Category Archives: High School

IHSBCA All-Star alum Fox speaks from the heart

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jake Fox knows the honor of being chosen as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant.

Before he went on to play at the University of Michigan and 14 seasons in professional baseball — making his big league debut in 2007 with the Chicago Cubs — Fox played for the South in 2000 in Fort Wayne.

Fox, who is now retired as a player and living in Michigan, accepted an invitation from former Wolverines and current Ball State University head coach Rich Maloney to address the 2017 All-Stars and their families at a recognition banquet Friday, July 14.

A 1 p.m. doubleheader is slated for Saturday, July 15 with one wood-bat game at noon Sunday, July 16 at Ball State in Muncie.

Outlining the passion, persistence, perseverance and patience it took him to make it to baseball’s pinnacle and play five different positions with seven different MLB organizations plus stints in independent ball and in Mexico and Korea, the Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate told his story.

Fox, 34, first congratulated the Class of 2017 All-Stars.

“This is a great honor,” said Fox. “You may not know it now. But looking back on my career, these are some of the memories that I hold dear. It is a testament to your talent and a dedication to your craft. It’s awesome.”

Why did Maloney choose Fox to speak when the coach has had so many players with what many would call better resumes?

“I asked him why me?,” said Fox. “He chuckled like the answer was obvious — ‘You played. You were there.’ Who else was going to stand up here and talk about getting from here to where I am now?”

Deciding against a prepared speech, Fox spoke from the heart.

“At the end of the day, I wasn’t a superstar player,” said Fox, who was selected in the third round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cubs and signed by scout Stan Zielinski. “I was a role player my whole time in the big leagues (through 193 games, 489 at-bats, 20 home runs, 73 runs batted in with the Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles). These kids don’t want to be a role player. They want to be the best.”

Fox asked the people who know him best to list his best qualities and he compared them with his own self assessment and came up with those four P’s.

Playing with passion, persistence, perseverance and patience, Fox found a way to stay on the field. He related a story of playing in Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs. He came up as a catcher and was working out before a game as a third baseman when his manager came to him.

“‘Of all the players I ever managed or coached, you’ve got the most out of your ability,’” said Fox of the words he heard that day. “That’s probably the biggest compliment I ever got.”

The manager went on to say that Fox did not have the physical ability of some of his teammates, but he possessed something special and said: “You come out here and find ways to compete. You’re trying a different position not because you have to but because you want to. You’re trying to get better.”

Fox said he was not equipped to talk about being a superstar, but he could speak to the effort it takes to get the most out of his God-given talent.

“My nose was to the grindstone,” said Fox. “I was so concentrated on where I wanted to go that I never actually sat down and thought about what got me there.”

Fox and his closest friends and family agree that he has passion.

“I loved to play baseball and if you don’t love it, it’s not going to last long,” said Fox. “This game can chew you up and spit you out.”

The IHSBCA All-Star alum also encouraged the current All-Stars to enjoy baseball as a team game — something that often goes away when professionals are competing for jobs and playing time and looking out more for themselves than chasing victories.

“That’s why I enjoyed playing in Mexico and playing independent ball,” said Fox. “Guys were just out there playing games.

“There was a time in Triple-A that I hated the most. It didn’t even matter what team was on the other side of the field. It was a competition in your own dugout. That’s not baseball.

For Fox it was about enjoying the competition and seizing the opportunities.

“At the end of the day — even with all the business things — you go out and play,” said Fox. “No matter where it is. No matter what country you’re in. No matter what level you’re at. We get too caught up in where you play and not how you play.”

How about persistence and perseverance?

“Everyday in the major leagues, I was overmatched physically,” said Fox. “These guys were 5-star athletes. I had to find a way to compete. You’ve got to be persistent. Coach Maloney said to me, ‘You know what the second-most favorite thing about you was: You never took ‘no’ for an answer.’”

Fox got much of his MLB playing time on the days when a regular would ask off with a particularly tough pitcher going that day for the other team?

“If you name a tough left-handed pitchers between 2007 and 2011, I probably faced them,” said Fox. “(The regular) would come in and say, ‘CC Sabathia’s pitching today? I don’t feel so good.’”

“When I stepped in that box, I feel I had nothing to lose. They could be a Hall of Famer. What did I care? That’s what made me as good as I was. I just wanted to play.”

Fox also learned to be patient.

“It doesn’t happen on your time,” said Fox. “You can feel like you’re ready. You can feel like you deserve it and you see other people take your place. But you keep playing and you will get your chance.

