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Anderson native Shirley fitting puzzle pieces together as White Sox amateur scouting director

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Taking his ability to evaluate baseball talent and manage people, Anderson, Ind., native Mike Shirley is embracing the complexities of his new job as amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox.

Shirley, 49, took over his current role in late August. He was named assistant scouting director for the White Sox in November 2018. He began serving the organization as a cross checker in 2010.

As a cross checker, Shirley managed five or six area scouts.

“I was very active with a certain set of people, helping guide their schedule and my own schedule,” says Shirley. “As assistant scouting director, I was helping the director fulfill the entire (Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft) process.”

That meant helping to coordinate the entire amateur department while also acting as a national scout.

As director, Shirley is in charge of everything for the amateur scouting department.

“There’s so much more that goes into being a baseball scout than looking at players,” says Shirley. “There’s management of people, (molding) philosophy, understanding budgets and personnel and keeping everybody on track.”

Shirley notes that more attention is paid to the draft than ever before and there are so many pieces to the puzzle.

“I love the fact that scouting is so difficult some days to put all these pieces in order,” says Shirley. “That’s the most interesting part of the challenge that comes with it.”

With the training now available, players are now reaching the elite level at younger ages.

“Prospects now have currency and value as your organization changes and grows,” says Shirley. “The restructuring at the major league level has changed.

“The rebuild has changed the dynamic of what prospects mean. If your club is in a rebuild and it’s you know it’s not competitive let’s say in 2019, your processes become completely different.”

Clubs take into consideration drafting players that will give them the most currency in the market place.

“There are times now you’re drafting players you know — based on your cycle of talent from top to bottom — may be used as trade chips to get you to the next major league star,” says Shirley. “That’s really changed. There was a time 20 years ago when every team felt like they had a chance to win and every team was running for the title.

“We’re all trying to be competitive, but we also understand where are cycles of talent are (at any given time).”

With the 2020 season and June draft looming, where are the White Sox led by executive vice president Ken Williams and senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn?

“We’re hugely in a position to be successful for the next five to eight years,” says Shirley. “It’s pretty well-documented we’ve in a rebuild process the last four years. It’s been trying times for everybody, especially for our fans, to stomach the tough days and the losses. I think we’re on the back of that now.

“Everybody is so excited about where we’re headed and what we’re capable of doing in the near future. Our young talent is significant. Our minor leagues is strong.”

Shirley is always taking in information from members of the White Sox amateur scouting department.

“The listening skill has to be sharp everyday,” says Shirley. “You have to be able to comprehend what these guys are doing and listen.

“There’s constant communication.”

During the season, area scouts are filing daily reports and messages are flying back and forth via calls, texts and emails.

A recent three-day recent organizational meeting at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., brought together all the scouting department and part of the player development staff.

“It was designed to get everybody in one room,” says Shirley. “We talked about philosophy, planning and where are evaluations are for the 2020 draft class.

“We listened to player development speak about players we’ve drafted in the past, where those players are at and shared information.”

It’s all about getting better and evaluating performance as scouts and player development folks.

“We did a good job here. We missed here,” says Shirley. “There’s constant evaluation of those two departments. We try to work together to make sure our decisions are tighter. Where are we missing? Where are we strong?

“You’re looking at it with full transparency. You’re not tricking yourself.”

Shirley has began conducting conference calls with his 17 area scouts.

“It’s a little deeper conversation than just what they submitted on the follow list,” says Shirley of a catalog of every player in a scout’s area that is likely to be drafted in 2020. “We want to listen to their voice.”

Scouts have been meeting with high school and college players and will continue to do so. These interactions help the White Sox put the make-up piece together in their draft evaluation.

Shirley says the club wants to know if a player is smart of lackadaisical, engaged or disengaged in the conversation or is a grinder.

“How do they go about their business?,” says Shirley. “What’s their family dynamic like? What’s their mom and dad like? Who influences them the most?”

Those pieces start to be put together via these conference calls.

