Illinois junior colleges tap into Indiana baseball talent

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Illinois junior college baseball has long been a destination for Indiana players.
Many have used the two-year institutions to springboard into a four-year school or the professional ranks.
Our neighbors to the west sport 41 National Junior College Athletic Association programs in Division I, II and III (Regions 4 or 24).
There is a difference between divisions.
NJCAA Divisions I and II can offer up to 24 athletic scholarships. Division III schools do not. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-I teams include Frontier Community College (Fairfield), John A. Logan College (Carterville), Kakaskia College (Centralia), Kishwaukee College (Malta), Lake Land College (Mattoon), Lincoln Trail College (Robinson), Olive-Harvey College (Chicago), Olney Central College (Olney), Rend Lake College (Ina), Shawnee CC (Ullin), South Suburban College (South Holland), Southeastern Illinois College (Harrisburg), Southwestern Illinois College (Swansea), Triton College (River Grove) and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel).
Wabash Valley went 59-9 and qualified for the 2022 NJCAA D-I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Wabash Valley coach Aaron Biddle, who is in his eighth season with the Warriors and first as head coach in 2023. “We’ve had some very good Indiana kids over the years. We’re just right across the border form Princeton, Ind. Getting into Evansville and going up to Indianapolis are great recruiting sources for us.
“Our conference is real competitive.”
John A. Logan, Kakaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois and Wabash Valley is in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
WVC plays mostly D-I schools with a few D-II’s sprinkled in.
“The more D-I opponents you have on your schedule the better it is for your (RPI) rankings,” says Biddle.
What does “JUCO Bandit” means to Biddle, who started his college playing career at former NJCAA D-III St. Catharine in Kentucky and finished at NCAA D-II Kentucky Wesleyan.
“Maybe he’s not be getting the offers he wants at (NCAA) D-I or a big school and he’s going to bet on himself and he’s going to go the JUCO route, grind for two years and get better everyday and definitely get that offer he’s not getting right now,” says Biddle. “We get to spend a lot of time with our guys. We get to be with them almost every single day. There’s not a lot of restrictions on how much practice time we have.
“The big things is that in the fall, we get to play 14 dates. We get to play every weekend. Guys are getting all those extra innings and they’re getting to compete. That’s a big thing for us.
“In baseball you’ve got to play to get better.”
Biddle says the funnest aspect of his job is seeing players land at their dream school.
South Suburban posted a 42-19 record in 2022.
Kevin Bowers has been head coach at Lincoln Trail since the 2010 season. That was the sophomore season of Justin Hancock (who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now an Indiana State University assistant).
Bowers was on the LTC staff since 2001 and was an assistant to then-Statesmen head coach Mitch Hannahs (who is now head coach at Indiana State).
Bowers coached at ISU for the 2000 season. Lincoln Trail is about 10 miles from the Indiana line and 40 miles from ISU.
“The talent level is just off the chart,” says Bowers. “I’m certainly not knocking the state of Illinois. We’ve had a great deal of success with kids out of Indiana.”
Bowers has a take on “JUCO Bandit.”
“We develop an ‘ask no quarter, take no quarter’ mentality,” says Bowers. “We don’t want for a lot. We don’t need a lot. But we try to get a lot done.
“’Bandit has that negative connotation to it. When you go to junior college your mindset is that you’re foregoing the 100,000-seat football stadium. There’s not a lot of nightlife. Campus activities are geared around the athletics. You develop a worker’s mentality.
“There’s not a lot of thrills, but the talent at this level is crazy good.”
Bowers said there was a time when junior college baseball was battling the perception that their players had got booted from another school or could not make grades.
“Our guys are getting it done in the classroom and they’re getting it done on the field,” says Bowers, whose program earned a 2021-22 American Baseball Coaches Association Team Excellence Award for posting a grade-point average of 3.0 or above. “It’s a situation where academically you’re not going to lose ground.”
Illinois’ NJCAA D-II squads are Black Hawk-Moline College (Moline), Carl Sandburg College (Galesburg), Danville Area CC (Danville), Elgin CC (Elgin), Heartland CC (Normal), Highland College (Freeport), Illinois Central College (East Peoria), Illinois Valley CC (Oglesby), John Wood CC (Quincy), Kankakee CC (Kankakee), College of Lake County (Grayslake), Lewis & Clark CC (Godfrey), Lincoln Land CC (Springfield), McHenry County College (Crystal Lake), Moraine Valley CC (Palos Heights), Morton College (Cicero), Parkland College (Champaign), Prairie State College (Chicago Heights), Sauk Valley CC (Dixon) and Spoon River College (Canton).
Heartland (49-10) played in the 2022 NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Okla.
The Mid-West Athletic Conference features Heartland, Danville Area, Illinois Central, John Wood, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Land, Parkland and Spoon River plus Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Also in 2022, Kankakee went 43-17, McHenry 40-18, Black Hawk-Moline 35-20, Lake County 32-20 and Morton 32-20.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-III features College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn), Harper College (Palatine), Joliet Junior College (Joliet), Oakton CC (Skokie), Rock Valley College (Rockport) and Waubonsee CC (Sugar Grove).
The Arrowhead Conference is made up of Black Hawk-Moline, Carl Sandburg, Highland, Illinois Valley, Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley.
Oakton (34-28-1) competed in the 2022 NJCAA D-III World Series in Greenville, Tenn.
Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference includes Lake County, Elgin, McHenry County, Moraine Valley, Morton, Oakton, Prairie State and Waubonsee.
Since 1993, Triton is a two-time D-I World Series runner-up (1993 and 1994).
D-II World Series titles were earned by Kishwaukee (1999), Lincoln Land (2000), Parkland (2002 and 2009) and Kankakee (2017). Parkland was also a runner-up in 2018.
Joliet earned D-III World Series championships in 1994, 2008 and 2012 and placed second in 1995 and 2015. Oakton reigned in D-III in 2018 and Waubonsee was runner-up in 1996.

