Cunningham now in charge of Wheeler Bearcats

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

Sean Cunningham is now in charge of the baseball program at Wheeler High School in Valparaiso, Ind., after two seasons as an assistant coach.
Cunningham held a call-out meeting with the Bearcats Thursday, Sept. 1. About 20 attended with several more involved in fall sports.
It is hoped that Wheeler will field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2023.
“We have a lot of incoming freshmen,” says Cunningham. “It will depend on numbers in the spring.”
Two points of emphasis for Cunningham as he gets Wheeler ready are off-season conditioning and pitching.
“With our weight lifting and running, players got a little lackadaisical last year,” says Cunningham. “They were not pushing themselves very hard. In hotter games last year the guys dragged a little bit.
“Pitching was a weak point for us last year. We have a lot of talent on the mound. I don’t think its been utilized yet.”
To help with that, Cunningham has brought Paul Lipski in as pitching coach.
Lipski and Cunningham served together on head coach Cory Mack’s staff at Morgan Township in 2017. The Cherokees registered several earned run averages below 3.00 and went 15-12 in 2017 and 20-6 in 2018, winning an IHSAA Class 2A sectional title in the latter season.
Lipski, Mack and Wheeler graduate Alex Hutman (Class of 2021) make up Cunningham’s Bearcats staff.
Cunningham coached three seasons with Jeff Rochowiak at Michigan City (2018-20).
Jeff Enright (now athletic director at Wheeler) was head baseball coach with Cunningham as an assistant.
“I liked his whole off-field philosophy and mindset,” says Cunningham of Enright’s approach. “We work as a team. I plan to continue that same exact kind of field in the locker room and in the dugout.”
Wheeler alum Rex Stills (Class of 2021) pitched in 17 games as a Purdue Fort Wayne in 2022.
Mason Leckrone (Class of 2023) is currently weighing his college options.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period began Aug. 29 and goes through Oct. 15.
Wheeler (enrollment around 440) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, and Whiting). There are 12 GSSC games with some teams meeting twice and other once.
The Bearcats were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting. Wheeler, which calls Richard Wendt Field home, has won six sectional titles — the last in 2021.
Cunningham was born in Oak Lawn, Ill., and moved to Valparaiso at 5. He played baseball for four years at Valparaiso High School — two for Todd Coffin then two for Mickey Morandini.
“Todd Coffin was a small-ball coach,” says Cunningham. “We learned how to play small ball the right way.
“(Mickey Morandini) was a good person.”
Cunningham graduated from Purdue North Central in 2014 and began teaching elementary school in Michigan City. He is now a sixth grade math teacher at Union Township Middle School.
He has also been an instructor at Triple Crown Baseball and Softball Training Center in Valparaiso though he has not worked in a few months.
Sean and wife Kristen Eleftheri-Cunningham had their first child — Oliver Eleftheri-Cunningham — in June.

Sean Cunningham and son Oliver Eleftheri-Cunningham.

Rookie teacher/coach Hunt tabbed to lead Whiting baseball

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

Jacob Hunt was born and raised in Whiting, Ind.
The 24-year-old is now a first-year baseball coach and teacher at Whiting Junior/Senior High School.
“I wasn’t to give back to the community and keep the baseball tradition going,” says Hunt.
He was approved as head coach of the Oilers program the second week of the 2022-23 school year.
Hunt, a 2016 graduate of George Rogers Clark Junior/Senior High School in Whiting who teaches Physical Education and Health at WJSHS, has met a few players. Most are on the Oiler football team. He expects to see the rest in the winter.
Multi-sport athletes are the norm at Whiting (enrollment around 450), which is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Wheeler).
The Oilers were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Wheeler. Whiting has won four sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Hunt wants to instill a “winning culture” for Whiting baseball.
“I want to get as many kids into college as a I can and make sure everyone is a hard worker,” says Hunt. “We want no laziness and for them to get good grades.”
Hunt says he plans to put an emphasis on conditioning with plenty of running, agility work and weightlifting.
Good friend Amir Wright, who played at Ball State University in the spring and with the Frederick (Md.) Keys of the MLB Draft League this summer, has offered to help Hunt with strength and conditioning training.
Playing in a big ballpark like Oil City Stadium, Hunt wants players to be able to turn balls into the gap into triples and for outfielders to track down those balls hit by the opposition.
Speed and cunning on the base paths can also help fuel the offense.
“If we can lead the state of Indiana in steals we’ll do it,” says Hunt. “As hitters, we want to stay inside the ball. The body is all connected together.”
And another thing.
“We want to have fun,” says Hunt. “Enjoy yourself while you’re out here.”
Hunt has asked best friend Zach Bucsko and father Jamie Hunt to be his assistant coaches. Bucsko is a 2016 Clark graduate who pitched at Glen Oaks Community College (Centerville, Mich.).
Jacob’s mother is Christine Mickles. He has two older brothers — 37-year-old twins Buddy and Jesse Hunt.
Lakeshore Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Baseball/Softball League in Hammond is where Hunt played his first ball.
He played four years at Clark, first seeing some time on varsity as a sophomore. Jason Ochall was the Pioneers head coach.
Ochall’s message: “Be yourself.”
“I remember how he cared for all of us,” says Hunt. “He trusted all of us older guys.”
Hunt also played travel baseball for the Northwest Indiana Pirates in 2016 and Chicago-based Satchel Paige in 2017.
He was on the Brian Nowakowski-coached baseball team at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting through 2021. In the summer of 2019, he played for the Midwest Collegiate League’s Crestwood Panthers.
To explore his options, Hunt did a teaching internship through the University of Evansville in 2021-22.
“I wanted to get out of the area and get out of my comfort zone,” says Hunt. “I was willing to go anywhere to coach and teach in the state of Indiana.”
He wound up back home at Whiting.

