Lawrence North’s Winzenread wants Wildcats to play with ‘no regrets’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“No regrets.”

Lawrence North High School baseball coach Richard Winzenread expects nothing less than the best from his Wildcats.

There should be no sleepless nights because of lukewarm effort.

It’s been that way since Winzenread took over as leader of the LN program in 1992.

“If we work hard, good things will come,” says Winzenread. “We want to be the best team our talent level will allow. If we do that, we’ve had a successful season.

“At tournament time, we’re a pretty tough out. You have to bring your best game to beat us.”

Winzenread has gathered a wealth of baseball knowledge from coaches at the high school, college and professional level and he shares that with his LN players.

Then he lets them take over.

“We don’t clone them,” says Winzenread. “I don’t want to take away their natural ability. I tell them it’s their responsibility to get better.”

Players need to take the initiative to get extra swings in the batting cage or more ground balls on their own time.

“We’ve had quite a few kids over the years that have made themselves better,” says Winzenread. “Kids have to take ownership.

“Kids today don’t practice enough. You should practice more than you play. You need to be the best player you can be, so you have no regrets.”

The coach can be tough, but he has the student-athlete’s best interests at heart.

“What makes me the most proud is seeing how the kid grows through his four years of our program,” says Winzenread. “I think the kids know I care about them. I want them to be the best version of a person they can be — as a student and a player. We want them to be ready for college.”

Winzenread does his coaching and teaching on the northeast side of Indianapolis. He first learned baseball on the south side from his father Richard and then played at Southport High School, graduating in 1982 and moving on to play for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dick Naylor at Hanover College.

Naylor is also in the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

A right-handed pitcher, Winzenread was drafted in the 21st round by the Baltimore Orioles in 1986. In the O’s system he learned much from then-roving pitching instructor Mark Wiley — things he still uses today at Lawrence North.

In his third pro season, Winzenread was injured and decided to come back to Indy. He worked for UPS and helped coach at Southport with Cardinals head coach John Carpenter (John Dwenger was head coach when Winzenread was a Southport player).

Winzenread stayed close to the game by giving lessons and found many of his clients were in the Lawrence area. He completed his education degree and took a middle school teaching job in the Lawrence Township district.

After teaching at various middle schools, Winzenread landed at the high school four years ago as a physical education and health teacher.

Seeing another chance to give back to the game that had been so good to him, Winzenread applied to replace Tim Fitzgerald as LN head coach when he stepped down right before the 1992 season. Fitzgerald is now the varsity assistant on a Wildcats coaching staff that also includes Chris Todd (junior varsity) and Kyle Green (freshmen).

Not knowing how to run a high school program back in ’92, Winzenread made a trip to Indiana University to pick the brain of head coach Bob Morgan.

“He did a lot for me early in my career,” says Winzenread. “He’s one of the best baseball minds around.”

In Winzenread’s first decade at Lawrence North, assistant coach Bob Kraft brought things to the program he had gained while being associated with Stanford University baseball.

Tony Vittorio, who was head coach at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and is now in his 18th season as head coach at the University of Dayton, followed a similar path to Winzenread in that he played at Southport and Hanover before going into coaching.

“He’s such got tremendous passion,” says Winzenread says of Vittorio. “He works those kids. He can be tough at times. But, in this business you have to be.”

Winzenread has a passion for developing pitchers. Ideally, the Wildcats will have seven or eight capable arms in a season. Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference games are played on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Winzenread uses his top two starters in those games with a third pitcher expected to handle to relief duties. Those pitchers have a bullpen session on Saturday and are ready to go again the following week.

“They build up arm strength to be a starter or build up arm strength to be a reliever and they work different,” says Winzenread.

LN hurlers are expected to throw strikes, but not necessarily rack up K’s.

“Strikeouts are fine, but they’re not something we strive for,” says Winzenread. “Our philosophy is to have (the batter) hit our pitch. Our pitch counts are usually not that high.”

Batters are kept off-balance by the mixing of speeds and location — up and down, in and out, back and forth.

One location in the strike zone is off limits.

“We don’t want to throw it over the middle of the plate,” says Winzenread. “When we warm up, the middle part is black and we have two white edges.

“We want to have a little bit of movement.”

Winzenread calls anything over 15 pitches a stressful inning.

If a pitcher strung together a couple of 26-pitch innings, he would be at 52 and might be done for the day, depending on the athlete.

If those same 52 pitches were spread over five innings, that would be a different story.

“I enjoy winning,” says Winzenread. “But I would never put a kid’s health in front of that — ever.”

With that in mind, he will always protect a pitcher’s arm. If they throw 85 pitches Tuesday, it’s a good bet they might be used as a designated hitter but will not take a field position Wednesday.

The 2016 Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Sectional — won by Lawrence North — was set up with pitching in mind. Games in the six-team format were played on Wednesday with semifinals and finals Monday.

“That’s the only thing that’s fair,” says Winzenread, who has seen LN take seven of its eight all-time sectional titles, both regionals, one semistate crown and one state runner-up finish (7-6 loss to McCutcheon in the 1999 Class 4A final) on his watch. “I wish we’d seed the draw and we don’t. Everyone says ‘pitching and defense (wins championships).’ You can hit all you want, but eventually good pitching is going to shut that down.”