Rosselli sees Terre Haute Rex as community asset

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010.
Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start.
A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex.
He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital.
“I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity.
“I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.”
The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation.
In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team.
General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group.
Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players.
He sees the Rex as an asset to the community.
In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game.
“They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time?
“It’s entertainment.”
The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people.
Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
“We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary.
“We’re putting on this big show.”
Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority.
“We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.”
Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute.
“Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli.
Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community.
“They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay.
“We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.”
The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler).
Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers.
Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1.
“They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names.
“It’s a friend for life.”
Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony.
Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player.
There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark.
“We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli.
The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games.
“I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other.
“There’s two teams here.”
The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer.
“It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli.
Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball.
Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU.
Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.”
Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years.
In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs.
“I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors.
“Lowering the operational costs would help us all.”
The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31.
Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies.
For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium.
Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first.
Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces.
“It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres.
“I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.”
In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex.
In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.

Bruce Rosselli.

LaPlaca champion for sports vision training

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dr. Joe LaPlaca — founder of Ares Elite Sports Vision and Ares Sports Vision Academy — has long had a goal.
Graduated from Illinois College of Optometry in 2009, LaPlaca started his sports vision optometry practice in 2018.
“I noticed there’s a gap in the market for vision and how it relates to every sport,” says LaPlaca. “In optometry schools and athletics we’re missing it.
“There’s a big opportunity there and something I always wanted to do.
“Eighty percent of how we experience the world is through our eyes. How do we make this better?”
A lifelong athlete, LaPlaca has been involved in soccer, baseball, hockey, wrestling, tennis, football and martial arts and more.
“Sports has always been a passion of mine and understanding the nuances of the games and understanding how vision relates to all those sports,” says LaPlaca. “I take this very seriously. It’s primarily for research. I know what impact this can have on an athlete.
“This could be the thing that gets a kid a college scholarship or not. This is the thing that could take a Triple-A baseball player up to the major leagues.
“If we can clean things up and I can get them bought-in and processing — and I know I can — it’s huge for a lot of people.”
“I want to make the biggest impact I can on the sports world.”
LaPlaca’s practice is located inside Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind.
LaPlaca sees vision and cognitive training working together.
“How do we take all the information we’re getting from the vision side and how does our brain make decisions?,” says LaPlaca. “How does it orient in space?”
LaPlaca says athletes encounter visual discrimination.
In baseball, batters must learn to recognize pitches based on factors like rotation, release point and speed.
“The ones that excel at that are the ones who are able to make the decision once they’ve seen the actual pitch and process that information,” says LaPlaca. “It’s called choice reaction time. Do I swing or do I not swing? If we can break it down to simple steps of ‘do I go’ or ‘do I not go’ that’s what — hitters especially — are concerned the most about.
“That’s the holy grail that everybody is chasing right now. How to I train at that piece and how do I know I’m getting better at that thing?”
In LaPlaca’s practice, he makes it a point to track all the analytics.
“Through training we can equivocally say you’re getting faster in your choice reaction time,” says LaPlaca. “It should improve your batting average, your strikeout percentage (and more). Those are the things coaches are (seeking).”
LaPlaca says it is progressions that he puts athletes through that makes the difference.
“A lot of people train with their tablet or their phone,” says LaPlaca. “We do a lot more free space. We’re connecting the visual stimuli to an action for your right hand or your left hand or a closed fist or an open fist. There’s eye-hand coordination drills.
“All these things are custom for that specific athlete based on specific areas of weakness.”
Currently, the youngest Ares client is 9 and the oldest is 64.
“There’s no age limit to it,” says LaPlaca. “13 is probably the best. They’ll start going through puberty. They’ll have growth spurts. We can stay on top of how their eyes and brains connect to their body (as they grow).
“On the other side they come out and are a lot stronger than kids who weren’t doing vision training.”
LaPlaca doesn’t see an end point for this training and that those wishing to be a NCAA Division I athlete or professional will continue this training for a long time.
Currently, LaPlaca is working with the baseball programs at Purdue University and the University of Maryland and has worked with Butler University in the past. He has also visited with a Major League Baseball organization.
LaPlaca estimates that few of the collegians or pros he works with had heard of vision training and more than a third had never had an eye exam.
“That seems to be the more glaring thing,” says LaPlaca. “They think that just a vision screening is good enough. When in the world are they just standing and looking at one specific spot?
“They’re using their visual and neurocognitive systems way more frequently than they even understand.”
Typically, athletes are evaluated and ranked against their teammates and against other athletes of similar caliber.
LaPlaca can identify those with serious visual issues and refer them to a local vision therapist.
Ares Elite Sports Vision is on Facebook and Instagram.
LaPlaca has been a frequent podcast guest.
Here are links to some of those episodes:

Dr. Joe LaPlaca.
Dr. Joe LaPlaca.

