Shawn Jenkins played baseball in South Bend, Ind., as a boy. Now he helps boys and girls get better with bat, ball and glove as owner of Teddy BallGames, a training facility of the city’s northwest side. Jenkins, who had been taking his South Bend River Bandits Softball teams to Teddy BallGames and helped set up 24-hour access and an alarm system as an ADT employee, took ownership from retiring Mike Branch on Feb. 1, 2021. The father of three daughters (freshman Lexington, 14, and sixth grader Dellancey, 11, are ballplayers), Jenkins switched from coaching baseball to softball and is now also the head coach of that sport at South Bend Riley High School as well as overseeing the TB Tigers Baseball & Softball Travel Organization. Softball teams played several games in the fall while baseball — with many in football and other fall sports — took the time off. The 11U TB Tigers went 50-2, won eight tournaments and ended up ranked No. 1 in the county by Baseball Players Association in 2021. Teddy BallGames, located just off Cleveland Road at 4085 Meghan Beehler Court, has batting cages and training space for individuals and teams and is outfitted with Rapsodo, HitTrax and
equipment. There are currently about 75 members and Jenkins says there is room for 120. Jenkins went from South Bend to Chicagoland and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights then came back to Indiana as a junior and graduated from the former South Bend LaSalle High School in 1991. His head coach was Scott Sill. “Scott Sill gave me a good foundation,” says Jenkins. After a junior college stint in California, Jenkins ended up playing baseball and basketball at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora, Ill. The baseball coach was Hall of Famer Dave Randall. “It was just a great program,” says Jenkins, who was a second baseman. “I was able to play for him and I really leaned a lot. I parlayed that into playing (NCAA) Division II baseball at Lincoln University (in Jefferson City, Mo.). The Blue Tigers were coached by Sergio Espinal, who grew up with Shawon Dunston and a teammate of Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura and Doug Dascenzo on a College World Series team at Oklahoma State University, was was selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs (1985 and 1986). Jenkins coached high school basketball in Louisiana and high school and college basketball in California then moved back to Indiana and was an assistant baseball coach at South Bend Washington High School for 12 years. He worked with former Maurice Matthys Little League teammate and best friend John Kehoe. Jenkins was 11 when Matthys won a district title a lost to Concord in sectional play. For more information on Teddy BallGames, call 574-329-1264.
A unique blend of active youths, men and women go to a space in Franklin, Ind., to get better at their chosen activity or to enjoy the company of friends. Located since 2017 inside the 400 Complex in Franklin, Ind., Powerhouse Athletics is available to college ballplayers who need to get in some cuts or a lift at 2 a.m. or to boys and girls learning in clinics or private lessons. Established in 2013 by Chad Fowler, Powerhouse Athletics’ training space — batting cages, bullpens, defensive areas and a fully-stocked weight room — is in the process of expanding from 20,000 to 33,000 square feet. The place located a mile north of Franklin College and less than two miles west of I-65 is equipped with HitTrax, Rapsodo, Blast sensors, Diamond Kinetics, iPitch, Hack Attack and many other developmental tools. “We also train athletic movement for football, basketball and adults,” says Fowler. “We’ve got a little bit of everything in here. “Our weight room is going from 8 in the morning until 10 at night. Our doors are open basically 100 percent of the time.” During the COVID-19 quarantine of 2020, some college players moved in. “We checked on them and brought them food,” says Fowler. “They were also doing school work.” As of this writing, 512 baseball and softball players train at Powerhouse Athletics. That number includes two 2020-21 Gatorade Player of the Year honorees — Max Clark (Franklin Community High School Class of 2023) in baseball and Keagan Rothrock (Roncalli High School Class of 2023) in softball. There are around 240 contracted players who compete for Team Powerhouse in travel baseball or softball. Each year that’s between 20 and 22 teams. Players come from as far north as Kokomo and as far south as Louisville. “It’s really a community program, but our community is more the state of Indiana than just Franklin,” says Franklin. There are six school districts in Johnson County — Franklin Community (Franklin Community High School), Center Grove Community (Center Grove High School), Clark-Pleasant Community (Whiteland Community High School), Edinburgh Community (Edinburgh High School), Greenwood Community (Greenwood Community High School) and Ninevah-Hensley-Jackson United (Indian