With those factors in mind, LN changed its regular-season schedule and has as many three-game weeks as possible.

No matter where they play on the diamond, Winzenread expects his player to know their role. That might mean starting or coming off the bench.

“Everyone’s got a role to way and you’ve got to accept it,” says Winzenread. “(Reserves are) always constantly paying attention to the game so when you’re number is called, you’re ready.”

And with no regrets.

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Richard Winzenread is in his 26th season as head baseball coach at Lawrence North High School.

RICHARDWINZENREAD

Richard Winzenread took Lawrence North to the IHSAA State Finals in 1999. He has been head baseball coach for the Wildcats since 1992.

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IU South Bend finding its way in second college baseball season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Working through the growing pains that come with a new program, Indiana University South Bend is looking to make its mark on the NAIA baseball landscape.

In their second year and with Mike Huling in his first year as head coach, the Titans are on a quest to be competitive in the tough Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference this spring.

At the same time, IUSB looks to keep making progress as numbers and talent increases.

“It’s been a struggle, but right now we feel that we have the kinds of guys that we need moving forward,” says Huling, who was a Titans assistant in 2015-16. “They buy into our system. They believe in the vision that we have of winning baseball games.

“We want to play hard in our conference.”

The top two teams in the CCAC will earn an NAIA regional berth. Huling says the the teams to beat look to be Judson and Saint Francis (Ill.).

There are just five seniors — Trey Bickel (Mishawaka), Damon DeJesus (Fort Wayne), Luke Gaboury (South Bend), Chris Mangus (Niles, Mich.) and Sammy Nieves (Canovanas, P.R.) — on the IUSB current roster of 28 (down from around 45 at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year).

“Early in the season, we haven’t been good teammates and we’ve haven’t been playing for each other,” says Huling. “As a coaching staff, we’ve been trying to get them to buy into that type of thing because those things help you win baseball games. The good thing is we faced that adversity early when the games didn’t matter (before conference play). We feel we’re headed in the right direction.”

The Titans are off to a 9-10 start to the 2017 season, including 2-0 in the CCAC. An injury to right-hander Kyle Rago has depleted the pitching staff. Other hurlers have been asked to step forward and focus on throwing strikes.

“You definitely have to have pitching in this conference,” says Huling. “We play five conference games every week. We’re struggling to find five starting pitchers.”

Huling said details of a contract is being worked out to move to Newton Park in Lakeville and IUSB may be able to call that home within a few weeks.

The Titans have been practicing on and opened the season at South Bend’s School Field — a facility the Titans have been sharing with varsity and junior teams from South Bend Adams High School as well as Jefferson Intermediate School baseball and football.

“We had to juggle all those schedules,” says Huling. “Those are the kinds of things we had to deal with early on. It’s tough when we show up to the field and there’s a football practice in right field or we have to practice from 8 to 10 at night.”

As for the future, 17 recruits have already been signed for next season.

“We’re definitely excited about next year,” says Huling. “But I don’t believe in the ‘rebuilding year.’ We always want to compete every single year.”

Using his relationships while playing at the University of Southern Indiana (the Screaming Eagles won the NCAA Division II national title in 2010) and being an assistant coach at NCAA Division I Bowling Green State University has given Huling some recruiting ties around the country.

Huling says IUSB is able to pull some out-of-state student-athletes carrying a minimum 3.0 grade-point average to earn a Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship that brings fees close to in-state tuition.

Recruiting in the South Bend area has been adversely affected because of the field situation. Most Indiana recruits have come from he Indianapolis area, but there have been signees from California, Texas, Ohio and Michigan.

“There’s so much unseen talent in California and Texas, it’s crazy,” says Huling, who has family in California and couples visits with recruiting. “Believe it or not, some of these kids want to come to the Midwest. If a major Division I institution doesn’t offer them anything, they don’t have anywhere to go.”

Huling, a 2006 Mishawaka High School graduate, had to work hard to been noticed as a player. He earned a spot at NCAA Division I Illinois State University, where he redshirted before transferring and playing two seasons at Glen Oaks Community College before landing at Southern Indiana for two seasons (2010 and 2011). USI is coached by Tracy Archuleta.

“He is one of my mentors,” says Huling. “He was an under-the-radar guy as a coach as well. He’s win two NCAA Division II national championships at the Midwest school (USI also won it all in 2014). I’ve learned a lot from him. Just his whole demeanor, strategy, on-the-field, off-the-field, discipline — all that sort of stuff.

The spring marks Huling’s third coaching in the NAIA. He was an assistant at NAIA Holy Cross College in 2015 before that program folded and he moved over to join the brand new IUSB program.

His coaching staff includes NAIA veteran Jon Koepf, who a graduate assistant the last two seasons at the University of Rio Grande (Ohio). Koepf played for former major league pitcher Len Barker at NCAA Division II Notre Dame College.