“They pass guys over because they are too busy complaining (about being slighted).”

Fox reflected on his career and said it was not the numbers he put up but the times he spent with teammates and families and the places he got to see along the way.

“I encourage you to enjoy the journey,” said Fox to the All-Stars. “You don’t know where it’s going to take you. You don’t. You show up everyday, you play hard and you have fun doing it and the rest will take care of itself.

“I once had a friend tell me, ‘You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.’ He’s right. You have no idea where this game is going to take you. You have no idea where life is going to take you.”

To illustrate his point, Fox talked about being invited to big league spring training with the Cubs in 2007 and where it led him.

It was Lou Piniella’s first season as manager and Chicago’s top two catchers — Henry Blanco and Michael Barrett — were called away to the World Baseball Classic. Fox was with the big club, but spent his sweaty afternoons warming up pitchers in the bullpen.

“I knew I was getting sent back down. I knew I wasn’t making the team. But I got the experience. I knew what the scouting report was about me: Good hitter. Can’t play defense. It bothered me. I wanted (Pineilla) to see what I was or wasn’t capable of doing before he read it in a report that I didn’t agree with.”

When Barrett came back from the WBC, Fox was the lone player on the roster who had not logged an at-bat or a defensive inning.

Barrett encouraged Fox to say something to the coaching staff.

The Hoosier finally worked up the courage ask for a chance to show what he could do before going to minor league camp.

Fox got his wish. He would play at the end of an away game against the Royals.

Called to hurry from the bullpen, Fox scrambled to the dugout and to the plate and socked the second pitch he saw — a slider — for a double off the wall.

In the ninth, Fox belts a first-pitch home run to plate the decisive run in a Cubs victory.

The next day, the Milwaukee Brewers came to visit the Cubs. Fox started the game on bullpen duty. When called upon to hit late in the game, he pops another first-pitch homer.

“I’ve seen four pitches (in big league camp) and have two homers and a couple,” said Fox.

The next day, Cubs bench coach Alan Trammel told the team to “keep it close until Fox can hit.”

Fox again homers that day.

“I thought I was going to black out,” said Fox.

The next day against the San Francisco Giants, Fox was called in from he bullpen to play left field — for the first time in his life.

Sent back to the minors, Fox opened the season by playing in the outfield and made his debut July 19 in right field at Wrigley Field.

“It just goes to show you that you never know where this game is going to take you,” said Fox. “I played five different positions in the big leagues (right field, left field, catcher, first base, third base). For a guy who couldn’t use a glove, I thought that was pretty good.

“So don’t ever put yourself in a box or limit yourself. Somebody else may see a capability in you that you don’t see yourself.”

JAKEFOX

Jake Fox, shown with the independent Somerset Patriots, played 14 professional seasons and was a 2000 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant. (Somerset Patriots Photo)

North All-Stars coach Turner simply enjoys teaching the game of baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Terry Turner loves to be around the people who love baseball.

That’s what draws him to the sport and to coaching — the last two seasons as head coach at Daleville High School after 29 at Anderson High School (25 as head coach).

“It’s that camaraderie that I love about the game,” says Turner. “At Daleville, the kids believe what the coaching staff is teaching. They eat it up. They have a passion for the game also.

“I just have fun with the kids.”

In his two springs leading the Broncos, those receptive young athletes have won two IHSAA sectionals (2016 at Daleville and 2017 at Anderson Prep) and the program’s first regional (at Carroll of Flora), semistate (at Plymouth) and state championship in 2016.

The Broncos carted home the 2016 1A state trophy after topping Lanesville 4-0.

In 2017, Daleville lost to eventual 1A state runner-up Rossville in the semifinals of the Carroll (Flora) Regional.

Anderson has won seven baseball sectionals — four came on Turner’s watch (1987, 1988, 1992, 2012). His Indians took a regional crown in 1995 with North Central Conference titles in 1999, 2000 and 2004.

After serving as an all-star assistant coach in 2009 when Anderson player Nolan Earley was on the roster, Turner has been named North head coach for the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series, which will stage its practice, junior showcase at banquet Friday, July 14, two games Saturday, July 15, and one game Sunday, July 16, at Ball State University in Muncie.

Turner will be joined at his alma mater (he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BSU) by Daleville assistant Wally Winans.

“You’re never going to find a better teacher of the game of baseball than that guy,” says Turner. “I turn my infield over to him with one drill after the other. I just get out of his way.”

