Tyler Nemtuda did not get to pitch in a competitive baseball game for three years. He got the chance to get back in the game in 2023 and he made the most of it. A left-hander and 2020 graduate of Portage (Ind.) High School, Nemtuda lost his senior season with the Indians to the COVID-19 pandemic. While competing in a travel-ball PBR Future Games event at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Nemtuda attracted the attention of coaches at Florence-Darlington Technical College — a junior college in Florence, S.C. He went for a visit and decided to become a Flo-Dar Stinger. But a car accident about a year into school caused him to drop all his classes and miss out on the 2021 baseball season. Just before the 2022 slate, Nemtuda dislocated his left knee cap. He had surgery and missed that campaign as well. “I had a pretty rough two years,” says Nemtuda. He began running and throwing last July. With his knee on the mend, he got to play for the first time since his junior year at Portage. This spring, the southpaw played for head coach head coach Preston McDonald, pitching coach Jeremy McDonald (not relation to Preston) and assistant pitching coach Ryan Smith and made 18 mound appearances (16 in relief), going 3-1 with two saves, a 3.77 earned run average, 32 strikeouts and 15 walks in 28 2/3 innings. “They told us to work hard, never give up and do your best every time you go out there,” says Nemtuda of his Flo-Dar coaches. “We learned a lot, made a lot of friends and had a good time.” Throwing from an arm slot between three-quarter overhand and sidearm, the lefty uses a two-seam fastball, slider and change-up. The two-seamer can move into or away a hitter on either side of the plate and sits at 87 to 89 mph and has topped out at 90. “That’s like my best pitch right now,” says Nemtuda. “I have a lot of arm-side run and then it will sometimes cut into righties, too. I get a lot of ground balls. He also gets plenty of swings and misses with the fastball when he puts it inside or up in the strike zone. The slider moves to left to right, landing on the back foot of a right-handed hitter. His change-up is a three-finger splitter with the ring and pointer fingers placed outside of his two-seam grip. Nemtuda earned an associate degree in Arts at Florence-Darlington and is committed to join the Bearcats of NCAA Division II Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., in the fall while studying Business Administration. Jason Burke is Lander’s head coach. Alex Moore is pitching coach. The Bearcats are Peach Belt Conference members. Baseball and school keep him busy, but when he has time Nemtuda enjoys fishing. He tends to go for brown trout, steelhead and bass at home and bass in South Carolina. Tyler was born in Chesterton, Ind., and and attended school there until moving to nearby Portage after his freshman year as his father went there for a basketball coaching job. Father Bob Nemtuda is now a Physical Education teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Chesterton. Mother Tracy Nemtuda is nurse for Ambiomed. Older sister Taylor Nemtuda was involved in cross country, tennis and some basketball at Chesterton. Tyler played baseball at what is now Liberty Rec Babe Ruth and State Park Little League — both in Chesterton — and then went into travel ball with the Chesterton-based Duneland Flyers, Illinois-based Elite Baseball and the Indiana Bulls. He was on the Chesterton High School junior varsity as a freshman and the Portage varsity as a sophomore and junior. He played first base and right field when not pitching. His coaches were Bob Dixon and John Selman. “They were just great coaches that would help you with anything,” says Nemtuda. “I lift a lot. They’d always open the gym and weight room for me, which was awesome. “I still talk to them to this day.” Former Portage head coach Doug Nelson has also given facilities access to Nemtuda. This summer, Nemtuda is with the Northern League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. The Adam Enright-managed team is to open its season today (May 25) at Lake County (Crown Point, Ind.) with the home opener at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind., June 7.
