By STEVE KRAH
Two Purdue University entities became one in the Region.
Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central came together to form Purdue Northwest.
On the baseball field, the new merger yielded a 30-18 mark for the PNW Pride.
Purdue Northwest coach Dave Griffin, who helmed the Purdue Calumet program for three seasons before the change, expected their to be a little trepidation from some of the players with new leadership. The 2017 roster, which included 25 players with Indiana hometowns and six from Illinois, was roughly split in thirds by former players from PUC and PNC and new recruits.
The transition was a smooth one.
“The kids worked hard and got along really well,” says Griffin. “It was one unit.
“The situation was great. We molded the kids together. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was a very, very satisfying season.”
At 20-7, the Pride tied Olivet Nazarene for first in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference South Division during the regular season.
PNW’s season ended after it went 1-2 in the CCAC tournament.
The Pride played its home games on the turf of Dowling Park, a facility owned by the City of Hammond and shared with area high schools.
Sophomore outfielder Larry Crisler (.347) was PNW’s top hitter and senior right-hander Matt Sandoval (8-2, 2.48 earned run average) the top pitcher.
Griffin, 55, and his staff, which included former PNC head coach Shane Prance plus Phil Madvek, Vinnie Tornincasa, Dave Waddell, Tom McDermott and Jeff Rutherford this spring, have been recruiting Indiana, Chicagoland and beyond while the program develops an identity.
“People catch on pretty quick,” says Griffin. “I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Since season’s end, Griffin has been tying up loose ends and getting ready for the fall.
This summer, he will coach the Outsiders 17U team based out of Dave Griffin’s Baseball School in Griffith.
He has his views of the travel baseball world.
“I tell parents to play for a solid organization who has a good support staff,” says Griffin. “Games are just one part of the equation. There’s training and speed and agility.
“You need the right people to steer you the right way and someone who’s going to tell you the truth. Some will tell you anything as long as they’re going to make a buck. That’s sometimes where we lose focus a little bit.”
PNW players will hone their skills this summer in various collegiate circuits, including the Midwest Collegiate League, Northwoods League and Prospect League.
Griffin grew up in Dolton and Roseland, Ill., and played at the Dolton-Riverdale Babe Ruth League, where he played with Jimmy Boudreau (son of National Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau) first met baseball mentor and scout Bill Bryk.
“He’s always given me good advice,” says Griffin of Bryk, who now works for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “He kept me involved with the right people.”
Griffin also looks up to scout Bob Szymkowski.
“My story is similar to The Sandlot (movie). We use to play in the sandlot everyday. We’d choose up teams and I’d always be the manager.”
In 1979, Griffin graduated from Thornridge High School and went on to be an NAIA All-American first baseman at Texas Wesleyan University.
He was drafted in 1982 by the Atlanta Braves. His best pro season was 1988 with the Triple-A Richmond Braves, when he hit. 289 with 21 home runs and 72 runs batted in and was named Howe Sports Player of the Year and played in the International League All-Star Game.
Griffin also played in the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees organizations.
During a six-year stint as head coach at Hammond Bishop Noll Institute, Griffin helped lead the Warriors to an IHSAA Class 2A state title in 2004 and a 2A state runner-up finish in 2006.
Head baseball coach Dave Griffin led Purdue Northwest to a 30-18 mark in 2017. The PNW Pride came about after a merger of Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central programs. (PNW Photo)
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