By STEVE KRAH
Like the Tom Petty song, Chad Whitmer “won’t back down” on the pitching mound.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander showed that growing up in northern Indiana and has kept that approach as a collegian and now a professional.
He was selected in the 10th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees.
Whitmer played for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2017 and was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers organization in June. He is now with the Short Season Class-A Helena (Mont.) Brewers, where Nestor Corredor is the manager and Rolando Valles the pitching coach.
Through July 10, Whitmer had made six appearances (all in relief) and was 2-1 with a 0.00 earned run average, eight strikeouts and three walks in 7 2/3 innings.
Throwing from a three-quarter overhand arm slot, Whitmer uses two-seam fastball, “circle” change-up, curveball and slider. His fastball is regularly clocked at 88 to 92 mph.
What about the change in pro organizations?
“I like it here a lot,” says Whitmer of landing with the Brewers in Helena. “They’ve made me feel welcome.
“I’ve adjusted pretty well.”
The next stops in the Brewers system are the Low Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League, High-A Carolina (N.C.) Mudcats, Double-A Biloxi (Miss.) Shuckers and Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Born in South Bend, Ind., Whitmer played at Mishawaka Southwest Little League until he was 10 then was part of a core of travel baseball players who spent years with the Todd Marazita-coached Michiana Clippers (Marazita now coaches for the Michiana Scrappers).
Whitmer was a three-time all-Northern Indiana Conference selection at Penn High School, playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“(Dikos) instilled a lot of mental toughness with all the hard work we did,” says Whitmer. “That’s all stuck with me. In the off-season, we had really tough morning workouts. He helped me get to the next level by learning how to work.”
As a sophomore in 2011, Whitmer went 6-2 and led the NIC with a 1.50 ERA. As a junior in 2012, he went 5-4 with 1.44 and .386 batting average. As a senior in 2013, he went 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings.
Sean Galiher was the Kingsmen’s pitching coach at the start of Whitmer’s prep career then turned the reins over to Tom Stanton.
Whitmer, who turned 23 in May, credits both men with helping him fine-tune his mechanics and become more fluid on the mound.
In four seasons at Southern Illinois University, Whitmer was a two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference selection (2016, 2017) for head coach Ken Henderson and pitching coach P.J. Finigan. He hurled in 64 games (34 as a starter) and was 15-13 with a 3.70 ERA, 247 strikeouts and 41 walks in 282 innings.
Whitmer became the Friday-night starter for the Salukis midway through his junior season and held that spot through his senior campaign.
In 2017, Whitmer struck out 13 Indiana State batters, the most K’s by any SIU player since Finigan fanned 17 against Chicago State in 2005.
“One thing (Henderson and Finigan) preached a lot was being aggressive in the (strike) zone,” says Whitmer. “They made me a pretty competitor as well. Even if you don’t have your best stuff one day, you can still go out there and compete.
“You knew you were going to get a decent start out of me on Fridays and they knew they were going to get that out of me at the next level.”
After his freshman season at SIU, Whitmer played summer collegiate ball with the Richmond RiverRats (now known as the Richmond Jazz).
Whitmer is close to completing a degree in sports administration.
Chad is the son of Doug and Sara Whitmer. His father is a web developer and mother an accountant. Older sister Valerie Whitmer was a track and field athlete at Penn and graduated in 2011.
Chad Whitmer, a 2013 graduate who pitched four seasons at Southern Illinois University, is now in the Milwaukee Brewers organization with Helena. (Helena Brewers)