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Former Hamilton Southeastern, Ohio State outfielder Gantt a second-year pro in Indians system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As Tre’ Gantt goes to the ballpark each day in his second season as a professional baseball player, he always packs his top tool.

“It’s my speed,” says Gantt, who is in the Cleveland Indians system with the Low Class-A Lake County (Ohio) Captains, where Luke Carlin is the manager and Pete Lauritson the hitting coach. “I can cover ground in the outfield. When I get on base I’m trying to wreak havoc out there.

“I’ll have the pitcher think about me rather than the hitter and leave something over the plate for him.”

After logging 37 games and hitting .197 with the Arizona League Indians in 2017, the 2018 season has seen Gantt move around. He played six games for the High Class-A Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats, 40 for the Short Season Class-A Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Scrappers, one for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers before making his first appearance in the Lake County lineup Aug. 22.

Going into the Captains’ last three games of the Midwest League schedule, Gantt had played a total of 55 games with a .188 average, one home run, two triples, five doubles, 10 runs batted in, 21 runs scored and five stolen bases.

Gantt, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder who swings and throws from the left side, was selected in the 29th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft after three seasons at Ohio State University (2015-17).

With the Buckeyes, Gantt played in 139 games (109 as a starter) and hit .294 with two homers, three triples, 22 doubles, 40 RBIs, 80 runs and 26 stolen bases.

In 2017, he made 55 starts and hit .315 with two homers, two triples, 13 doubles, 18 RBIs, 46 runs and 14 stolen bases. He was usually playing left field and batting No. 1 or 2 in the order.

With head coach Greg Beals guiding the team and promoting a spirit of “brotherhood,”, OSU won 35 games in 2015, 44 in 2016 and 22 in 2017.

“We went through a lot of ups and downs at Ohio State,” says Gantt. “My sophomore year was a pretty good year. We won the Big Ten Tournament and went out to (an NCAA) regional.

“Junior year was the opposite of that. It was a down year. We had to stick together, work hard together and feed off each other.”

Gantt has three semesters left toward a Sport Industry degree from Ohio State.

What about the adjustment to pro baseball?

“It’s an everyday thing,” says Gantt, who turned 22 in May. “You’ve got to be ready to play and give your all every single day

“With hitting, you’ve got to be on time for the fastball. That’s the biggest thing.”

Gantt played three seasons at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. (2012-14). Born in Davenport, Iowa, he moved to Missouri in second grade and then on to central Indiana in 10th grade.

At HSE, his head coach was Scott Henson.

“I got a lot of work ethic from him,” says Gantt of Henson. “He taught us about going about our business, working hard and not taking any days off — a lot of positive stuff.”

Gantt hit .411 with four homers, four triples, 13 doubles, 28 RBIs and 25 runs as a junior in 2013 as he was named honorable mention all-state, all-Hoosier Crossroads Conference and the Hamilton County Player of the Year by two outlets. He was also chosen for the Indianapolis Star Super Team.

In Gantt’s senior year with the Royals, he hit .371 with nine RBIs and 26 runs scored and was an all-region central team selection.

After moving to Hoosier State, Gantt played three summers of travel baseball with the Indiana Prospects and one with the Indiana Blue Jays.

Tre’ is the son of Kelly and Jodi Gantt of Fishers, Ind. He has an older sister named Tori (23).

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Tre’ Gantt, a Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate who played three baseball seasons at Ohio State University, is now in the Cleveland Indians system. The swift outfielder was drafted in 2017. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

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Former Lawrence Central righty Montgomery goes pro in Orioles system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

J.J. Montgomery pitched in his first professional baseball game July 11, 2018 — a one-inning stint for the Gulf Coast League Orioles.

But the 6-foot right-hander has been preparing for pro ball since his sophomore year at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis.

That was 2013 and Montgomery was primarily a center fielder for then-Bears head coach Matt Buczowski.

Having played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, South Bend, Ind., native Buczkowski saw potential in young Montgomery.

“Started teaching me what the lifestyle was like and started preparing me for it,” says Montgomery of Buczkowski, who is now head baseball coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School and regularly trades texts with his former player. “I love Coach Butch. He’s a really good friend of mine.”

Buczkowski told Montgomery he needed to put in the time and effort to reach his potential.

“You can’t let anybody out-work with you,” says Montgomery of Buczkowski’s advice.

In his junior year, right-hander Montgomery got more more opportunities and struck out 96 batters in 63 innings with a 1.63 earned run average.

Swinging a potent bat, Montgomery hit .456 with 10 home runs as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association all-stater in his senior year at LC (2015).

As a high school freshmen, Montgomery’s head coach was Dan Roman (now head coach at Brownsburg High School).

Staying loose and having fun were qualities Montgomery took from Roman.

Montgomery, who played football for four years at Lawrence Central, logged two junior college baseball seasons at Northwest Florida State College (2016-17) before landing in NCAA Division I baseball with the University of Central Florida (2018).