“We’re always willing to take a risk on players who have elite talent,” says Shirley. “But if you don’t have elite talent and you have bad make-up, obviously there’s a red flag we try to stay away from.”

Scouts have been working on the 2020 draft for two years already. They were on the road again three days after the conclusion of the 2019 draft.

Most of the players who wind up in college, we’ve seen when they are in high school,” says Shirley. “The depth at which we follow these players is significant. The elite players we spend a lot of time on.”

There’s many ways to track players, including seeing them play in-person, video services, TrackMan and Rapsodo data and more.

“There’s so much more to the process than what your eyes tell you any more,” says Shirley. “We have multiple angles and multiple opinions.

“The sharing part among your departments becomes so tremendous. Everybody is in the boat rowing together trying to get to the destination.”

Born in Anderson, Shirley played at Pendleton Heights High School for Bill Stoudt, who was selected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

Stoudt-coached teams won 654 games with 14 sectional titles and three regional championship and 10 conference championships in 32 years as a head coach through 2012. He sent a number of players into college and professional baseball.

“He was tremendous,” says Shirley of Stoudt. “He built a program of high-end talent.

“He expected you to show up and held you accountable. He pushed you to be you best. He was demanding and his demand forced you to raise your expectations for yourself.”

Shirley graduated from Pendleton Heights in 1988 and played his freshmen collegiate season (1989) at Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, Mich. As a “draft and follow” player, Jonathan Michael Shirley was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 45th round of the 1989 MLB Draft, played his sophomore season at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill., then played in the Indians system from 1990-94.

Having an elite arm in right field, Shirley was reluctantly converted to a pitcher. He hurt his arm, underwent Tommy John surgery and was released. He concluded his pro career with the independent Anderson Lawmen in 1995 (Mid-America League) and 1996 (Heartland League) while also completing his degree at Indiana University.

Mike and Kimberly Shirley have been married 22 years and have three baseball-playing sons.

Jaxon Shirley is at Lubbock (Texas) Christian University after starting his college career at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College and transferring to Oklahoma University. He was drafted by the White Sox in the 34th round out of Lapel (Ind.) High School in 2016 as a 6-foot-4, 190-pound second baseman. He is now a 6-5, 220-pound left fielder.

Caden Shirley is a freshman at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Colton Shelton is a Lapel senior.

Various ailments, including stress fractures, caused Caden and Colton to miss long stretches of development as high school players.

“Being a baseball man like I am and watching my own children suffer, it’s been one of the biggest challenges as a father,” says Shirley. “You see how hard they’ve worked through their lifetime and you see them lose almost two years of their careers and it’s very difficult.”

For years, Shirley has operated a training facility in Anderson called “The Barn.”

“There’s so many young, talented players in there that have bright futures,” says Shirley. “That’s why I’ll always stay connected.

“You want to give them the guidance and give your expertise.”

Players from youth through major league come to the facility to train.

Jeremy Hazelbaker, who has played in the big leagues, took swings at “The Barn” during Thanksgiving week.

Minor leaguer Nick Schnell (selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018) got in the cage before heading off to Florida.

Zack Thompson (a first-rounder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019) and Drey Jameson (a first-rounder for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019) have trained at “The Barn” since they were youngsters.

So has Cole Barr, a Yorktown (Ind.) High School product who slugged 17 home runs at Indiana University in 2019.

“It’s been a really productive situation,” says Shirley. “There are guys in there who are going to be the next Nick Schnell or next Cole Barr.

“It’s a special place. We don’t ever try to be famous. We’re not on Twitter. If you’re a baseball guy, the proof’s in the pudding. Are you making players or not? Are you helping players get to their goals?”

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Mike Shirley, a native of Anderson, Ind., is the amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox. He is a 1988 graduate of Pendleton Heights High School. (Chicago White Sox Photo)

 

Frye expects commitment from himself, Logansport Berries

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Giving it everything he had each time he stepped on the diamond.

That’s what Dan Frye did as a player and that’s what he does as a coach.