Griffin oversees transition as Purdue Northwest baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dave Griffin is heading into his 10th season of coaching college baseball in northwest Indiana in 2023.
After six seasons in charge at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond (the Warriors won an IHSAA Class 2A state title in 2004 and were 2A state runner-up in 2006), Griffin established the Purdue Calumet program and coached the Peregrines for three seasons (2014-16).
Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central merged to form Purdue Northwest and Griffin has led the Pride since the 2017 season.
The first alumni game was played in October 2022.
“Overall it’s gone pretty well,” says Griffin of the merger. “The big challenge was you had a couple of coaching staffs and a lot of players you had to mold into one.
“Taking the program to (NCAA) Division II was another challenge.”
The 2018 campaign marked PNW’s first in D-II after starting out as an NAIA member. The Pride are part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“If you’re an established program it won’t take as long, but we hadn’t been that long so it took a little time,” says Griffin of the level change. “It’s been a journey to say the least.”
The 2017 team went 30-18. PNW posted a 18-25 mark in 2018, 21-24 in 2019, 4-5 in 2020 (a season shortened by COVID-19), 11-22 in 2021 and 21-23 in 2022.
For 31 years, the coach has operated Dave Griffin Baseball School. The past 25 years it has been located in Griffith. The organization will field 11 travel ball squads — the Indiana Playmakers — in 2023. Griffin coaches the 17U/18U squad, which helps him with recruiting.
“I get to go out and see kids play,” says Griffin. “That’s always been a good formula for me.”
Griffin says when it comes to recruiting, there’s more to it than the numbers hyped on social media.
“When you say velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good pitcher,” says Griffin. “When you say exit velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good hitter. At some point you’ve got to be able to play.
“It think they tried the same thing in football at the (NFL) Combine. If he ran real well or lifted real well they drafted him high. A lot of times those didn’t work out too well.
“Nobody cares about how they perform. What are their metrics? Don’t get me wrong. Metrics are good, but you’ve got to be able to perform. The challenge we all encounter is finding kids that have metrics that match the ability on the field.”
Griffin notes that even professional scouts often get player evaluations wrong.
“You try to do your homework on a kid as much as you can. We’re talking about scholarship kids,” says Griffin. “On walk-on kids you might take a flier. He might not be fully-mature physically. He might be a late bloomer. Those kids come along, too.”
More 1,500 DGB alums have gone on to college baseball and over 70 have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including Sean Manaea, Kody Hoese, Ryan Basham and Nick Podkul. Chad Patrick pitched for PNW and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
“I’ve put a lot of time into both jobs,” says Griffin. “I wake up early and I come home late.
“It’s fun. I like watching the development of players.”
Because of the talent in The Region and the low cost of education at the school where most student takes classes on the Hammond campus (there is a Westville site), PNW gets some bounce-backs from other institutions.
“Kids see that we are starting to build a solid program here,” says Griffin. “It checks a lot of boxes for them.”
The bulk of the current roster comes from Indiana and Illinois. There are players from Michigan, California, Iowa and Texas.
D-II teams are allowed to give up to nine scholarships. PNW is short of that number.
“We’re working our way up,” says Griffin, who currently has 47 players on his roster. Of that number, 35 will be on the travel squad.
As well as overseeing the whole team, Griffin works primarily with hitters and defense.
Hobart (Ind.) High School graduate and former University of South Carolina hurler Brandon Murray is the pitching coach. Former PNW player Anthony Agne is in charge of infielders and former Robert Morris University (Lansing, Ill.) assistant Adam Pasko outfielders.
PNW plays its home games at Laborers’ Local 41 Field in Hammond’s Dowling Park.
“I like the turf and the ambiance of it, being in a neighborhood,” says Griffin. “It’s a good place to play. The sight lines are tremendous.”

Dave Griffin. (Purdue Northwest Photo)

IHSBCA Hall of Fame inductee Johnston was in professional baseball for six decades