As a freshman at Northwest Florida, he made 16 appearances (12 in relief) and went 3-2 with two saves, two complete games and a 2.64 ERA. In 47 2/3 innings, he racked up 56 strikeouts with 10 walks.

Montgomery was selected in the 33rd round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants. He opted to stay in college and went back for his second season at Northwest Florida and pitched in 13 games (12 as a starter), going 8-2 with three complete games and a 1.87 ERA. In 82 innings, he fanned 82 and walked 20.

Raiders coach Doug Martin taught his players, including Montgomery, the meaning of work ethic and not getting to bring for one’s breeches.

“In Juco, everything is blue collar,” says Montgomery. “I was told to just stay humble and be the guy you are.”

In his one season at Central Florida, where Greg Lovelady was Knights head coach and Fort Wayne, Ind., native Justin Parker the pitching coach, Montgomery competed in 17 contests (eight as a starter) and was 6-4 with one save, one complete game and a 2.54 ERA. In 63 2/3 innings, he whiffed 74 and walked 21.

“(Lovelady) taught me about the mental game and dealing with failure,” says Montgomery. “Not everything is going to go your way. You deal with it

“You can only control what you can control. After you let go of the ball, you can’t control much unless it’s a come-backer.”

Montgomery credits Parker (who is now pitching coach at Indiana University) for helping him develop his off-speed stuff.

“I’ve always been able to throw hard,” says Montgomery. “(Parker) told me to find my grip and throw it with the same confidence as my fastball.”

Montgomery was chosen in the seventh round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles. After the one game in the GCL, he moved up to the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds of the Short Season Class-A New York-Penn League.

In his first nine games with Aberdeen (all in relief), Montgomery was 1-0 with one save and a 5.56 ERA. in 11 innings, he struck out 13 and walked eight.

Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Montgomery has touched 97 mph with both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs. He usually sits between 92 and 95 mph.

“I attack with the fastball then work in the off-speed (which includes a “circle” change-up, “spike” curveball and slider,” says Montgomery. “I have more control with the four-seam (which tends to have more revolutions than the two-seam).”

In his brief time in pro baseball, Montgomery has witnessed the difference between college and the minors beyond the raised level of talent and athleticism.

“In college, the schedule is more structured,” says Montgomery. “(In pro ball), you do what you need to get ready. It’s on you. It’s your career. It’s up to you whether you succeed or fail.”

Jarrett James Montgomery was born in Indianapolis (his parents are Alan Montgomery and Crystal Walton) and played at Oaklandon Youth Organization and Skiles Test Baseball. He played travel ball from age 13 to 17 with the Indiana Prospects then spent a summer with the Houston (Texas) Banditos.

Older brother Christian Montgomery, who also graduated from Lawrence Central, pitched in the New York Mets system from 2012-16.

After Aberdeen, where Kyle Moore is the manager and Mark Hendrickson the pitching coach, the next links in the Orioles minor league chain are Delmarva (Low-A), Frederick,(High-A), Bowie (Double-A) and Norfolk (Triple-A).

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J.J. Montgomery, a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis who pitched at Northwest Florida State College and the University of Central Florida, is now with the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds in the Baltimore Orioles organization. (Aberdeen IronBirds Photo)

Former Lebanon righty Schaller debuts in college, pro baseball in same season with Vandy, Nationals system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Reid Schaller returned to competitive pitching in 2018.

Following Tommy John surgery July 19, 2016 — the date is tattooed near the scar — the right-hander did not pick up a baseball until January 2017 and then participated in fall activities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

The injury caused the 2016 Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate to miss his freshman college season and summer ball in 2017.

The 6-foot-3 hurler finally got a chance to pitch in a game for the Commodores Feb. 20, 2018. He went on to appear in 21 games over 28 2/3 innings.

Schaller was 1-1 with one save, a 3.77 earned run average, 39 strikeouts and nine walks in helping Vanderbilt go 35-27 with the season ending in the NCAA Super Regional against Mississippi State.

The 21-year-old credits Vandy pitching coach Scott Brown for helping him come back.

“(Brown) cleaned up my arm action,” says Schaller. “And he taught me how to be a pitcher rather than a thrower.”

After his surgery, Schaller still threw from a three-quarter arm slot, but he shortened up his delivery.

“My arm was really long in high school,” says Schaller. “Now, it’s really short — more like a catcher arm action.”

Schaller is grateful to his Vandy coaches, including head coach Tim Corbin.

“The entire coaching staff is very intelligent and helped me with my prospects,” says Schaller. “They did a lot for me.

“Just being around (Corbin) matured me as a person. He’s  full of knowledge and that kind of rubbed off on me.”

Selected in the third round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Washington Nationals, Schaller headed to Florida to pitch for the Gulf Coast League Nationals.

In the GCL, he made five mound appearances (all starts) and was 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA. In 11 2/3 innings, he struck out 16 and walked three and was moved to the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays of the Short Season Class-A New York-Penn League.

