Jordan Schaffer has come to the end of his eligibility after a memorable collegiate baseball career. Now he’s continuing in amateur ball while wondering if he might get to play for pay. Schaeffer, a 2016 graduate of West Vigo High School in West Terre Haute, Ind., spent six years at nearby Indiana State University. He redshirted in 2017 then was in 147 games (115 starts) for the Sycamores from 2018-22. The righty-swinging infielder hit .338 (168-of-497) with 11 home runs, four triples, 11 doubles, 69 runs batted in, 118 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .414. He was named first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference in 2021 and 2022. Mitch Hannahs is Indiana State’s head coach. “He’s an unbelievable motivator,” says Schaffer of Hannahs. “His knowledge of the game is second to none. He knows how to get the most out of his players. “He saw something in me. A lot of hard work later, he got more out of me than I expected. You want to get better not only for him but yourself.” In 2022, Schaffer fielded at a .945 clip and was in on 16 double plays. Liking the way it feels, he wears a standard 11 1/2-inch glove when at shortstop, second base and third base. “I move around,” says Schaffer. “That comes from Coach (Brian) Smiley. No player in his infield group plays one position. That makes you more versatile when you got to other teams, especially summer ball teams. It gives you more chances to play.” This is Schaffer’s fifth go-around with a summer wood bat league and second with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex. Tyler Wampler managed Terre Haute to a league championship in 2018. Schaffer played for the Ohio Valley League’s Henderson (Ky.) Flash in 2017, the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs in 2019, trained the summer of 2020 and was with the Northwoods League’s Wisconsin Woodchucks (now the Wausau Woodchucks) in 2021. After winding up his long stint at ISU, Schaffer signed a 10-day contract in the MLB Draft League with the Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters and has played nine games for the Rex, hitting .412 with one homer and six RBIs. “I’m continuing to play,” says Schaffer, 24. “I may or may not get a chance to play professionally.” The 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is July 17-19. Schaffer, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, could be taken in the 20-round selection process, sign with an MLB organization as an undrafted free agent or seek independent ball opportunity. He notes that the MLB Draft League turns into indy ball post-draft and he could go back there. Schaffer graduated from Indiana State in the spring with double bachelor degrees in Accounting and Sport Management. Born in Terre Haute and growing West Terre Haute, Schaffer was in West Terre Haute Little League then a year of Babe Ruth ball. “I was not able to get on any travel organizations,” says Schaffer. Since age 5, he attended camps conducted by varsity coach Steve DeGroote, worked out with the high schoolers during his middle school years and was a freshman the last season DeGroote served as head coach. “I got the privilege from a young age to know fundamentals he instilled in players,” says Schaffer, who earned four baseball letters and helped West Vigo to two sectional and one regional title. “There were some big-time motivational speeches. I’m thankful I got to play one year under him.” He also played and practiced during the summer with teams organized by DeGroote, who was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017. Culley DeGroote — Steve’s son — took over the West Vigo program and Schaffer played for him his last three prep years. “Culley did a great job of taking it over,” says Schaffer. “He was assistant to Steve. He kept the same fundamentals. “It’s the same program and West Vigo is not somebody you want to run into in postseason play.” Schaffer played for Terre Haute Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 in the summer of 2016. Jordan is the oldest of Brad and Amy Schaffer’s two children. Macy is a nursing student at Ivy Tech Community College. Brad Schaffer is a bidder for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 725. Amy Schaffer is a lawyer’s assistant at McGlone Law in Terre Haute.