Creek High School). Through mutual agreement, these students can train at Powerhouse free of charge if they work around lessons. “They help clean and with clinics and do a lot of mentoring with our youth,” says Fowler, who was born and raised in Franklin and graduated from Franklin Community in 1995. “And they’re not spending money to work on their craft.” Two physical therapists help athletes. Several teachers donate their time to help students with their studies. “We have grade checks here,” says Fowler. “We can help parents reinforce better behavior. We preach good character and good grades. “We want to get them on the right path.” Fowler insists on meeting every parents and athlete and knows them all by name. “(College) coaches call me because I know the kid on a personal level,” says Fowler. “I know his character and his work ethic. “They’re all my kids. There’s going to be some tough conversations. I’m going to love you death.” Powerhouse athletes are held accountable for their actions. Fowler keeps a white trapper folder with apology letters written to people that athletes might have wronged and gives them copies when the the athlete graduates high school. Besides owner Chad Fowler and softball pitching instructor Keagan Rothrock, trainers include Laura Rothrock (softball pitching), Mike Copeland (Max Strength and Performance), Sammy Wilkerson (Max Strength and Performance), Tony Maclennan (catching), Patrick Antone (baseball and softball hitting), Haley Wilkerson (softball hitting), Erin Lee (softball hitting), Corin Dammier (softball catching), Emma Bailey (softball pitching), Jake Sprinkle (baseball pitching), Grant Druckemiller (assistant facility manager and hitting), Cody Fowler (facility manager and hitting) and Dalton Carter (lead pitching instructor and arm health). Full-time employees are Chad Fowler, Cody Fowler, Carter, Druckemiller and office manager Rachel Fowler. Chad and Rachel Fowler have three sons — Cody (25), Blake (22) and Jace (18). Cody Fowler played baseball at Franklin Community High school and attended Indiana State University. Reptile-loving Blake Fowler — he has a room for them at Powerhouse — has completed Ivy Tech and is looking into further educational options. Jace Fowler (Franklin Community Class of 2022) is committed to play baseball at Indiana State. Jace is part of a group that was with Chad Fowler from age 7 to 17 — aka “The Kids That Built The House.” The others are Xavier Brown, Max Clark, Logen Devenport, Drew Doty and Nolan Netter. Clark has been coming to Powerhouse since he was 5. Cooper Trinkle has been part of the crew since 7. Brothers Cooper and Grant Trinkle regularly come to Powerhouse Athletics to help with youth clinics etc. While many athletes have gone from Powerhouse Athletics to college teams and others have made that commitment, Fowler takes no credit for that and he does not place one achievement about another. “That’s that kids and parents’ success,” says Fowler. “I’m just excited for the kid who gets into trade school as one who gets into Indiana State or Vanderbilt. “We literally try to invest in every kid. It’s not just a baseball and softball building. It’s a good place. Everybody is one team. It’s what I require.” Fowler witnesses a facility full of grinders and see that spirit around this cold-weather state. “Indiana is a hotbed for baseball and softball talent,” says Fowler. “It’s incredible. “Our Indiana athletes can compete with anybody out there. They do great work.”
There’s a place to get better at baseball and softball in Elkhart, Ind.
Opened in June 2020 and located in an eastside industrial park at 4411 Wyland Drive, the 22,000-square foot facility at D-Bat Elkhart has been attracting families, individuals and teams to train.
Owners are Shelbi and Jason Baugh and Eric Miller. Shelby and Eric are siblings.
Kaitlyn Frost became general manager in February and is in charge of daily operations. Most days she is at the front desk.
A 2008 graduate of Lakeland High School in LaGrange, Ind., Frost played three seasons at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne before serving as an assistant coach at Westview High School in Topeka, Ind., and has been a coach and director of softball for the Michiana Lady Scrappers travel organization.
The training space, which includes batting cages and areas for pitchers and full teams, has been named Francis and Nancy Taylor Fieldhouse to honor Shelbi and Eric’s grandparents.
The Baughs experienced D-Bat locations when they lived in California.
D-Bat baseball and softball academies began in Dallas in 1998 and now has around 120 franchises in the U.S. and China with about 20 more in the works. D-Bat Elkhart franchise is the company’s old one in Indiana so far.
Frost says owners have been discussing the possibility to installing a playing field — or at least a training area — next to the D-Bat Elkhart building, which also includes a room for birthday parties and other celebrations.