The next stops on the Nationals minor league ladder are Hagerstown (Low-A), Potomac (High-A), Harrisburg (Double-A) and Syracuse (Triple-A).

Schaller has been in four games for Auburn (all starts) covering 16 2/3 innings. He is 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA, nine strikeouts and four walks.

He goes to the bump for Doubledays manager Jerad Head and pitching coach Franklin Bravo with a large pitch repertoire. He throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a slider, change-up and cutter. He added the cutter to the four-seamer and slider during the NCAA Clemson Regional. Once he got to Auburn, he began working on the two-seamer — a pitch he used in high school.

At Lebanon, Schaller played four seasons for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray and was a three-time honorable mention all-state selection and three-time all-Sagamore Athletic Conference performer. He captained the team as a junior and senior. In his sophomore year (2014), Lebanon won SAC and IHSAA Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional  championships.

As a freshman, Cosgray had Schaller splitting his time between the varsity and junior varsity teams, going down to get some more at-bats.

“(Cosgray) made me think — this is the time I can get better and bring it to the varsity team,” says Schaller. “Everything happens for a reason.

“You see how it develops through time.”

In 2013, Schaller was a teammate of future Los Angeles Angels minor league pitcher Travis Herrin.

When not pitching, Schaller was an outfielder early in his prep career and then settled at first base. He also played one season a little football for the Lebanon Tigers.

The determination that helped him back from injury has helped propel Schaller throughout his athletic career.

“I’m committed to the goals I’ve set and I’m hard-working,” says Schaller. “I’m determined to succeed on the mound.

“I have the ability to bounce back from a bad outing and be ready for my next bullpen. It’s all about being consistent.”

Born in Indianapolis, Schaller grew up near Thorntown and played Little League baseball at Dover and Thorntown.

When Reid moved with his family — father Matt, mother Heather and older brother Mason — to Lebanon when he was in the fourth grade, he played in the Lebanon Little League and then got into travel baseball, donning the colors of the Indiana Mustangs, Indiana Prospects, Evoshield Canes Midwest, Cincinnati Reds Scout Team and Midland (Ohio) Redskins before heading to Vanderbilt.

Schaller is four semesters from completing his American Studies degree and says he plans to go back at some point to complete it.

Today, Matt Schaller sells insurance, Heather Schaller is a realtor and Mason Schaller is in business. He played baseball at Lebanon and graduated from Indiana University.

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Reid Schaller, a Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Vanderbilt University, is now with the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. (Auburn Doubledays Photo)

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Reid Schaller bears down for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. He is a 2016 Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate who pitched one season (2018) for Vanderbilt University. (Rick Nelson Photo)

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Former Lebanon (Ind.) High School and Vanderbilt University pitcher Reid Schaller lets one go for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays. (Rick Nelson Photo)

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Reid Schaller, 21, is in his first professional baseball season in the Washington Nationals system. (Rick Nelson Photo)

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Reid Schaller, a Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate, makes a pitch for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. Making his way back from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander made his college debut at Vanderbilt University and in professional baseball both in 2018. (Rick Nelson Photo)

 

Stoner wants Jimtown Jimmies baseball to aim for ‘The Gold Standard’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

New Jimtown High School head baseball coach Cory Stoner wants his Jimmies to reach for “The Gold Standard” during the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re not going to settle for ‘good enough,” says Stoner, who has been with the Jimtown junior varsity the past five springs. “We want to push ourselves and get back to competing for sectional and conference championships.

“There is a goldmine of talent here. We’ve just got to mine that gold a little bit.”

Stoner, who graduated from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School in 2009 and Bethel College in Mishawaka in 2013, began teaching U.S. History (Explorers to Civil War) at Jimtown Junior High School in Elkhart, Ind., and joined the Mike Campbell-led football coaching staff (Stoner is defensive coordinator for the Jimmies) in 2013-14.

He believes in the multi-sport athlete.

“Doing other things makes them better baseball players, too,” says Stoner. “It makes them better athletes all-around.”

For athletes not in a fall sport, Stoner just held a session to help some Jimtown baseball players get better. There was even a fall athlete who came to get in some extra work.

John Huemmer was Stoner’s head coach at Mishawaka High and has made an impact on his life.

“What a great role model,” says Stoner of Huemmer. “I remember how hard he worked for me. You could tell he was working for the kids.

“He worked so hard to get me into Bethel and improve my skills and talents. I really appreciated him as a role model and a figure and, hopefully, I can do that here at Jimtown.”

At Bethel, head coach Seth Zartman displayed a contagious zeal.

“He had a passion for the game,” says Stoner, who played all over the infield and some in the outfield for the Pilots. “Playing high school and college baseball are two different things and you find out quickly if you have a passion for the game. He brought that everyday.

“I really appreciated that from him.”

Stoner will be assisted at Jimtown by former Jimmies head coach Darin Mast, Luke Smith and some others to be determined. Smith will be the pitching coach.

