Roth, Roy now leading Grace Lancers on, off the baseball diamond

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Grace College baseball wants workers.

“Having the discipline to do the work is what gets you to the ability,” says Ryan Roth, co-head coach of the Winona Lake, Ind.-based Lancers. “Work ethic is a form of discipline.

“I think it’s necessary. It’s a non-negotiable.”

Roth, who has as been on the Grace coaching staff for a year, and co-head coach Tom Roy, who was Lancers head coach 1980-83 and has served a few seasons as chaplain and a short stint as pitching coach, are leading  young men on and off the diamond.

“You’ve got to have guys at this level who want to work hard and get better,” says Roy, who is helping the NAIA-affiliated school prepare to compete in the Crossroads League. “You have to be able to grind. You have to be disciplined and do the fundamentals properly. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

Fall practice was spent on fundamentals and learning offensive philosophy and swing mechanics and continues as the team returned from winter break this week.

Roy and Roth’s relationship goes back to when Roth played at Huntington University.

“He’s a very good coach,” says Roy of Roth. “I’m no worried about that at all. Coach Roth is really good with pitching and these kids are really improving already.

“We’ve known each other for 13 years. We’re pretty excited about it. We’ll love on the kids. That’s our philosophy.”

The Lancers went 9-18 in the Crossroads in 2018, but swept a doubleheader at eventual conference tournament champion Marian and took a game against regular-season champion Indiana Wesleyan.

“Anybody can win on any given day,” says Roth. “If you give yourself a chance mentally and prepare to win, it doesn’t matter (what the standings say).

“You’ve got to respect your opponents. Make sure you handle your business on game day.”

With 10 teams in the Crossroads, Grace will play nine series. Eight of those will be on the weekend with a 9-inning single game on Friday and a doubleheader with 7- and 9-inning games Saturday. the other series will be held on Tuesdays with a 9-inning single game one week with 7- and 9-inning contests the next. This year, the Lancers host Indiana Wesleyan April 9 and 16 at Miller Field.

The season opener is scheduled for Feb. 27 at Western Michigan University. Grace opens the league season March 8 against Bethel in Vero Beach, Fla.

“We are men for Christ,” says Roth. “We have the utmost respect for all the coaches in the league.

“We are honored for the opportunity to be a part of it.”

The 2019 roster includes junior pitcher David Anderson, sophomore infielder Houston Haney and senior pitcher Logan Swartzentruber. Pitcher Anderson and infielder Haney were honorable mention all-Crossroads selections in 2018 while pitcher Swartzentruber was on the academic all-league list.

Other commitments mean Roy won’t be with the team full-time until March 1. The two men have divided up responsibilities.

Roth said is handling all administrative work and leading efforts in recruiting and establishing the program’s culture.

“Our primary focus is that we grow Godly men,” says Roy, the founder of Unlimited Potential, Inc. and author of six books, including Shepherd Coach: Unlocking the Destiny of You and Your Players. “We know we can coach. We’re very confident in our abilities.”

The coaching staff also features Justin Love, Ryan Moore and Devin Skelton.

Love played at Northridge High School and Ball State University and has almost 20 years of coaching experience. He handles outfield instruction and helps with base running. Love and Roth have both coached at nearby Warsaw High School.

Moore, who is from Kokomo, Ind., played at Indiana Wesleyan where he was an NAIA Gold Glove catcher. He works with Grace receivers.

Skelton is a graduate assistant from Forsyth, Ga., who played at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. He handles infielders and helps with recruiting.

With their connections, Roth and Roy have a large network from which to recruit.

“We want to recruit regionally and locally if we can, but we’re not opposed to going coast to coast,” says Roth. “First and foremost, we’re looking for character.”

The 2019 recruiting class has a number of players from northern Indiana and a few from Ohio.

Grace coaches are looking for players who are good teammates, hard workers and those who have a relationship with the Lord.

“We’d like to get a Christian athlete, but they need to be able to play, too,” says Roy. “We’re looking at measurables (like 60-yard dash time etc.) — all the things you do as a pro scout.”

Roth talks with high school and travel coaches and seeks players willing to do the extra things on the field and in the weight room.

“We know if he’s doing it there, he’ll do it here,” says Roth. “The big thing is work ethic. That kind of thing is innate. We look for that in guys.”

To allow more opportunities to grow as baseball players and as men, Grace has added a junior varsity program. Those games will be played in the fall.

Roth played for head coach Jack Rupley at Manchester High School in North Manchester, Ind., where he graduated in 2003.

He was part of the Squires’ IHSAA Class 2A state champions in 2002 and also played football.

Ryan followed in the footsteps of older brother Marc Roth and playing for head coach Mike Frame at Huntington U.

Coach Rupley made fundamental baseball a priority.

“He taught the basics of running bases, bunt defense and situational hitting,” says Roth. “We also believed in treating everybody fairly and letting everybody be the best version of themselves.