Two schools from the same conference and just over 10 miles apart in Grant County, Ind., will both represented at the 2023 NAIA World Series baseball tournament in Lewiston, Idaho. Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University — the tournament and regular-season champions in the Crossroads League — went 3-0 in their respective Opening Round tourneys. The Rich Benjamin-coached Wildcats did it in Kingsport, Tenn., and the Kyle Gould-coached Trojans at home to punch their tickets. Benjamin has announced that he will leave IWU to become athletic director at Mississinewa High School in Gas City, Ind., at the end of the season. The final NAIA coaches’ poll came out May 10 and Taylor was No. 19. Indiana Wesleyan received votes. It will be the first World Series appearance for IWU and the second for Taylor (the other trip came in 1969). The 10-team event is Friday to Friday, May 26-June 2. The field also features MidAmerica Nazarene University (Olathe, Kan.) and Georgia Gwinnett University (Lawrenceville, Ga.). MNU Pioneers head coach Ryan Thompson was a player and assistant at Bethel College (now Bethel University), a Crossroads League member in Mishawaka, Ind. GGU Grizzlies head coach Jeremy Sheetinger was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., early in his coaching career.
The state’s longest current win streaks belong to Indiana Wesleyan (6), Indiana State (5), Indianapolis (3) and Taylor (3).
The NCAA Division I RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings through May 21 has Wake Forest as the overall No. 1. Among the state’s schools, Indiana State is No. 10, Indiana No. 27, Notre Dame No. 47, Evansville No. 87, Ball State No. 116, Valparaiso No. 135, Purdue No. 209, Butler No. 235, Purdue Fort Wayne No. 275 and Southern Indiana No. 276. After conference tournaments comes the national tournament selection announcement on Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day).
Below are season records, weekly results and links to web pages, schedules and statistics for all 39 programs.
Through May 21 NCAA D-I Tuesday, May 16 Ball State 12, Southern Indiana 1 (7 inn.) Indiana 6, Evansville 2 Northwestern 8, Notre Dame 7 (11 inn) Purdue Fort Wayne 8, Toledo 7
Thursday, May 18 Kent State 29, Ball State 11 St. John’s 24, Butler 5 Evansville 9, Illinois-Chicago 8 Michigan State 8, Indiana 6 Indiana State 11, Missouri State 4 Notre Dame 5, Boston College 1 Nebraska 10, Purdue 5 Purdue Fort Wayne 4, Milwaukee 3 Valparaiso 7, Illinois State 6
Friday, May 19 Kent State 14, Ball State 3 St. John’s 7, Butler 5 Illinois-Chicago 7, Evansville 3 Michigan State 7, Indiana 6 Boston College 7, Notre Dame 2 Boston College 8, Notre Dame 4 Purdue 7, Nebraska 3 Milwaukee 7, Purdue Fort Wayne 1 Southern Indiana 8, Tennessee Tech 7 Tennessee Tech 11, Southern Indiana 7 Illinois State 20, Valparaiso 10 (8 inn.)
Saturday, May 20 Kent State 11, Ball State 5 St. John’s 14, Butler 4 Evansville 2, Illinois-Chicago 1 Indiana 6, Michigan State 5 Indiana State 9, Missouri State 5 Indiana State 14, Missouri State 4 Nebraska 6, Purdue 4 Purdue Fort Wayne 9, Milwaukee 3 Southern Indiana 8, Tennessee Tech 6 Illinois State 10, Valparaiso 3
NCAA D-II Midwest Regional II Tournament (At Springfield, Ill.) Thursday, May 18 Indianapolis 11, Illinois-Springfield 10 (11 inn.) Maryville 5, Ashland 2
Friday, May 19 Illinois-Springfield 10, Ashland 2 Indianapolis 14, Maryville 5
Saturday, May 20 Maryville 5, Illinois-Springfield 4 Championship Indianapolis 11, Maryville 1
NCAA D-III Friday, May 19 Birmingham (Ala.) Regional Lewis & Clark 7, Birmingham-Southern 1 LaVerne 8, Franklin 7
Saturday, May 20 Birmingham-Southern 16, Franklin 2 LaVerne 19, Lewis & Clark 4 Birmingham-Southern 15, Lewis & Clark 8
NAIA Opening Round Upland Bracket Monday, May 15 Point Park 20, Fisher 3 Taylor 3, Cumberland 2 Point Park 8, Tennessee Wesleyan 4