Jacob Hunt (Calumet College of St. Joseph Photo)

Veteran broadcaster Kellman gets thrill by calling game on Yankees network

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

Howard Kellman has called more than 6,600 games as a play-by-play broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians.
This week, Kellman stepped away from his longtime duties and travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., to broadcast on the radio for the New York Yankees Friday, Sept. 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kellman, 70, saw Tampa Bay score a combined eight runs in the seventh and eight innings in a 9-0 victory.
Christian Bethancourt socked a two-run home run in the seventh. The Panamanian was the Indianapolis team MVP in 2021.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Kellman while waiting for his flight from Tampa back to Indianapolis. “Working with (color commentator) Suzyn Waldman and producer Jack Maldonado were terrific.
“I’ve know the Yankee people for a long time,” said Kellman, an Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer. “When there was this word that John Sterling might miss games I reached out to the Yankees and they told me to contact (general manager) Chris Oliviero at WFAN. I sent a CD of my work.”
What is the difference between broadcasting Triple-A versus Major League Baseball?
“Well, you’ve got the crowd and bigger ballparks,” said Kellman. “It was fun.
“Remember, I grew up as a Yankee fan. This was a great thrill.”
Kellman, professional speaker, award-winning sportscaster and author, hails from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Brooklyn College.
He wound up in Indianapolis, called his first Indians game in 1974 and has been the team’s voice for all but two seasons since (1975 and 1980).
It was not Kellman’s first time on the call for a New York team. He broadcast three Mets games in 2014. He filled in for three Chicago White Sox games in 1984.
As he does for every contest, Kellman was meticulous in his preparation for the Yankees vs. Rays.
“In this day and age it’s a lot easier with the Internet,” said Kellman. “You have everything available to you. I follow the Yankees close and I’m still a Yankees fan.
“I got help from the Tampa Bay people from reading things online and also talking to their broadcasters (including Neil Solondz, Dewayne Staats and Andy Freed).”
Stats worked in Oklahoma City and Freed in Pawtucket when those teams shared a league with Indianapolis.
Kellman missed two home games with the Indians while in Florida. The team has not sent a broadcaster on the road in 2022. He was expected back behind the mic tonight (Sept. 3) as the Indians play at Louisville.
Greg Rakestraw, Cheyne Reiter and Jack McMullen handled the game during Kellman’s absence.

Howard Kellman. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)