“You knew he was going to care about you and value you no matter what happened on the field.”

Playing for Mike Frame (who Roy recruited to Huntington in his time as a coach there) and with Mike’s son, Thad Frame (a current Foresters assistant), Roth received many lessons.

“I learned a lot about how to be a disciplined player,” says Roth. “I learned a lot about the game. My I.Q. increased a ton.”

He also found out how to accept challenges and develop resilience as an athlete.

“Playing for (Frame), you just have to push yourself to get better,” says Roth. “I have a ton of respect for him.”

Roth served in the U.S. Navy 2010-13.

Citing family and personal reasons, Cam Screeton stepped down as Grace head coach in December 2018.

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Tom Roy (left) and Ryan Roth are co-head baseball coaches at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

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Haley talks about importance of developing winners, offensive strategy

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Mark Haley worked for decades on the development side of professional baseball.

He was a minor league coach or manager in the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations. His job was to get players ready for the next level. If they continued to develop, they had a chance to land in the major leagues.

He was a manager at Low Class-A South Bend (Ind.) and took the Silver Hawks to the postseason in seven of his 10 seasons (2005-14).

Haley, who now runs the 1st Source Banking Performance Center at Four Winds Field and coaches the South Bend Cubs travel teams, rejects the idea that winning has to be sacrificed for development.

“I’m a firm believer after all my years, I want to develop winners,” said Haley during the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club session Tuesday, Jan. 8. “In the minors, it’s hard because everybody moves. But now, you’re finding that development is great. But develop winners, too.

“They work together.”

What is winning to Haley?

“It’s being able to execute,” said Haley. “It’s being able to get bunts down. That’s going to lead to the ultimate goal of the team because you’re winning at the plate. You’re getting your walks. You’re putting the ball in-play hard.

“We don’t read launch angles. We want bat speed with solid contact.”

Bottom line: Develop winners.

“If you’re in a tournament and you’re in the championship, I’m sorry guys, but the blood’s coming out,” said Haley. “I want to win any way I can. That’s just the way I am.

“It’s fun because we go into another mode. They see that and say, ‘I kind of like this.’”

That leads to the players paying more attention to their skills, maybe taking more cuts or ground balls in practice. They’re understand what it means to be in the right places for the cut-off or running the bases hard.

“But we still have to be socially correct,” said Haley. “There’s a right way to do it. You have to respect your opponent. I’m going to take you out, but I respect the fact that you’re there and competing.

“Watching kids and working with kids, success is so important. We’ve got to figure out ways to make them successful. We teach them they have to earn that and pay the price. Success cannot come too easy. They have to work for it and get rewarded.”

Haley talked about coaching the bases and broke down several situations. He said he spent 45 minutes before each game going over scouting reports and opponent tendencies.

“Nobody talks about it, but coaching third base is a game-winning situation most of the time,” said Haley. “It’s all the little things that a good third base coach does that you don’t even know about.”

It’s important to be able to read the angles on fly balls and realize when you have the advantage and when you don’t.

“The third base coach sets the tone of your offense,” said Haley. “From when he starts from the dugout to third base, I see what kind of team he has by how he handles himself.”

When Haley worked for the White Sox, they insisted that all third base coaches hustle to their position.

“The minute you get to home plate, you run all the way to front of the box,” said Haley. “You’re not going to walk to third base.”

As to location while coaching and giving the sign, Haley said he prefers to be to the right of the pitcher so he is closer to the hitter and can connect with his baserunners.

Body language is also key. Haley doesn’t want to see a third base coach with his arms folded over his chest.

“In the big leagues, they’re the Energizer Bunny. ‘Come on, let’s go!’ They’re always communicating,” said Haley.

After the sign is given, the coach moves the back of the box or beyond to keep from getting smoked by a line drive.

“When giving signs, keep it as simple as possible,” said Haley. “But you do have guys who are masters as picking. I’ll pick up your signs real quick.

“When you do your signs, you have to do at least eight and use both hands and both sides of the body. Do you have to practice in the mirror? Yes.”

Reading where the shortstop and second basemen are with a runner at second base is also the responsibility of the third base coach. He gives verbal signs to the runner to let him know if they can add to their lead or they should be aware of a pick-off throw.

As a third base coach, Haley expects his runner’s to be going all-out and he will tell them when to stop or go. If they don’t go as fast as he expects, they put pressure on him.

With a runner on first base, the responsibility of the first base coach is to tell the runner the number of outs, position of the outfielders, time the pitcher’s delivery to the plate (often with a stop watch).

“Both the third base and first base coaches need to know where the outfielders are,” said Haley. “Because you have to read balls off the bat.”

Haley said a time of 1.2 seconds or faster from the pitcher to the catcher is quick. If it’s 1.5 or slower, it’s a good time to run.

Base coaches can read an outfielder’s throw. If his release is high, it’s likely the throw will go high and miss the cut-off man.