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Lenny “Lefty” Johnston was part of the professional baseball for six decades.
Born in Pontiac, Mich. on March 15, 1928, and graduated as a football, basketball and baseball standout from Arthur Hill High School (Saginaw, Mich.) and football and baseball star at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), Johnston was signed by the Chicago White Sox by Johnny Mostil and Doug Minor in 1952.
Johnston stole 325 bases and led his league in stolen bags for six consecutive seasons (1953-58).
He was The Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Western League in 1953.
In 1956 — his second of 12 Triple-A seasons — Johnston led the International League with 182 hits for the Richmond Virginians.
The last seven of his 15 minor league campaigns as a player was spent with the Indianapolis Indians (1960-66). The Indians won championships in 1961 (American Association), 1962 (American Association) and 1963 (International League South). Johnston was a player-coach in his last two seasons.
At 35, hit .316 and finished second in batting in 1964. He smacked four home run and drove in 67 runs in 127 games.
A lefty swinging and throwing outfielder, Johnston hit .304 in 76 games with the 1960 Indianapolis team managed by Johnny Hutchings and Ted Beard. The Indians were then a Philadelphia Phillies farm team.
He hit .297 in 113 games for the Cot Deal-managed 1961 Indians (then a Cincinnati Reds affiliate).
In 1962, Indianapolis was part of the Chicago White Sox system and the ties remained through Johnston’s career in Indy. He hit .270 with 45 runs batted in over 113 games for a ’62 team managed by Luke Appling (who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964).
Rollie Hemsley skippered the 1963 Indians and Johnston hit .262 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 115 games.
Les Moss managed the 1964 Indians to a second place finish in the Pacific Coast League East.
Johnston hit .206 in 81 games for the 1965 Indians (fourth in the PCL East). George Noga was the manager.
Moss was back as manager in 1966. Johnston hit .251 in 94 games and the Tribe placed third in the PCL East.
Among his other managers are Hobart, Ind., native Everett Robinson plus Don Gutteridge, Danny Murtaugh, Eddie Lopat and Rube Walker.
Johnston will be enshrined in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IHSBCA State Clinic Jan. 12-14 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame and awards banquet is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton. Other inductees will be Kelby Weybright, Drew Storen, Jeff Samardzija and the late Wayne Johnson.
For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899.
Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
“Lefty” Johnston married for the second time in Indianapolis and had two sons — David and Danny (who is now caregiver for his 93-year-old father in Nashville, Tenn.).
Johnston had three children from a previous marriage in Michigan and had three older children — Tommy, Janie and Kim. In total, he has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
According to Danny Johnston, his father “loves Florida and loved coaching there.
“He also loved Bluefield, Va., where he spent part of three decades with the Bluefield Orioles coaching, mentoring and coordinating.”
As a national cross-checker scout “Lefty” was responsible for Tito Landrum coming to the Orioles.
Landrum hit the homer that gave Baltimore the lead in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS and the O’s eventually made it to the World Series. 
“He was proud to have been a part of that,” says Danny Johnston.
He resided in Indianapolis for 50 years during the winters and helped sell season tickets for the Indians and was a substitute teacher and sold insurance for Lincoln National Life.
Johnston has been inducted into both Western Michigan’s Football Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2010, “Lefty” received the Herb Armstrong Award for his contributions to baseball and the organization, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Johnston went into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame in 2020.

Lenny “Lefty” Johnston. (Baltimore Orioles Photo)

Rubasky returns to Indiana with Trine Thunder

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tyler Rubasky, who hails from Pennsylvania, has returned to Indiana to coach college baseball.
Rubasky, a 2012 graduate of Hazleton (Pa.) Area High School, played at catcher for Cougars head coach Gino Cara.
“He made a huge impact on me,” says Rubasky. “I went home for Christmas break. My first stop was to see my dad (Brian Rubasky) at his office. My second stop was to see Coach Cara in his office.”
“He was there with constant encouragement and trying to do right by me and the team,” says Rubasky of Cara, who was a standout baseball player at Lafayette University. “He encouraged me to keep pursuing the dream and keep chasing the game.”
At NCAA Division III Waynesburg (Pa.) University, Rubasky played for Yellow Jackets head coach Mike Humiston, worked with pitching coach Perry Cunningham (who is now head coach) and also was an assistant coach.
“Coach Hum gave me a shot,” says Rubasky. “I’m not a huge guy for a catcher. I was always overlooked for my size. He saw something in me.
“Perry and I have an awesome relationship. He went to Davis & Elkins (as a student/athlete). That was kind of a cool full circle moment.”
Rubasky started college on a different path.
“I was going to be a teacher and then I found the Athletic Training (major),” says Rubasky. “That wasn’t what I found passion in.
“I can still teach through coaching and can still be around baseball which I love.
“I guess I’m pretty fortunate.”
Rubasky, who earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science, Wellness and Physiology at Waynesburg (2016) and a Masters of Science degree in Coaching and Sport Education at West Virginia University (2018), was charge of catchers and outfielders and assisted with hitters at D-III Franklin (Ind.) College for Grizzlies head coach Lance Marshall.
During the 2019 season and through August 2020, Rubasky led catchers, outfielders and hitters at D-II Davis & Elkins (W.Va.) College in 2021 and 2022. The Senators head coach was Tim Miller.
In late August 2022, Rubasky was hired as an assistant at D-III Trine University in Angola, Ind. Greg Perschke is entering his 22nd season as Thunder head coach in 2023.
“I really like Indiana,” says Rubasky. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be a full-time assistant which is rare at our level. Across baseball sometimes it’s rare.
“Coach Marshall is very close to my heart. Coach Perschke has been there long enough that he must have something going on and Trine is a great place to be — from an overall university standpoint with their academics and the athletics being a priority.”
Rubasky oversees hitters and catchers at Trine while sharing in recruiting duties with Perschke.
“Recruiting is a huge piece at any college level, especially at our level,” says Rubasky. “We’re going to do our part for that.”
Rubasky has also coached at the youth baseball level. He was head coach for 14U Pony League World Series host team, Indiana Elite 16U and Pittsburgh Outlaws 14U.
The Transfer Portal continues to play a major part in college sports, but it’s not quite as prevalent at the D-III level where there are no athletic scholarships.
Players do transfer to places like Trine for reasons such as a major or masters degree or getting closer to home. Occasionally, there might be a bounce-back from NCAA D-I or D-II.
Rubasky says the basic different between D-III and D-II is contact/development time between players and coaches.
He says D-II players and coaches can work together eight hours a week from the first day of school in the fall until just before finals in the spring.
D-III teams are allowed four weeks of practice in the fall. Players are then given a set of recommendations to work until the period leading up to the season opener. For Trine in 2023 that is Feb. 25 at Anderson (Ind.) University.