Tuesday, May 16 Cumberland 17, Fisher 9 Taylor 12, Point Park 10 Tennessee Wesleyan 30, Cumberland 18
Wednesday, May 17 Point Park 6, Tennessee Wesleyan 5 (10 inn.) Championship Taylor 12, Point Park 0
Kingsport Bracket Monday, May 15 Bryan 10, Missouri Baptist 1 Indiana Wesleyan 9, Webber International 4
Tuesday, May 16 Missouri Baptist 14, Webber International 7 Indiana Wesleyan 8, Bryan 3
Wednesday, May 17 Missouri Baptist 21, Bryan 4 Indiana Wesleyan vs. Missouri Baptist Championship Indiana Wesleyan 7, Missouri Baptist 6
National Christian College World Series (At Kansas City) Friday, May 19 Fort Lauderdale 9, Trinity Christian 6 Dallas Christian 5, Kansas Christian 4 Oakland City 5, Toccoa Falls 0 Mid-America Christian 6, Fort Lauderdale 2
Saturday, May 20 College of the Ozarks 2, Baptist Bible 0 Southwestern Christian 4, Dallas Christian 0 Trinity Christian 8, Toccoa Falls 2 Kansas Christian 6, Baptist Bible 2 Trinity Christian 5, Dallas Christian 3 Mid-America Christian 7, Oakland City 6 Fort Lauderdale 9, Kansas Christian 2 Southwestern Christian 7, College of the Ozarks 3
Monday, May 22 Mid-America Christian vs. Southwestern Christian Oakland City vs. Trinity Christian College of the Ozarks vs. Fort Lauderdale Game 16 Game 17
Tuesday, May 23 Championship Game 18 Game 19 (if necessary)
Junior College NJCAA Region 24 Tournament Wednesday, May 17 Lewis & Clark 7, John Wood 5 Illinois Central 12, Lincoln Land 10 Parkland 10, Vincennes 4 Lincoln Land 13, Vincennes 9
Thursday, May 18 Heartland 10, Lewis & Clark 2 Parkland 8, Illinois Central 5 Lincoln Land 7, Lewis & Clark 5 Illinois Central 7, John Wood 5
Friday, May 19 Heartland 14, Parkland 6 Lincoln Land 10, Illinois Central 7 Lincoln Land 21, Parkland 8
Saturday, May 20 Championship Heartland 9, Lincoln Land 3
“Every coach has a story.” It’s a line that comes early on the Top Coach Podcast hosted by Jack Warren. “If we’re able to listen to what people are saying, everybody’s got something to say,” says Warren, who published his first episode in 2013 (with then-Indiana University head coach Tracy Smith) and No. 421 Jan. 30, 2023 (with State University of New York-Oswego’s Scott Landers). “I love to hear people’s stories.” Mostly baseball interviews though he has featured other sports (including a talk with Jeffersonville, Ind., High School coach Danny Struck), the podcast features conversations with coaches at all levels. The focus is not X’s and O’s, but the relatable stories they tell. “The absolute best way to learn — bar none — is a good story,” says Warren. “If I can get someone to tell a memorable story I’ve done my job. “Who’s got something to say to other coaches to instruct, encourage and edify them? Bottom line: If someone’s got a compelling story, I want to tell it and I want to hear it.” Discussions are not about bunt defense or gripping the curve, but things like organization, management, communication as well as career and staff development. Over the years, Warren began consulting and career coaching. “I’ve picked the brains of 1,000-plus coaches,” says Warren, who advises youth coaches to beware of money issues. “If you go into college coaching right now you better hope you don’t have a lot of debt so it’s not something you’ve got to worry about,” says Warren. “You’ll be working 60-70 hours a week with the baseball team.” Warren coached at the high school and youth levels in Indiana, Illinois (including Normal’s Calvary Christian Academy) — and briefly — California and worked for three decades for State Farm Insurance. The job gave him the flexibility to coach. A Tennessee native and 1976 graduate of Gary (Ind.) Wirt High School (he was a Troopers classmate and teammate of future big league slugger Ron Kittle and began coaching at Gary’s Miller Little League as a junior) Warren was one of the early podcasters. In the mid-2000’s, he and friend Tom Jackson started a baseball podcast in central Illinois. Warren landed back