“It’s so important for outfielders — even if they can’t throw — to keep the head high and the ball low because it freezes everybody (on the bases),” said Haley. “You start launching and they’re running.”

And just because the opposing catcher shows a cannon throwing the ball to second base between innings doesn’t mean he can do the same with a batter swinging through the zone interrupting his timing.

“Don’t let the scare you,” said Haley. “Sometimes that’s all show.”

Haley also covered topics like conserving outs, understanding your lineup, scouting your opponent, understanding the opposing manager, controlling an inning and relaying signs.

“You’ve got 27 outs,” said Haley. “Make them count. Don’t give freebies.”

Generally speaking, Haley has to think he has a 75 percent chance of executing to put on a play.

It also helps to read the situation when it comes to bunting.

“If I’ve got a third baseman that struggles, I’m going to wear him out,” says Haley.

Haley really likes to scout the opponent.

“Watch everything that they do,” said Haley. “Watch them play catch and see who has the strong arms out there.”

Opposing managers are creatures of habit.

Haley knew that Ryne Sandberg, when he was managing in the Midwest League, was predictable in many of his moves be it bunt, hit-and-run, pick-off and more.

“Every time he did something and it worked when that situation came around again, he’s going to do it again,” said Haley. “I tell the kids, ‘Watch the game. Didn’t you see it in the second inning, it was the same thing?’ Watch the game. They’ll tip off a lot of things.”

Haley knows his lineup and when he can push things. When he had burner Ender Inciarte with the Silver Hawks in 2010-12, he often batted him in the No. 9 hole and used his speed to put pressure on the opponent.

“I like aggressive teams,” said Haley. “I like to push. You’ll see teams that can’t handle that.”

Controlling the pace of an inning is a Haley speciality.

“The reason they’re having time clocks is because of guys like me,” said Haley. “I can slow the game down unbelievably. ‘How are you 15?’ My bullpen’s not ready yet, so I have to slow this inning down.”

Haley notes that many catchers will drop their fingers when giving signs. If you pick up on that, you can pass that along to your teammates.

“I tell my catcher to change their signs so (the opponent) can’t pick it up,” said Haley.

The South Bend Cubs Foundation is looking to help the needs of the community through baseball. There are various phases: Academy, Cubbies Coaches Club, Prep League (middle-schoolers) and Travel program (high schoolers and possibly college).

“We want to give every kid the opportunity to play even if they may not be able to afford it,” said Haley.

Haley said the ultimate vision of the foundation is to get into all South Bend elementary schools and have two teachers that understand baseball run the program with assistance from volunteers, including area high school and youth coaches .

It’s getting started with Muessel Elementary and Dickinson Fine Arts Academy.

To learn more about the Cubbies Coaches Club, which meets monthly during the winter months, call (574) 404-3636 or email performancecenter@southbendcubs.com.

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Mark Haley managed the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks from 2005-14. Here he hits a fungo before a 2012 game in Lake County. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Mark Haley leads the 1st Source Banking Performance Center and the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs Foundation. He spoke to the Cubbies Coaches Club on winning, development and offensive strategy Jan. 8. (South Bend Cubs Photo)

 

 

Glant guiding Ball State University pitchers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Getting a pitching staff prepared for an NCAA Division I baseball season takes time.

That’s why Ball State University pitching coach Dustin Glant was more comfortable starting with the Cardinals in the fall and having a full year to help his hurlers develop.

Glant, who had been a volunteer assistant at BSU in 2013, re-joined the staff mid-way through 2016-17 when Chris Fetter (now pitching coach at the University of Michigan) left to take a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

It took Glant some time to gain the trust of his pitchers and to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Even with that late start, Glant saw his arms achieve that first season. They did even more in the second one.

The 2018 Cardinals set a program record for strikeouts (560) and ranked sixth in the national with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Two BSU pitchers were taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Glant’s watch — right-hander/designated hitter Colin Brockhouse (Toronto Blue Jays and did not sign) in 2017 and right-hander Evan Marquardt (Cincinnati Reds) in 2018. Left-hander Kevin Marmon (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent in 2017.

Right-hander Drey Jameson was named Mid-American Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year and was selected to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team in 2018. Right-hander John Baker was on that honor squad in 2017 and is on watch lists for his junior year in 2019.

Glant, a Fort Wayne native, talked about his staff while attending the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas.

“In my young coaching career, we’re having success developing velocity,” says Glant, 37. “But in a year and a half, we’re not doing a very good job of throwing strikes. We’ve put a lot of our time in the bucket of how do we get better at commanding the ball and being more attack-focused.”

Do you have to sacrifice speed for control?

“I don’t think we should have to,” says Glant. “We structured some things in the fall with our throwing progression. I’m hoping that translates into more strikes during the season.

“There were some adjustments made in how we play catch, how we throw and our focus level on certain things.”

Glant’s hurlers threw often during the eight-week fall development phase.