Frame takes over Huntington U. program from Hall of Famer father

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

The record shows that Thad Frame has been a baseball coach since 2009.
But the way the new Huntington (Ind.) University head coach sees it, his experience goes back much farther.
“I grew up in it,” says the 36-year-old Thad, who follows father and 38-season veteran Mike Frame. “I feel like I’ve been coaching my whole life.”
The oldest of Mike and Diane’s three children (there’s also Heath and Cora), Thad was a young boy when he began spending countless hours at the diamond or office with his father the Huntington Foresters head coach.
Frame got his first real taste of coaching in Clemson, S.C. He played for the Southern Collegiate League’s Carolina Chaos and on the urging of former Huntington and Chaos player Andrew Drummond (who holds several school records including career batting average at .408 and is tied in career runs batted in with 155) took an opportunity to coach with the team a few summers later.
“I was trying to find a new identity. It had always been just baseball,” says Frame, who took a gap year after his playing eligibility to complete Sports Management degree and seek his path. “I caught the coaching bug. Ever since it’s been my life.
“It feels like I never worked a day in my life.”
Before landing back at Huntington, Frame also spent a year at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) where Dan Simonds was head coach with Ben Bachmann (now athletic director at new Prairie High School) and Jeremy Ison as assistants and Brad Gschwind as graduate assistant.
Thad Frame was Huntington U.’s starting shortstop for four seasons (2005-08) after doing the same at Huntington North High School (2001-04). His head coaches were Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Sherman as a freshman and Chad Daugherty his last three prep seasons.
“When you’ve grown up in the coach world you see the impact a coach can have on young men (spiritually and athletically),” says Frame. “You’re absorbing that information.
“I’ve been beyond blessed to have been around some of the best in Indiana.”
Mike Frame (Huntington Class of 1983) is the member of four athletic halls of fame (Huntington U. in 2003, IHSBCA in 2009, Nettles Creek Schools/Hagerstown in 2017 and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association in 2019).
While going 920-754, his Forester teams won 17 conference regular-season or conference tournament titles and made four NAIA national tournament appearances. There were 13 NAIA All-American honors with 85 all-conference athletes and seven professional players. He has also served the school as associated director of athletics.
Mike Frame lost his right leg to COVID-19 but came back to coach.
Thad Frame counts his father, Dennis Kas and Donnie Scott as the men who have molded him most as a coach.
“My father has an old-school feel for baseball,” says Thad. “You’re going to have fun but it’s going to be intense.”
IHSBCA Hall of Famer Kas coached Frame on the Indiana Bulls travel team and as am HU assistant and Scott was the manager with Thad as an assistant on the summer collegiate Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers (2011) and Madison (Wis.) Mallards (2012).
With Brian Colopy (who is now owner of the Northern League’s Battle Creek Battle Jacks and Kalamazoo Growlers) as general manager, Frame spent two summers in Battle Creek. The 2010 team went 20-50 and finished in last place. The 2011 Scott-managed club went 43-26 and won the league championship while Frame was able to take a bigger role with recruiting.
“That was the most-important summer in my coaching experience,” says Frame. “We formed a team that was very athletic.”
In the summer of 2012, Frame followed former fielder coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds and manager for Midwest League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons Scott to Madison. He was there a short time before coming back to join his father’s staff full-time and hit the recruiting trail.
“The recruiting period in June and July is very heavy,” says Frame. “We are aggressive with our recruiting. There’s not a huge gap between NAIA and small NCAA. We go after guys on the fringe. We try to recruit some of the best guys in Indiana.
“Our style is known in (the Crossroads League). We recruit athletes. We play the game fearlessly. We try to play the game fast. We want four- and five-toolers who can bunt, run and hit the ball over the fence.”
Huntington led all NAIA program in stolen bases in 2022 with a single-season school record 134 (121 in 2021 had been the mark). The Foresters (27-23) also posted a .290 batting average, .397 on-base percentage, .491 slugging average, 65 home runs, 13 triples, 97 doubles, 175 extra-base hits, 777 total bases, 388 runs scored and 349 RBIs.
Single-season school marks were also set in home runs, triples, doubles, total bases, runs, RBIs and runs per game (7.76).
Huntington gets quite a few kick-backs from NCAA D-I. The current roster features middle infielder Langston Ginder (Ball State) and first baseman/pitcher Matt Wolff (Kentucky).
Will Coursen-Carr, Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2012 at Fort Wayne South Side High School, finished his college career at Huntington after playing at Indiana University. He is now head baseball coach at South Side.
Much of 2022’s squad is expected back in 2023.
“We’ll be able to swing it this year at an elite level,” says Frame.
There have been player-led workouts but the first official day of fall practice is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 6.
It has not yet been determined, but Frame says the team may go longer than usual now that there is infield turf at Forest Glen Park.
With Huntington University Board of Trustees member Tom Clounie (owner of Clounie Landscaping of Roanoke, Ind.) overseeing a $700,000 project, the field was also leveled and received a state-of-the-art irrigation system.
“The outfield plays very true,” says Frame, who notes there had been a steep grade one one side for the history of the field. The Foresters played on the new surface in 2022.
A major upgrade to The PLEX Fieldhouse is expected to be completed by November, according to the coach.
The 2023 season opens Feb. 10 vs. Indiana University-Purdue University in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In 2022, Huntington went to its branch campus in Peoria, Ariz., for two weeks, built relationships and played four games Jan. 20-22.
Thad Frame’s staff includes volunteer Mike Frame, pitching coach Brian Abbott (who is also the IHSBCA executive director) hitting coach Shea Beauchamp (who set school marks with 31 career home runs and is tied with Drummond with 62 single-season RBIs), fundraising coordinator Nate Perry and social media manager Andy Vaught.
Donovan Clark has accepted a position at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., but is expected to come up to help the Foresters with speed training.
Thad Frame is married to Dr. Krystle Frame.