When Tyler Schweitzer stepped onto the Ball State University campus in Muncie, Ind., in the fall of 2019, he joined the baseball team at about 6-foot and 155 pounds. Flash forward to the spring of 2022 and 21-year-old Schweitzer is 6-1 and 185 and at the front of the Cardinals’ starting rotation. He was to get the ball today (Thursday, May 19) at Miami (Ohio) to begin a four-game series to end the regular season. Ball State (34-17, 28-7) trails Central Michigan (36-15, 28-6) for first place in the Mid-American Conference. Starting Friday, CMU plays three against visiting Toledo. The top four finishers in the MAC race make the conference tournament with the regular-season champion as host. Schweitzer, a left-handed pitcher, dedicated himself to strength training. “Most of it was from the weight room and eating a lot,” says Schweitzer, who credits Ball State baseball strength and conditioning coach Bill Zenisek for helping him with squats, lunges and dead lifts for his legs and rows and dumb bell presses for his upper body. “I’ve felt healthier in this weight range. I feel stronger. It makes me more confident in myself. I’ve gained a lot of the velo.” Throwing from a three-quarter arm angle, Schweitzer delivers his four-seam fastball at 90 to 93 mph, topping out at 94. “I try to throw it straight but it usually tails and sometimes it might cut,” says Schweitzer of the four-seamer. “My curve is 11-to-5. I throw a sweeping slider (with more vertical drop than horizontal movement). I have a circle change-up (that sinks). “I’ve been messing with grips for a couple years now. I’ve found one that I’m comfortable with.” Schweitzer, who is 9-2 in 13 mound appearances (all starts) with a 2.48 earned run average, 94 strikeouts and 26 walks in 76 1/3 innings, has become comfortable as the No. 1 weekend starter after being used in relief his first two seasons at Ball State. “The relief role I liked a lot,” says Schweitzer. “Coach (Rich Maloney) would put me in stressful situations. I would have to calm the fire. “Being a starter, I have a longer leash. I’m capable of getting in a rhythm and doing my thing.” At the beginning of the season, a pitch count maximum of 70 to 90 was observed. Now it’s about what’s happing in the game. “You’re on your own until Coach comes out there and takes you out,” says Schweitzer, who has two complete games. “It might be crunch time and the closer can come in and give us the win. “It becomes very situational at the end.” Schweitzer is OK turning the ball over to closer Sam Klein. “When I know he’s coming in, the door is shut for the other team,” says Schweitzer of Klein. “For him to come into the game, I know we’re in a good spot. Sophomore right-hander Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2020) is 3-2 with nine saves and a 3.51 ERA. Schweitzer, who has been the MAC Pitcher of the Week three times, enjoys playing for head coach Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully. “(Maloney) is a successful coach and winning is fun,” says Schweitzer, who has helped Ball State post win streaks of 10 and 11 this spring. “When we lose we all take it very seriously and try not to do it again. “(Scully) keeps it very light with all the pitchers. He brings a change of pace when needed.” Schweitzer is a 2019 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. He helped the Royals win an IHSAA Class 4A state championship as a senior. His head coach for the first three years was Scott Henson with Jeremy Sassanella leading HSE in Schweitzer’s final prep season. “He was the one who got my work ethic the way it is today,” says Schweitzer of Henson. “Coach Sassanella gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities.” Schweitzer credits Sassanella for building a brotherhood culture that led to the 2019 state crown. The lefty pitcher three key relief innings during that 3-2 win against Columbus East. Born in Indianapolis, Schweitzer grew up in Fishers. He played travel for the Indiana Prospects, an unaffiliated team, The Cats (a merger of HSE and Fishers players), USAthletic and then back to the Indiana Prospects leading into his senior high school season. At the request of then-Ball State pitching coach Dustin Glant (now at Indiana University), Schweitzer took off the summer of 2019 to rest his arm. The southpaw played for the Matt Kennedy-coached Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park in 2020 and the Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.) in 2021. What he does this summer will depend on how many innings he gets with Ball State. Schweitzer, who is pursuing a double major in Accounting and Economics, is a junior academically and has two years of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season of 2020. Joe Schweitzer, Tyler’s father, is an independent contractor who instills signs. His mother, Susan Binford, owns a furniture company that sells to schools and colleges. Stepmother Lisa Schweitzer is a sale representative for a graphics company. Tyler’s sister Lindsey Schweitzer (22) studies Chemistry at Purdue University.