“I want kids who have bought in and ready to work and get better,” says Stoner. “We want to dig into the whole character aspect and build young men who will be successful outside of baseball as well.

“I’m a big believer in the little things matter — staying mentally into games. That stuff carries over into life, too. That’s what I hope to relay to these guys and imprint on their lives.”

In order for a program to be successful, athletes must accept their roles and putting the team first.

Stoner says he’s seen that attitude so far in his years with the Jimmies and expects it to continue.

“This is a special place,” says Stoner of Baugo Community Schools. “I see that in these kids. They accept their roles, understand what it is and embrace and enjoy it.

“They want to get better in their roles because it’s about the team. That’s part of The Gold Standard — what can I do get us where we want to be?”

New IHSAA rules allow coaches to work with an unlimited number of players in the off-season, but only two times a week for up to two hours at a time.

“One of the big things that I want to focus on is getting into the weight room and growing physically,” says Stoner. “There are muscles for baseball that are different for other sports.

“And pitching is huge. We want to get that arm built up. There’s a reason pitchers and catchers come in early (for spring training) in the major leagues. You’ve got to get that arm strength built up. We’ll focus on that early.”

Stoner notes that even though rules limit off-season team activities to four times a week, that doesn’t prevent players from working on their own.

“Those are the kids that have that passion and can’t get enough of it,” says Stoner.

What changes has Stoner noticed in the education field?

“It’s crazy,” says Stoner. “Technology is huge now. We’re using (Google) Chromebooks in class and researching.

“(Technology) is also huge in baseball, too. We can get the iPad out and videotape a swing, slow it down and talk about certain points. There’s definitely connections there.”

Cory and wife Richele Stoner have two sons — Luke and Sam. Sam Stoner recently had his first birthday. Luke Stoner turns 3 in September. Cory and Richele are expecting a third boy — Cole — in December.

Kirby and Barb Stoner are Cory’s parents. Kirby Stoner is retired from the Mishawaka Police Department. Barb Stoner keeps busy babysitting her grandkids. Scott Stoner, Cory’s older brother and a social studies teacher at John Young Middle School in Mishawaka, is married with a daughter.

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Cory Stoner is in his sixth year as a teacher and coach in Baugo Community Schools. After five seasons as an assistant, the graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) High School and Bethel College is now head baseball coach at Jimtown High School. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Delta, Ball State alum Nichols nearing baseball broadcast milestone with Dayton Dragons

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

An Indiana native is about to reach a baseball broadcasting milestone with an Ohio-based team in Michigan.

Tom Nichols, a Muncie native, will work his 4,000th minor league game (radio and television combined) on Wednesday, Aug. 8, if the Dayton (Ohio) Dragons of the Low Class-A Midwest League are not rained out between now and then.

All Dragons games (140 during the regular season) are broadcast on WONE 980 AM and http://www.daytondragons.com.

In his 31st season as a baseball play-by-play announcer and his 11th in Dayton, Nichols is in some rare company.

Jim Weber (Toledo Mud Hens) and Howard Kellman (Indianapolis Indians) have been at the mike for more than 40 years and have done upwards of 6,000 games apiece.

Larry Ward (Chattanooga Lookouts) has been on the call for more than 35 years.

By his calculations, Nichols trails Curt Bloom (Birmingham Barons) by a few games. He counts Bloom as his longest friendship in the business. Though Bloom is a year older than Nichols, they share the same birthday — Feb. 9. They first crossed paths in the Carolina League and then for years in the Southern League.

“I’m sure I’m in the top 10, but not sure if I’m in the top five,” says Nichols of the longest current radio voices in the minors.

Nichols, 54, was born in Muncie, Ind. At age 7, he became a fan of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine.”

Al Michaels was the Reds play-by-play from 1971-73 and young Tom only missed games when he was playing himself.

Marty Brenneman took over Michaels’ role in 1974 and is still the No. 1 man in the Reds booth. For years, he was paired with former Cincy pitcher Joe Nuxhall.

“You used to be able to your ride bike through neighborhood and listen to the game because someone would have Marty and Joe on there porch,” says Nichols. “In those days, only 10 or 15 games were televised.”

Another way to keep up with the Reds — and baseball — in the ‘70s was by subscribing to The Sporting News. The publication came in the mail each Friday and Nichols devoured the box scores and stories after getting home on the school bus.

He played baseball at Delta High School in Muncie, where he graduated in 1982.

While at Ball State University, where he got his diploma in telecommunications in 1986, Nichols called high school football, basketball and baseball for WWHC in Hartford City and one season of Ball State baseball for WERK in Muncie.

He was the news director WLBC in Muncie for almost three years after college when he got his professional baseball broadcasting break.

Getting up the nerve to call Kellman for some advice, he was presented with the opportunity to be a No. 2 voice when musician duties took away.

Nichols did that during the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

“I’m eternally grateful to Howard Kellman for giving me that opportunity,” says Nichols, who has taken the opportunity to pay it forward mentoring young broadcasters as they serve as his second during Dayton home radio broadcasts, take the whole game when Nichols is on the TV side and work extensively in media relations.