D-Bat Elkhart purchased the naming rights to the new turfed baseball and softball fields at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind.
Current D-Bat Elkhart instructors are Donnie Weatherholt, Jesse Zepeda, Judah Zickafoose for baseball and Heather Erlacher for softball.
Weatherholt was an all-state player at Concord High School in Elkhart and has coached extensively at the Little League, Babe Ruth and travel levels.
Zepeda was a standout at Elkhart Central High School (he was a junior starter on the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state champions) and Bethel College (now Bethel University). He is on the Bethel coaching staff and is the founder of the Indiana Black Caps travel organization.
Zickafoose played at Westview High, Arizona Western College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Erlacher played at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and Franklin (Ind). College. She has served as pitching coach at Elkhart Central and with the Elkhart Blaze travel team.
Frost says she is looking for more instructors.
“The biggest perk for our instructors is that we make the schedules and deal with the clients,” says Frost. “They don’t have to chase the money.”
Sam Troyer, who played baseball at Northridge and at the University of Evansville, has been working part-time and training at D-Bat Elkhart before resuming his professional career with the independent Pioneer League’s Missoula (Mont.) PaddleHeads. That team also features South Bend Clay graduate and former San Francisco Giants minor leaguer Aaron Bond.
Current hours for D-Bat Elkhart is noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Frost says the facility may open at 10 a.m. weekdays when school lets out for the summer.
“What sets us apart is that we don’t require memberships (though there are nearly 300 current members),” says Frost. “We have non-member pricing.
“Memberships are good if you can come often.”
Memberships are month to month and can be suspended and resumed.
A $38-per-month Gold package includes 15 daily batting cage tokens (about 225 pitches) with discounts on camps, clinics and the pro shop for one person.
A $58-per-month Platinum membership includes unlimited daily swings and covers the whole family. There are bigger discounts for camps and clinics etc.
Non-members may purchase 15 tokens for $25.
Free 30-minute cage rental is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
As a company policy, D-Bat does not sponsors teams in youth or adult leagues or for travel ball.
“We’re open to all travel, high school, college and Little League (teams and players),” says Frost. Fast pitch and slow pitch softball players also train at D-Bat Elkhart.
Frost has been spreading the word about D-Bat Elkhart on social media and has reached out to nearby Riverview Park, where softball and youth baseball teams hold events.
To reach D-Bat Elkhart, call 574-500-DBAT (3228) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fortified with knowledge that he gained playing in Indiana and lessons learned since a Kentucky native is passing along baseball wisdom in the Commonwealth as owner/pitching coordinator at Pitching Performance Lab.
Opened in October 2019 by Chad Martin, the Lexington business has trained more than 300 players and currently works with about 200. PPL shares space and partners with Watts Performance Systems, owned by Drew Watts.
According to the WPS website: “The collaborative approach to baseball training offered by Watts Performance Systems and the Pitching Performance Lab is like nothing else available in central Kentucky. Throwing athletes who train at our facility receive training guidance that addresses their specific needs both from a skill standpoint and a movement/strength standpoint.”
Says Martin, “We’re integrating strength and skill together to make sure every athlete’s individual needs are met.”
The plan is not rigid. It is adaptable so adjustments can be made depending on the player’s needs.
One size does not fit all.
“We talk to our athletes and see what are goals are,” says Martin. “We don’t emphasize velocity alone.”
Martin and his instructors utilize motion-capture technology such as TrackMan and Rapsodo, which gives feedback on vertical and horizontal break, release angle and height, spin rate and efficiency and tilt and helps in the process of creating a separation in various pitches.
While those these things are helpful, the idea is not to get too caught up in technical jargon.
“It’s a lot of information even for me,” says Martin. “It can be something as simple as a grip adjustment or a visual cue.
“We always go simple first. Our goal is not to overcomplicate pitching. We try to stay away from really big words because it doesn’t really matter.”
Of all the players trained by PPL, 25 to 30 have been strictly position players who don’t pitch. There have been many two-way players and pitcher-onlys.
With non-pitchers, the goal is to make them a better overall thrower with their arm speed and path.
Martin is a board member and coach with Commonwealth Baseball Club travel organization and is to coach the 17U Xpress team this summer with trips planned to Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. CBC teams begin at 13U with some designated Xpress and others Grays. Depending on the level, some teams will compete in events at Prep Baseball Report events at LakePoint Sports campus in Emerson, Ga.