Tanner Craig has provided a productive bat for the University of Evansville baseball team since the 2018 season. The righty swinger sports a batting average of .294 (128-of-435) with 18 home runs, 28 doubles, 76 runs batted in, 60 runs scored and an .859 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus 487 slugging average) in 116 games. In 2021, the 6-foot, 220-pound first baseman played in 54 contests (all starts) and hit .299 (60-of-201) with 12 homers, 14 doubles, 47 RBIs, 31 runs and a .929 OPS (.382/.547). Thanks to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 season — one in which he was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after slugging four homers in a season-openojvng series at Tennessee Tech — Craig is back for a fifth season with the Purple Aces in 2022. What title best fits Craig as an offensive player? “I would say I’m a power hitter,” says Craig, 22. “It’s role I’ve played at Evansville and other teams I’ve been on.” Aces head coach Wes Carroll tabbed Craig as his regular No. 3 hole hitter in 2021. “I just try to hit the ball hard every time,” says Craig. “I look for a pitch in the part of the (strike) zone I know I can hit it well and swing hard.” While Craig has seen some exit velocity data, it’s not how he and other UE players often gauge their swings. “With turf we can get on the field anytime we want,” says Craig of German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium. “Ball flight — that tells you a lot about your swing. “We played one game on (home) turf in the COVID year (then 34 in 2021). We’re very lucky to have it. That’s for sure.” Craig appreciates Carroll for the way he tailors his approach to each player. “He really cares for all of us as individuals,” says Craig. “He takes the time to learn how to coach us individually. He knows the best way to get to people.” Carroll can be firmer with Craig because he knows he can hand it. Another player may need to be cajoled.” Fall practice began Aug. 30, about a week after the first day of class. Individual work is about to wrap up. That will be followed by team practices and scrimmages. While there has been nothing formal, players have been keeping track of which color teams wins most. The Aces are also slated to play exhibition games Oct, 9 against Western Kentucky University and Oct. 23 against Wabash Valley College — both at Evansville. Last spring, Craig earned an Accounting degree and is now working toward a Masters of Leadership. He expects to finish the 18-month course in December 2022. This summer, Craig played for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. In 26 games, he hit .386 (34-of-88) with 10 homers, seven doubles, 36 RBIs and 19 runs for a team managed by Michael Keeran. The team went a league-best 41-18 during the regular season and lost to the Cape Catfish in the best-of-three championship series. “It was a great experience,” says Craig. “It’s a beautiful stadium (the new-look Loeb Stadium). “It was really fun, my time up there.” Craig was born in Florence, Ky., and grew up in Scottsburg, Ind., where he played Coach Pitch at what is now Scott County Youth League. He played travel ball for the Smithville (Ind.) Gators, Mark Peters-coached Ironmen (13U to 17U) and Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks (18U). He began attending schools in Austin, Ind., in sixth grade and graduate from Austin High School in 2017. Craig was a shortstop, third baseman and pitcher for Eagles coach Matt Bayes. “He’s just a good coach,” says Craig of Bayes. “He’s really good at teaching a lot of aspects of the game.” One of Craig’s teammates was right-handed pitcher Drew Buhr (Austin Class of 2019), who went to Saint Louis University then transferred to Bellarmine University. Tanner, who turns 23 in December, is the youngest of Samtec production supervisor Todd and Morgan Foods senior buyer Jennifer Craig. “They’ve been a huge support for me since I’ve started,” says Tanner of his parents. “They’ve always found ways to get me whatever I need. I can count on one hand the number of games my dad has missed in my college career. “It’s always nice to see a familiar face in the stands.” Morgan Dillard, Tanner’s older sister lives in Indianapolis and is in management with CVS Health. She is married with a daughter. Quintin Craig, Tanner’s older brother, is a project manager of Crown Castle and lives in Louisville with his wife and daughter. Peyton Craig, Tanner’s younger brother, is a Scottsburg freshman involved in Future Farmers of America.
“As a society we need to have more humility. Mistakes are going to be happen in life. We need to be OK with that.
“We need to change our perspective on things and (recognize) if someone is hurting inside (and show empathy).
“We should just be kind to people. Nobody knows what’s going on in people’s life. With COVID-19, a lot of depression going around. I live by these everyday. My parents (Nick and Anne Lawvere) built these in me at a very young age.”
Nick Lawvere is a science teacher at Highland Middle School in Anderson, Ind. Anne Lawvere is Director of Special Education for Eastbrook Community Schools. Older sister Nicole Lawvere (23) was a standout at Eastbrook and a utility infielder at Indiana University, where she is now attending law school.