Ball State head coach Rich Maloney typically gave Glant and his pitchers 90 minutes on the front side of practice to do their work before joining the full team.

“Not everybody has that luxury,” says Glant. “It’s huge that I have that time from him.

“Then it’s just building volume. We throw a lot. I believe in that. We don’t save our bullets. We want to condition the arm to be able to handle a heavy workload during the season.”

As the fall begins and pitchers begin the “on-ramping” process, Glant takes into consideration how much they’ve thrown during the summer and whether they are a returning arm or a newcomer then he allows so many throws at a certain distance and builds upon that.

After the fall, weight and mobility training becomes a priority and pitchers don’t get on the mound as much.

It really depends on the needs of the athlete.

“We’re really individualized,” says Glant. “Their bodies don’t move the same way. There are different deficiencies that you have to attack a different way.

“You have to learn your guys and know how they work. Then you’re able to hone in on who needs to be doing what.”

As Glant gets his 16 pitchers ready to open the season Feb. 15 against Stanford in Tempe, Ariz., he has them throwing between 25 and 35 minutes before they go into their skill work of flat ground or bullpens.

Glant’s coaching resume also includes managing the 17U Pony Express travel team and acting as assistant pitching coach at Marathon High School in Florida as well as head coach at Mt. Vernon (Fortville) High School, Lapel (Ind.) High School and Anderson (Ind.) University.

From his high school stops, he knows what it’s like to have players who can perform at another position and be used on the mound. Troy Montgomery (who played in the Detroit Tigers system in 2018) was an outfielder who Glant tried as a pitcher at Mt. Vernon because of his athletic talent. He also did the same with Brady Cherry (who is now an infielder at Ohio State University) while at Lapel. He was one of the best prep pitchers in Indiana.

Even if they do not play another position in college, Glant wants them to have the mindset of an athlete.

“In high school, typically your best players can do everything and you need them to do more things,” says Glant. “You get guys in college and their brains are thinking ‘I’m only a pitcher.’ It feels like they lose some of that natural athleticism when they were in high school playing more than one sport, more than one position and moving around more.

“We want to turn it back. Let’s get back to being an athlete and get more athletic in our moves.”

Glant is also concerned with what’s happening between his pitchers’ ears.

“It’s huge,” says Glant of the mental game. “It’s my biggest weakness as a coach and our biggest weakness as a pitching staff.

“I devoted my entire summer to learning this thing, understanding it better and being able to help my guys better mentally. We did some good things in the fall and kept it going right through this training time. I hope it pays off.”

Glant says it’s important to develop routines inside of the game and slow down breathing and heart rate when things get out of control.

There’s also questions to be asked and answered.

“How is our self talk?,” says Glant. “Are we reviewing our outings? Are we reviewing our bullpens?”

Glant says he wish he knew more about the mental side when he was a player.

Dave and Sharon Glant are parents to three children — Jessica, Dustin and Nate. Jessica Glant is a physician assistant in Maine. Nate Glant is an assistant baseball coach at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.

Dave Glant is a third-generation railroad worker.

Dustin looks back on his boyhood and marvels at how hard his father worked and still had something left in the tank to teach him about baseball.

“He worked manual labor,” says Dustin. “He’d come home from these 12-hour shifts and then he’d have the energy to practice with me for a couple hours.”

Dave Glant showed Dustin about being hard-nosed and disciplined and about body language.

“Your opponent should never know how you’re feeling and how things are going,” says Dustin. “My preference is to be stone-faced and the emotion is positive emotion for your team.

Don’t stare a hole through the shortstop when he makes an error behind you.

“We try to get guys to embrace those situations,” says Glant. “What more fun can than picking up your shortstop? He’s excited because you got him off the hook. You’re excited because you got out of the inning with the team.

“That just builds momentum with you to the dugout.”

His father broke down VHS videos for a 12-year-old Dustin to review and use to improve.

“He was way before his time,” says Dustin. “And he was never a college player. He was a dad that really had a passion for helping me get better.”

Glant played for coach Dave Fireoved at Fort Wayne Wayne High School, graduating in 2000.

“To me, he is a legend and like a second father figure,” says Glant of Fireoved. “He picked right up where dad left off with accountability, discipline, work ethic, how to be a good teammate and how to train.”

That intensity continued at Purdue University. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched for three seasons for the Boilermakers (2001-03) for head coach Doug Schreiber and assistant coaches Todd Murphy and Rob Smith (now head coach at Ohio University) and was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He competed six seasons in the Diamondbacks organization (2003-08), reaching Triple-A in his last season.

Glant was with the 2004 South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks of the Low Class-A Midwest League. The team was managed Tony Perezchica with Jeff Pico as pitching coach, Hector De La Cruz as hitting coach and future big leaguers Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero and Emilio Bonifacio on the roster.

“It was a blast for me because I pitched in Fort Wayne at the old Wizards stadium,” says Glant. “That was a fun league.”