Travel ball is about college exposure. There are opportunities at many levels.
“We are definitely not D-I or bust,” says Martin. “We look for programs where we feel comfortable sending kids.”
Martin, 30, grew up in Lexington, where he graduated from Dunbar High School in 2008. He was recruited to Vincennes by Ted Thompson (now head coach at Tecumseh, Ind., High School) and played two seasons (2009 and 2010) for Trailblazers head coach Chris Barney and pitching coaches Scott Steinbrecher and Jeremy Yoder.
After two seasons at the junior college, 6-foot-7 right-hander Martin took the mound at IU for head coach Tracy Smith and pitching coach Ty Neal in 2011 and 2012.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for (my coaches),” says Martin. “I’m tickled to death to be able to coach and do it as my job.”
Martin made 36 mound appearances for the Hoosiers (17 starts) and went 4-8 with a 4.08 earned run average. He struck out 81 batters in 139 innings.
Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 10th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Martin relieved in 14 games with the Arizona Cubs in 2012 and played a few games with the independent Florence (Ky.) Freedom in 2013.
Martin remembers Barney’s approach.
“He was always real supportive and real,” says Martin. “He didn’t lie about how he thought we were performing. That was a good thing.
“I thought I was really good and I wasn’t. I decided to work harder.”
Martin thrived in the junior college culture.
“We had some long days in the fall,” says Martin. “Juco is synonymous for doubleheaders all the time.
“It’s a good opportunity to get reps.”
As younger coaches, Steinbrecher (who played at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.) and Yoder (who had been a graduate assistant at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.) introduced new wave concepts.
Smith (who is now head coach at Arizona State University) was a straight shooter like Barney.
“He had a real good ability to be able to kick you in the butt and pat you on the back,” says Martin. “He was able to give players the right source of motivation. He got into my rear end a bunch of times. Having expectations is something I needed — some guard rails to keep me in-check and focused.
“I really enjoyed playing for him.”
Martin appreciated Neal’s way of explaining pitching concepts.
“We’d talk about what location worked better for setting up certain pitches,” says Martin. “It was more about getting outs and not so much mechanics.”
In pro ball, Martin had to adjust from starter to reliever.
“I’d long toss like I did as a starter then sit for seven innings,” says Martin. “I got hurt my first outing.”
In the minors, Martin saw the importance of routines and taking care of the body.
But the biggest takeaway was the anxiety component. Players can care too much about what people think and implode.
“It can be extremely stressful,” says Martin. “You can be around some of the best players on Planet Earth and wonder if you belong.
“It helped from a mental standpoint.”
He passes that know-how along to his PPL and travel ball players.
“We put a big emphasis on the mental side,” says Martin. “We want them to be prepared for what they’re going to encounter during a game. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
“There are coping strategies when things go wrong so there are not as many peaks and valleys.”
Martin says younger players tend to be very emotional and there’s no shame in getting upset or embarrassed.
“You’ve just got to learn to process it and let it go,” says Martin. “It seems to help.
“Some players are better at it than others.”
When Indiana was recruiting Martin they wanted to see how he would handle hard times.
Neal (who is now coaching at Loveland High School in Ohio) attended four or five games where Martin pitched well and sent short messages afterward.
When Martin had it rough in a fall outing the conversation got a little more intense.
“They wanted to see how I would handle adversity,” says Martin. “It’s damage control.
Bringing instructors, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning experts under one roof, Pro X Athlete Development serves clients in Westfield, Ind.
Pro X (short for “Professional Experience”) celebrated its grand opening at it Grand Park facility in April 2019 after getting started in a temporary downtown location in 2017.
“We want to provide an all-inclusive training experience for our athletes,” says Joe Thatcher, former major league pitcher, co-founder and president at Pro X. “We provide sports performance so athletes can get bigger, stronger and faster. We have rehabilitation with Dr. Jamey Gordon. We have sports-specific instruction (for baseball, softball, golf and football).”
Thatcher, a Kokomo, Ind., native who worked with Gordon (who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as partner and Director of Athletic Development at Pro X) during his baseball playing career, wanted to replicate what he experienced in the majors.