there while working for State Farm Insurance. He attended Illinois State University in Normal for two years, got married and later graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. “Bloomington-Normal is a baseball hotbed,” says Warren. “Within three miles of each other you’ve got Heartland Community College which is one of the top junior college baseball programs in the country, Illinois State University which has done very well and Illinois Wesleyan which won the (NCAA) D-III national title.” At the time, the head coaches were Nate Metzger at Heartland, Mark Kingston at ISU and Dennis Martel at Illinois Wesleyan. In a 30-mile radius there were about 70 high school graduates playing on college diamonds. “We decided to take advantage of that and we started a podcast dedicated to local baseball,” says Warren of the show which aired weekly from a local restaurant from March to September or October. In 2013 while living in Towanda, Ill., Warren got the idea to try to take it national. He contacted Kingston and some other coaches in his inner circle. He learned about third-rail topics to avoid and began to send invitations to potential guests. “I still thank Tracy Smith for being willing to step out there on faith and do the podcast with me,” says Warren. His fourth episode in 2013 was with then-Purdue University head coach Doug Schreiber. He followed up with Schreiber in 2014 at Purdue and 2021 at Purdue Fort Wayne. The first several minutes of the first interview was mostly about Ken Schreiber, who won over 1,000 games and seven state titles as head coach at LaPorte (Ind.) High School. “Growing up in northwest Indiana there was LaPorte and everybody else who wanted to be LaPorte,” says Warren. The podcast pioneer has filled guest map from coast-to-coast. Other podcast chats with ties to Indiana include Notre Dame’s Mik Aoki (2015), Saint Joseph’s College’s Rick O’Dette (2015), Indiana’s Chris Lemonis (2016), Noblesville High School’s Justin Keever (2017) and Butler University’s Blake Beemer (2022). He’s shined the Assistant Coach Spotlight on Munster (Ind.) High School graduate and Trinity Christian College’s Adam Enright (2017), IU-Kokomo’s Jason Leone (2018) and Culver (Ind.) Academies’ J.D. Uebler (2022). At first, Warren went after the biggest names he could find and it was “easy pickings.” He was able to land folks like Florida State’s Mike Martin, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, Texas Christian University’s Jim Schlossnagle and even American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ron Polk and former Kentucky head coach and SCORE International/Inside Pitch Magazine publisher Keith Madison. “In other sports those kinds of guys are impossible to get,” says Warren. “(Baseball coaches) love to give back. Baseball coaches are some of the most giving people there are. “One of the reasons I think both baseball and softball coaches are this way is because you have to do everything yourself. You don’t see high school golf coaches mowing the grass or track coaches lining the track. You don’t see football coaches (lining the field). “Baseball coaches have to do it all.” So while not all show guests are the most well-known, they all have a story to tell. “Top Coach is not just about the biggest names in coaching,” says Warren. “It just means you add something to the sport.” Warren retired from State Farm, worked briefly in North Carolina and landed with wife, Pam, in Fernandina Beach, Fla. That’s where Corn Belt Sports and its media arm — Top Coach — now calls home. He records his podcasts and is able to make TC Tour stops around the Sunshine State. Metzger, who now pitching coach at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, encouraged Warren to attend his first ABCA Convention. He’s now at regular at the ABCA, where he spends three days in early January going from one person to the next absorbing their stories.