Other IUSB assistants include Matt Schwitz, who pitched at Holy Cross, and Chris Woodruff, who played outfield at Holy Cross and IUSB. Schwitz, who was also an assistant at IUSB in 2016, played at South Bend St. Joseph High School and Woodruff at Adams.

If he has his way, the NAIA will fall in line with the NCAA and do away with the re-entry rule and courtesy runners.

“It’s kind of like high school rules,” says Huling.

MIKEHULING

Mike Huling is in his second season on the Indiana University South Bend baseball coaching staff — his first as head coach. He is a Mishawaka High School graduate.

Lafayette Central Catholic baseball has sustained excellence with Bordenet in charge

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Lafayette Central Catholic High School has piled up plenty of Indiana baseball hardware.

The Knights have achieved seven IHSAA state championships (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), two state runner-up finishes (2015, 2016) and two other State Finals appearances (2002, 2003).

There’s also been nine semistate (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), 13 regional (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and 15 sectional  (1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) titles.

All but one sectional title came with Tim Bordenet as head coach. Fittingly, he dons jersey No. 1 on gamedays.

The 1987 LCC graduate has led the program for 19 seasons (1991-93, 2001-16) and the Knights head into 2017 ranked No. 2 to Providence in Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 2A preseason poll.

LCC is not flashy, but very effective because Bordenet and his assistants (the current staff includes Dave Sterrett and Ryan Johnson on the varsity with Fred Rogers and Ryan DeBoy running the junior varsity) are constantly developing players and keeping expectations high.

The Knights work on the bunt game — offensively, defensively or both — at every practice.

“In today’s game, it’s overlooked quite a bit,” says Bordenet. “But come tournament time, most games are won or lost by the short game (It was a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning that allowed Providence to edge LCC 7-6 in the 2016 2A state championship game). Our philosophy offensively is always to put pressure on the defense. We find a way to get on base, find a way to get them over and find way to get them in.

“You do the ordinary things extraordinarily well, you have a pretty good chance of winning.”

Since the majority of players come through the Lafayette Catholic School System from preschool on up, they know from an early age the terminology, togetherness and tenacity employed at the high school level.

“Kids come into our program and they know the expectations,” says Bordenet, who looks at his 2017 roster and sees all but three players who have been in LCSS the entirety of their academic and athletic careers (the move-ins are one who arrived in fifth grade and two who came in seventh grade). “They know how we’re going to practice, the time commitment it’s going to take.

“The hardest part is not to build a program, but to sustain it. To sustain success you have to have kids who are willing to sacrifice and put in the time.”

It’s a culture that extends behind the diamond. The Knights have won or competed for championships in many other sports. The LCC boys basketball team in the 2017 1A championship game Saturday, March 25, sports 11 of 12 players who have been in the school system since Day 1.

“Success breeds success and that’s definitely the case here,” says Bordenet, the LCC athletic director since 2006.

Lafayette’s Catholic grade schools are St. Lawrence (preschool-Grade 6), St. Mary Cathedral (preschool-Grade 3) and St. Boniface (Grades 4-6). Elementary baseball begins at age 9.

LCC houses grades 7-12. A junior high baseball program was installed in 2004.

“That’s one of the most important things we ever did,” says Bordenet. “The learning curve is shorter when they enter high school.”

The level of commitment from families who are invested in the education of their children — that includes academics and athletics — has made a difference at LCC.

“We have an advantage at the elementary age because of that parental involvement,” says Bordenet.

In his 26 total seasons of coaching, Bordenet has learned to teach traditional baseball concepts to the new generation.

“Old school fundamentals are still the staple of our program,” says Bordenet. “But we do a lot more video than when I first started.”

All LCC students have laptop computers and those are employed by the baseball program to share YouTube or MLB.com videos and other information that strikes a chord with athletes in the visual age.

“If there’s a technique we’re trying to emphasize, we’ll give them a link to watch online on their own time and talk about it the next day,” says Bordenet. “We do that frequently.”

Bordenet was inducted into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2012 (42 at the time, he was the youngest inductee ever) and earned his milestone 500th victory in 2016.

He played for three coaches at LCC — Art Laker as a freshman, Terry Thompson as a junior and senior and John O’Malley as a senior. After one season at the University of Evansville and two at Purdue University, Bordenet skipped his senior collegiate season to take the LCC head coaching job.

Having attending LCCS schools all the way through high school and only stepping away while attending college or briefly coaching at other schools, Bordenet describes himself as a “lifer” for the Blue and White.

Bordenet was head coach at Muncie Central in 1994 and 1995, an assistant at South Dearborn in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and an assistant at Benton Central in 1999 and 2000.

LCC was in the Hoosier Heartland Conference 1993-2011. The Knights joined the Hoosier Athletic Conference in 2015. Other members of that loop are Benton Central, Cass, Hamilton Heights, Northwestern, Rensselaer Central, Tipton, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western.

TIMBORDENET

Lafayatte Central Catholic has won seven state baseball championships with Tim Bordenet as head coach.

LAFAYETTECENTRALCATHOLIC

Getting the most out of players is ultimate goal of Carmel’s Buczkowski

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Buczkowski was in elementary school when he learned how to make out a baseball lineup.