“Everyday I walked into the clubhouse the coaching staff, training staff and strength staff knew what I was doing,” says Thatcher, who last pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2016.
“We take any physical limitations barrier and it leads to better success in baseball training,” says Thatcher. “One of the stigmas is that we’re an indoor baseball facility. We are about true athlete development.”
Using the latest innovations in the field, Pro X develops a plan for each athlete while working to keep them healthy.
“We make sure you’re moving the way you’re supposed to while getting bigger, faster and stronger so your body can handle more force,” says Thatcher. “You have to decelerate or you’re going to get hurt.
“That only happens if you’re training the right set of muscles to do that.”
During the winter, Pro X has 10 to 15 professional players working out at the elite facility which features 60,000 square feet in total with over 35,000 square feet of open turf space, 22 batting cages (11 full), 3,000 square-foot weight room, golf simulators and much more.
“The sports rehabilitation/training area is the heart and soul of who and what we are,” says Thatcher of the place where athlete assessments and private-pay rehab sessions are performed. There’s a full strength staff.
“We saw an opportunity,” says Thatcher of a circuit that gave a place for several players displaced by the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down summer leagues. “We threw it together in about a month. It took a lot of work to get it up and running and a lot of flexibility with state regulations and COVID-19.”
About 100 players took advantage of a play-and-train option which allowed them to play in games — usually on Mondays and Tuesdays at Grand Park with occasional games at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis or Kokomo Municipal Stadium on other days — and train at Pro X Wednesday through Friday.
“(The CSL) is centrally-located which can be an advantage for us,” says Thatcher. “We’ve had a lot of really good feedback from college coaches who had kids in our league.
“We’re already starting to work on next year.”
The league has also featured players who graduated from high school in 2020.
“They’ve got to see what (college baseball is) going to be like,” says Thatcher. “They get on the field with the same field of guys you’re going to be competing against.”
The No. 5-seeded Turf Monsters bested the No. 2 Snapping Turtles 5-4 in the inaugural CSL championship game contested Friday, July 31 at Victory Field.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
Nanny, who bats and throws lefty and plays in the outfield and at first base, goes after baseball and life the same way.
“My biggest strength is my ability to want to get better every single day,” says Nanny. “I showed up to the park everyday with a plan of how I want to attack the day. I see where I’m at and where I need to get better in order to take my game to the next level.”
Nanny says he’s always been that way.
“That’s the way my dad raised me,” says Daylan, the oldest son of Jamie and Jennifer and older brother of Skylar (12), a player for Evoshield Canes Midwest. “Be your own biggest critic and always find a way to get better so you’re never really getting complacent.”
Nanny has learned its not hard to settle.
“It’s easy to do,” says Nanny. “You see a lot of guys do it.
“The guys who can push themselves — day in and day out — and find a way to get better, even if it’s something super small, hopefully it makes a difference in the end.”
Nanny hit .394 for his high school career, including .452 with a career-high 38 hits as a senior and earned honorable mention on the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A all-state team.
Originally committed to the University of Evansville, Nanny played one junior college campaign at Arizona Western and hit .347 with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run, 34 runs batted in and 46 runs scored to go with 39 walks and a .487 on-base percentage in 57 games.
At NCAA Division I Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C., he started 50 times as a sophomore (42 in right field, seven at first base and one at designated hitter) and batted .320 with seven homers, 19 doubles, 31 RBIs, 22 walks and a .403 OBP.
Nanny played in all 15 games before the season was halted, starting 12 in the outfield and three at first base. He batted .211 (12-for-57) on the shortened season with four doubles and seven RBIs while scoring 12 runs.
“I had some uneasiness about how the spring went,” says Nanny. “I had two really good weeks and I had two really bad weeks. I really couldn’t get into a rhythm. It was good-bad-good-bad.
“I had a 1-for-14 stretch at the end that didn’t sit too well with me. I thought I had put in a lot of work to be ready for the season and it didn’t happen.”
Not that he would go back and change it.
“It helped me figure out what I really do to be successful,” says Nanny. “I learned from it. I grew from it.
“I’m a way better baseball player now because of that struggle.”
“The way the world is right now, you’ve got to be ready for anything,” says Nanny, who has two years of college eligibility remaining thanks to an extra year granted by the NCAA with a big portion of 2020 being wiped away. “I don’t want to rule anything out. It’s very different times to say the least.