A three-time Academic Honor Roll and one-time Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (2018-19) selection by the Summit League, Andrew Lawvere (21) is on track to graduate in the spring with a major in Accounting and minor in and Management and Marketing.
He plans to play summer collegiate ball for the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators in 2021 and come back for a bonus season in 2022 while either pursuing another degree or applying for graduate school. After that comes law school. Grandmother Judith Golitko and uncle Matthew Golitko are personal injury lawyers with Golitko & Daly P.C. and Andrew did an internship with the firm in 2018.
“I like helping other people,” says Lawvere. “It goes back to my four pillars.”
Lawvere has appearance in 77 games in three seasons for the PFW Mastodons, including 11 (seven as a starter — six at first base and one as designated hitter) during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign.
The righty swinger hit .300 (9-of-30) with one home run, one double, eight runs batted in and four runs scored. He collected three hits with a homer and drove in three runs Feb. 29 at New Mexico State.
As a right-handed relief pitcher, he made four appearances and went 0-1 while striking out five while walking two in 4 1/3 innings. He fanned three in a 1 2/3-inning stint Feb. 23 at Miami (Ohio).
For his career, Lawvere is hitting .242 (48-of-198) with six homers (including a 2019 grand slam against Alabama State), nine doubles, 29 RBIs and 21 runs.
After the 2020 season was called off and Lawvere find himself back at home, he decided to take his strength and conditioning up a few notches. He began training with former Purdue and Ball State pitcher Eric Van Matre at Muncie (Ind.) Crossfit at The Arsenal. He was introduced to Olympic-style weightlifting and lost 20 pounds.
“I really took advantage of quarantine,” says Lawvere. “I’m in the best shape of myself. I educated myself nutritionally.”
Injuries had moved Lawvere away from catching, but he can see himself going back behind the plate again.
“I had a talk with Coach (Doug) Schreiber,” says Lawvere. “This year I think I’ll get to strap up the shin guards.
“I’m pretty confident I’m going to get back to my roots. I’ll do whatever benefits the team.”
Schreiber took over the Mastodons program in July 2019 and had an impact on Lawvere.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s been around the game for a long time
I’ve really picked his brain lot. He’s an Old School, which I love. He’s a hard-working guy. We understand each other. We are very similar in a lot of ways.
“On a personal level, he makes random phone calls just to check up on me. We just talk about life. He gets it.”
PFW team meetings are filled with discussions tying life situations — like obstacles and adversity — to baseball.
While the Mastodons were on the way to Western Illinois in mid-March when they had to turn around and head back to Fort Wayne after just 15 games, Lawvere said the team was just getting started in 2020.
“We saw a lot of improvement,” says Lawvere. “Schreiber is going to get the culture of the team right.
“As a senior, I’m trying to put my best effort into the culture. I think we’ll have a lot of success (in 2021).”
When Lawvere came to to the Mastodons, Bobby Pierce was head coach.
“One thing that really sticks out about Coach Pierce is that he understood that people are going to have different ways of thinking,” says Lawvere. “There’s no one right thing about a swing or mechanics.
“He tried to better us as individuals and focused on our strengths.”
Pierce was also receptive when players would reach out.
“I’m always trying to reach my optimal level,” says Lawvere. “I try to get as much information as possible and do what I believe is correct.”
He has been able share baseball knowledge and trade jokes with Mastodons hitting/catchers/outfielders coach Ken Jones.
“I love taking knowledge from (Coach Jones) and using it at different times,” says Lawvere. “We have that open relationship where we can talk.”
IPW has faced challenges since returning to campus this fall. After one practice, the team had to go into a 14-day coronavirus quarantine and returned to the field Sept. 21. All players are on the field but are in pods wearing masks and paying attention to social distancing.
“We’re playing it day-by-day with everything going on,” says Lawvere. “We can’t have another two-week shutdown. We’ve got to set a tone for the Horizon League.”
IPW has moved from the Summit League (with North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois) to the Horizon League (with Illinois-Chicago, Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Oakland, Wright State and Youngstown State).