He then spent three seasons (2009-11) in independent pro baseball in the U.S. (Schaumburg, Ill., Flyers), Mexico (Mayos de Navjoa), Colombia (Potros de Medellin) and Canada (Winnipeg Goldeyes).

With Maloney, Glant is seeing a different side of coaching.

“I’ve never seen that side of it,” says Glant. “I’m learning how to love your players and how to build relationships.

“You’ve got to be a transformational coach and not a transactional coach. That’s what I’m learning from Rich Maloney.”

Dustin and Ashley Glant have a daughter — Evelyn (16 months). The baby is named for a grandmother on the mother’s side.

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Dustin Glant, a Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne High School graduate who pitched at Purdue University and in the pro baseball, became the Ball State University pitching coach prior to the 2017 season. (Ball State University Photo)

 

Westfield, Purdue grad Andrzejewski making adjustments as coach in Florida

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brett Andrzejewski learned about making adjustments as a baseball player and he’s doing the same as a coach.

At Westfield (Ind.) High School, the right-handed pitcher changed from a three-quarter overhand to sidearm delivery slot prior to his junior season.

Andrzejewski was a second baseman growing up, but he had an all-stater as a classmate who played that position in Brandon Thomas.

“I was OK defensively, but couldn’t hit to save my life,” says Andrzejewski.

Shamrocks coach Ryan Bunnell told him during the off-season prior his junior year that Brett needed to find his niche.

Off the mound, Brett did not throw very hard. But Andrzejewski found that when he threw a ball after picking it up off the ground that it moved and he thought he just might have something.

In his senior year of 2009 while throwing to classmate and future big league catcher Kevin Plawecki, Andrzejewski was part of Westfield’s IHSAA Class 4A state runner-up finish and went on to pitch four seasons of college baseball — 2010 at Franklin (Ind.) College, 2011 at Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College and 2012 and 2013 at Purdue University. The Boilermakers won a Big Ten Conference championship in 2012.

The righty became kind of a right-handed specialist coming from a low angle. All 84 of his collegiate appearances were out of the bullpen.

“My breaking ball was starting behind them,” says Andrzejewski. “I had a lot of run and not a lot of velocity. I was 76 to 78 mph, usually.

“It bought me time on my playing career so I was appreciative of it.”

The son of Brian and Ann and older brother of Tyler and Chase, Brett Andrzejewski earned a history degree from Purdue in 2013, got his teaching certification from Indiana Wesleyan University and spent one season as pitching coach at Mississinewa High School in Gas City, Ind.

Brett got married and he and wife Michelle went to Florida. He got a job teaching social studies and serving as head baseball coach at Southeast High School, which is located in Bradenton and has about 1,800 students. The 2019 season will be his fourth.

Competing in Florida High School Athletic Association Class 5A (there are currently nine classes for baseball) and with limited resources like he experienced at Mississinewa, Andrzejewski has learned to be smart about his baseball purchases and making the most of what he’s got.

“It forces you as a coach to be creative,” says Andrzejewski, who benefits from Southeast’s agriculture classes working on his field.

To make his players appreciate what they have, he sometimes takes them in the gym for practice even on a sunny day.

“We’re one of the few places in the country that can field ground balls on grass all year,” says Andrzejewski.

Knowing their coach is from Indiana, they ask him if he’s ever played in the snow. That answer is yes.

The baseball timetable in Florida is about several weeks ahead of Indiana.

The FHSAA allows practice to begin Jan. 28 with a first contest date of Feb. 11. Districts, regional and state championships run from May 6-June 1.

Practice for the IHSAA begins March 11 with the first contest March 25 and state tournament series going from May 22-June 18.

Taking from his own experiences, Andrzejewski tells his Southeast Seminoles that they, too, might have to make adjustments to contribute on the diamond.

“Your talent level will take you so far,” says Andrzejewski. “You’ve got to find a way.

“For some guys it might be a sidearm thing or finding a different position or so on and so forth.”

Andrzejewski credits Bunnell for planting a seed.

“Playing for Coach Bunnell inspired me to think about the mental side of the game,” says Andrzejewski. “I had always been interested in it.

“Playing for him is what eventually led me to become a coach.”

At Purdue, Andrzejewski’s head coach was Doug Schreiber.

“Coach Schreib was definitely someone who had that high-intensity approach to coaching,” says Andrzejewski. “That fit my personality. I’m an ultra-competitive guy. He motivated me.”

Andrzejewski also learns from other minds. He attended his first American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis in 2018. He was among the 6,600 coaches at the 2019 event in Dallas.

“I learned so much,” says Andrzejewski. “I was a pitcher so I try to go where my deficiencies are.”

He soaks up as much information on hitting and defense and brings it back to his program.

Not that he uses everything exactly as presented.

“You walk in there with a filter,” says Andrzejewski. “How can my program benefit from this, whether it’s a piece of technology or instruction?