“If I go back to Western Carolina, I go back to Western Carolina. If I sign (a pro contract), I sign. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m prepared for anything that comes my way.”
Nanny is one year away from a Psychology degree. What he learns in the class room — or online — he tries to apply to his daily life, including on the diamond.
“I find myself learning about the mental side of the game more,” says Nanny.
“I read it once every couple months,” says Nanny. “It’s a very interesting book that gave me a whole different perspective on how to go through the day in and day out of the baseball grind and how to mentally be able to stay at an even keel level.
“This game is hard and it’s easy to let the game get you down. The game’s going to hit you and you have to be ready for it.
“You have to control the things you can control you can control on a daily basis to give yourself the best chance for success. Once you take that swing or the ball leaves your hand, it’s out of your control. You have to be OK with that.”
Nanny notes that “Chop Wood Carry Water” is not a sports book.
“It’s more of a life book, honestly,” says Nanny. “I don’t get too into sports psychology. I try to keep it as basic as possible.
“It’s finding the simplicity within the complexity.”
Born in Indianapolis, Nanny moved from the Ben Davis to the Plainfield school district as a middle schooler. From the age of 13, he played travel baseball with the Indiana Outlaws (now known as the Evoshield Canes Midwest).
“We created because a lot of these guys had nowhere to play,” says Luke Dietz, director of operations for Bullpen Tournaments and acting commissioner for the College Summer League. “We also give them the option to play-and-train, too.”
The CSL is set up to have games turf fields on Mondays and Tuesdays (this week that meant one Monday and two Tuesday). Players can go through training at Pro X, located on the Grand Park Sports Campus, Wednesday through Friday.
Several players also work in various capacities at Grand Park.
“We were not planning on having a collegiate league,” says Dietz. “The way everything happened gave us a way to do it safety.
“We think this is going to be a good opportunity for us to do it for years to come. What’s great about us is that you play all your games here and you have a training schedule as well.”
The focus in the league is not to extend anyone too far.
“We’re directly in-contact with all of their coaches at their colleges,” says Dietz. “They’re setting their programs with us (at Pro X).
“(CSL coaches and trainers) know this guy is only supposed to throw 25 pitches this week. He’s not going to go past that.
“That sets us apart from other leagues.
Dietz says ‘The League” is focused on the needs of the athletes and that’s how the the idea of playing a few games plus training and earning money by working came about.
“Everything we do is for the players,” says Dietz. “It’s not about revenue or anything like that.
“We probably have 40 guys working for us to pay off the league. That’s an opportunity for them to see how we opportunity and put some money in their pocket.”
The CSL sports 261 players, which were gathered through them asking to be invited and by recruiting. Of that number, more than 120 come from NCAA Division I programs.
“It’s not just a league in Indiana,” says Dietz. “It’s a high level of competition college league for sure.”
Daylan Nanny, a Plainfield (Ind.) High School graduate who was a lefty-swinging junior outfielder/first baseman at Western Carolina University in the spring, is in the CSL.
“It’s cool to be back here playing,” says Nanny, who was a 14-year-old travel ball player with the Outlaws (now Evoshield Canes Midwest) in some of the early games at Grand Park and then went to work there. “I’ve spent a good amount of my time on the Grand Park complex. Bullpen Tournaments is a great place to work. They’re great people and I love it.”
Nanny appreciates the summer league’s format.
“This is a really good opportunity to get better,” says Nanny. “The middle of the week to the end of the week is to work on what you struggled with on Monday and Tuesday
“Use that time and get ready to come out the next week ready to play again. It’s a unique setting. If you do it right, you can get really good out of here.”
Some players are from junior colleges and others are incoming freshmen. One ballplayer came from Texas and is staying in a motor home with his father.
There are athletes staying with teammates who live in the area, some in an Air BnB with buddies and others in apartments.
“We sold it as a commuter league, trying to get all of our local guys,” says Dietz. “Especially with the uncertainty of when we were able to start the league because of everything go on in the world, we weren’t going to be able to do housing on such a short notice.”
Every team has at least two college coaches on its staff. One of those is Butler assistant Matt Kennedy.
“We want to get the guys back on the field, knock the rust off a little bit and get them reps,” says Kennedy. “We want to prepare them to go back to their institutions in the fall and be ready to play.”