“We’ve talked about intangibles and things we can control,” says Lawvere. “If you want this bad you have to do work on your own (more than 20 hours a week of official team activity).”
In a normal setting, the team would do individual work and then team practice in the fall followed by winter workouts, more individual work and holiday break leading up to the spring season.
Lawvere was born in Muncie and grew up in Upland. With many relatives on his father’s side living close, they refer to the area as “Lawvereville.”
After playing coach pitch baseball in Upland, Andrew played travel ball for the Gas City-based Indiana Rebels coached by Tim Young (his son Nolan Young plays at Illinois State), Greenfield-based Indiana Bandits coached by Dwayne Hutchinson (son Dalton Hutchinson played at Taylor University), the Indiana Prospects coached by Drew Kidd and supervised by Todd Nierman and Indiana Bulls coached by Troy Drosche.
Lawvere played four seasons at Eastbrook for former head coach Todd Farr.
“He was very caring,” says Lawvere of Farr. “He wanted me to get recruited. There were times early in my high school career where I was struggling. He believe in me.
“He saw that I worked hard and wanted to get better.”
In that role, Chase will be working closely with foundation executive director and Performance Center general manager Mark Haley.
“Hales and I connected and, honestly, I just want to help in whatever way that I can,” says Chase. “I’ve had some experiences — both in my playing career and coaching career.
“(On the) player development side, I think I can add some value. On the recruiting side, I can help some of the older guys — 15- 16-, 17-year-old guys looking to play in college and get them to understand what the recruiting process is like. It can seem very confusing a lot of times, especially to families who haven’t gone through it. I would just love to provide some clarity with that.”
Chase also has many connections in college baseball and knows where the opportunities lie.
“I really like working with young kids,” says Chase. “Baseball is such a great game from the relationships that you have to the friends that you meet and learning lessons from the game itself.”
Throughout all his coaching stops, Chase has worked with hitters, infielders and outfielders. He was an infielder at Notre Dame. He will help with instruction at the Performance Center, as an advisor in the recruiting process and be a second set of eyes for Haley when it comes to talent evaluation and other matters.
At Dayton, Chase was recruiting coordinator for Flyers head coach Jayson King, who is also a Massachusetts native.
“We went into a program that we both thought had a lot of promise,” says Chase. “There were a lot of positive things. It was a high academic school. The campus was beautiful. A lot of things you can sell to high school kids.
“We really worked hard at it and were able to get Dayton to where we felt it should be — a competitive school in the Athletic 10 (Conference) and getting good players from that area.”
Chase and King had been together as assistants on the Army staff. It was King who brought Chase to West Point, N.Y., having known about him while at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. Chase and coordinator King shared recruiting duties. The Black Knights head coach was — and still is — Jim Foster.
“Coach Foster is a baseball savant. He played many years in the minor leagues as a catcher and he has that kind of brain. He really understands the game. He’s very good at teaching the game to the players.”
Chase says he knew intricacies of the game, but Foster “took it to a whole different level.”
Scott Loiseau is head coach of the Southern New Hampshire Pennmen.
“Scott’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around in terms of working with his players and getting them to play at their highest level,” says Chase. “His ability to develop relationships with guys is to the point where the team wants to run through a wall with that guy.
“He really, really cares about his players and his coaches. He allows coaches to develop. He gave me a lot of responsibility when I stepped on-campus as a young kid. He was a great mentor for me.
“Most guys are coaching college baseball out of the passion that they have either for the game or the people that they’re around and — a lot of time — it’s both. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice to be a college baseball coach.”
As a volunteer assistant at Navy, Chase first learned about what it means to coach baseball at a military school by Midshipmen head coach a baseball lifer Paul Kostacopoulos, who was assistant and head coach at Providence (R.I.) College and head coach at the University of Maine before landing at Navy in Annapolis, Md.
“He’s been very successful for a very long time,” says Chase for Kostacopoulos. “He took over at Navy and really turned a program around that had been relatively mediocre in the past, but had a great history. He brought it to being consistently competitive and at the top of the Patriot League every single year and winning 30-plus games.