Thad Frame. (Huntington University Image)
Mike Frame. (Huntington University Image)
Thad Frame (right). (Huntington University Photo)
Thad Frame. (Huntington University Photo)

New Columbus North head coach Bodart putting program first

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

Mike Bodart conducted a call-out meeting Wednesday, Aug. 31, after being named head baseball coach at his alma mater — Columbus (Ind.) North High School.
There were 37 players in attendance and a few more indicated that they could not be there.
There could be about 40 players to fill out varsity and junior varsity rosters in 2023.
Bodart, a 1993 North graduate who has been a Bull Dogs assistant in two different stints (1998-2000 with head coach Val Nolan and 2014-21 with head coach Ben McDaniel), talked about putting teammates first and lifelong loyalty to Columbus North baseball.
“It’s not about us; It’s about the program,” says Bodart. “We don’t want any individuals putting themselves first.
“It’s about building.”
Bodart has had a number of former players reach out to him this week.
“I’m going to work on getting the alumni re-energized,” says Bodart. “We want to honor them a little bit.”
Ways this can be done is to recognize teams that advanced in the state tournament or prominent alums.
“We want to show the kids how loyalty to the program looks,” says Bodart.
The coach also told Wednesday’s gathering about perseverance.
As a player, he did not make the varsity until he was a senior and convinced head coach Joe Preda to keep him.
“I was not necessarily the most-talented,” says Bodart. “But I gritty, smart and worked hard. I tried to put myself in places to be successful.
“(Current players) are going to get a fair chance from me because I understand. Be ready when your chance comes.”
Columbus North (enrollment around 2,300) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
The Bull Dogs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, East Central and Shelbyville. Columbus North has won 14 sectional titles — the last in 2021.
Bodart says there has been talk at North of adding lights and turf to the infield at the school’s on-campus field.
“We’ve never had lights in Columbus at either high school,” says Bodart. “If we end a conference game in a tie for darkness the visiting team has to come back.”
CERA Sports Park & Campground in Columbus is home to a youth baseball league.
Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus will field it first baseball team in 2022-23.
Bodart played two seasons at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany for Rick Parr and later graduated from IU-Bloomington and then joined Nolan’s staff.
“Part of his goal was to get me ready to be a varsity coach,” says Bodart. “Val is still a really good friend to this day.”
Bodart helped Gene Wise at Columbus East during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
McDaniel, who retired after the 2021 season, did things that impressed Bodart.
“He did a wonderful job of challenging the guys mentally and making sure they were prepared,” says Bodart. “His attention to detail was ridiculously amazing. He was meticulous during the game. It forced me to be a better coach.”
Bodart says McDaniel had a way of addressing mistakes and positives.
“We have to learn from what we did,” says Bodart. “It forced me to start working on that.”
Bodart has also coached with the Diesel Baseball Club — a Bartholomew County-based travel organization — the past three years and plans to continue.
Mike and wife Amanda have two children — North sophomore Lizzie (15) and South Side Elementary fifth grader and Diesel ballplayer Michael (11).
Bodart bought Hoosier Sporting Goods in Columbus in 2003. The business has been in town for generations.
“It keeps me involved in sports,” says Bodart. “I keep up on the trends the kids like.”
He foresees letting current seniors — who missed their freshman season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and have three head coaches in McDaniel, Patrick Antone (now head coach at Roncalli) and Bodart — will be allowed to design a set of uniforms to leave their mark on the program.
There have been no college commitments among current players. Bodart says Tyler Blythe and Luke Harmon are among those from the Class of 2023 who might choose to play at the next level.
Devin Mann (Class of 2015) is a North graduate who played at the University of Louisville and is now an infielder with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Of late, some college players from North have been the Class of 2018’s Tyler Finke (Snead State Community College in Alabama and Southeastern Louisiana State University), 2019’s Parker Maddox (University of Southern Indiana) and Jakob Meyer (University of Evansville), 2020’s Casper Clark (John A. Logan College in Illinois), 2021’s Austin Bode (Louisville and Indiana University), Reese Harmon (Iowa Western Community College) and Kyler McIntosh (Alabama State University) and 2022’s Will Baker (Snead State), Dyllan Redmon (Franklin College in Indiana) and Zach Wager (University of Tennessee at Martin).