There was a couple of weeks of “spring training” leading into CSL games. Players came out and took batting practice and fielded grounders. Pitchers threw bullpens.
Kennedy says he expects teams will play close to 36 games in eight weeks.
“In my opinion, that’s a good thing,” says Kennedy. “It’s not 70 games. It gives these guys enough time to play and develop and time to rest and get int he weight room as well.
“These guys have been done basically for three months. Easing them into it with this format is really good. Guys have plenty of time to recover.”
DeJesus and former WOWO radio personality Charly Butcher founded the Fort Wayne Cubs, which later became the Diamondbacks.
Born in Ponce, P.R., DeJesus moved to Moss Bluff, La., as a boy then Beaumont, Texas, where he was one of only two sophomores to play varsity baseball at West Brook Senior High School (catcher Jason Smith, who went on to the University of Texas-Arlington and the Colorado Rockies organization, was the other).
It was as a 10th grader that DeJesus caught the attention of University of Southwestern Louisiana assistant coach Emrick Jagneaux.
“He said, ‘once you get this thing figured out with the curveball, I’ll come back and pick you up,’” says DeJesus of Jagneaux. “He was true to his word.”
DeJesus went to USL (now known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette) and went 23-1 in three seasons (1990-92) for the Mike Boulanger-coached Ragin’ Cajuns.
The lefty was 22-0 as a starter. He came on in relief against Oregon State University and three crucial errors led to his only college setback.
In his three seasons, the Ragin’ Cajuns went 47-18, 49-20 and 38-23 and won two American South Conference titles and a Sun Belt Conference West crown.
DeJesus won 13 games for Southwest Louisiana in 1992, was an All-American, co-Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year and selected to Team Puerto Rico. An elbow injury suffered during the Olympic Trials kept him from going to the Barcelona Games, where first-time Olympic baseball qualifier Puerto Rico placed fifth.
In the summer of 1990, DeJesus played American Legion Baseball in Louisiana for McNeese State University head coach Tony Robichaux and assistant Todd Butler.
Robichaux was head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette 1995-2019 (he died after the 2019 season) and won more than 1,100 games in his 33-year career.
The Twins selected DeJesus in the 17th round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
He got into just two games in 1992 then went 9-0 at rookie-level Elizabethton, Tenn., in 1993.
“He’s one of the nicest overall men that has ever graced us with his presence,” says DeJesus of Smith. “His philosophy was very simple: Show us what you can do.”
DeJesus remembers that Smith was very mild-mannered until the morning after an Appalachian League playoff loss at Bluefield, Va., that saw the team get extra-boisterous at the hotel.
Let’s just say the Twins were chewed out before riding back to Tennessee.
Playing at Low Class-A Fort Wayne in 1994, DeJesus encountered manager Jim Dwyer and pitching coach Stew Cliburn.
It was in Fort Wayne that DeJesus, who was in the bullpen at old Memorial Stadium, witnessed the first professional home run for 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez.
DeJesus can still see the hanging slider by Shane Bowers, who had a cup of coffee with the 1997 Twins, that A-Rod popped for the Appleton Foxes.
Southpaw DeJesus was 5-2 with two saves, a 0.93 earned run average, 55 strikeouts and 13 walks in 38 2/3 innings at Fort Wayne and was at Double-A Nashville briefly before injury cut his season short.
DeJesus recalls that a Nashville TV station aired a lengthy piece about his injury. Xpress manager Phil Roof and pitching coach Rick Anderson were complimentary, saying how the lefty had the make-up to be a top-flight closer or set-up man.
“My fastball never came back after surgery,” says DeJesus.
After four games at Double-A New Britain, Conn., in 1995, DeJesus spent parts of that season and all of 1996 in independent pro ball with the Alexandria (La.) Aces and the Rio Grande Valley White Wings in Harlingen, Texas.
DeJesus was with Alexandria again in 1997 and hooked on with the Chicago Cubs system, going 3-1 in eight games in 1997 and 5-5 in 1998 — both for High Class-A Daytona, Fla.
Stan Cliburn, twin brother of Stew and Alexandria manager in 1997, fondly recalls DeJesus.
“Great competitor and a winner when he toed the pitchers mound!,” says Cliburn. “Class act.”
Ricky VanAsselberg, who is now the general manager/field manager of the Acadiana Cane Cutters summer collegiate team in Lafayette, La., was an Alexandria teammate.