“That’s a hard job. There’s a lot of things at a military academy you need to uphold. It’s not just winning on the field. It goes beyond that. It goes to understanding what the cadet life is being able to foster both commitments to baseball, academics and their military requirements. He does a great job to do all those things.”
Chase says that players at military academies may not have the time to devote to baseball that other schools do. But they bring a resilient, hard-nosed mentality to the field because they compete in everything they do.
UC-Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts gave Chase his first college baseball job as the Gauchos video coordinator.
“I learned what a College World Series program looks like in the inside from the time commitment to the culture to the player development,” says Chase. “As a kid just coming out of college you don’t see what the coaches do off the field.”
Chase still maintains relationships with former Notre Dame bosses Schrage and Aoki.
Chase played three seasons for the Irish. He appeared in six games (all at second base) as a freshman in 2009 and missed the 2010 season following knee surgery with Schrage as head coach.
“Coach Schrage gave me a chance to live my dream of going to Notre Dame and playing baseball there,” says Chase. “He was a very personable guy and really cared about the well-being of his players.
“He was always a positive person. He was not a cutthroat-type coach. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
Aoki took over for 2011 and Chase got into 11 games (one as a starter).
“He’s a New England guy through and through,” says Chase of Aoki. “He allowed me to work my way to a chance to compete on the field and contribute to the team.”
At the end of 2011 season, his teammates thought enough of him to choose him as one of the captains for 2012 as he played in 17 games (four starts).
“It was a great honor,” says Chase of being chosen as a captain. “I enjoyed having a voice to lead the other guys and help them. When you’re a coach, you’re implementing your culture and you’re talking about the things that are important. A lot of times, the thing that’s most important is the leaders on the team saying the same message.
“A lot of times it’s not what the coaches say, it’s what the leaders among the players say to each other. The players have so much influence over the where the team’s headed and the culture of the team.”
Leaders can handle issues like players coming late to the weight room before it ever becomes big and has to be addressed by the coaching staff.
Chase grew up in Cohasset a few years ahead of Mike Monaco, who went on to Notre Dame and served as a broadcaster for the South Bend Cubs and now counts and has called games for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox and the big-league Boston Red Sox.
Tommy and Teresa Chase have three sons — David (2 1/2), Peter (1) and Patrick (5 weeks). They are in the process of buying a home in Granger, Ind. Many friends from Tommy’s Notre Dame days still live in the South Bend area.
“If we’re ever going to be competitive on a regular basis, we’ve got to get away from just because you showed up, you get to be on the baseball team,” says Weems, who was junior varsity coach at Pike for three seasons then was a volunteer assistant on the staff of Dave Scott at Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter before returning to the Red Devils in 2019 as assistant head coach to Todd Webster. “That’s not the way any of those (MIC) schools are and that’s the reason they are successful. There’s competition within the program. If there’s no competition within your own program, then how do you expect to get them to compete with them other teams?”
Pike won the MIC in 2018 then lost many players to graduation and struggled to win many games in 2019. The positive is that many sophomores got varsity playing time.
“They were the ones that earned it whether they were ready for it or not,” says Weems. “That’s what we had so we rolled with it. We’ll be better off for it because a lot of those guys — by the time they’re seniors — will be three-year starters.
“I’ve had my 1-on-1’s with guys I think will be competing for varsity spots and told them where they stand and what they need to work on. I also gave every one of them an idea of who’s coming up behind them and it’s their job to keep that spot.”
That’s the between the lines. There’s also preparing the young men for their next phase be it college, military or work.
“We want to make sure they’re prepared for what life’s going to throw at them,” says Weems, who served in the Indiana Air National Guard as a weather forecaster and observer for nearly seven years and attended Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis and now is an accountant for Indianapolis Public Schools in his day job.
His father — the late Tommy Weems — was a disabled veteran who began coaching youth football while still serving in the U.S. Air Force and coached the Weems brothers — Brandon and Brian — in football and basketball when they were growing up.
“He was not able to work,” says Weems. “I don’t come from a affluent background. I come from the same background as a lot of our kids (at Pike).
“The main difference is that I had my dad. A lot of these kids don’t have their dads.