“I do that because somebody did it for me,” says Nichols. “We’ve had one every year. Many have gone on to be No. 1’s.”

Owen Serey was in Dayton in 2008 and went on to be the voice of the Midwest League’s South Bend Silver Hawks.

Jason Kempf was with Nichols and the Dragons in 2017 and 2018 and is now the No. 1 for the MWL’s Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa.

Others who assisted Nichols in Dayton and moved on to lead play-by-play roles include Mike Couzens (Fort Wayne and now with ESPN), Brendan Gulick (Delmarva and now in Cleveland area radio), Keith Raad (Staten Island) and Alex Vispoli (Winston-Salem, Frisco and then the Ivy League).

Bill Spaulding has carved his niche in the broadcasting world by calling Olympic sports for NBC.

While Nichols is with the Dayton all-year and does many things including speaking engagements and has come to thoroughly enjoy audience Q&A’s, the Dragons No. 2 position is seasonal — March-to-September.

Nichols’ first No. 1 gig was with the Kinston (N.C.) Indians of the Carolina League, where he worked for the 1990 season. Jim Thome (just inducted into the Ball Hall of Fame) led the future big leaguers on the Cleveland Indians-affiliated team. A couple others of note were Curtis Leskanic and Robert Person.

He came the Midwest League to lead airings of Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs games in 1991-92. There, he got frequently have former Harry Caray sideman Jimmy Piersall as his analyst.

“He had a tremendous knowledge of the game and was very colorful person,” says Nichols of Piersall. A Chicago Cubs farm team at the time, Nichols followed the exploits of future MLB players Brant Brown, Mike Harkey and Amaury Telemaco.

Moving over to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wizards (Minnesota Twins), Nichols surveyed action from since-razed Memorial Stadium — aka “The Castle” — and saw future big leaguers LaTroy Hawkins (who went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January), Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, Matt Lawton and A.J. Pierzysnki come through town from 1993-96.

Nichols’ career path took him south to present diamond descriptions to fans of the Mobile (Ala.) BayBears (San Diego Padres) from 1997-2004. Matt Clement, Doug Dascenzo, Brian Lawrence and Jake Peavy were among those on their way to the majors. Lawrence is now the pitching coach for the Midwest League’s South Bend Cubs.

During much of the time Nichols was in Mobile, he was also an executive director for a franchise management company — Victory Sports Group.

From 2005-07, Nichols was director of broadcasting of the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent Northern League. Jermaine Allensworth, an Anderson, Ind., product who had played in the bigs, was with Gary in 2006-07.

Nichols took his current position — Director of Media Relations & Broadcasting at Dayton Dragons Professional Baseball — prior to the 2008 campaign. Dayton’s affiliation with the Reds was one of the things that attracted him about the job.

Over the years, he has got to have former Reds sit in with him. That list features Todd Benzinger, Tommy Helms, Lee May, Ron OesterJim O’Toole and many more.

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was on the TV broadcast with Nichols this season.

“That was a thrill for me,” says Nichols, who was also pleased when he got to regularly interact with one of his boyhood idols — Ken Griffey Sr., when the former Red was Dayton’s hitting coach in 2010.

Indiana’s own Tucker Barnhart (who was with Brenneman and others for the 2018 Reds Caravan stop in Muncie) plus Zach Cozart, Didi Gregorius, Billy Hamilton and many others have been Dragons and later big leaguers during Nichols’ tenure.

When a Cincinnati player makes a rehabilitation appearance with Dayton and the Reds don’t play at the same time, flagship WLW often picks up the Dragons broadcast.

In his one game on the Reds Radio Network, Nichols worked the 2017 Reds Futures Game with color man Jeff Brantley and former Cincy broadcaster Jim Kelch.

“Put this one in the win column” is the phrase Nichols uses to cap every Dayton victory.

He says he may have subconsciously picked up descriptive phrases from all those years of listening to Reds broadcasts and recordings of them on his parent’s living room stereo.

But other than the win-capper, Nichols makes it a point not to have signal calls.

He had the belief reinforced by Ernie Harwell when they spent the day and worked side-by-side with the Hall of Fame broadcaster for the 1994 Midwest League All-Star Game in Fort Wayne.

“He told me, ‘People tune in for the game, not for you,” says Nichols of Harwell. “When you put yourself ahead of the game, you’re cheating your listeners.”

Nichols does not cheat on his homework either.

“Preparation is key,” says Nichols. “I believe in that strongly.

“That’s the most important thing. The more experience you get, the better you get at preparing.”

Nichols gathers plenty of facts and has them at the ready to use during the game. He knows that he has a three-hour broadcast to fill. On the road, that’s solo. He familiarizes himself with players and coaches and any pertinent storylines around the Dragons or the opponent.

He has at his ready a sheet full of the “last time” nuggets. Who was the last Dayton player to go 4-for-4 or hit three home runs in a game? His list tells him.

