By STEVE KRAH
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.”