“They’re going to spend a lot more time with me and my staff. We’re going to make sure we’re leading them not only in baseball but we’re reminding them to make good choices like doing their homework, taking time to go to study tables, getting tutoring when they need it, making sure they’re treating the young ladies the way they’re supposed to. We go into all that stuff.”
The coaching staff features Caleb Wakefield (a Pike teacher and U.S. Army veteran who will work with outfielders), Cameron Gardner (a volunteer who coached with Weems and the Indiana Nitro travel organization and will help with infielders), Davon Hardy (the former Irvington Preparatory Academy head coach who will also help with infielders), Xavier Wilder (head junior varsity coach), Nick Lucich (catching coordinator) and Isiah Hatcher (JV assistant).
Even though Pike — which is part of the seventh-largest school district in Indiana — has three gyms, there are still so many athletes and other students vying for practice space. Many off-season baseball workouts are early in the morning or late at night.
Weems says funding has been approved for a new fieldhouse, which will come in handy in the cold months when the Red Devils can’t practice outside on Hildebrand Field.
Last year, beginning in August through the time of high school tryouts, Weems had players in grades 6-8 come in for Sunday workouts.
“We got a really good turnout,” says Weems. “I got almost a full off-season with our incoming freshmen. I knew who they were. They knew who I was. They understood what the expectations were at the high school level.”
This fall and winter, more free workouts have been twice a month on Saturdays for grades 3-8.
High school players are required to do community service hours and one way they fulfill them is to volunteer to help with the youth players.
Pike fielded a summer team last year that was organized by Weems and ran by assistants to provide a competitive opportunity and to make playing in the high school off-season more affordable. Others played for Little League and other organizations.
“We make it voluntarily,” says Weems. “It’s not that if you don’t play with us (during the summer), you can’t play for us (in the spring).
“That is totally fine. I make that clear with the kids. I make that extremely clear with the parents. I make my athletic director aware of what we do.
“It’s what we have to do to compete right now.”
Seems points to Ohio and the ACME Baseball Congress system in place there that provides high school players, coaches and teams an opportunity to continue to play after the high school season ends and is compliant with Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines.
Weems, 33, hails from Springfield, Ohio, and played at the old Springfield North High School. His class (2004) was the first in school history to win at least 100 games in four years. The Mark Stoll-coached Panthers made it to the district finals (equivalent to the regional in Indiana) three of the four seasons.
He also played in the Babe Ruth League state championship at 13, 14 and 15.
Weems began his coaching career with Springfield North’s freshmen team in the spring of 2005.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be a college baseball player, but I knew I loved the game and didn’t want to be away from it,” says Weems. “I’m an analytical guy. My degree’s in accounting and finance. Baseball kind of lends well to what my strengths are.
“Baseball is one of the last few pure sports that are left because you can’t fake it. When the ball comes your way, you cannot hide. If you’re not trying, everybody’s going to see it.”
Brandon and Dionne Weems celebrated five years of marriage last week. The couple has two sons — Carter (5) and Andrew (3).
Brandon Weems is the head baseball coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis.
Since his last game with the Ravens, the pitcher has been experiencing life as an independent professional player. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder left-handed pitcher is currently on the disabled list for the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things of the Frontier League.
“Faith has been a vital part of my baseball journey — in large part thanks to my development at Anderson University — and I feel fortunate that I am today in pro ball,” says Eaton, who completed his undergraduate accounting degree in 2015 and Masters of Business Administration with a focus on global business in 2016.
“It was from wear and tear,” says Eaton. “The ligament wasn’t torn. I had just put so much stress on it over the years, it wasn’t protecting the nerve anymore.
“I talked with a surgeon at Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. I wanted to continue playing baseball.”
Eaton was given the option of skipping the surgery and going through physical therapy with a chance of success at about 45 percent or getting the procedure with an expected 90 percent success rate.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” says Eaton, who came back to pitch for the Ravens in 2015 and 2016.
David Pressley was the head coach at AU for Eaton’s first four years at the school.
After Anderson won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and qualified for NCAA Division III regional play in 2015, Pressley went back to his home state of Alabama to coach at powerhouse Madison Academy High School.