For the past two decades, Nichols has been using a ledger-sized scorebook that he devised with the help of veteran Adams, Blackford and Wells County radio man Bill Morris. It gives him room to right in facts about each player, including key statistics. For opponents, he will list things like their college and draft round.

“This way you’re not looking through a media guide,” says Nichols. “Without wasted time, you can quickly mention how many homers has if he just hit another one.

“It is time-consuming. But if you’re willing to put in the time, there will be rewards.”

The most rewarding thing to Nichols is spending time with family.

His parents — Tom Sr. and Fran Nichols — are retired and live in a country house outside Muncie during the summer months and in Marco Island, Fla., other parts of the year. He was a firefighter in Muncie and she an accountant.

Tom Jr. is the oldest of three. There’s also brother David Nichols and sister Kelli (Nichols) Dulaney.

David Nichols is a former Delta basketball player who was one year ahead of Matt Painter (now the Purdue head men’s basketball coach) and played hoops at Huntington University. He works in claims resolution in Indianapolis.

“David is the better athlete,” says Tom Jr., who was inducted into the Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame in the coaches, contributors, media, officials category in 2009. “I was very average.”

Uncle Tom is close with David’s two children — Kaylee Nichols (a volleyball player at DePauw University in Greencastle) and Matthew Nichols (a former Delta basketball player).

Kelli is employed by Delaware County 911.

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With his trusty ledger-sized scorebook in front of him, Tom Nichols broadcasts a Dayton (Ohio) Dragons baseball game. He is in his 31st season as a play-by-play man — 11th with Dayton — and is nearing his 4,000th game broadcast, most of those on radio and about 200 for Dayton on television. (Dayton Dragons Photo)

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Tom Nichols, a graduate of Delta High School and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., does a stand-up during a Dayton Dragons telecast. Nichols has been doing minor league baseball play-by-play since 1988 and has been a No. 1 voice since 1990. He started in Dayton 2008. (Dayton Dragons)

Power, positivity propel Terre Haute’s Reed in baseball career

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A.J. Reed is known for hitting the baseball very hard and for long distances.

How does the Terre Haute, Ind., native do it?

“I’m always looking for a heater,” says Reed of his approach at the plate. “I don’t want to let any fastballs in the zone go. I feel that’s the pitch I do the most damage on.

“If I can hit the fastball to left-center, I’m able to stay on the off-speed and hit it to right-center.”

Reed, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder lefty-swinging first baseman, uses his dimensions to challenge the dimensions of ballparks.

“My size plays to my advantage really well,” says Reed, who lost about 15 pounds last off-season. “For other guys it’s bat speed.

“I feel like I can get away with a little bit more missing the barrel because I’ve got more behind the ball.”

Folks are still talking about Reed’s 2017 blast at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas.

“It cleared their Jumbotron,” says Reed. “It probably would have cleared these lights (at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio).

So Reed has light-tower power?

“On that particular swing, yeah,” says Reed, who was a slugging star at Terre Haute South Vigo High School and the University of Kentucky before being selected in the second round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros.

He was in Columbus this week as a representative of the Pacific Coast League’s Fresno Grizzlies in the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game.

Reed, who swings a 34/32 Victus bat, was hitting .264 with 19 home runs, 11 doubles, three triples, 73 runs batted in and a .903 OPS (on-base plus slugging) average through games of July 12.

Reed, who turned 25 in May, led all of Minor League Baseball in home runs with 34 in both 2015 and 2017, winning the Joe Bauman Home Run Award. Bauman socked 72 for the 1954 Roswell (N.M.) Rockets.

To date, Reed has 114 circuit clouts in the minors plus three in 131 at-bats at the big league level with the Astros (his first one came July 2, 2016, off David Robertson of the Chicago White Sox). He clubbed 40 in three seasons at Kentucky (2012-14) and before that walloped 41 for Terre Haute South. He was named Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2011.

He stacked up honors at UK. In 2014, he was chosen for the Golden Spikes Award, Dick Howser Trophy and John Olerud Two-Way Player Award as well as national college player of the year by Baseball America, Perfect Game USA, ABCA, Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger. He was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year.

“We decided for my junior year that we were going to do something special,” says Reed, who credits former Kentucky hitting coach Brian Green for his offensive approach. “If I could set a good example, everybody was going to follow and that’s what happened. It was a really good year.

“I owe him a lot.”

UK went 36-26 and played in the NCAA tournament in 2014. Green is now head coach at New Mexico State University.

Reed went 26-10 on the mound at Terre Haute South Vigo and was selected in the 25th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, but opted to play as a two-way player at Kentucky, where Gary Henderson was head coach and also led the pitching staff.

“He’s one of the best pitching guys in the country,” says Reed of Henderson, who went on to be pitching coach then interim head coach at Mississippi State University. “He was a really good coach for me for three years.”