Mike Bodart. (Columbus North High School Photo)
Mike Bodart. (Columbus North High School Photo)

Mike Bodart (left) and former Columbus North head baseball coach Ben McDaniel. (Columbus North High School Photo)

‘Little things’ important to new Monrovia coach Card

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

Chris Card plans to emphasize details as the new head baseball coach at Monrovia (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.
“We’re going to do all the little things right,” says Card, who was hired in July to guide the Bulldogs. “It’s the nuances of the game — how to field a baseball the proper way, how to lead-off — all the little things that are equivalent to the big things.
“There are a lot of people that don’t teach that anymore.”
Monrovia (enrollment around 525) is a member of the Indiana Crossroads Conference (with Beech Grove, Cascade, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis Lutheran, Indianapolis Scecina, Speedway and Triton Central).
The Bulldogs were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cascade, Covenant Christian, Park Tudor, Speedway and University. Monrovia, which won five games in 2022, is seeking its first sectional title.
Card comes to Monrovia with assistant coaching experiences at three high schools.
The 1995 graduate of Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis started on the 2005 staff of Phil Webster and spent eight seasons assisting with the varsity Hawks.
Decatur Central won an IHSAA Class 4A state championship in 2008.
Card, who played second base for the man who landed in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, describes Webster as “very hard-working.”
“It’s all the work done on the field and the countless hours he put in with the kids to get better,” says Card. “You learn dedication when you’re with him.”
Born in Indianapolis, Card lived in Decatur Township until moving to the Monrovia district in May. While in school, he played baseball at Carson Park and one summer of American Legion baseball managed by Webster.
Following his stint at Decatur Central, Card was away from high school coaching for few years then helped head Aaron Kroll at Ben Davis for one varsity season. After a few more seasons off, Card was with Kroll for one season as junior varsity coach at Roncalli.
Card has also coached the Decatur Hawks travel team.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15. Card began going through the basics and getting to know participating players Tuesday. The plan is for two hours of baseball activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the LCP with weight room sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“We want to introduce ourselves, what we are about and get on the same page,” says Card, who counts Terry McGlothlin, Anthony Eldridge and Casey Martin as varsity assistants and Cole Keeley and one as-yet-named person as junior varsity coaches.
While there are not college commitments among current players, Card says he says .472 hitter in 2022 Julian Zhou (Class of 2023) and right-handed pitcher Brayton Belcher (Class of 2024) have a shot. Belcher is a pitcher. Zhou is on track to be the school’s valedictorian and foresees a career in medicine.
Feeding Monrovia baseball are a school-sponsored seventh and eighth grade teams.
Card says he hopes to develop a relationship with Monrovia Organized Baseball & Softball.
Away from coaching, Card runs the family lawn care business.
Chris and wife Mandy Card have three daughters — Franklin (Ind.) College senior Haley (21), dental assistant Breanna (19) and first grader Kendalee (6).

Chris Card. (Monrovia High School Photo)

’22 Evansville North grad Decker adapting to life with the Dodgers

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

Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey.
Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games.
“It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way.
“As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.”
While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter.
“When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.”
Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South.
A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college.
“My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.”
Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball.
“I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games.
“I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.”
The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base.
Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities.
“I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.”
Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind.
Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12.
Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder.
“Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U.
Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla.
Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract.
Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree.
Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A.
Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance.
Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021.
Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996.
Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother.
“We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).”
Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.

Cameron Decker. (Los Angeles Dodgers Photo)
Cameron and Chad Decker from the McCutchanville days.

Cameron Decker’s first Los Angeles Dodgers organization jersey.

Cameron Decker (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Tyler Norton in Glendale, Ariz.