Though he might not have known it at the time, the seeds were being planted for young Matt to follow his father into teaching and coaching.

Len Buczkowski coached 29 seasons at South Bend Adams High School and was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1991 (Matt’s junior year at Adams) and passed away in 2013.

As a teenager, Matt had all kinds of ideas about what he would do with his life. Coaching was not necessarily on that list.

But after playing at Butler University and a brief professional career (he played one season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization where he was briefly a roommate of two-sport standout Ricky Williams and one season with the independent Frontier League’s Richmond Roosters), Matt heard the coaching profession calling his name.

His first job was at Butler. He was a Bulldogs assistant for one season on the staff of Steve Farley.

Then there was a three-year stint as an assistant to Jim Schmitz at Eastern Illinois University.

Matt and wife Jennifer then moved to Colorado and he started coaching high school players. There was a two-year hitch as an assistant at Mesa Ridge and nine seasons as head coach at Fountain Fort Carson.

Buczkowski returned to central Indiana and served four seasons as head coach at Lawrence Central. Last summer, he was hired to be head coach at Carmel.

“All the places I’ve been I just continued to get better at the coaching craft,” says Buczkowski, 43. “It’s just who I am. It’s ingrained in my blood and my make-up. It’s how I go about my day as a teacher, husband and a father.”

As his experience has grown, his coaching style has evolved.

“When I first started out, I was a pretty strict disciplinarian,” says Buczkowski. “I took over a program that was 2-17 the year before. I had to change to culture of losing. I had to find out who wanted to play baseball and who just wanted to wear the uniform.”

When Matt took his new position, the Buczkowskis already lived in Carmel (Jennifer is a second grade teacher at Towne Meadow Elementary; brother Steve Buczkowski also resides in the district).

Matt knew about the community’s recreation and travel teams in the Carmel Dads Club as well as the work ethic and zest for success already in place. With the Greyhounds, he inherits a team from Dan Roman that has 15 seniors and is used to winning.

“These guys work hard,” says Buczkowski. “They give me a good effort on a daily basis. For the most part, they are mentally and physically tough. When you get that mix together it usually breeds success.

“Ultimately, my goal is to get the most out of my players.”

Buczkowski has learned that motivating young athletes is not “one size fits all” with all the different personalities on the squad.

“It’s about getting to know these guys and knowing which buttons to push,” says Buczkowski. “The longer I coach, I find it’s not just what you say but how they perceive how you’re saying it.”

The 2017 season will open with Carmel ranked No. 1 in Class 4A. Buczkowski, his staff of varsity assistants John Zangrilli (former head coach at Brebeuf and Zionsville) and Brent Berglund, junior varsity coaches Eric Lentz (former head coach at Westfield and Carmel) and Greg Stiller and freshmen coaches Aaron Hahn and Sean Duty are anxious to compete in the strong Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (other members are Ben DavIs, Center Grove, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike and Warren Central) and a loaded Westfield Sectional (which also includes Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Indianapolis North Central and Westfield).

“We’re going hunting and we have some pretty good artillery,” says Buczowski of his talented Hounds. “We’re not hunting with slingshots.

“There’s definitely high expectations at Carmel.”

The program has won 13 sectionals (the last in 2016), five regionals and made two State Finals appearances, finishing as runner-up in 1997.

Something that’s different for Matt or brother Mike (who coached baseball briefly at Caston High School) from when their father or other South Bend coaching legends Jim Reinebold and Ric Tomaszewski were leading programs is all the organized year-round training. Most players have travel coaches and take private hitting or pitching lessons from instructors in addition to being taught by their high school coaches.

“We’re more a part of the process,” says Buczkowski. “Our job is important, but it’s not just one voice they’re hearing anymore.”

Buczkowski sees elite travel organizations like the Indiana Bulls providing exposure and training opportunities that high school coaches just can’t mimic.

“We want our guys playing (in the summer),” says Buczkowski. “That’s the most important thing for their development.

“Indiana baseball is in a really good place. There are really good players. It has a lot to do with the travel piece. Grand Park (in Westfield) has had a tremendous part in that.”

CARMELGREYHOUNDS

MATTBUCZKOWSKI

Matt Buczkowski enters his first season as Carmel High School head baseball coach in 2017.

Norwell’s McClain passing along work ethic, enthusiasm

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Andy McClain is part of a chain.

McClain has connected with people along his baseball journey and intends to do his part to keep the links coming.

Entering his 26th season as a high school coach in Indiana in 2017, including his 11th as head coach, McClain counts it a privilege to have played for and coached under Bill Tutterow at Martinsville High School and formed so many relationships and friendships through the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of great coaches through the years,” says McClain, the longtime emcee at the annual IHSBCA State Clinic who his also going into his fifth season as Norwell head coach. “It’s my responsibility to pass along what I know to the other young guys.”

McClain will be sharing things he absorbed from IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tutterow, who passed away in 2015.

“He was a big mentor,” says McClain. “He really taught me the game.”

Tutterow showed McClain what it meant to work hard and be competitive and enthusiastic and those qualities have been hallmarks at each of his stops.