Tyler Rubasky. (Trine University Image)

Floyd Central alum Lozado now coaching at UT Martin

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Alex Lozado is making the transition from college baseball player to coach.
Lozado was a right-handed pitcher at the University of South Florida after serving as a pitcher and infielder at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla.
In 2021, he made five mound appearances for USF and posted a 3.18 earned run average and 1.06 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 5 2/3 innings.
The Billy Mohl-coached USF Bulls won the American Athletic Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
One thing that stands out about Mohl is the way he cared. When Lozado and his roommates experienced a gas leak at their apartment, the coach was quick to help.
“He would always tell us that if we got in any trouble — no matter what time it is — to make sure he is our first call,” says Lozado. “I gave him a call at 2 a.m. He said, ‘I’m going to set up the guest bed rooms for you guys. Come on over and stay at my place.’
“Mol is a great coach, but even a better person.”
Lozado, whose playing career was ended by an elbow injury, graduated from South Florida in 2022 with a degree in Communications.
At Gulf Coast State, Lozado played in 66 games (63 starts) in 2019 and 2020 and hit .268 with two home runs, 28 runs batted in and 28 runs scored. He also made 18 trips to the mound (nine starts) and went 5-2 with four saves, a 3.77 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 11 walks in 62 innings. During the COVID-19-shorted 2020 season, he was 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 42 strikeouts and five walks in 41 1/3 innings. He hurled the first four innings of a combined no-hitter against Faulkner.
“I was a big-time change-up guy,” says Lozado. “I got the point with my elbow where I couldn’t bend my slider as well.
“Change-up was definitely my pitch.”
The Mike Kandler-coached Commodores went 44-28 during Lozado’s two-year stint.
“I loved Kandler,” says Lozado. “He pushed you real hard, but at the end of the day he’s going to let you know that he loves and cares about you and is going to do anything for your best interests.”
Lozado is glad he went the JUCO route.
“Graduating from high school at 17 my dad though junior college was probably the best option for me and it was,” says Lozado. “I saw a lot of progress not only from high school to college and from my freshman to sophomore year but grew as a person and a player.”
Alex (22) is the oldest of Willie and Karen Lozado’s two children. Floyd Central, graduate Mia Lozado (19) is a junior at the University of Louisville.
Willie Lozado, who comes from a Puerto Rican family, was born in the Bronx and went to high school in Brooklyn. The third baseman/shortstop was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1977, did not sign and was then selected by the Milwaukee Brewers out of Miami Dade College in 1978.
He met Karen while playing for Triple-A Louisville. Willie played 43 games for Milwaukee in 1984. His only MLB home run — a three-run shot — came on Sept. 11 against Boston’s Steve Crawford at Fenway Park.
Willie later coached at Floyd Central.
Born in Louisville, Alex grew up in Sellersburg, Ind. The family moved up the hill to Georgetown, Ind., his junior year at Floyd Central.
A former Kentucky Baseball Club travel ball player and 2018 graduate of Floyd Central High School (Floyds Knobs, Ind.), Lozado earned three letters and earned all-area, all-Hoosier Hills Conference and Pitcher of the Year honors (he posted a 1.30 ERA as a junior and 1.80 as a senior) while playing for Highlanders head coach Casey LaDuke.
“He has a fire to win that is almost unmatched,” says Lozado of LaDuke.
Lozado arrived at the University of Tennessee at Martin in August as a volunteer assistant coach for the NCAA Division I Skyhawks.
The connection was made through a relationship between USF pitching coach Karsten Whitson and UT Martin hitting coach Pat Cottrell.
Working on a staff led by Ryan Jenkins, Lozado works with outfielders and does a myriad of things, including hitting fungos and pitching batting practice.
Lozado is working at the Play’n Sports vendor booth at the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention which runs Jan. 5-8 in Nashville.