Fundamentals are the foundation of Turner’s coaching.

Turner and his Daleville assistants, including Winans, Tom Lyday and Terry Scheetz talk constantly to their players about every scenario they can conjure. If a weakness is found in a game, the Broncos will concentrate on that at their next practice.

Daleville, which is a member of the Mid-East Conference (along with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del), tests itself by playing mostly larger schools.

Turner’s all-star staff will also include Todd Farr (Eastbrook) and John Steinhilber (Hebron).

Broncos outfielder Corbin Maddox is on the North team. Daleville’s Elliott Jackson was an all-star in 2016.

While at Anderson, Turner also sent Rod Mills (1987), Jeremy Quire (1993), Jordan Czarniecki (1999), Kurt Minnick (2000), Roy Erle (2001), Mike Earley (2006) and Zach Bucci (2011) to the all-star series.

One big difference between coaching at Anderson and Daleville is the size of the schools. Enrollment for 2016-17 was reported at 281.

As a smaller school, Daleville also shares athletes among its team. Turner says it’s not unusual for a wrestler to come from practice and take a few swings with the bat.

“The challenge is the numbers,” says Turner. “We don’t have as many pitchers as the larger schools would. The 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) has hurt the small school.”

In 2016, Lanesville’s Brenden Bube tossed 137 pitches in the semistate championship game. That would not have been allowed in 2017.

Turner, who graduated from Laurel High School (now part of the Franklin County consolidation) in 1975 and played baseball for Lynn Sheets.

After college, Turner was a junior high basketball and assistant baseball coach to Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Basil Mawbey and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tom Gable at Connersville High School. He remembers a piece of advice early in his days at Anderson, which began in 1986-87.

“I had no pitchers,” says Turner. “(Gable) told me, ‘everybody is a pitcher.’ He would say to his players, ‘you are a pitcher until you prove to me you can’t.’”

Turner had adopted similar approach.

“You can never have too many pitchers,” says Turner. “At the high school level — really, at all levels — it’s all about throwing strikes. If you don’t throw strikes, you’re in trouble.”

Throwing too many outside the zone also tends to have a negative effect on defenders.

“Infielders get back on their heels,” says Turner. “You put runners on and it puts all this pressure on your defense. Now they have to make the play.”

With a limited number of pitches to work with, Turner is not as quick to have his pitchers work around the zone when they get an 0-2 count.

“The pitch count changes the whole way you’re going to coach the game,” says Turner.

When it really comes into play is the sectional when single-elimination games are played in a short period of time and coaches may not have pitchers available for long — or at all — if those hurlers have thrown too many pitches prior to the next game.

“The (National) Federation is trying to protect young kids and their arms and I get that,” says Turner. “We’re all in the same boat. At tournament time, it’s not a fair situation. I don’t know what the answer is.”

After Connersville, Turner spent 1985-86 at Jasper, where he coached junior high basketball and was a baseball assistant to IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ray Howard.

At Anderson, Turner also was a boys basketball assistant for 14 seasons under Hall of Famer Norm Held and then Ron Heclinski.

Turner is still a teacher at Anderson. Formerly a physical science instructor, he now instructs on health and physical education.

Terry and Debbie Turner have three children — Derrick (32), Christa (27) and Jackie (23). All three were athletes at Pendleton Heights High School.

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Terry Turner just completed his second season as head baseball coach at Daleville High School after 29 seasons (25 as head coach) at Anderson High School. He is head coach for the North in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series July 14-16 in Muncie.

 

IHSBCA South All-Stars head coach McKeon sports diamond pedigree

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

So says Jeff McKeon, who has been chosen as South head coach for this weekend’s 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. Practices, junior showcase and banquet are slated for Friday, July 14, with two games Saturday, July 15, and one game Sunday, July 16, at Ball State University in Muncie.

“I believe you must respect the game,” says McKeon, who resigned as head coach at Plainfield High School after the 2017 season (Shane Abrell has been named as his successor). “Once you cross that line, you have to give 100 percent every single time. The game will humble you in a second. If you ever think you are bigger than the game, it will strike back at you in a second.”

McKeon, who led the Quakers to a 94-75 record in his six seasons, was an assistant at three schools prior to Plainfield — one season for Jason Engelbrecht at Evansville Central, two for Steve Johnston at Evansville Reitz and six for Pat O’Neil at Brownsburg.