“I really grew as a person and player at Anderson,” says Eaton. “I learned to be role model for kids. (Presley) taught me how to be a better man and helped me develop my faith.”
“(Glant) helped me increase my velocity 6 mph in the (2015-16) off-season,” says Eaton. “I wouldn’t have stood a shot at pro ball if he wasn’t there for my last season at Anderson.”
In three college seasons, the southpaw appeared in 34 games (30 as a starter) with a 16-5 record, 3.21 earned run average, 161 strikeouts and 84 walks in 193 2/3 innings.
Spending much of his time for seven years studying, playing or working out around Anderson, Eaton also was employed part-time doing accounts payable and receivable for Reflectix, a stock reflective insulation manufacturer.
Eaton’s pro path has included stops with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats of the American Association and Tucson (Ariz.) Saguaros in the Pecos League in 2016 and the AA’s Salina (Kan.) Stockade (which played all its games on the road) and Washington in 2017. He signed with the Wild Things in July, made 12 appearances (all in relief) with 1-0 record, one save, 2.21 ERA, 23 K’s and seven free passes in 20 innings and was re-signed in October for the 2018 season.
“I’m working on my core, cardio or legs — or a mix of them,” says Eaton of his regular gym sessions. Just this past week, he began doing light biceps and shoulder work.
It’s all about building strength back up around his left elbow.
Eaton says he expects to begin throwing again around July 2 and report back to the Wild Things a week after that, though the “diehard Indianapolis Colts fan” did plan to be in Washington to see former NFL Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee play for the Things at It’s All About the Warrior Field at ConSol Energy Park.
Eaton has been following the team’s game on video streaming.
Four pitches are in Eaton’s arsenal — four-seam fastball (he does work on a two-seamer during bullpen sessions), curveball, slider and “circle” change-up from the three-quarter overhand arm slot. He was consistently clocked at 86 to 89 mph on his heater while touching 90 a few times last season.
“As a left-hander, I can get away with a lot more than a righty would,” says Eaton.
But he has learned that there is a drastic difference between facing D-III and professional hitters.
“You have to use a lot more off-speed going into pro ball,” says Eaton. “Sometimes, you can blow it by them in D-III ball. (Pro) hitters a lot better at adjusting.
“They are good at picking up on your mechanics. That’s like smelling blood in the water for the hitter. They see it’s going to be a off-speed pitch and sit back on it.”
At LaPorte High School, Eaton was part of the Scott Upp-coached Slicers varsity for his junior and senior seasons. In 2010, he was 1-0, 1.05 and 20 strikeouts and six walks in 13 1/3 innings for a 27-4 team.
Eaton was 4-3, 4.16, 34 strikeouts and 14 walks in 38 2/3 innings for a 20-10-1 club in his senior season of 2011.
Upp is credited for teaching Eaton about always having an aggressive approach to the game.
“You can’t go in with a soft approach,” says Eaton. “You have to attack everyone.”
One thing Eaton appreciates about the Wild Things is that they are not as likely to swiftly cut someone after a few sub-par performances or for the promise of a better player.
“They stick by you and trust you and give you a sense of security,” says Eaton. “As long as you do everything to your full potential.
“That’s why we usually have such a good clubhouse. Guys can get close and don’t have to worry about leaving the next day.”
Eaton doesn’t mind the distance from home with the way he is treated.
His summer travel baseball experience included the Indiana Breakers in 2010 and Plymouth American Legion Post 27 in 2011.
Summers during his college days, were spent working a job and working out.
Eaton counts work ethic as his best quality as an athlete.
“I’ve always got a focus and a plan going into my workout or my day,” says Eaton. “I know what I need to do to get better.”
Jake is the son of Steve Eaton and Terri Wainscott and has a older half sister named Nikki.
His father is a retired from more than 40 years as a bricklayer.
“I mixed a lot of mortar for him over the years,” says Jake of projects around the house.
His mother is a registered nurse.
Jake Eaton, a LaPorte High School graduate who holds undergraduate and masters degrees from Anderson (Ind.) University, is in independent pro baseball with the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things. (Washington Wild Things Photo)