Alex Lozado. (University of Tennessee at Martin Photo)

Watson putting premium on running as new Providence head coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tre’ Watson played for one state championship baseball team at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., and was an assistant coach for another.
Now he’s the interim head coach for the Pioneers. His promotion was announced in late October 2022.
Watson, who turned 25 in September, helped guide players through the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period and is doing so again this winter. There has been individual skills work, including hitting and defense.
“We’re pushing baserunning,” says Watson. “That’s going to be pretty big for us.
“We have a lot of speed and a lot of smart baserunners.”
The idea is to force the opposing defense into mistakes and capitalize on them.
“That was not our M.O. when I was playing,” says Watson, noting that Providence went 27-3 his final prep season with all three losses being by one run. “We had really good pitching and offensively were good at situational hitting.”
Watson was a key member of the 2016 IHSAA Class 2A state championship squad as a senior. He drew two walks and made two putouts while playing first base and third base in the state championship game and was presented with the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award.
After an injury-plagued stint at Vincennes (Ind.) University, Watson (who has had four knee operations and one hip surgery) moved closer to home, enrolled at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and joined Scott Hornung’s Providence baseball staff for the 2018 season.
Watson worked toward the Business Administration degree he earned in 2021.
Longtime assistant Scott Hutchins took over the Providence program after the 2019 season. The Pioneers won another 2A state crown in 2021.
Eli Watson — younger brother of Tre’ — was a senior in 2021 and also was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. Eli is now a redshirt freshman outfielder at Western Kentucky University.
Providence (enrollment around 350) went 18-11 in 2022 and is an athletic independent.
The Pioneers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Paoli. Providence has won 20 sectional titles — the last two in 2021 and 2022.
Home games are contested on Pioneer Field with its turf infield and Bermuda grass outfield. The synthetic surface makes rainouts a rarity.
Among the eight seniors on the 2023 team are three college commits — middle infielder Grant Borden (Mercer University), right-handed pitcher/third baseman Cody Jackson (Anderson University) and right-hander Grant Seebold (Oakland City University). Sophomore outfielder Cole Huett, who swings and throws lefty, is verbally committed to the University of Virginia. Grant Borden is the brother of Houston Astros minor leaguer Tim Borden II.
Other impact players include seniors Nathan Julius (outfielder), Casey Kaelin (middle infielder) and Brantley Whitlock (first baseman/third baseman) and juniors Jack Beyl (outfielder/right-hander), Luke Kruer (outfielder/right-hander) and Brian Wall (second baseman).
Watson, who expects to have 25 or 26 players for varsity and junior varsity squads, counts Jay Lorenz, Jared Clemons, Brian Jackson, Scott Hornung and Reece Davis among his assistant coaches.
Lorenz squeezed home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning in the 2016 state title game.
Hornung is Watson’s father-in-law. Tre’ married Jacquie Hornung (Providence Class of 2016 and a former volleyball player at Bellarmine University in Louisville) in 2021. The couple resides in New Albany.
Tre’ Watson was born in Louisville to Charles II (aka Chuck) and Denna Watson and was raised in Jeffersonville, Ind. He was part of successful all-star teams at Jeff/GRC Little League.
Outside of coaching, Watson is business manager of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in New Albany.

Brothers Eli Watson (left) and Tre’ Watson celebrate Providence’s IHSAA Class 2A baseball state championship in 2021.
Jacquie Hornung (left) and Tre’ Watson celebrate Providence’s IHSAA Class 2A baseball state championship in 2021. The two were married shortly after this game. Tre’ and Jacquie Watson reside in New Albany, Ind.