“I love Javi,” says VanAsselberg. “What a great guy. Great competitor.
“Warrior on the mound.”
It was Alan Dunn, Daytona pitching coach in 1997, that DeJesus learned the 3-2-1 pitch sequencing method that he employs with his young players to this day.
“He showed me that concept and it’s made a world of difference,” says DeJesus. “It gives you the opportunity to be your own pitching coach.”
The method begins with 12 pitches to various parts of the strike zone — inside and outside — and allows the pitcher to evaluate where is more or less consistent, where he is improving or regressing and where his mechanics can be altered to effect the release point.
DeJesus, who likes to take to Twitter to debunk modern training philosophy, is not a big fan of speed for speed’s sake.
“Look at players’ heart,” says DeJesus. “That can’t be quantified. They don’t play for numbers.
“Velocity is king now. To me that’s not pitching. That’s measurables. You have to integrate velocity and command.
“If you have no clue where it’s going, what’s the purpose of training.”
When teaching his sons to hit, DeJesus has spent time listening to hitting coaches and it’s also helped him as pitching instructor.
“The more I know about hitting, the more I can help pitchers,” says DeJesus. “We can expose weaknesses.”
Puerto Rico-born Jose Santiago, a former big league pitcher and Daytona’s pitching coach in 1998, tried to get DeJesus to become a coach in the Cubs organization.
“I thought I still had some games to play,” says DeJesus. “I wanted to retire on my own terms and not someone else’s.”
“I had extra down time,” says Whisler, now 37 and the owner of Wes Whisler Academy at The Strike Zone, 15475 Endeavor Drive, Noblesville (he founded his business in 2014, buying The Strike Zone and re-branding it). “What can i do to keep my mind sharp and give back to the younger generation?
“At the end of my playing career, I was able to make a smooth transition to coaching and instructing, something I loved to do.”
There are three regular baseball instructors at the academy — Whisler, Travis Reboulet and Brent Miller (also with Pastime Tournaments).
Jim Reboulet, who helps Travis coach the Indiana Nitro 18U Gold team, has conducted infield schools.
After two years as general manager, Whisler is also in his second full year of running USAthletic Baseball Club, a travel organization he took over from long-time friend Rob Barber when the latter began focusing on The BASE Indy urban youth inititative.
USAthletic Baseball Club currently has four teams — 15U, two in 16U and 18U.
Whisler says he looks to added other levels in the future, but is building with purpose.
With the recent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, USAthletic players just got back together after about 10 weeks apart.
“Everybody is on a shortened time frame and under the gun,” says Whisler, who will see teams open their seasons June 14. “We’ve got to be ready to go. We pretty much jump into games.”
Whisler is always trying to provide another learning tool for his players and encouraging them to be students of the game.
Problem is the pandemic shut down live baseball in mid-March and Major League Baseball still has not started in 2020 season.
“If you’re going to play, one of the best ways is by watching,” says Whisler. “Wait, there’s no games on (TV).”
Plans call for USAthletic to play in games at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Victory Field in Indianapolis plus road trips to Louisville and St. Louis.
Whisler has about 125 private instruction clients at his academy — many are two-way players.
A lefty hitter and thrower, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Whisler was a first baseman/designated hitter as well as a pitcher through his college career and first two pro seasons.
“That’s all I knew my entire life,” says Whisler. “I said let’s see how it plays out. Essentially, they were getting two players for one.”
In three seasons at UCLA (2002-04), Whisler hit .304 with 34 home runs and 129 RBIs and also went 11-14 with a 5.00 earned run average, 172 strikeouts and 105 walks in 259 1/3 innings on the mound.
“The decision came down after two seasons that we’re going to make you a left-handed pitcher,” says Whisler. “That’s the way we want it.
“At the time, the system was loaded with first baseman. (As a pitcher) I could be on the upswing and move up quicker.”
Whisler made three relief appearances with the big-team White Sox in 2009 with Ozzie Guillen as manager and Don Cooper as pitching coach and remained in pro baseball through 2013. He retired having been in Triple-A in six of 10 minor league seasons.
Whisler got his organized baseball start at Skiles Test Little League in Indy’s Lawrence Township. His seventh grade year, his family, including father Mike, mother Kristie and older brother Brandy, moved to Noblesville.