“I love baseball and I love the kids who play it,” says McClain. “It’s fun to work with them and grind things out. Whether you’re a player, husband or father, I show them that hard work is going to pay off for you.

“I’m still enthusiastic about it and my kids feed off that a little bit.”

Norwell has won 15 sectionals, six regionals, three semistates and three state championships as a program. In his first four seasons, McClain helped contribute two sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state title. But for him, it is about the young men on the diamond and not the man making out the lineup.

“Don’t think you know it all and don’t let your ego get in the way,” says McClain. “Put the game and the kids before yourself.”

McClain played at Manchester University and was a part of Tutterow’s staff for eight seasons — the last seven being semistate appearances for the Artesians.

LaVille High School presented an opportunity to be a head coach and McClain served the Lancers in that capacity for three years while also soaking up plenty of diamond knowledge from another Hall of Famer as an instructor at the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp.

McClain returned to central Indiana at Indianapolis Arlington, where he worked for three seasons — the last as head coach.

Brebeuf was McClain’s baseball home for seven years, the last two as head coach. In his final season of 2012, the Braves lost 8-1 to Western in the IHSAA Class 3A championship game.

At that point, McClain was planning to join John Zangrilli’s staff at Zionsville. But when Zangrilli left the Eagles (he is now pitching coach at Carmel) and Kelby Weybright stepped down as head coach at Norwell, the Knights hired McClain to run the show.

“Coach Weybright started this program on the right track,” says McClain. “It was an easy mesh. He’s a mentor.”

Weybright now serves as a vice principal at Norwell. Junior Garrett Weybright, Kelby’s son, is expected to be the starting second baseman for the Knights this spring.

With Kelby Weybright as head baseball coach, Norwell won two 3A state titles (beating New Palestine 3-1 in eight innings in 2003 and topping Evansville Mater Dei 5-0 in 2007) and was a 3A state runner-up (losing 13-13 to Jasper in 2006).

In McClain’s first season as Knights head coach, San Diego Padres minor league-to-be Josh VanMeter (14-1) bested L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner Nick Gobert (9-1) in a pitchers’ dual and Norwell edged Jasper 2-1 for the 3A title.

“(VanMeter) is an incredible leader,” says McClain of a player who won more games on the mound as a Norwell senior than future Major League Baseball pitcher Jarrod Parker before going pro as a middle infielder. “He’s one of those kids who is talented but also works hard.

“It was an honor and pure coincidence that the Padres drafted him and he got to spend that time in Fort Wayne (with the low Class-A Midwest League’s TinCaps in 2014 and 2015).”

Thanks to a trade following the 2016 season, VanMeter is now in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Jasper head coach Terry Gobert, another IHSBCA Hall of Famer, is among McClain’s many mentors.

“He’s just a class act,” says McClain of the man who has earned five state crowns with the Wildcats. “When I was at Martinsville, Coach Gobert owned us.”

McClain prefers a small coaching staff. He has assistants at Norwell — Dave Goodmiller (pitching) and Jamie Feldheiser (junior varsity).

In looking at the new pitch count rule for 2017, Goodmiller and McClain went back over 2016 games and found out they would never have violated it even one time.

“It’s a lot of common sense and good things for pitchers,” says McClain of the limits put in place for the health and safety of young athletes. “I don’t see it as a hinderance or a problem.”

He has noticed a few schools have canceled JV games, fearing they might rack up too many total pitches.

“I would hope schools would let it run its course for a year,” says McClain.

Feldheiser was a senior pitcher/third baseman on the 2006 Knights team.

“You can have too many voices,” says McClain. “That hurts kids more than it helps them.”

When McClain went to northeastern Indiana, he also quickly formed a baseball bond with Mark DeLaGarza, founder of the Summit City Sluggers travel baseball organization. McClain knows that many players from the ’13 state championship team at Norwell enjoyed plenty of travel baseball success with the Sluggers the previous summer.

I joined them and I have an understanding of their organization,” says McClain. “If (a travel baseball group is) trying to help kids and promote the game, let’s figure out how we can do it together.”

McClain, who had coached summer collegiate players in Indianapolis, has been doing the same for the Sluggers the past few summers in a league that has also included the Fort Wayne Panthers, Northeast Kekiongas and Twin City Bankers.

Norwell plays in the Northeast Eight Conference. The schedule calls for the Knights to meet each other NE8 member — Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Huntington North, Leo and New Haven — one time each.

ANDYMCCLAIN

Andy McClain (right) and Josh VanMeter won a state championship at Norwell High School in 2013. (Norwell Photo)

Elkhart’s Slear an early baseball character

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

You don’t know Bo.

Not Jackson.

But Slear

Elkhart, Ind.-raised Walter Scott “Bo” Slear was a baseball character in the early part of the 20th century.

Slear, the son of Elkhart park superintendent and councilman John W. Slear, was born in “The City with a Heart” in 1878 and died in Brooklyn, Mich., in 1939.

Bo was a popular player, manager and umpire in the upper Midwest who some newspapers drew comparisons to Rube Waddell and Arlie Latham and was connect to other famous Deadball Era names like Fred Merkle and Elkhart’s Lou Criger.