The Miracle League of Westfield to call Roundtripper Academy home

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Roundtripper Academy in Westfield, Ind., is celebrating three decades in the baseball and softball training business in 2023 by launching an effort to help youths and young adults with mental or physical challenges to enjoy the diamond as participants.
The Miracle League of Westfield powered by Roundtripper plans to bring all-inclusive baseball and softball fields by converting space on its grounds.
Miracle League teams play on a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assertive devices while helping to prevent injuries.
A group of parents whose children have trained at the facility approached Roundtripper Academy owners Chris and Sue Estep with a request.
“They have special needs kids that love baseball and are always there cheering on their brothers and sisters,” says Sue Estep. “We decided to make this happen. There’s a definite need in Hamilton County. We did the research and it’s definitely something we can do.
“Baseball is what we do 14 hours a day, seven days a week, 365. Why not provide those opportunities to have a league (that’s inclusive to all athletes)?
“We have so many amazing families that have come to us over the years and participated in teams and activities at our academy that it provides an opportunity for volunteers. That is a big part of these leagues to facilitate the games.”
The Hoffmans are one such family that will benefit from The Miracle League of Westfield and the stewardship of the Esteps and Roundtripper.
Adam (who trained with Chris Estep and earned a baseball letter at Butler University in 1997) and Jenna Hoffman’s son Lincoln Hoffman (14) plays for the Roundtripped-based Indiana Mustangs and is an eighth grader at Westfield Middle School.
His sister Londyn Hoffman (7) was born with an undiagnosed medical condition. A gene change has caused developmental delay. A “Riley Kid” (Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis), Londyn just beat cancer for the second time.
Baseball runs deep in the family.
“We’ve always got backyard baseball going in the summer,” says Jenna Hoffman.
Adam and Jenna were both raised in Minnesota and moved to Westfield 13 years ago. Her father — Michael Cummins — played in the Minnesota Twins system.
“She has used a walker or assistive device to get around her whole life,” says Jenna. “It is her happy place watching her brother play baseball.
“She lights up. She loves to hold the bat. She loves when big brother helps her run the bases and cheers her on. But that’s as close as she’s gotten to any organized sport.”
Hoffman says there is a need for volunteers at games, including a public address announcer and “dugout moms.”
“Every player will have a buddy that we refer to as Angels In the Outfield,” says Jenna. “They are there to make sure that child that is participating in The Miracle League has the best day of their life while they’re on the field.
“Every player who gets up to bat hits a home run. We need energetic voices on gameday.”
There are other Miracle League operations in central Indiana, but this would be the first one serving Hamilton County.
“Our current goal to get the seed money to get the league started is to raise $700,000,” says Sue Estep. “Our ultimate goal is to continue to provide funding for this league so no child will have to pay to play in the league.
“We’ll be able to maintain and do things long-term.”
There are currently three fields at Roundtripper Academy (which opened its doors in 1993) — youth baseball/softball, middle school baseball and high school baseball. A local engineer is working on the site plan to fit in The Miracle League of Westfield field — which are smaller in size — as part of a multi-use area.
“We’re going to turf our smallest field,” says Chris Estep, who notes that the surface will be short nap in the field to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers etc., with longer turf in the outfield.
Miracle League fields tend to have fences 115 to 125 feet from home plate with bases 50 feet part and the mound 33 feet from the plate.
He was on-board right away when approached about getting involved with Miracle League.
“It is one of the coolest projects that we will ever be a part of,” says Chris Estep. “There’s nothing like helping kids. You get to see them smiling, playing and interacting.
“I think it’s going to be something really, really awesome. I’m excited to get started on it. All the way around it is a feel-good project.”
Chris Estep is also head baseball coach at University High School in Carmel, Ind.
Sue Estep notes that the Miracle League of Westfield will also serve young adults that have aged out of school systems.
“(We can) keep them engaged in the community, have social interaction and opportunities to make connections,” says Sue Estep.
“We’re at the beginnings of this and we’ll take the league as far as it needs to go,” says Estep. “If we raise the funds and there is a need for additional, we will.”
The goal is to get the league up and running in the summer of 2023 — even if its a condensed version.
The Miracle League of Westfield will follow rules set up by The Miracle League (national organization).
Rally For A Cause is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6 at Roundtripper Academy, 16708 Southpark Dr., Westfield. There will be inflatables, food trucks, face painting, a balloon artist at music by Tommy Baldwin from 3 to 6 p.m. (free admission, donations welcome).
An adult party follows. The Country Summer Band plays from 7 to 9:30 p.m., with headlinder Jai Baker 3 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. There will be food and drink trucks (cost is $50 per person). Roundtripper’s Foundation — The Youth Sports Development Group — is hosting the event.
To purchase tickets, please visit www.roundtripper.com.
To learn more about The Miracle League of Westfield, visit www.miracleleagueofwestfield.com. There is an interest page for those who may have a child or young adult that wishes to participate.

Gries cherishes memories of coaching at Evansville Central, Tri-State Hot Stove League