Adam Enright is immersed in college baseball. The Munster (Ind.) High School and University of Southern Indiana graduate is in his second stint head coach of NAIA member Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., and manages the Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summer wood bat Northern League. Enright managed the East to a 5-4 10-inning win over the West in the 2022 NL All-Star Game July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. He’s been the in the circuit formerly known as the Midwest Collegiate League for eight years. What brings Enright back? “The people in the organization and the players you get to interact with over the summer,” says Enright, 33. “You see a pretty wide range of players from all levels of college baseball that go to school all over the country. It’s an interesting dynamic.” Enright takes the opportunity to pick the brains of these players. “They’ve all got good information for me,” says Enright. “I ask them how they do things in games and practices and how they run their programs. “As far as information goes, if it’s not nailed to the ground, you can have at it. We try to take all the good stuff that we can.” Enright has witnessed an era in college baseball where the Transfer Portal is as active as ever. It’s been fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic where many players have been given extra years of eligibility. “All these student-athletes, they want to play,” says Enright. “They want to go somewhere they fit in and where they’re going to get a chance to grow, develop and actually play.” The added eligibility has led to more players extending their time in college, taking spots that might have been filled by other players. The Northern League — and other summer college loops — are full of players in the portal and seeking a landing spot. “In my 12 years in college baseball I’ve never seen anything like this as far as how late into the summer it is and a lot of players are waiting or trying to find out where they’re going,” says Enright. “It’s made a very interesting recruiting landscape for us all. “It changes the timing of it a ton. In the past because of supply and demand that colleges had to players wanting those spots, you could put a little more pressure on players to make decisions and put more of a timeline on them — like you have two weeks to make a decision. “Now, it’s not as advantageous to do that because there are so many good players who have to wait longer based on opportunities they might find elsewhere.” Enright understands the stress this causes for players and coaches. “There’s less time to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s and admissions and all those things,” says Enright. “But it will shake itself out.” He also subscribes to the same notion as he did before the explosion of transfers. “I’ve always believed that everyone ends up where they belong,” says Enright. “(That is) if they do their homework and they make sure that where they’re going is a place that they’re 100 percent committed to before they go and they’re not jumping at the first offer.” Enright played for Tracy Archuleta at Southern Indiana and was chatting recently with the Eagles head coach. “He said something that made sense,” says Enright. “We’ve had one relatively normal season of college baseball that didn’t have a whole lot of COVID rules and things attached to it. Players transferring for next year need to be in a place where they’re not going to need to or want to transfer again. That’s got to be the driving force for not only their decisions but our decisions as coaches to take guys on. “Some schools might take more than they need and (players) will be right back in that situation where they’re not playing and getting the opportunities and want to transfer again. We as coaches need to make sure the guys — and especial the Transfer Portal guys — are satisfied and they’ll stay where they’re at.” The Northern League regular season is to conclude Aug. 6 with the playoffs Aug. 8-11. Through games of July 14, the first-year Lake County CornDogs (based in Crown Point, Ind.) are in first place at 24-8, followed by the Southland Vikings 20-13, Northwest Indiana Oilmen 19-14, Joliet Generals 14-17, Crestwood Panthers 14-18 and Chicago American Giants 4-24. Games are streamed on YouTube.
Growing up, Enright played at Edison Little League/Babe Ruth League in Hammond, Ind., followed by four summers of travel baseball with the Hammond Chiefs (now the Morris Chiefs).
After playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan at Munster, Enright took to the diamond at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. (2008-09) for National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Steve Ruzich and the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville (2010-11) for two-time national champion Tracy Archuleta.
Enright was an NJCAA All-American at South Suburban, hitting .446 with five home runs, 17 doubles and 46 runs batted in. At USI, he started every game for the 2010 NCAA Division II national champions. He also started 55 contests in 2011, helping the Screaming Eagles to a fourth straight Great Lakes Valley Conference championship.
Enright holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Southern Indiana and a Master’s of Arts in coaching from Greenville (Ill.) University.
He also spent seven summers with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen (2012-18) — the last four as manager. The Whiting-based team also won the league title in 2016.
During his time as a coach, Enright has learned the importance of being organized.
“Things can get pretty hectic,” says Enright, 29. “The qualities that I bring to this job as a head coach are thoroughness and the ability to put ideas together.