Frye was a baseball assistant at his alma mater — Logansport (Ind.) High School. After being away for five seasons, he is now head coach for the Berries.

The 1988 LHS graduate expects his players to share in a sense of commitment.

“The kids should get the same out of me that I expect out of them and that’s being there everyday,” says Frye, who takes over a program that was led for the past 22 seasons by Jim Turner Jr.

Frye was a middle infielder for the Berries when Jim Turner Sr., an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was head coach.

“Both are pretty laid-back guys,” says Frye of the Turners. “It takes a lot to get them excited. They wanted the accountability to be on the players and leave it up to the players to get the job done.”

Frye considers both Turners great baseball minds.

“It’s how they think about the game and situations throughout the game,” says Frye. “We’ll continue to work on situations.

“You should be practicing the way you anticipate playing. I practiced as hard as I played. Anything less than that is unacceptable.”

Three Frye brothers were standouts at Logansport and then at Indiana State University of Hall of Fame coach Bob Warn. Older brother Paul Frye played on the 1986 College World Series team and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 11th round of that year’s Major League Baseball First Year Draft. The outfielder/infielder played four seasons in the minors.

Twins Dan and Dennis started at ISU in 1989.

“My decision was pretty easy,” says Dan Frye. “That’s where I wanted to go. I wanted a part of it.

“Bob Warn was a great coach and it was great to be around him.”

Mitch Hannahs (who is now Indiana State head coach) was a senior shortstop at ISU when Frye was a freshman second baseman.

“I don’t think Indiana State could be in better hands,” says Frye of Hannahs.

Playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Frye brothers got to play against several future big leaguers.

“The competition was phenomenal,” says Frye, who counted Mike Farrell (who is now a baseball scout) as a teammate at Logansport and Indiana State.

Among the opponents during Dan and Dennis’ time were 6-foot-5 right-hander Tyler Green, catcher Doug Mirabelli, right-hander Greg Brummett, shortstop Pat Meares, second baseman Mike Lansing, infielder P.J. Forbes and catcher and future big league manager/college head coach Eric Wedge at Wichita State University. IHSBCA Hall of Famer Wedge is now the head coach at WSU.

The Sycamores beat the Shockers 4-of-6 the year Wichita State won the national championship (1989).

“Each level of competition prepared me for the next level,” says Frye. “I was not in shock about seeing a fastball.

“Everybody (in the North Central Conference) threw hard. It was not odd.”

Dan and Dennis were drafted in 1988 by the Los Angeles Dodgers after high school — infielder/outfielder Dan Frye in the 56th round and first baseman/outfielder Dennis Frye in the 57th — but opted for college.

Dan Frye was selected in the 20th round of the 1992 draft by the Cincinnati Reds and played four seasons in the minors.

That first year he played in Princeton, W.Va., and he later began his coaching coach at Princeton High School.

With two small children, Frye moved back to Logansport in 1999 to be closer to family.

A few years later, he began coaching Little League and Babe Ruth baseball around town.

He was hired by the Logansport Police Department in 2002 and worked his way up from patrolman to assistant chief. He spent nearly four years on the narcotics unit. While coaching at Logansport High School, he also served as school resource officer.

There are now three lawmen on the Berries coaching staff — Dan Frye, Clayton Frye (his son and a Logansport detective) and Chris Jones (a Cass County sheriff’s deputy) — plus other former LHS players Brad Platt, Brian Gleitz, Ron Kinnaman and Cooper Kinnaman. Clayton Frye and Gleitz will work with pitchers, Jones with catcher and Platt with outfielders. The Kinnamans and Jones are assigned to the junior varsity team.

Frye looks to have a young first squad in 2020. At this point, there are three seniors — Matt Foutz, C.J. Hallam and Drake McLochlin.

During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Frye and up to a dozen players got together for workouts.

“I saw some kids field, swing bats and throw,” says Frye. “The numbers weren’t always there to run a legitimate full practice. I was able to see what kids can and can’t do and start working on development stuff with ones who were there.”

Frye is catching up on the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days), which was not in place the last time he was coaching high school ball.