At Plainfield, McKeon got to be the host coach for the IHSAA’s South semistate games. The field has two berms for spectators and a scoreboard in center field.

Coming from Evansville, where iconic Bosse Field and other parks all have unique features, McKeon likes that the facility is not a “cookie-cutter.”

“I’m a big baseball purist,” says McKeon. “The ballpark should be part of the experience.

“Plainfield has some uniqueness to it.”

A 1993 Evansville North High School graduate, his high school coach was Dan Sparrow. He was a catcher and then a middle infielder at Ashford University in Iowa, graduating in 1997. He also worked two years for the Clinton LumberKings as an intern, grounds crew worker and clubhouse assistant and one for the Birmingham Barons as assistant GM for concessions and in sales.

Jeff comes from a baseball family. He is the son of former minor league catcher and scout and current Evansville Otters radio analyst Bill McKeon. In 2010, Bill was briefly the Otters manager with Jeff as a coach.

Bill McKeon and Joe Unfried, Jeff’s uncle, were teammates on the 1956 Evansville Braves of the Class B Three-I League and founded the non-profit Tri-State Hot Stove League in 1993.

The ’55 Evansville Braves were owned and managed by Bob Coleman. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inducted Coleman in 1980.

Coleman, Engelbrecht, Johnston, Sparrow and Unfried, are all members of the Greater Evansville Baseball Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in 2016.

Bill’s older brother and Jeff’s uncle is Jack McKeon, the manager for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins. Jack also served as skipper for the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.

In his first off-season as general manager of the Padres, he began to rebuild the club with a series of deals and became known as “Trader Jack.”

Jack’s sons have also been involved in professional baseball. Kasey McKeon was a catcher in the Detroit Tigers system and is now director of player procurement for the Washington Nationals.

Kelly McKeon has scouted for the Padres, where he signed Greg Booker, son-in-law to Jack, brother-in-law to Kasey and Kelly father of former Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer Zach Booker. Greg Booker is now a pro scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I’ve had some good mentors,” says McKeon, who is a business teacher at Plainfield and IHSBCA vice president on a leadership team that has included Brian Abbott as executive director, Shane Edwards (Oak Hill), Kevin Hannon (Knox), Scott Hughes (Shelbyville), Ben McDaniel (Columbus North), Phil McIntyre (Indianapolis North Central) and Ricky Romans (Charlestown).

“Those are awesome guys,” says McKeon. “They are great coaches and even better men. Being with those guys has been life-altering for me.”

Fundamentals and instruction are important to McKeon, who has thrown countless hours of batting practice trying to turn weaknesses into strengths.

“I’ve worked with a lot of very good players,” says McKeon. “But you win not with best players, you win with the role player that has to step up.”

McKeon, who is in charge of vendors at the IHSBCA State Clinic in January, will serve as a vice president in 2017-18 and is due to be president the following year.

This year marked his third as South representative and coach for the Crossroads Series, held the past two season at Ball State.

With Rich Andriole as head coach, the South swept the North in three games at Whiting in 2016.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” says McKeon, who will be assisted by Brad Catey (Hagerstown), Justin Tucker (Batesville), John Major (Columbus East) and have a Plainfield Quaker on the roster for the third straight year. It’s first baseman Daylan Nanny (bound for Arizona Western College) in 2017. Outfielder/first baseman Jackson Blevins was selected in 2016 and went on to Saint Joseph’s College. He is playing for the Dubois County Bombers this summer. After the closing of SJC, Blevins is slated to play at Wabash College in 2017-18.

Pitcher Antonio Lucciola represented Plainfield in the North/South series in 2015.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be recognized for their accomplishments,” says McKeon.

Jeff and wife Liz have a son and a daughter — Gavin (9) and Katie (5).

JEFFMCKEON1

JEFFMCKEON2

Jeff McKeon, head baseball coach at Plainfield High School 2012-17, will be head coach for the South in the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Muncie.

IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series rosters released

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rosters and coaching staffs have been chosen for the for the 44th Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.

IHSBCA members have chosen members of the Class of 2017 to take part in festivities Friday through Sunday, July 14-16, at Ball State University in Muncie.

The junior showcase, all-star practices and banquet are slated for July 14 with two games July 15 and one wood-bat game July 16.

Daleville’s Terry Turner is head coach for the North with Plainfield’s Jeff McKeon is head coach for the South.