“I have to make sure things are spelled out and clearly communicated.”
At NCAA Division I Chicago State, Enright worked with Cougars head coach and Hammond (Ind.) High School graduate Michael Caston.
“He was a relationships guy,” says Enright of Caston. “Things were tougher for us and wins were hard to come by. He kept the players in a positive state of mind. He kept everybody’s spirits high and kept things enjoyable.
“He played a lot of really quality schools (during non-conference play).”
Enright’s stint at D-I Arkansas-Little Rock gave him the opportunity to serve on the staff of Trojans head coach Scott Norwood.
“He was a structured, disciplined type of coach,” says Enright of Norwood. “He would make sure everybody was motivated to buy into the program’s philosophy.
“Assistant coaches were allowed a lot of freedom when it came to developing players.”
At NAIA Trinity, Enright worked on a Trolls staff headed by Justin Huisman (who is also a former Oilmen manager) and learned that administrative duties make up a large portion of a head coach’s job.
“I got to really concentrate on baseball a lot,” says Enright. “(Huisman) was very good at the administrative side. He was very organized, a very good planner and very good at keeping players in the know.”
It was in Palos Heights that Enright met the woman that he would marry. Adam and Kimmy Enright were wed in December 2017.
Enright’s top assistant at Missouri Valley — Matt Dwyer — is back for his seventh season in 2019. Dwyer is familiar with both the coaching and administrative sides.
“We tackle things together,” says Enright of Dwyer. “That frees us up to do more baseball.”
“There’s a a lot of instruction and breaking the game down,” says Enright. “It’s a lot more teaching and talking than playing games.”
NAIA rules allow baseball activities for 24 weeks and the Vikings will work six days a week for six weeks in the fall until mid-October and then 18 leading into and including the spring season. The season opener is scheduled for Feb. 8 at Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark., with the home opener Feb. 22 against conference opponent Northwestern College.
MVC is part of the 13-member Heart of America Athletic Conference. Teams will play 31 conference games — three each against divisional opponents and two apiece against cross-divisional foes. Division series are usually played on weekends with one nine-inning single game and a doubleheader. Cross-divisional games tend to be weekday doubleheaders.
Enright learned of the opening at Missouri Valley through the American Baseball Coaches Association job board. He attended the annual ABCA Convention when it was in Indianapolis last January.
“It’s something near and dear to my heart,” says Enright. “I try to go as often as I can.
“It’s always worth going. You’re always able to pick up something new, see familiar faces and meet new ones.”
The 2019 ABCA Convention is slated for Jan. 3-6 in Dallas.
Adam Enright, a Munster (Ind.) High School and University of Southern Indiana graduate and former Northwest Oilmen manager, is the new head baseball coach at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. (Missouri Valley College Photo)
The summer collegiate wood bat baseball club that calls Whiting’s Oil City Stadium home has qualified for the playoffs in each of its six seasons.
The Oilmen went into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed (Bloomington, Ill., beat Northwest Indiana 3-1 Tuesday, Aug. 1 in Game 1 of a best-of-3 semifinals series). Game 2 was slated for Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Bloomington with Game 3 (if necessary) Thursday, Aug. 3 at Oil City. Home games have been broadcast live on the team’s Facebook page.
Don Popravak and Adam Enright have been with the Oilmen for each campaign. Popravak is president and owner while Enright is in his third season as head coach after three summers as an assistant.
A veteran of more than three decades in marketing, Popravak conceived the idea of the team, negotiated with the City of Whiting for the use of the stadium and has built the Oilmen brand.
Enright is a Munster High School graduate who played at South Suburban College and then helped the University of Southern Indiana to an NCAA Division II national championship (2010). After one year each at Chicago State University and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, he is entering his fifth season as an assistant at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.
TCC Trolls head coach Justin Huisman is a former Oilmen head coach. Huisman played at the University of Mississippi and pitched briefly with the 2004 Kansas City Royals.