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Paul Gries has been a very active member of the Evansville, Ind., athletic community.
The Pocket City native taught for 34 years in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation — 10 at Plaza Park (K-8) and the rest at Central High School. His main subjects were Physical Education and Health.
Whatever the season, Gries was organizing and coaching youngsters in flag football, softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and more.
In 1978, he accepted an invitation to join John Wessel’s Central boys basketball coaching staff.
In 1980, he was asked to be a Bears baseball assistant.
“We hardly had a program at all,” says Gries, who took over as head coach in 1981 and began working in earnest on Central’s field.
“If you want to call it a field,” says Gries. “It was nothing. But I had dreams of what I wanted the baseball field to look like.”
With the help of players, coaches and parents, a diamond which was named in honor of Gries in 2016 (Paul Gries Field was dedicated in 2017 a few days after Gries underwent heart surgery) was steadily-crafted.
Gries, 79, was head baseball coach at Central for 21 seasons (1981-2001) before retiring at 58 and going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
His teams went 408-196 and earned the first seven sectional titles in program history (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997 and 1998) plus the first two regional championships (1981 and 1987) and only semistate crown (1987). Central lost 4-1 to the LaPorte’s mythical national champions in the ’87 state championship game at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.
Gries coached in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 1987 and was named National Coach of the Year in 2000.
“I had some good players (including 1985 graduate and future big league pitcher Andy Benes) and tied to get the most out of every player,” says Gries. “I was spending 14-hour days at Central High School. I was putting every ounce into it.
“It just wore me out.”
It was in 1987 that Gries was approached by longtime professional baseball man and Evansville resident “Singing” Ed Nottle, who had a daughter who was taught by Gries.
Nottle wanted to help Gries and other coaches raise money for their programs.
“We had car washes, candy sales and whatever you can image, but we were making making peanuts until Ed came along,” says Gries, who gathered all the high school and college coaches in town at the EVSC office and what came from planning sessions was the Friends of Bosse Field “Night of Memories.”
What began as a group of former baseball professionals who wanted to ensure that the history of Bosse Field would not be forgotten while fundraising turned into the Tri-State Hot Stove League. Gries served with that organization for 31 years, including stints as vice president and president, and is still involved.
One of the first “Night of Memories” guests was National Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Gries flew to New Jersey to bring Yogi to town.
Over the years, Evansville native and Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Don Mattingly aka “Donnie Baseball” was at the first special night and has only missed it on a few occasions.
Gries coached Taylor Mattingly (Don’s oldest son) at Central. When Don was playing for the New York Yankees, he would get in the batting cage take swings after winter workouts by the Bears.
“He’d say, ‘Paul, give me some situations.’ I’d, ‘man on third, tie game, one out in the eighth or ninth inning’ and Mattingly just hit those fly balls,” says Griese. “It was unbelievable how Mattingly prepared himself.”
The next Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in the Carson Center at the University of Evansville. A paid autograph session is slated from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time followed by a chat and live/silent auction at 6.
Featured guests include Don Mattingly, Jamey Carroll, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Barrett, Colson Montgomery, Elijah Dunham, Cameron Decker, Wayne Hagin, Denny McLain, Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles.
“He’s unbelievable,” says Gries of emcee Hagin, who has been a play-by-play man for the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. “People love listening to the stories.”
Among past guests: Mattingly, Carroll, Eickhoff, Barrett, Hagin, Gabby Allison, Rick Ankiel, Clint Barmes, Andy Benes, Yogi Berra, Raymond Berry, Lou Brock, Don Buse, Steve Carlton, Jack Clark, Roger Clemens, Danny Cox, Andre Dawson, Jim Edmonds, George Foster, Kyle Freeland, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Mark Grace, Bob Griese, Kevin Hardy, Keith Hernandez, Whitey Herzog, Paul Hornung, Al Hrabosky, Andruw Jones, Tommy John, Jim Kiick, Harmon Killebrew, Lily King, Ray Lankford, Tony LaRussa, Johnny Latner, Larry Little, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Plump, Ozzie Smith, Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Scott Rolen, Enos Slaughter, Frank Robinson, Andy Van Slyke, Lee Smith and Brad Wilkerson.
“They come from all over when they know Don Mattingly is here,” says Gries. “They can get close to him. People in New York can’t do that.”
College/Pro Football Hall of Famer Griese (Rex Mundi High School Class of 1963 and Purdue University Class of 1967) has been to many “Night of Memories.”
“We do this for the kids,” says Gries, who notes that the a non-profit group has raised close to $2 million for youth athletics and youth-focused organizations in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in three decades.
Gries says the event at its peak netted up to $90,000 in one day.
Some of the money has been given to Habitat for Humanity. Gries says Mattingly, Bob Griese, Brian Griese (Bob’s son who now coaches with the San Francisco 49ers), Calbert Cheaney (a 1989 Evansville Harrison High School graduate who played at Indiana University, the National Basketball Association and now coaches with the Indiana Pacers) and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan (who played at Evansville College and the NBA and was a longtime NBA coach) all
gave large sums to sponsor homes.
A 1961 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School, Gries’ prep baseball coach was Len Will (an Indiana Football Hall of Famer).
“He was the gentlest man that I know,” says Gries. “That was the example he shared with us (athletes).”
On the basketball court, Gries eclipsed the 40-point mark three times including a single-game record of 44. That was long before the 3-point arc was put in place. Mater Dei was led on the hardwood by Ed Schultheis in Gries’ freshman and sophomore years and Tom Gore in his junior and senior seasons.
Gries went to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) for basketball and baseball during an era when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity.
The injury bug kept biting him on the hardwood. He suffered torn cartilage working out early in his freshman year then experienced ankle and groin ailments as a sophomore and decided not to stick with the Duane Klueh-coached Sycamores.
On the diamond, Gries earned three letters (1963-65, helping the Sycamores go a combined 37-24-2) playing for Paul Wolf (who wound up as a member of both the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and ISU Athletics Hall of Fame).
One of his fond memories is playing catch with future IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tommy John and having John feed the pitching machine for him during preseason workouts before the 1961 Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School valedictorian reported to spring training.
Gries paced Indiana State in batting average, hits and runs as a junior in 1964 (.357, 25 and 20 ) and senior in 1965 (.413, 26 and 13). He hit .439 in conference games and was Indiana Collegiate Conference co-MVP with Ball State’s Merv Rettenmund (who went on to play 13 in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and California Angels and coached for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres twice, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers).
“The great thing about Paul Wolf is that he was old school,” says Gries.
Wolf was a minor league middle infielder 1926-33, including time with the Indianapolis Indians in 1930-31. He was able to pass on wisdom to Gries, who was a switch-hitting shortstop at Indiana State and moved to second base in his second of two pro seasons in the Washington Senators organization (1965-66).
“Pee Wee” (he was 5-foot-9 and 157pounds) spent much of the 1965 Appalachian League season on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after a collision at home plate.
It was during the Vietnam War era and Gries left baseball to joined the U.S. Army Reserves and got married for the first time.
“I got to see the difference between high school and college and college and pro,” says Gries. “What a big step it is.”
Divorced in 1989, Gries was single for 14 years and has been married to Mary, a fellow Catholic who moved to Evansville from Auburn, Ind., for 19 years.
Gries has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“They are the joy of my life,” says Gries. “I’m going to spend as much time with my kids as I can.”

Paul Gries.
Paul Gries at the Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories.”