Southpaw Reed made 46 mound appearances (35 starts) for Kentucky and was 19-13 with a 2.83 earned run average, 174 strikeouts and 53 walks in 247 1/3 innings.

Two men that had a big impact on Reed’s development as he grew up in Terre Haute are South Vigo head coach Kyle Kraemer and American Legion Post 346 manager John Hayes.

“Coach Kraemer and I are still very close,” says Reed. “I started working with him well before I was in high school. I guess he saw something in me.

“He spent a lot of time with me working on my swing. That’s where it really started to pay off for me. He’s a very big part of my baseball career.”

Reed played Dixie Bee and Riley baseball then Legion ball with Post 346 and Hayes (who led that highly-successful program from 1985-2015) before turning it over to brother Tim Hayes.

“(John Hayes) is one of the most positive guys I’ve ever been around in the game of baseball,” says Reed. “He cared so much for his players.

“He’s a very influential person in my career.”

The bonds with the Hayes family were strengthened through Reed’s friendship with Jacob Hayes (son of Tim and Gail). A year ahead of A.J. in school, Jacob went on to play baseball at Indiana State University.

Darryl Robinson has been Reed’s hitting coach in three of his four seasons in pro baseball — High-A and last two years in Triple-A.##

“He’s kind of the same way as Kraemer,” says Reed of Robinson. “He’s just a very positive guy. He feeds your head with so much positive energy that you’re up there just knowing you’re going to be successful. That really works for me.”

Upbeat is the way Reed (#AJReed on Instagram) likes to approach baseball.

“I like to have fun,” says Reed. “You can’t play this game without having fun. There’s too much failure.”

Reed has observed plenty of success on his home state’s baseball scene.

“Baseball’s a big deal in Indiana,” says Reed. “They produce a lot of really good players. It’s obviously tough to compete with Florida, California and Texas where they get to play year-round outside. But we produce talent in Indiana for sure.

When Reed was at Terre Haute South, the Braves played in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.

At the time, the MIC feature both Terre Haute schools — South Vigo and North Vigo — as well as Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove, Lawrence North, Indianapolis North Central and Warren Central

“You saw a lot of good talent in those Indianapolis schools,” says Reed.

A.J. and wife Shelby Reed have been married for nearly three years and are proud owners of cockapoos Moose and Buck. The Reeds recently bought a house in Terre Haute to be close to her family. A.J.’s mother, Debbie, lives in Florida. He also has two older sisters — Leslie and Carrie.

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A.J. Reed, a former star at Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo High School and the University of Kentucky, is now playing in the Houston Astros organization. He has three home runs in 131 at-bats at the big-league level and 114 long balls in the minors since 2014. (Houston Astros Photo)

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Terre Haute’s A.J. Reed signs autographs for fans at the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. He played first base and batted No. 4 for the Pacific Coast League while representing the Fresno (Calif.) Grizzlies. (Steve Krah Photo)

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A.J. Reed, a Terre Haute, Ind., native, represented the Fresno (Calif.) Grizzlies in the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Through July 12, he had clubbed 19 home runs and knocked in 73 runs. (Fresno Grizzlies Photo)

Hall helping dial in players as mental game development coordinator at Wright State

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“Without your mind, your body’s nothing. You can have the best swing in the world. But if your mental game is not on-point — a 0 out of 10 — that swing goes to waste. Without the confidence. Without the positive self talk. Without the mental toughness, it’s hard to be able to unlock your physical potential” — Diamyn Hall, Mental Game Development Coordinator for Wright State University baseball

Through his own experiences and continued study, Hall is helping develop the mental side for not only his NCAA Division I program in Dayton, Ohio, but his many followers on social media.

Hall, a Centerville, Ohio, resident, played on the diamond at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Grambling (La.) State University and Georgia Southwestern State University and was brought on-board last summer at Wright State as a full-time mental coach — a groundbreaking move in college baseball.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” says Hall, who joined a coaching staff of “go-getters” led by Jeff Mercer (a graduate of Franklin Community High School in Indiana) and also features assistants Matt Talarico (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger graduate), Nate Metzger, Alex Sogard, director of operations Denton Sagerman, volunteer Jacob Burk and athletic trainer Brad Muse. “I’m coming on to a staff where they already believed in the mental game. It’s not a situation where I had to convince them that this is something important. They had already bought-in 100 percent.”

Halls says Mercer — and former Wright State head coach Greg Lovelady (now head coach at the University of Central Florida) — have always been advocates of the mental game.

“Hopefully, this can add a few extra wins to the column,” says Hall, an attendee at the American Baseball Coaches Association national convention, which drew more than 6,100 of all levels to Indianapolis Jan. 4-7. “Now, it’s a matter of executing this role in the best way possible.

“There’s no clear-cut way to do anything regarding the mental game. I’m individualizing for each player as best as I can with the resources that we have.

“I’m feeling my way around and figuring out how to balance efficiency and effectiveness in every situation possible,” says Hall. “It’s a matter of being able to manage the mental game with each of our guys. We don’t want them thinking too much, but we want them to have the tools to succeed.”