Smith building excitement as new Manchester Squires coach

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

Shane Smith has coached baseball for 24 years and at every level from T-ball and 18U travel with the past two years as an assistant at Wabash (Ind.) High School.
Smith can now add high school head coach to his list of diamond experiences.
Last week he was board-approved to lead the baseball program at Manchester Junior/Senior High School in North Manchester, Ind., which is about 20 miles north of Southwood Junior/Senior High School.
Oldest son Blake Smith (19) graduated from Wabash in 2022 and is now a freshman baseball player and Sport Management major at Manchester University in North Manchester.
Shane and Tiffany Smith’s younger sons Ashton (18 and a senior) and Jackson (15 and a sophomore) are still in involved in baseball at Southwood, which is also in Wabash County and conference rival to Manchester. Ashton Smith played at Wabash the past two years.
Daughter Ella Smith is a seventh grade softball player and dancer.
“Baseball has been our family thing,” says Shane Smith, who celebrates 20 years of marriage to Tiffany in October. “This is an opportunity I’ve always wanted: to run a varsity baseball program.
“I prayed about it. I talked to my family. They’ve been supportive. I don’t take it lightly and I appreciate it.”
Smith was involved with the Wabash Pride travel program for eight years, serving as president for six. He also coached for the USA Prime.
At Wabash High, he assisted Apaches head coach Jack Holley. They had met when Smith was 13 and playing for the Prep League Blue Jays coached by Holley.
“He’s an Old School baseball traditionalist and he’s got a great heart,” says Smith of Holley, who played on Wabash’s 1986 state champions and then at Valparaiso University. “He’s got a great deal of knowledge, but he puts things in perspective.
“It’s bigger than baseball. We’re dealing with people’s sons.”
During his high school years, Smith also played for Wabash American Legion Post 15 coached by Steve Furnas and Oren Wagner.
Smith is a 1999 graduate of Wabash. One of his high school coaches in his younger years was Todd Adams, a former Anderson (Ind.) University player who was in charge of strength and conditioning for the Apaches.
“He was a physical specimen,” says Smith of Adams, who is now his insurance agent. “He poured everything he had into us. We were than more than just our stats.
“He got the most out of us simply by showing he cared. He expected maximum effort and that’s who I am as a coach.”
Rick Espeset, head coach at Manchester University, coached with Smith for four years in the summer and made an impression.
“You can achieve success and all these goals but you have to stay grounded,” says Smith. “Everything we did was fun and maximum effort
He was a relationship-first guy, too.”
Ethan Espeset, Rick’s son, is a 2022 Manchester Junior/Senior High graduate.
Manchester (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko).
The Squires were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Rochester, Wabash and Whitko. Manchester has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2016. The 2002 Squires were 2A state champions.
Jack Rupley was Manchester’s head coach from 1998 until retiring at the end of the 2022 season.
“Jack was very consistent as far as leading a program and its expectations,” says Smith. “I want to add to the already-strong history.”
Smith plans to bring his unique strengths and passions to the Squires baseball program.
“I like to play fast and put pressure on the defense,” says Smith. He notes that Wabash stole 140 bases in 2022 and that’s a realistic goal at Manchester. “I like the kids to play loose and fail with confidence. I’m not looking for them to be a robot. I’m going to empower my players to steal that base.”
Smith passionate about serving others and he’s going to bring that to the Squires.
Wabash conducted a “dad’s practice” with a fathers and male role models joining the players and Smith plans to do the same at Manchester.
“We’re going to have a good time,” says Smith.
He wants to have walk-up songs and “cool gamed experience” for his players.
“I’m an Old School guy with a New School side to me,” says Smith. “I want to mix it up a little.”
In just a few days, the Manchester Squires Baseball Facebook page already had over 100 followers.
“Excitement is growing,” says Smith. “We want to do something special.”
Smith expects eight players with varsity experience to return in 2023. That includes the top four in batting average (junior Garrett Sites .389, sophomore Ethan Hendrix .365, junior Evan Martynowicz .338, junior Gavin Martin .303) and leading base stealers (Sites 11, Hendrix 10, Martynowicz 8 and Martin 7).
As a pitcher, Martynowicz went 2-2 with a 2.31 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and 13 walks over 42 1/3 innings.
Smith has already attended Manchester sporting events to meet players and parents and reached out to Manchester Recreational Association and wants to offer coach and player clinics.
“My main goal is to generate excitement in the community,” says Smith. “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I plan to support these kids and families and have a good foundation of a relationship way before the first day of practice.”
The coach plans to have a call-out meeting in the near future.
Manchester does not currently have junior high baseball. Smith says he would like to start that, perhaps through MRA.
“We want to make sure (younger players) have a sound foundation,” says Smith. “We want to make sure in T-ball they fall in love with the game. So many times we overwhelm the kids and it becomes a job.
“They have to have a great experience, continue to love it and have the confidence. Youth baseball is all about fundamentals and gaining confidence.
“If we are going to have a true feeder system, the focus has to be development and long-term success over short-term success.”
Smith works as a social worker and school safety specialist for Wabash City Schools. He is currently in the L.H. Carpenter Early Learning Center.
He is also on the Wabash County’s Child Protection Team, which is an accountability piece for the Department of Child Services.
Smith earned a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in Human Resources Management from Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Shane Smith.
The Smiths (clockwise from upper left): Shane, Ashton, Blake, Jackson, Tiffany and Ella.

“Dad’s Practice” with Blake, Shane, Ashton and Doug Smith.

Shane Smith (left) advises a Wabash High hitter.