“At Southeast, I’ve had one pitcher who’s thrown over 80 mph since I’ve been there. I’m not going to have guys who will light up the radar gun, so we’ve got to find ways to get those 21 outs.”

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Brett Andrzejewski, graduate of Westfield (Ind.) High School and Purdue University, is going into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Southeast High School in Bradenton, Fla. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Abrell values life lessons while leading Plainfield Quakers baseball program

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As a coach and educator, Shane Abrell looks for teachable moments.

Abrell and his coaching staff got the opportunity to teach their players about dealing with failure and about momentum during Abrell’s first season in charge of the Plainfield (Ind.) High School baseball program.

“Life lessons are really important in coaching,” says Abrell. “If we’re not teaching them about life, we’re failing them.”

Facing a formidable schedule, the 2018 Quakers got off to a 2-9 start then went on an 8-3 run on the way to 12-16-1. Right-hander Sam Tackett (an Indiana University Kokomo commit for 2019-20) hooked up in a pitchers’ duel with Braydon Tucker (now at Indiana University) as Plainfield bowed to Northview 1-0 in nine innings in the first round of the IHSAA Class 4A Avon Sectional.

“Now they know they can play with those teams,” says Abrell. “It gives us a lot of mental toughness as time goes on.”

Abrell and his assistants spent much time talking about the team.

“We have some really great conversations,” says Abrell, who welcomes back varsity assistants Josh Morris, Noah Lane and Jaylen Cushenberry, junior varsity coach Brian Holsclaw and freshmen coach Mike Harper for 2019. “We demand a lot of time and effort. But hese guys don’t skip a beat. They make my job easy.”

The coaches were honest with their athletes and admitted when they made mistakes in 2018.

The lines of communication are kept open through that sincerity.

“Baseball is so mentally tough on people,” says Abrell. It’s not for everybody.

“Kids are more willing to come to us when they’re struggling. We’re seeing more players are consoling each other.”

Abrell, who teaches computer science at PHS, was a Plainfield assistant to Jeff McKeon (now head coach at South Putnam High School) for one season before taking over the program.

Prior coming to Hendricks County, Abrell was an assistant to Kyle Kraemer at Terre Haute South Vigo High School from 2001-14 and helped coach youth teams around Terre Haute including the Junior Sycamores and with the John Hayes-managed Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 program.

Abrell played for Kraemer at South Vigo, graduating in 1998.

“Kyle is probably one of the most organized people I’ve come across in coaching,” says Abrell of Kraemer. “He is very meticulous. There was very little down time in practice. You were always moving.”

South Vigo has enjoyed continuity on the coaching staff with assistants like Brian Pickens, T.C. Clary, Todd Miles and Chad Chrisman serving for decades.

“(Kraemer’s) been a great mentor and friend to me,” says Abrell, who will take his Plainfield team to the 2019 Braves Bash at South Vigo. The event also features Munster and New Haven.

Plainfield (enrollment around 1,700) is part of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian and Whiteland).

The MSC plays home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to crown its champion.

The Quakers are part of the IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Mooresville, Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Plainfield has won eight sectional titles — the last in 1997.

While in Terre Haute, Abrell had the opportunity to coach A.J. Reed and become close T.J. Collett and his family while coaching his brother Doug with the Post 346 junior squad and then as North Vigo athletic director.

Both A.J. and T.J. were Indiana Mr. Baseball honorees — Reed at South Vigo in 2011 and Collett at North Vigo in 2016.   

A walk-on at Indiana State University, Abrell’s coach with the Sycamores was Mitch Hannahs.

Abrell graduated from ISU in 2003 with a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems/Computer Science and worked various jobs, including web designer for Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Reserve Deputy for the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

“That was an eye opener,” says Abrell of the issues he saw some students dealing with that have nothing to do with a baseball drill or home work assignment.

He makes a point of getting his players to give back by volunteering in the community at a food pantry or with Riley’s Children’s Hospital.

Gratitude is another life lesson Abrell teaches.

“We talk to the kids about thanking their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents for all the time and money they spend,” Abrell.

He was a football, basketball and baseball coach at South Vigo. North Vigo, coached by Shawn Turner and Fay Spetter and featuring Collett, were 4A state runners-up in 2014 and 2015 with Abrell as AD.

Along the way, he attended Western Kentucky University (Master of Education & Kinesiology) and Indiana Wesleyan University (Education Administration).

Baseball has long been a big deal in the Abrell family.

Shane’s grandfather, the late John Abrell, was a long-time Connie Mack baseball coach and sponsor in Terre Haute.

Rick Abrell, Shane’s father, coached youth baseball at Prairie Creek, Prairieton and Riley and was president of Terre Haute Babe Ruth. He now tends to the baseball fields at both South Vigo and West Vigo.

The Abrells are close with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers Bob Warn and Steve DeGroote. Warn was head coach at Indiana State from 1975-2006. DeGroote assisted Warn at ISU and then led the West Vigo program.

Abrell says he took something from all the baseball men in his life.