No, Slear was not known to chase fire engines like the colorful Waddell, but he did gain fame for saving a drowning youth. Baseball Hall of Fame-bound Waddell caught pneumonia after helping save flood victims in Kentucky and never fully recovered, dying at age 37 in 1914.

Latham aka “The Freshest Man On Earth” was sometimes referred to as the “clown price of baseball” even before Nick Altrock, Al Schacht, Jackie Price, Max Patkin or even Myron Noodleman.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette compared Slear to Latham.

In 1903, the paper said Bo “keeps witty lines going all the time” and offered that “after the Muncie team had put Wagner to the bad yesterday in the sixth, a long fly was knocked to right field after two men had been retired. As the ball left the bat Slear threw down his glove and called the boys to come in, as he knew Belden had the ball.”

Slear played for a short time in 1906 with the Class C Northern Copper Country League’s Calumet (Mich.) Aristocrats, a team that featured future or former big leaguers Biddy Dolan, Ed Kippert and Doc Miller and went on to win the pennant, and then Bo moved on to the Class D Southern Michigan League’s Tecumseh Indians.

In 1907, Bo managed and manned left field while hitting four of his seven career minor league homers for Tecumseh, SML champions.

Those Indians clubs featured not only several mostly “cup of coffee” major leaguers —  Gene “Rubber Arm” Krapp, Wib Smith, Dolly Stark and Flint., Ind., native Jock Somerlott — but the son-to-be-infamous Merkle, who led the 1907 Tecumseh team with six homers.

You may have hear about Merkle’s controversial “Bonehead” baserunning decision while with New York Giants in 1908?

While Slear hit .268 for Tecumseh in 1906, Bo was a hero for his act of bravery away from the diamond.

Here’s how the Adrian Daily Telegram described his praiseworthy deeds on Dec. 15, 1906:

“The citizens of this village have not forgotten the heroism of Walter “Bo” Slear, in saving the life of a boy at the mill pond. Oh, no. On the contrary, he is being looked after carefully by his friends, and in their list in early every man, woman and especially every child in the place.

“‘Bo’ Slear is center fielder of the town’s South Michigan league nine, who last Sunday risked his own life to save that of Harry Gregory. The latter, a little boy, had broken through thin ice at Red Mill pond, while skating, and the cries of witnesses attracted the attention of Slear, who was among other skaters a quarter of a mile away from the spot where the lad had broken through.

“Already Tecumseh has raised a fund for purchase of a handsome gold watch, suitably inscribed, with fob, which will be presented to the player in a few days. Not satisfied with this, some fans are going to boom their hero for a Carnegie medal. Slear is wintering in Tecumseh, acting as clerk at the Lilley house.”

Bo did receive a bronze medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Slear had been a a hero on the field and off in Tecumseh. But after a falling out with Indians president R.A. Henson, Bo wound up with the Jackson Convicts of the Southern Michigan League.

Jackson placed third in 1908, third in 1909 and seventh in 1910 with Slear as manager.

These teams included five future or former big leaguers — “Wee Willie” Dammann, Albert “Bunny” Fabrique, “Big Bill” James, Sullivan, Ind., native Hosea Siner and former Notre Dame player John Walsh.

Lou Criger’s brother, Elmer, pitched for both 1908 and 1909 Jackson teams before twirling in 1910 and 1911 with Los Angeles of the Class A Pacific Coast League. Elmer won 22 games in 1909.

How happy were the “bugs” and “cranks” about getting Bo in Jackson?

Witness this verse in his honor (published in The Elkhart Truth on Feb. 22, 1908):

When Bo Slear Comes to Town.

There’s a joyful day in store,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town.

And of Hayes we’ll have no more,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town

We’ll take Bo by the hand,

Say “Glad you’re here old man,

We’ll help you all we can.”

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

we’ll do all we can boost,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

we’ll crowd others off the roost,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

there is no other cure

for what we did endure

we must win the pennant sure

when Bo Slear Comes to Town

Years later, Slear would return to Jackson to become athletic director at the state prison.

After speculation that he might take a managing job in Canada at Guelph, Ont., Slear began the 1911 campaign serving as player/manager for the Class C Southern Michigan League’s Battle Creek Crickets. His season as a player ended when he broke his collar bone while playing in the outfield.

The Sagnaw News called Slear a “favorite wherever he goes.”

Disappointment for his moving on from Battle Creek was expressed in the Baseball Gossip column: “This piece of tough lick will genuinely be regretted by every Kalamazoo fan, for ‘Bo’ is very popular in this city, having made himself so by his geniality and gentlemanly conduct.”

Then Bo replaced Mo.

Slear was hired as the manager of the same loop’s Bay City (Mich.) Billikens, taking over for Mo Meyers to close out the 1911 season. Bay City finished in fourth place.

Cricket Pete “Bash” Compton also played for the American League’s St. Louis Browns in 1911 and Bay City’s Larry Gilbert with the National League’s Boston Braves in 1914 and 1915.

Billiken James “Red” Bowser had two hitless at-bats with the 1910 Chicago White Sox.