Popravak, a Chicago native who grew up minutes from Whiting and played baseball and football at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., has watched the Midwest Collegiate League (founded in 2010) grow and greatly improve its ability to attract top-notch talent. Dozens of former MCL players have been drafted by Major League Baseball clubs, including six in 2017. Others have gone on to independent professional baseball.
Left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani, recently traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers, played for the Illinois Jayhawks in the MCL’s first season.
Third baseman Paul DeJong played in the MCL with the Will County CrackerJacks (2012) and DuPage County Hounds (2013).
Former Oilmen player and Munster High graduate Craig Dedelow played at Indiana University and is now an outfielder the minors with the Chicago White Sox.
Hammond Bishop Noll Institute graduate Matt Pobereyko was a player and pitching coach with the Oilmen before going to independent baseball. He was with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and, after another indy stint, is now a New York Mets farmhand.
John Ely, who pitched for the Dodgers in 2010, 2011 and 2012, managed the Southland Vikings and is now a coach in the White Sox system.
“He credits his experience of coaching at this level,” says Popravak. “We have quality guys working with players and developing their careers.”
“We want them go back to their colleges and be an impact player,” says Popravak.
Unique to summer collegiate baseball, the MCL has some players that play in the league before they ever step on a university campus.
“That’s a real advantage for a college coach,” says Popravak. “That young players who’s hungry can get 250 at-bats against college pitching and work their mistakes out early so they can go to a college campus and compete for a job.”
Corey Ray played for Southland before going to the University of Louisville and is now in the Brewers system.
Donivan Williams impressed the Cardinals enough after playing with the Oilmen that they signed him and he by-passed college. The 18-year-old third baseman from Oak Lawn, Ill., is now playing in the Gulf Coast League.
The MCL roster limit is 35 and many are in the mound mix. There are several college underclassmen who have had a low number of innings in the spring.
“The summer gives them an opportunity to shine,” says Popravak. “We don’t want to overuse pitchers.
“Our goal is to always send the player back to college healthy.”
“The reason we’ve done so well this year is our pitching,” says Enright. “I don’t think we’ve been deeper. It’s a good mix of guys with a lot of talent.
“We have overall depth with our position players. We mix and match lineups a lot. I make sure each of our guys have at least 100 at-bats if they are with us all season. It’s more about development than winning.”
The six MCL teams play each other 10 times during a 50-game regular season leading into a four-team, two-tier playoff format (both best-of-3).
Using his connections, Enright built the Oilmen roster with most of the players commuting from a radius of about 90 minutes from Whiting.
“I’m starting to build up some pretty good relationships with schools throughout the Midwest at all levels,” says Enright. “We like the local flavor that people in the community and the region are familiar with.”
The longest road trip for the Oilmen is about two hours to Bloomington.
Enright played for two respected baseball men in Munster’s Bob Shinkan and USI’s Tracy Archuleta and took from both in developing his own leadership style.
“Those two guys shaped who I am as a coach,” says Enright. “I bring my own flavor to the game and coaching. But I make sure guys have positive experiences. Happy players are productive players. I want guys getting the most out of each other and play together to win baseball teams.”
Enright says neither Shinkan or Archuleta do much yelling, but are “the type of coach you don’t want to let down.”
Shinkan is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer.
“He makes you enjoy the process and being out there everyday,” says Enright of his high school coach. “It’s about having fun while doing what you need to do to be the best player you can be.”
Enright appreciates the cerebral side of Archuleta’s coaching.
“He will put the game straight into your brain and make you think of it all levels you’ve never done before,” says Enright.
The fans, who turned out for MCL games and a series this summer against the Serbian National Team, get a chance to enjoy baseball played in a park plotted on 119th Street near homes, oil rigs and not far from the water.
“It’s a special place,” says Enright. “The community really loves it. It’s a premier facility. You can’t ask much more for a summer collegiate team. Good product on the field and really nice atmosphere to watch a game in. When the wind blows you can hear the waves off Lake Michigan.”