“To be a good coach, you have to accept you’re not going to create something new in baseball,” says Abrell. “You take what you learn and you mold them all together.”

A love of tending the field was ingrained in Abrell. Kraemer had his team spend 30 minutes after each practice and game wielding shovels and rakes and Abrell does the same with his Quakers.

And there’s lots of time spent mowing and edging in the summer and fall.

“For every two hours practicing, probably another two hours working on the field,” says Abrell. “It’s therapy for me.

“We’re blessed at Plainfield. We have a beautiful complex and support from the administration.”

Principal Melvin Siefert and Assistant Principal of Athletics Torrey Rodkey are both former coaches.

The Quakers feeder system includes Plainfield Pee Wee Association, Plainfield Optimist Baseball League and Plainfield Teenage Baseball League (a Babe Ruth League) as well as a locally-based travel organization — the Plainfield Havoc.

“We’re trying to keep travel ball in the community,” says Abrell. “When they play together their whole life is when you have some of the better teams.”

When Abrell took over the program, he contacted Plainfield graduate Jeremy Kehrt. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 47th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and pitched in independent ball in 2017.

“He stops by a lot,” says Abrell of Kehrt. “He works with our pitchers. When he shows up, their eyes get huge.”

Connor Mitchell, a left-hander who pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2018, also visits to work on arm maintenance. His younger brother, Jackson Mitchell, was the Plainfield’s shortstop in 2018 and is now at Earlham College.

“It means a lot to have alumni reaching out,” says Abrell.

Current Plainfield outfielder/first baseman Jacob Sims is drawing interest from college programs.

A wedding is planned for Shane Abrell and Shannon Bormann in the fall of 2019. Shannon is a nurse anesthetist at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette.

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T.C. Clary (left), Shannon Bormann, A.J. Reed and Shane Abrell meet at the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Clary was a baseball teammate and coached with Abrell at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. Bormann is engaged to Abrell. Reed played at South Vigo and was a Pacific Coast League all-star. Abrell is now head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School.

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Shane Abrell is heading into his second season as head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School. He is also a computer science teacher at PHS.

Tormoehlen wants Brownstown Central Braves to keep priorities straight, runs coming

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brandon Tormoehlen viewed baseball from behind the plate at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School and Butler University.

This perspective has helped him as a coach.

“Being a catcher, you had to know what everybody else was doing in different situations,” says Tormoehlen, who was honorable mention all-state and a participant in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in 2002 and how heads into his second season as Brownstown Central head coach in 2019.

Tormoehlein teaches engineering and math classes during the day, serves part-time with the Indiana National Guard and tries to get his Braves to amass numbers on the scoreboard at baseball game time.

“We try to eliminate reasons for losing,” says Tormoehlen. “We try to be solid in all aspects of the game. We don’t take a big emphasis on batting average or strikeouts. We try to get as many runs as we can.”

BC figures out the best way to attack on a particular days — stealing, bunting or hitting away — and then does it.

Brownstown Central (enrollment 573) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

“It’s a pretty good baseball league,” says Tormoehlen. The MSC champion is determined by nine regular-season games. Each teams plays the others once on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Braves are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Charlestown, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Providence, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Brownstown Central has won two sectionals — the last in 2016.

Tormoehlen came back to Brownstown after two seasons as head coach at Scottsburg.

Before that, he was pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., for two seasons on the staff of Matt Tyner.

“He was a great player’s coach,” says Tormoehlen of Tyner, who is now head coach at Towson University in Baltimore. “He had great relationships with all our players and recruits.”

As an NCAA Division II school, Bellarmine would sometimes see players come back to them if things didn’t work out at the D-I level.

Tyner also gave his assistants the freedom to develop their own coaching styles.

“I was running practices from the defensive standpoint and pitchers exactly the way I wanted to do them.”

Before Bellarmine, Tormoehlen served two seasons as an assistant working with catchers and hitters at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Ed Servais was head coach of the Bluejays.

“He was a defensive genius,” says Tormoehlen of Servais. “The scouting we did was very, very in-depth.”

Play-by-plays were printed off by Tormoehlen. From those, Servais and his staff were able to get spray charts and read the tendencies of opposing coaches.

That kind of data is not available at the high school level and the sample size is much smaller.

Tormoehlen also saw Servais run practices a high speed.

“They were very intense and very fast-paced,” says Tormoehlen. “It’s something I’ve done ever since.

“The goal is to get in as many reps as you can in a 2- or 2 1/2-hour time frame. As far as developing players, I’ve not seen a better model.”

Tormoehlen spent one season as an assistant guiding catchers, hitters and outfielders at Indiana Tech on the staff of Kip McWilliams.

With varsity and junior varsity squads, the Warriors carried 52 players.

“That took practice organization to manage those type of numbers,” says Tormoehlen. “(McWilliams) was a great organizer as well.”