The South took all three games in 2016 at Whiting, winning 7-6 and 15-2 with metal bats on Saturday and 6-2 in the wood-bat game on Sunday. Kenton Crews of Heritage Hills was named MVP.

The series, which the North leads 64-59, began in 1975. The 2018 series is slated for South Bend.

IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES

(At Ball State University, Muncie)

Friday, July 14

8 a.m. — Junior Showcase at Ball Diamond

11:30 a.m. — North All-Star coaches report to Holiday Inn Express & Suites Muncie

12:30 p.m. — North All-Star players check-in at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Muncie

1:30 p.m. — North All-Star Pictures at the field

2 p.m. — North All Star Practice

3:30 p.m. — North All Star practice concludes, players return to Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

1 p.m. — South All-Star coaches report to Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

2 p.m. — South All Star players check-in at Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

3:30 p.m. — South All Star pictures at the field

4 p.m. — South All Star Practice

5:30 p.m. — South All Star practice concludes, players return to Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

6:40 p.m. — Leave for North-South All Star Banquet at BSU Alumni Center

7 p.m.  — Banquet begins at Alumni Center

11 p.m. — Team meetings at Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

Midnight — Curfew

Saturday, July 15

8:30 a.m. — Breakfast at the Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

10 a.m. — South All-Stars leave for field

10:20 a.m. — North All-Stars leave for field

10:20 a.m.  — South All-Stars batting practice on the field

11 a.m. — North All-Stars batting practice on the field

11:45 a.m.  — South All-Stars Pregame Infield

12:05 p.m. — North All-Stars Pregame Infield

12:30 p.m. — Player and coach introductions (High school coach with players)

12:53 p.m. — Ceremonial First Pitch

12:55 p.m. — National Anthem

1 p.m. — Game 1 (9 innings)

Food will be provided between games

30 minutes after Game 1 — Game 2 (9 innings)

Players will return to Holiday Inn for pizza

11:30 p.m. — Team meetings at Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

Midnight — Curfew

Sunday, July 16

 8:30 a.m. — Breakfast at Holiday Inn & Suites Muncie

9:15 a.m.  — Check out of Hotel

9:30 a.m. — Leave for field

10 a.m. — Batting Practice in cages

11 a.m. — South All-Stars take infield

11:20 a.m. — North All-Stars take infield

11:53 a.m.  — Ceremonial First Pitch

11:55 a.m. — National Anthem

Noon — Game 3 (9 innings wood-bat game)

Players wear their high school uniforms and will be dismissed following the game

Rosters

North

Catchers

Andrew Lawvere (Eastbrook)

Nolan Metcalf (Penn)

Jimmy Shea (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger)

First Basemen

Bryce Masterson (Noblesville)

Andrew Salmon (Elkhart Central)

Middle Infielders

Riley Tirotta (Mishawaka Marian)

Tony Carmola (South Bend St. Joseph)

Matt Homco (Rossville)

Cole Barr (Yorktown)

Third Basemen

Hunter Ryan (Hebron)

Vincent Herschberger (NorthWood)

Outfielders

Ryan Missal (Lowell)

Luke Florek (Western)

Ben Nisle (Lake Central)

Corbin Maddox (Daleville)

Flex

Brody Hardcastle (Oak Hill)

Pitchers

Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop)

Sean Smith (Peru)

Jackson White (Eastside)

Andy Samuelson (LaPorte)

Sean Ferguson (New Haven)

Baylee Young (Logansport)

Joe Graziano (Lake Central)

Drew  Bradford (Whitko)

Mike Madura (Munster)

Head Coach

Terry Turner (Daleville)

Assistant Coaches

Todd Farr (Eastbrook)

John Steinhilber (Hebron)

Wally Winans (Daleville)

South

Catchers

Canton Terry (South Vermillion)

Zach Britton (Batesville)

Drew Ashley (Evansville Memorial)

First Basemen

Justin Hensley (Brebeuf Jesuit)

Daylan Nanny (Plainfield)

Middle Infielders

Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg)

Trey Kelley (Hagerstown)

Cooper Trinkle (Columbus North)

Noah Navarro (Avon)

Third Basemen

Tanner Craig (Austin)

Caleb Brenczewski (Fishers)

Outfielders

Roy Thurman (Indianapolis North Central)

Evan Aders (Jasper)

Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz)

Sammy Rowan (South Spencer)

Flex

Drew Hensley (Bedford North Lawrence)

Rhett Wintner (Carmel)

Pitchers

Jake Lewis (Providence)

Drey Jameson (Greenfield Central)

Garrett Welch (New Castle)

Eston Stull (Pendleton Heights)

John Nierman (Brebeuf Jesuit)

Blake Malatestinic (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter)

Trent Johnson (Crawfordsville)

Kevin Thompson (Columbus North)

Luke Duermit (Fishers)

Head Coach

Jeff McKeon (Plainfield)

Assistant Coaches

Brad Catey (Hagerstown)

Justin Tucker (Batesville)

John Major (Columbus East)

IHSBCALOGO

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association held its first North/South All-Star Series games in 1975. The 2017 series is slated for Ball State University in Muncie.