In 1912, Bo was at the helm of the Class C Michigan League’s fourth-place Boyne City Boosters. Elkhartan Lou Criger had managed Boyne City during part of the 1911 season.

Slear’s minor league playing career went from 1903-12.

In 1903, Bo was an outfielder with the pennant-winning Class B Central League’s Fort Wayne Railroaders. The team were under the guidance of player/manager Bade Myers.

Myers played 18 minor league season and and was manager for 13. He skippered Fort Wayne in the Central League in 1903, 1904 (another championship season) and 1905 (the team wound up the season in Canton, Ohio). Myers led 1910 Quincy (Ill.) Vets to the Class D Central Association title. He returned to the Summit City in 1915 and managed the CL’s Fort Wayne Cubs.

Former of future major leaguers on the 1903 Fort Wayne roster included Frederick Josh “Cy” Alberts, Cliff Curtis, Jack Hardy, Irish-born John O’Connell, Harry Ostidek and Dave Pickett.

In 1904, Slear began the season with the Class D Iowa League’s Fort Dodge Gypsum Eaters. Frank Boyle managed the first of his 19 minor league seasons, all in Iowa.

Slear asked for his released and planned to go to Hot Springs, Ark., for treatment of rheumatism, but changed his mind and stayed in Iowa and played out the 1904 season with the Oskaloosa town team.

Slear’s adventures were not limited north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Bo opened the 1905 season with the Jackson (Miss.) Blind Tigers of the Class D Cotton State League.

According to a letter written to The Elkhart Truth by Elkhartan Harry Mather, there was more adventures for Slear away from the ball field”

“Mather traveled to Mississippi where he met up with Slear and Goshen, Ind., ballplayer B. Method, who were playing for Jackson.

They took a river steamer excursion from Vicksburg, Miss., on the “Louisiana.” Hand bills and posters said it would be a 28-mile ride with no gambling or drinking, but there would be dancing and music.

“The band struck up “Back, Back to Baltimore” as the boat began its moonlight cruise at 8:45 p.m.

“Bo and Mather decided to look about the craft and Slear determined it had probably once been a freighter.

“He told Mather it looked like an Ohio river cattle boat he had seen “up in the United States.”

“Mather said “B” always referred to the north as the United States. During the dance, they called out “half” and the girl turned from once dance partner to finish the song with another.

“According to Mather, this was a custom that Bob and many of his other northern ballplayers did not appreciate. They strenuously objected to being interrupted.

“Down below deck, there was a well-attended crap game. So much for the no-gambling rule.

“Across the way, were eight bartenders doling out libations to colonels and prospective colonels. So much for the no-drinking rule.

“When there was some gunfire by a jilted gamblers, Slear ducked behind the boiler and Method was found in a lifeboat. He claimed he was there to sleep after being out later the night before.”

Because of a yellow fever epidemic, the Cotton States League suspended play on July 31, 1905.

No stats are available for Slear at Jackson in 1905. It is known the he wound up the season as captain of an independent team in Mt. Clemens, Mich. The squad ended the season by winning a five-game series and a $500 pot.

After his playing and managing days were over, Slear became an umpire in the Central League and other places and was known for his desire to keep the game moving at a steady pace.

Pace of play in baseball.

Sound familiar?

Here a story from he July 9, 1915 Fort Wayne News:

“If this ever reaches the eye of Jack Hendrick, James McGill will be beating the bushes for a new manager for his pennant-pursuing Indianapolis ball club, at it is difficult to believe that Jack will withstand the shock; but it’s a fact that a Fort Wayne baseball crowd actually cheered a living umpire.

“‘Bo’ Slear recently imported into the Central League on the eve of the crash of the Southern Michigan, was given a young ovation in his first game at League park.

“He got it by vigorously ordering the Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne players to shake a leg in shifting to the field and bench between innings.

“‘Hurry up? Hurry up! Where’s your bitter?,’ came impatiently from ‘Boo,’ and the determined manner in which he yelled it actually go results, too.

“In hustling the players between innings Slear was striking at an evil of modern baseball that managers and fans have objected to for years, but seemingly without much avail, although this season the Central League clubs are not nearly so remiss as in former seasons.

“This thing of husky young ballplayers dragging their legs as they saunter out to positions on the ball field is a ridiculous as it is vexatious. Athletes in the prime of condition with only a few hours actual labor required of them each day and loafing on the job is trying to the American idea of get up and go.

“If they were old men dragging their way to pension jobs it would be different, but why a ballplayer should not hustle to the field or in from the instant an inning is ended passes all understanding.

“One would think the very vigor of his physical condition would put enough ginger into him to make it impossible for him to loaf his way across the field.

“Bo isn’t the greatest umpire extant, but he has one thing in his favor anyways. He makes the ballplayers imitate ginger where they want to or not.”

Slear was married three times. He wed Anna of Fort Wayne in n 1903, was divorced and married Tecumseh’s Verna Margaret Elliott in 1907, when he was 28 and she 24. After Verna’s death, he married Eva in 1937.

BASEBALLMINDED

Baseball is often on this writer’s mind.

HSE, Henson looking to play the best to prepare for the postseason

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Take a look at the 2017 Hamilton Southeastern High School baseball schedule.