As soon as he was hired, Hall began building relationships with WSU players.

He meets with them one-on-one, as a team and in small groups (ie. pitchers or hitters). By using examples that players can relate to most, Hall sees the biggest potential for really driving the message home.

As the Raiders get ready to open the 2018 season Feb. 16 at Tulane University, Hall is loading the players’ tool boxes and setting their foundations. Once the season begins and the Raiders start playing games, he will be in the dugout as a quick fix.

It’s going to be more ‘observe and serve.’ If everything’s good, I’m not going to have to do too much. At the end of the day, you want to give them all of the tools so if you drop off the face of the planet, they’ll be able to use the things you’ve taught them and they’ll know what works for them and what doesn’t. I believe that Awareness Activates Ability.”

Hall counts it as extremely important, that players are competing one pitch at a time, controlling what they can control, staying in the present moment and keeping their confidence level and their teammates’ confidence as high as possible at all times.

Many baseball coaches are emphasizing the mental side and don’t realize it.

“If they talk about discipline, leadership, competing one pitch at a time and keeping your confidence high, they sound like a mental game coach,” says Hall, who says the mental game works best when it is ingrained in hitting, pitching, base-running and fielding and not looked at as a  separate entity.

To foster growth of the mental game, Hall suggests implementing as many competitions in practice as possible and making practice feel more game-like for the players.

“Now you’re bringing up the competitive nature,” says Hall. “It plays a big role in the culture, in which Coach Mercer has created.”

Hall filled up notebooks with his observations during his playing days and learned the importance of keeping the body relaxed under pressure.

“The higher the stakes, the more calm, relaxed and confident you must become,” says Hall, who wants players to get to the point where treat those moments not as high-pressure situations but as tests to see how well they have been working on the things that really matter.

Some baseball people call it “Backyard Loose.”

“You want to be in that state at all times or at least as much as possible,” says Hall. “You need to practice those things in order to be able to implement those things during the game.”

Among Hall’s mentors is Dr. Charlie Maher (Sport and Performance Psychologist for the Cleveland Indians).

Hall, who holds a bachelor’s degrees in Psychology from Grambling State and Sociology from Georgia Southwestern State and is pursuing a masters and doctorate in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, is constantly educating himself.

“I make sure I’m always learning the newest things through self-education,” says Hall. “When I’m driving, I don’t listen to music anymore. I usually listen to a podcast or an audio book. To some, music is what moves the soul. For me, constantly and serving, is what what moves my soul. It keeps me going.

“If I have a 13-hour trip to Louisiana for a speaking engagement that can be time for me to learn. I make sure I’m getting all the best information so that I’ll be able to use with our guys

“I want to be able to practice what I preach and maximize on every single moment and execute things one step at a time.”

Hall uses the analogy of a dresser. Pull all the drawers out at the same time and it tips over. Or pull out one drawer at a time; putting all of your focus and energy in that drawer, closing it, and then moving on to the next drawer.

“That’s what it means to compete one pitch at a time,” says Hall. “For me, it’s learning one thing at a time. The language is all the same, it’s just a matter of where we’re applying it.”

Hall shares his gained wisdom with more than 15,000 Twitter followers at @DiamynHall and upwards of 6,200 Instagram followers at diamynhall can be contacted through his website — DiamynPerformance.com. His girlfriend — Grambling State volleyball player Diemend Richardson — is expected to join the business soon.

“I do it for the players and coaches that want to get better,” says Hall. “It’s just kind of taken off.”

Hall began his baseball-playing career as a high school sophomore. He played at football powerhouse Kettering Archbishop Alter (the Knights won Ohio High School Athletic Association Division IV state champions in 2008 and 2009) and sustained a neck injury. Doctors found that he had congenital spinal stenosis (a narrowing of fluid in the spine) and would not clear him to play football again.

He turned to baseball.

“When I first started playing a lot of coaches told me, ‘you’re not going to be able to play at the next level,” says Hall, a 2012 graduate of Centerville High School. “‘You’re not good enough. You’re not skilled enough. It’s too late to pick this up.’

“Of course — in my mind — I believed otherwise. I worked my tail off day after day and was getting a decent amount of results. I was a 5-tool player, but I wasn’t get the results I thought I should be getting with the athletic ability that I had so I turned to the mental side of the game.

“I wanted to find an edge to be able to separate myself from everybody else — not only catch up to my peers, but pass them.”

The first mental game book Hall read was “Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time (by Tom Hanson and Ken Ravizza)” and it gave him the foundation that led to his role as a mental game coordinator.

Drs. Hanson and Ravizza, who have come out with “HeadsUp Baseball 2.0,” were clinic speakers at the ABCA convention in Indianapolis.

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Diamyn Hall (left) speaks to IndianaRBI.com’s Steve Krah at the 2018 Indiana Baseball Coaches Association convention in Indianapolis. Hall is the Mental Game Development Coordinator for Wright State University baseball.