 

Lewandowski oversees community asset as Indians president and GM

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Victory Field has become a baseball destination in downtown Indianapolis.

Indiana high school baseball teams and their fan bases look to visit as part of the IHSAA State Finals.

As home of the Indianapolis Indians — Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates — the “Vic” regularly welcomes more than 600,000 spectators to enjoy what Indians president and general manager Randy Lewandowski calls a community asset.

On Friday and Saturday, June 16-17, Victory Field was the site of the 51st IHSAA State Finals (Indianapolis Cathedral, South Bend St. Joseph, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter and Lanesville took home state titles and the Irish, Indians, Raiders and Eagles placed a jersey in a case on the concourse).

The turnstiles clicked to the tune of 9,446 for the two days, including 6,664 for three Saturday contests.

It was the 21st year Victory Field has been site for the state championships. Other than a few times in Lafayette, the state tournament finals have been hosted by the Indians at Bush Stadium before the move to the corner of Maryland and West.

Lewandowski is proud to welcome passionate baseball fans from all over Indiana.

“We look forward to it,” says Lewandowski. “Hosting the state high school championships is part of why we’re here. It’s certainly something we look forward to every year.

“We just think the state championships should be held in Indianapolis.”

Victory Field was host to the Triple-A All-Star Game in 2001 (15,868 saw Louisville’s Adam Dunn of the International League and Tacoma’s Juan Thomas of the Pacific Coast League take MVP honors).

What about bringing the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series to Victory Field (it’s in Muncie in 2017 and South Bend in 2018)?

“More than anything in regards to (the series) it’s scheduling,” says Lewandowski. “This is one weekend we have asked off for with our league so we can host the state championships. To ask for more and more and more makes it hard to do.”

Lewandowski is in his 24th year with the Indians and third as general manager. In 2016, he was also named president of the club’s board of directors and the International League Executive of the Year.

The graduate of Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School and Anderson University brings enthusiasm to his job — one that often demands long hours.

“When the Indians are home seven or eight days in a row, we’re here 12, 13, 14 hours — 9 o’clock in the morning until the game is over at night,” says Lewandowski. “We get a reprieve if we have a day game scheduled, where you can compact everything quickly into the day and get to go home at night.

“That’s what most of us on staff love and hate at the same time. We love the event, the ballpark, the smiles or peoples’ faces. But it always takes you away from home and family, summer weekends. But you understand that when you get into what I call the ‘event world’ or baseball business. It truly becomes your lifestyle.

“You need to have great support at home. If you’re married and/or have kids and all that, it becomes more difficult. It’s a labor of love and we enjoy it.”

Lewandowski and wife Christina have two children — Alyssa and Sam.

Victory Field opened for business during the 1996 season.

“We’ve already completely 20 in downtown Indianapolis, which is really hard to believe,” says Lewandowski. “But we’ve had to work really hard at it.

“We think we have been the great downtown driver for people to Indianapolis.

“We work really hard to be an important part of the community. We want to always be able to give back.”

Drawing from central Indiana and beyond and a mix of season tickets, walk-ups and group sales, the Indians drew 636,888 for 71 dates in 2016 and were over 660,000 in both 2014 and 2015. For the first 33 dates of 2017, Tribe attendance was 256,643 — an average of 7,777.

Lewandowski says he expects the average to rise as the Indians hit the summer part of their season and group sales really kick in.

As Lewandowski’s role has evolved, his busiest time is from the last part of the season and the early part of the off-season. That’s when much of the planning, budgeting and marketing for the next baseball season happens.

After a slowdown during the holidays, it ramps back up again after the first of the year. Sales and promotional efforts are pointed toward the opening of the season in early April.

When the season arrives, Lewandowski and his staff go into execution mode — taking care of the myriad details that crop up everyday.

“Execution has always been a strong point for us,” says Lewandowski.