With 18 games in the always ultra-competitive Hoosier Crossroads Conference (three-game series vs. Avon, Brownsburg, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville), non-conference games against perennial powers like Brebeuf, Carmel and Roncalli and out-of-state encounters against Louisville (Ky.) Ballard, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity and Metamora Township (Ill.), there are no breathers for the Royals.

And that’s the way fifth-year head coach Scott Henson and the HSE diamond community want it. A stacked regular season can only help come postseason.

“(Our players) truly believe they’re more prepared for the sectional than any other team in the state,” says Henson. “You have to be prepared or else you’re going to be taking an early exit.”

As is Henson’s habit, he is taking his Fishers-based team for an early-season test when the Royals play April 6-8 in the Super Prep Series in the Louisville area (HSE was there two years ago and was rained out at Cincinnati Moeller in 2016 when both teams were atop their respective state polls).

Ballard features All-American outfielder/right-hander pitcher Jordon Adell who may be drafted this spring before ever stepping on the field for the University of Louisville. HSE junior left-hander Carter Lohman has committed to U of L.

“This gives us a measuring stick early in the season,” says Henson. “We also get to stay in a hotel and have some team bonding.”

Henson says he wishes the IHSAA would back off its travel rules which limit teams from going more than 300 miles from the border or playing any teams outside that radius.

“We’ve talked to the Louisville organizers,” says Henson. “We can’t play certain teams.”

This spring will mark the third season of a conference format that more closely reflects a college-like schedule and many HSE players do have aspirations of playing college baseball.

“That three-game series is pushing us to the next level,” says Henson, noting that the HCC has been represented in the Class 4A IHSAA State Finals two of the last three seasons (Noblesville winning in 2014 and Zionsville finishing as runner-up in 2016). “We think we’re the best baseball conference in the state.”

While they want to beat each other between the lines, the coaches in the HCC are also friendly and are known to get together for gatherings or seek each other out at clinics.

Henson says the three-game series forces teams to develop pitching (there were 17 NCAA Division I pitchers in the conference in 2016) and really think about strategy.

“You’re getting a better sense who is the best overall team,” says Henson. “That’s the nature of baseball. You’ve got to do it more than just one night. That’s why the World Series is seven games. They want to see who the best team is over time.”

Entering his 15th season as a high school baseball coach, Henson spent two seasons as head JV coach at HSE before taking over the top spot. Before that, he was the hitting coach for four years at Northern Nash High School in Rocky Mount, N.C., after leaving coaching and going into the business world.

Henson was an assistant for four seasons (1995-98) at his alma mater, Pendleton Heights, where he worked for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt.

“Coach Stoudt had a pretty big influence on my life,” says Henson, who played baseball and football for the man at Pendleton and graduated in 1991 before going on to play college baseball at the University of Indianapolis and IUPUI and one season of pro ball with the independent Frontier League’s Richmond Roosters. “It seems he was always in my ear.”

Henson just went through cuts at HSE and usually gets a call every year from Stoudt telling him how this time of the year is both the greatest and the worst.

“I’ve got to tell these kids they don’t get to come and play ball anymore,” says Henson. “It’s tough sometimes.”

At a school of 3,200 students, Henson had 97 try out for 50 spots his first season. Since then, he’s had to cut 25 to 30 players each spring.

“I start preparing the guys for this back in October or November,” says Henson. “I tell them, I’d like to keep all of you. You have a passion for the game.’”

The reality is there are only so many spots.

Henson has seen some players cut once or twice and come back and make the squad.

Through it all, there’s a lesson.

“You are going to go through life with things that are tough,” says Henson. “If you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up and make the best of situations. You rely on your teammates and buddies to put you in a good spot.”

The emphasis at HSE is daily improvement. A coaching staff that includes Kory Seitz, Ken Seitz, Curry Harden, Jeff Mendenhall, Tyler Underwood, Seth Story, Jake Straub, Seth Paladin and Matt Nash reinforces that mantra with varsity, junior varsity and freshmen squads.

“We want to get better everyday,” says Henson. “Work to be your best when you need to be your best.”

The Royals have won 14 sectionals and all of them are represented on the current staff. In their tenures as HSE head coach, IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Seitz claimed nine sectionals, Harden took three and Henson has two (2013, 2015).

Henson has a few other ideas about how to make Indiana high school baseball better.

“I’d love to see us have access to the kids a little more,” says Henson. “Right now, there are periods when we can only work with two kids at a time per coach. There’s a reason travel baseball is becoming more and more important. (Those coaches) have unlimited access.

“I understand the idea behind the rule, but it’s antiquated. We’re missing opportunities.

Henson says the experience could be a little bit better.

“Seeding the tournament would go a long ways,” says Henson. “And we get too caught up in making things geographically feasible.”

If getting the best competition means traveling a few hours, so be it. That’s what it was like in North Carolina, where they do not have an all-comers postseason like Indiana and play a best-of-three championship series.

It’s all about making baseball better.

SCOTTHENSON

Scott Henson is entering his fifth season as head baseball coach at Hamilton Southeastern High School in 2017.