Walther lends his experience to Pro X Athlete Development, College Summer League

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

Mark Walther helps run a business dedicated to the improvement of those who move and compete, particularly those in baseball, softball, football and golf.
He is the Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development, which is at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.
“I wear a lot of hats here,” says Walther, a former collegiate and professional pitcher. “There isn’t much that I don’t do here.”
Walther, 33, started as a lead instructor and taught velocity programs for pitchers and position players and gave pitching lessons.
As Director of Operations, he is charged with everything from scheduling cages and turf time to making sure machines are in order to the cleanliness of the facility.
He makes sure financials and daily reporting lines up with what’s coming into Pro X.
After coaching at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis, Walther worked briefly for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park and still helps with that company while also serving as the commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which had its third season in 2022.
The CSL came about out of players needing a place to compete and train (at Pro X) with many leagues being shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of athletes had spring seasons that were cut short or didn’t start at all.
“We had a lot of time on our hands,” says Walther. “Both of our businesses were shut down about the time (Indiana) opened up (from the lockdown) is when we were able to open up the league.”
Walther says he was one of six people who created the CSL and other people were brought in to make it a reality.
“To start up a league like that you want high-profile players,” says Walther. “It’s tough to get high-profile players if they’ve never heard of your league before.
“Right way we wanted to be able to compete with the Northwoods, the Prospect and the Coastal Plain. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to compete with the Cape, but we wanted to be up there.”
Walther says getting the amount of players and talent that the CSL did (in 2020) is the whole reason it still exists.
“We just want to make sure that the product we’re putting out there is good for college players as a whole,” says Walther. “It’s good for their development in games and while they’re training (at Pro X) and getting better.
“We want to meet every ask of a college coach. If they have a redshirt and they need them ready for sophomore year when they return to school then we can get them 30, 40, 50 innings. If they want them to throw 20 innings and two innings a week in relief, we’ll follow that, too.
“That’s really what’s set the College Summer League apart.”
Over the past two years, Walther’s commissioner responsibilities have included finding and getting commitments from coaches, recruiting and placing players and taking care of everything from payments to jersey sizes to host families. He coordinates gameday operations and hires sports information interns for the eight-team league.
Those positions are posted in November and December with interviews coming in January and February.
Walther grew up on a farm on the west side of Kankakee, Ill., and is a 2007 graduate of Herscher (Ill.) High School, where his head coach was Eric Regez.
His junior year, Walther was the last one to make cuts for the Tigers varsity and helped his team as a right-handed reliever. As a senior, he was a starter.
“I played the underdog throughout my entire college career,” says Walther, who worked hard to grow his knowledge base while improving his athletic skill set.
“I was a P.O. (Pitcher Only) before P.O. was even a thing. I think I had seven career varsity at-bats.
“I just kept working at it.”
Mark is the son of Eugene and Beth Walther and is about six years younger than brother Todd Walther.
Eugene Walther died of brain cancer when Mark was 18.
“Going into college that pushed me forward,” says Walther. “It always gave me something to work for: Trying to make him proud.”
Walther showed up at walk-on tryouts at Parkland.
“I wasn’t a preferred walk-on or anything,” says Walther. “I found a way to earn a spot.”
The Cobras coaching staff changed Walther’s arm slot from overhand to sidearm/submarine.
“That gave me a whole new life in college baseball,” says Walther, who was frequently used as a freshman and was on scholarship as a sophomore. The latter team won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship.
After two years at Parkland playing for Mitch Rosenthal and Matt Kennedy, Walther transferred to NCAA Division II University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He came out of the bullpen for Tracy Archuleta’s Screaming Eagles (which won an NCAA Division II national crown in 2010).
“I tried to just extend the game and get us to the next guy,” says Walther. “My job was to get us out of jams. There’s not better feeling in the world than coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out and you’re trying to get a ground ball. I lived for those moments.
“Being out there when the adrenaline’s pumping, I’ve yet to find anything to match it.”
After pitching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Todd Walther wound up on the baseball operations side with the Texas Rangers.
Mark used the connection to his advantage.
“I was able to bounce ideas off of him when thing weren’t going my way in bullpens or games,” says Walther.
He got to see video of major league pitchers like Cody Bradford, Darren O’Day and Pat Neshek and could study their mechanics, grips and release points.
Walther was on a path to become a Physical Education teacher and high school coach when a curriculum change at USI that would have taken him longer to get his degree caused him to change his major to Sport Management.
“I started learning more about facility management and running a sports business,” says Walther, who took classes on sports marketing and sports law — things that help him in his position at Pro X.
But Walther did pursue coaching out of college.
He was an assistant at Parkland for a year and helped Kennedy with outfielders, operations and recruiting.
He started what turned out to be a four-year stint at the UIndy as a volunteer learning from Greyhounds pitching coach Jordan Tiegs and serving for head coaches Gary Vaught and Al Ready.
When Tiegs left for Indiana State University, Walther took became pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
Tiegs is now Drector of Pitching Research and Development for the Rangers — Todd Walther’s former job
“I loved college baseball,” says Mark Walther. “I loved coaching it.
“I really loved the recruiting aspect of college. (Players) need to come to us because we’re going to do a better job of developing them as a player.
“I’m very appreciate of Coach Vaught and Coach Ready for everything they did for me.”
Walther then went into tech recruiting for three months and decided he wanted to get back into baseball.
Pro X has just launched into the travel world with its Phoenix softball teams.
While travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Indiana Prospects, partner with Pro X, there is currently no plans to field travel baseball teams under the Pro X banner.
“Travel baseball really wasn’t a thing when I grew up,” says Walther. “I played community baseball until I was 16 years old. Shortly after that it began to grow a little more.”
His first experience came when the Indiana Bulls and others brought teams to play fall exhibition games his first year at Parkland.
Walther notes that he was lucky enough to be on a winning team from age 10 on. But that was not the case in his early community baseball days.
“I got put on a terrible team,” says Walther. “I had to find a way to try to help the team win and to help players develop themselves and rely on our coaches to do the same.
“Depending on where your talent is you can be put on an elite team and rarely ever have to deal with failure, losing or any kind of adversity and learn to overcome that.
“Being on winning teams is also a positive because you learn what it takes to win. Whether you’re on the field or not you can find ways to help the team win.”
Walther says travel ball is all about finding the right fit for you as a player.
“You want to go where you have a chance to play or have a chance to compete for playing time,” says Walther. “You should never shy away from competing and trying to beat someone out to earn playing time.
“In the game of baseball you’re going to have guys on the bench no matter what. It’s what type of bench guys you have. Do you have guys who are going to work and push themselves and the people that are technically in front of them? Or are they going to just roll over and complain until they move on or join another team?”
Players should make sure the team will be doing what they want to do. Will it be mostly local tournaments are really hitting the road? Is the coaching staff going to help develop them as a player?
Among the things coming up at Pro X are “Hard 90” classes with about 30 minutes each of hitting, defense and speed and agility.
In September, the pitching academy and elite training academy for offense and defense cranks up.
Pro X — with its staff of instructors including Jay Lehr, trainers and medical professionals and former big leaguer Joe Thatcher as president — is also an off-season place to train for professionals, including major leaguers Tucker Barnhart, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon and minor leaguers Parker Dunshee and Collin Ledbetter.
Rodon came to Pro X while doing rehab from Tommy John surgery.
“He learned a lot about the body and how it moves and how to become efficient on the mound and use his lower half to try to stay as healthy as possible,” says Walther. “We just do whatever we can to service them whether that’s completely help them with their program or stay out of their way and let them use the weight room.”