The details of playing baseball were instilled in Lewandowski by his Dwenger coach — Lance Hershberger.

“He took it seriously,” says Lewandowski of Hershberger, who just launched a community college baseball program at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne. “He took over a Dwenger program that was not very good and we ended up being very good.

“My sophomore and junior years (1986 and 1987) we had very good teams. We never got beyond regional, but it was always special back then to think about Bush Stadium and coming to Indianapolis.”

At Anderson, Lewandowski saved 23 games as a pitcher for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and 1,110-game winner Don Brandon.

“I consider him a living legend,” says Lewandowski. “I learned about life from Coach Brandon and how to be a man. It’s those formative years when you’re in college.

“He’s a wonderful man. He’s caring, loves everybody. But he’s as competitive as all heck. That’s why he was able to win so many games. He was a competitor.”

One thing that’s carried over from his AU years into his current position is fighting back against the weather.

“If it’s on the schedule, you try to play the game” was a belief for Brandon.

“That’s something we do here,” says Lewandowski. “If we’ve got it on the schedule, we’re going to try to play the game. We don’t want to postpone a game just to postpone a game.”

Lewandowski looks back on one especially frigid Saturday doubleheader at Anderson.

“It’s Midwest baseball in March,” says Lewandowski. “We were chipping ice off the tarp.”

Brandon was not interested in backing up the schedule if he could get the games in on what came to be known as Don Brandon Field.

One of Brandon’s former players — Mathew Bair — was named as new AU head coach at the end of the 2017 season.

“We’re excited to see Raven baseball turn back around,” says Lewandowski.

After years with the Cincinnati Reds and a few with the Milwaukee Brewers, Indianapolis has been affiliated with the Pirates since 2006 and the current four-year player development contract goes from 2020.

“We’ve had a very good relationship,” says Lewandowski. “(The Pirates) communicate well. They’ve had some really good young talent come through here, especially as the Frank Coonelly/Neal Huntington regime got into place (as president and executive vice president and GM) in Pittsburgh.

“It’s been a good thing for us.”

And the baseball fans of Indiana have gone along for the ride.

RANDYLEWANDOWSKI

Randy Lewandowski is in his 24th year with the Indianapolis Indians and third as general manager. In 2016, he was also named president of the club’s board of directors and the International League Executive of the Year. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)

 

Schellinger saluted as baseball umpire of the year

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bob Schellinger got to call balls and strikes at the IHSAA State Finals.

After 45 years as a high school baseball umpire in Indiana and making his fourth appearance at the championships — circling the bases — Schellinger was the plate umpire for the Class 3A game Saturday, June 17 at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.

The weekend also saw the LaPorte resident recognized with the 2017 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for excellence in baseball.

Why do it for this long?

“I love the game,” says Schellinger. “I started playing Little League baseball when I was 6 years old.

“I coached baseball for 27 years. This is a way to stay in baseball.”

Schellinger, a St. Joseph Valley Officials Association board member, began umpiring in Babe Ruth League games and got his first high school license at age 18 in 1972. He worked many high school summer games while coaching in the spring at South Central (Union Mills) and LaPorte. He was head baseball coach for the Satellites for 16 years and became a Slicers assistant under Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber in 1995.

There is not secret formula for being a good umpire.

“You’ve got to work at it,” says Schellinger, who has officiated 15 sectionals, 12 regionals, four semistates as well as his State Finals appearances. “You’ve got to verse yourself in the rule book and the umpire’s manual. You’ve got to verse yourself in the case book over and over and over again. You’ve got to go to meetings. You’ve got to watch other officials.

“I picked up a lot of stuff when I was younger watching other officials.”

Even when umpires are in the stands, they tend to look at the game differently.

“If there’s a ball hit down the line, you’re not watching the ball, you’re looking to see (which umpire) is covering third base,” says Schellinger. “You get into that mode. That’s good because you see things. I’ve been licensed all these years and worked all these games and I still learn when I see things.”

Schellinger sees baseball umpiring as an ever-evolving profession.

“We have new techniques and new things we’re supposed to do,” says Schellinger. “We have to change with the times.”

Umpires typically work in two-man crews during the regular season with three-man crews at sectional title and four-man at the regional, semistate and state levels. With that comes different mechanics.

“Rotations are so much different because of where your second base umpire is,” says Schellinger. “I could talk about it for hours. It’s new to us, too, and we’ve got to get used to it.”

