “13 is probably the best. They’ll start going through puberty. They’ll have growth spurts. We can stay on top of how their eyes and brains connect to their body (as they grow).
“On the other side they come out and are a lot stronger than kids who weren’t doing vision training.”
LaPlaca doesn’t see an end point for this training and that those wishing to be a NCAA Division I athlete or professional will continue this training for a long time.
Currently, LaPlaca is working with the baseball programs at Purdue University and the University of Maryland and has worked with Butler University in the past. He has also visited with a Major League Baseball organization.
LaPlaca estimates that few of the collegians or pros he works with had heard of vision training and more than a third had never had an eye exam.
“That seems to be the more glaring thing,” says LaPlaca. “They think that just a vision screening is good enough. When in the world are they just standing and looking at one specific spot?
“They’re using their visual and neurocognitive systems way more frequently than they even understand.”
Typically, athletes are evaluated and ranked against their teammates and against other athletes of similar caliber.
LaPlaca can identify those with serious visual issues and refer them to a local vision therapist.
Ares Elite Sports Vision is on Facebook and Instagram.
LaPlaca has been a frequent podcast guest.
Here are links to some of those episodes:

Dr. Joe LaPlaca.
Dr. Joe LaPlaca.

Griffin oversees transition as Purdue Northwest baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dave Griffin is heading into his 10th season of coaching college baseball in northwest Indiana in 2023.
After six seasons in charge at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond (the Warriors won an IHSAA Class 2A state title in 2004 and were 2A state runner-up in 2006), Griffin established the Purdue Calumet program and coached the Peregrines for three seasons (2014-16).
Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central merged to form Purdue Northwest and Griffin has led the Pride since the 2017 season.
The first alumni game was played in October 2022.
“Overall it’s gone pretty well,” says Griffin of the merger. “The big challenge was you had a couple of coaching staffs and a lot of players you had to mold into one.
“Taking the program to (NCAA) Division II was another challenge.”
The 2018 campaign marked PNW’s first in D-II after starting out as an NAIA member. The Pride are part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“If you’re an established program it won’t take as long, but we hadn’t been that long so it took a little time,” says Griffin of the level change. “It’s been a journey to say the least.”
The 2017 team went 30-18. PNW posted a 18-25 mark in 2018, 21-24 in 2019, 4-5 in 2020 (a season shortened by COVID-19), 11-22 in 2021 and 21-23 in 2022.
For 31 years, the coach has operated Dave Griffin Baseball School. The past 25 years it has been located in Griffith. The organization will field 11 travel ball squads — the Indiana Playmakers — in 2023. Griffin coaches the 17U/18U squad, which helps him with recruiting.
“I get to go out and see kids play,” says Griffin. “That’s always been a good formula for me.”
Griffin says when it comes to recruiting, there’s more to it than the numbers hyped on social media.
“When you say velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good pitcher,” says Griffin. “When you say exit velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good hitter. At some point you’ve got to be able to play.
“It think they tried the same thing in football at the (NFL) Combine. If he ran real well or lifted real well they drafted him high. A lot of times those didn’t work out too well.
“Nobody cares about how they perform. What are their metrics? Don’t get me wrong. Metrics are good, but you’ve got to be able to perform. The challenge we all encounter is finding kids that have metrics that match the ability on the field.”
Griffin notes that even professional scouts often get player evaluations wrong.
“You try to do your homework on a kid as much as you can. We’re talking about scholarship kids,” says Griffin. “On walk-on kids you might take a flier. He might not be fully-mature physically. He might be a late bloomer. Those kids come along, too.”
More 1,500 DGB alums have gone on to college baseball and over 70 have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including Sean Manaea, Kody Hoese, Ryan Basham and Nick Podkul. Chad Patrick pitched for PNW and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
“I’ve put a lot of time into both jobs,” says Griffin. “I wake up early and I come home late.
“It’s fun. I like watching the development of players.”
Because of the talent in The Region and the low cost of education at the school where most student takes classes on the Hammond campus (there is a Westville site), PNW gets some bounce-backs from other institutions.
“Kids see that we are starting to build a solid program here,” says Griffin. “It checks a lot of boxes for them.”
The bulk of the current roster comes from Indiana and Illinois. There are players from Michigan, California, Iowa and Texas.
D-II teams are allowed to give up to nine scholarships. PNW is short of that number.
“We’re working our way up,” says Griffin, who currently has 47 players on his roster. Of that number, 35 will be on the travel squad.
As well as overseeing the whole team, Griffin works primarily with hitters and defense.
Hobart (Ind.) High School graduate and former University of South Carolina hurler Brandon Murray is the pitching coach. Former PNW player Anthony Agne is in charge of infielders and former Robert Morris University (Lansing, Ill.) assistant Adam Pasko outfielders.
PNW plays its home games at Laborers’ Local 41 Field in Hammond’s Dowling Park.
“I like the turf and the ambiance of it, being in a neighborhood,” says Griffin. “It’s a good place to play. The sight lines are tremendous.”

Dave Griffin. (Purdue Northwest Photo)