Mark Walther, Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development and commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, both in Westfield, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

Scott in second stint guiding Anderson Prep Academy Jets baseball

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

Corey Scott — who is in his second stint as head baseball coach at Anderson (Ind.) Preparatory Academy — says the Jets are looking to establish a culture of success.
“We’re still a relatively-new school,” says Scott, noting that APA opened as a middle school in 2008, grew into a K-12 school and had its first year of IHSAA tournament eligibility in 2015-16. “We want to get to when we can be competitive on a game-to-game basis.”
Scott was an assistant coach when the Jets were still in a probationary period in 2015 and were not eligible to participate in sectional play after posting an 11-10 record.
“We were pretty solid,” says Scott of that ’15 team.
The 2022 team included 14 players with just one senior and two juniors. APA went 0-15. Scott moved up from assistant to head coach three weeks into the season.
Scott is entering his 10th year at Anderson Prep, where he is also the head boys basketball coach.
“We were extremely young last year,” says Scott, whose Jets went 1-21 on the hardwood.
Anderson Prep (enrollment around 250) is part of the 10-member Pioneer Conference (with Bethesda Christian, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor, Seton Catholic and University playing baseball and International not having a program).
The Jets hosted an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. APA has not yet won a sectional championship.
APA plays home games at Memorial Field — less than a mile from campus on 29th Street. The Jets conduct most practices on the school’s practice football field. They worked out once each at Memorial Field and at Liberty Christian — about a mile away on Columbus Avenue — then hosted an IHSAA Class 1A Sectional at Memorial Field in 2022.
Anderson High School just built two new on-campus diamonds. Scott is hopeful that will mean more access to Memorial Field.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15, but many players will be busy with soccer.
Scott says he hopes an assistant coach — as yet unconfirmed — can lead baseball players through workouts this winter while he is occupied with basketball.
Scott is a 1995 graduate of Daleville (Ind.) High School, where he played hoops for Broncos head coach Everett Gates and on the diamond for Mike Reese and was later his assistant for five years while Daleville won its first two baseball sectional titles (1999 and 2000).
After high school, Scott played basketball for two years at Glen Oaks Community College (Centerville, Mich.) then transferred to Anderson (Ind.) University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and began coaching — first as a volunteer — and then as a paid assistant for basketball and baseball.
Scott is an elementary Physical Education and middle School Health teacher for APA.
Corey and wife Erin Scott have two sons — Jack (19) and Ben (17). Jack Scott played soccer, basketball and baseball at Anderson Prep. After finishing U.S. Army basic training, he will start his sophomore year at Ball State University. Ben Scott is an APA senior who plays basketball and baseball.

Corey Scott.