Schellinger, who is married to Lorri and has five children (Tricia, Rob, Mark, Kevin and Danny), teaches health and physical education at LaPorte High School. He retired as head football coach after leading the Slicers to a Class 5A state runner-up finish in his 22nd and last season in 2014.

BOBSCHELLINGER

Bob Schellinger was recognized as the 2017 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for excellence in baseball. A licensed official since 1972, he worked behind the plate for his first IHSAA State Finals for the Class 3A game — South Bend St. Joseph over Jasper — on Saturday, June 17. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Scientific training from Marks helps give state finalist hitters an edge

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Better offense through science.

Following the scientific methods prescribed by Mike Marks at the Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., has helped players going after high school state titles in Indiana.

Penn (Class 4A) and South Bend St. Joseph (3A) both go after IHSAA state crowns Saturday, June 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

The Kingsmen (27-6) take on Indianapolis Cathedral (28-0) for the 4A title around 5 p.m. after the Indians (24-4) meet Jasper (30-4) for the 3A championship at approximately 2 p.m.

Among Marks’ weekly pupils are Penn seniors Nolan Metcalf (Kansas University commit), Niko Kavadas (Notre Dame) and Trevor Waite (Dayton) and junior Payton Kerr and St. Joe seniors Tony Carmola and Tyler Kleva (Trine).

“I use analytics and metrics to help them reach their potential,” says Marks. “I’m not the traditional baseball trainer.

“All you have to do is give good athletes information. All I do is use science to prove it to them and then they understand it.”

Marks gets hitters to be able to analyze their own swings.

“I want to know what they did wrong, so they can make an adjustment,” says Marks. “It’s more of a college/pro tech approach. We want a kid to be low maintenance at the next level.”

Marks, who started coaching his own Kalamazoo, Mich., area travel team in 2002-03 and worked at Around The Horn baseball school in Kalamazoo 2004-07 before starting his own place in Sturgis in 2008, talks about the kinetic chain of energy, building the swing from he bottom up.

Metcalf, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association district player of the year for 2017, has been going to Marks since age 12 with Kavadas, Waite, Carmola and Kleva plus Mishawaka Marian senior Riley Tirotta (Dayton), South Bend Clay senior Trenton Stoner (Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne) also being longtime students. Kerr and South Bend Adams senior Spencer Nelson are newer clients.

Using video analysis and HitTrax technology, Marks talks with these players are many others (he has a long wait list because of demand) about things like launch angle and exit velocity.

Unlike the traditional approach, Marks encourages his hitters to drive the baseball in the air.

“We do not hit down on the ball like I was taught 20 years ago,” says Marks, who played at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich. “Line drives over the infielders’ heads leads to extra-base hits. I’d rather see a deep ball to center field than a grounder to shortstop.”

It’s an exciting moment when hitters can inform Marks they had 0 percent ground balls on 100 swings.

The Hitters Edge facility Wall of Fame is filled with many current and former Major League Baseball hitters at the point of contact.

Marks encourages his hitters to find a match and then goes about breaking them down.

“There is a small reconstruction period with kids,” says Marks. “I break the kids down to nothing to teach them core movements that they need to know.

“I want to teach them technique first. Then they can put their own style to the swing.”

Hitters are encouraged to have quick hands and not get jammed at the plate.

Marks wants his hitters to build muscle memory and to become unpredictable at the plate by being able to use all fields and not just pull or hit to the opposite field.

“Then they don’t know how to pitch to you,” says Marks.

IHSAA State Finals players have been tough outs in 2017. Witness some of the Penn numbers.

Penn left-swinging lead-off man Waite is hitting .491 with six home runs, five triples, eight doubles and 40 runs batted in.

Righty Metcalf (.410, 4 HR, 7 2B, 36 RBI), lefty Kavadas (.370, 4 HR, 3 3B, 9 2B, 26 RBI) and righty Kerr (.377, 1 HR, 5 2B, 23 RBI) have also been potent.

Then there’s righty-swinging St. Joe boys Carmola (.446, 3 HR, 4 3B, 12 2B, 28 RBI) and Kleva (.360, 1 HR, 9 2B, 31 RBI).

MARKSWAITEMETCALFKAVADAS

Hitters Edge instructor Mike Marks meets up with three pupils (from left): Penn High School and Indiana Nitro travel baseball players Trevor Waite, Nolan Metcalf and Niko Kavadas. The three Kingsmen have helped their team into the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A state championship game.