Prior to that, Tormoehlen was junior varsity coach for a season at Noblesville (Ind.) High School, a program led by Justin Keever.

“I was 23 at the time, but he let me coach,” says Tormoehlen of Keever. “He didn’t micro-manage at all. He said, ‘you’ve got the JV team and they’re yours.’

“I let my coaches coach (Brownstown Central),” says Tormoehlen. “They’re there for a reason. Give them their duties and let them go with it.”

The 2019 BC staff features Shannon Barger, Fred Perry and Paul Borden with the varsity plus Cole Borden and Jase Hunnicutt with the junior varsity. Cole Borden played at Saint Joseph’s College.

Steve Farley was head coach at Butler when Tormoehlen played for the Bulldogs (2003-05, 2007). A medical redshirt for the 2006 season due to shoulder surgery, the catcher played his last collegiate season while also taking graduate classes.

“Coach Farley is just a great human being,” says Tormoehlen. “He lived his life the right way as far as priorities. He was a great role model and made sure as a college athlete, we were doing that same. There was faith, family, education then your baseball career.

“It’s something I stress with my guys.”

Recent BC graduate Ian Martin is at Vincennes University. Current Braves senior Seth Borden (son of Paul and brother of Cole) has been receiving interest from college baseball teams.

Steve Schrink was head coach at Brownstown Central when Tormoehlen was a player.

“He was a great people person and a player’s coach,” says Tormoehlen. “He always had a really good relationship with his players.”

Tormoehlen tends to keep 24 to 26 players in the program. These players get to use and care for a facility that just keeps getting better.

Located in a valley behind the school, the field recently had a brick backstop cut into the hill with big poles inserted for backstop netting. New dugouts have been added.

By next year, the Braves plan to have a building that houses a new press box, concession stand and restrooms. Plans are call for the installation of 130 to 140 stadium seats.

This fall, the field received a turf insert around the home plate area. The field was also leveled to send drainage outside the foul lines. The plate area had been the lowest part of the field and that’s where water collected when it rained.

“Many teams in our area are doing it,” says Tormoehlen of the insert. “Cost-wise, it pays for itself after a few years. You save money on clay, Turface and time.”

Feeding the high school is a middle school club program — Brownstown Braves Baseball. It includes seventh and eighth grade teams taking players from Brownstown Central Community School Corporation as well as Lutheran Central School in Brownstown and St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School in Seymour. BBB plays 18 to 22 games in the spring.

Players also play travel baseball in the summer for teams based in Brownstown as well as Bloomington, Louisville and elsewhere.

John and Brenda Tormoehlen’s have four children. All are married. Brooke Cahill is the oldest, followed by Brandon. His wife, Mallory, graduated from Greenfield-Central High School in 2005 and Indiana Tech in 2009. She played softball for the Warriors.

The two youngest girls are Jaclyn Jackson and Whitney Fritz.

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The center field view of the baseball field at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School.

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Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School put a turf insert around the home plate area of its baseball field. This saves cost and time.

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Mallory and Brandon Tormoehlen share a moment at Brandon’s Indiana National Guard boot camp graduation. Brandon Tormoehlen is a teacher and head baseball coach at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School.

 

RoundTripper Sports Academy celebrating 25 years with HitTrax tournament benefiting foundations

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Ind., has more than 1,400 current active members training in baseball and softball.

There many more alums that have come through the organization founded by Chris Estep over the past 25 years. Among those are more than three dozen professional baseball players and more than three dozen collegiate softball players.

“Chris is excited to see all the current and former faces come through,” says Laura Lingner, RoundTripper sports information director. “He wants people to love the game as much as he does.

“Come out and celebrate with him.”

All teams — not just current and former RoundTripper members — are invited to participate in RoundTripper’s Quarter Century HitTrax Tournament at 16708 SouthPark Drive in Westfield.

The event is scheduled for Dec. 26-30 with the first two days being qualifying for the competitive bracket. Teams will play in seven-inning games to determine champions. The facility will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the celebration and tournament.

The event will benefit three foundations: RoundTripper Foundation, Indiana Mustangs and Colts Baseball Club.

In lieu of an entry fee, participants are asked to donate to one (all all) of the foundations or bring in gently-used baseball or softball equipment to be donated to underprivileged athletes throughout central Indiana.

Even those not swinging in the HitTrax tournament are invited to donate items to the cause and just hang out.

RoundTripper is involved in reviving Christian Park in the Pleasant Run area of Indianapolis. It’s one of the places Estep played baseball as a child.

Another way, RoundTripper has been giving back during the holiday season while celebrating its 25 years are giveaways of equipment provided by corporate sponsors. To see what the staff looks like as Santa’s helpers, go to @RoundTripperAca on Twitter or the RoundTripper Sports Academy Facebook page.

Untitled-1RoundTripper Sports Academy is has been developing diamond athlete for quarter century. Headquarters for the organization started by Chris Estep is at 16708 SouthPark Drive in Westfield, Ind.