“I agree with it,” says Frye. “It’s a good rule. It’s about the safety for the kids.

“We have to develop more pitching.

“It’ll be interesting to see how people coach a little differently with the pitch count and all that. I’m sure I’m going to learn some valuable lessons from coaches around here”

With the pitch limit, strike-throwing has become extra important.

“How many pitches can you waste anymore?,” says Frye. “When I played, I didn’t want to stand around taking pitches. One pitch and we’re headed around the base paths. I wanted to hit.”

He recalls hitting the first pitch of a game against Marion out of the park during his sophomore season.

“Walks put runners on base and I see it differently now.”

Logansport (enrollment around 1,250) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Harrison of West Lafayette, Indianapolis Arsenal Tech, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).

The NCC tends to play Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Saturday doubleheaders.

The Berries are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon. Logansport won its 29th sectional crown in 2019. The Berries have been in the State Finals 10 times with state championships in 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1991 and a state runner-up finish in 1989.

Logansport plays on an artificial turf surface. Jim Turner Field has been covered since the 2016 season.

Dan Frye, 49, is married to Cynthia and has four adult children — Clayton Frye and Krista Frye in Logansport, Dustin Clements in Nashville, Tenn., and Katie Clements in Denver, Colo.

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Cynthia and Dan Frye are surrounded by children (from left) Katie Clements, Krista Frye, Dustin Clements, KyLeigh Frye (daughter-in-law) and Clayton Frye. Dan Frye is the head baseball coach at his alma mater — Logansport (Ind,) High School.

Haney growing baseball with Arsenal Tech, RBI Indy

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bob Haney grew up during a time when baseball thrived on the near east side of Indianapolis.

Through his efforts with the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and as head coach at Arsenal Technical High School, he is working to raise the talent level and expectations around Indy and beyond.

With mentors and coaches like his father, Robert Haney (a Baptist minister), and John Gannon, Bob began playing and learning the game at Christian Park. He went on to be the only sophomore on an all-senior squad when Tech had 5,000 students.

Haney’s high school coaches were Dave George (father of former NFL quarterback Jeff George) and Ivan Moorman.

Flash forward more than three decades, and 1981 Tech graduate Haney saw that his alma mater — a school with an enrollment around 3,000 — did not have enough players to field a baseball team.

That was three years ago.

“The program completely fell part,” says Haney, who became Titans head coach for the 2018 season. “We’re on a mission to turn the program back around.”

It took until February 2018 with Haney teaching basic fundamentals for Tech to go forward with their schedule.

Haney says the numbers of players in the inner-city began to go down when District 7 Little League parks closed and the youngsters in those district were not exposed to organized baseball.

RBI, which counts Haney as baseball director is overseen by the Play Ball Indiana board.

The organization had 60 players — five teams of 12 each — playing on Sundays in 2011.

In 2018, there were more than 1,700 players (baseball and softball) participating with teams under the RBI umbrella, including those in high school baseball and in the RBI Sunday Showcase.

Started more than 20 years ago by men in New Palestine, Ind., the Sunday Showcase provides an extra chance to play and gives all-star teams the opportunity to prepare for tournaments.

The founders handed it off to some coaches in Zionsville, Ind., who then turned the reins over to Haney.

“They bring the communities to us,” says Haney. “Knightstown, Zionsville and Franklin are three that come to us every year.

“They bring us equipment and our parents don’t have to pay travel expenses. Our teams are getting better.”

There are four main RBI parks in Indianapolis — Christian, Forest Manor, Garfield and Rhodius. Efforts are being made to bring Riverside into the mix.

Haney says Forest Manor Park sat empty for seven years before RBI got involved and now serves more than 300 ball-playing kids.

“It’s packed now,” says Haney. “There’s an awful lot of activity.

“Kids would not be playing if it were not for the RBI program.”

Looking at the players coming up through RBI that are about to reach high school age, Haney sees a bright future at Tech as well as other places.

“The program is paying off,” says Haney, who has been instructing younger kids on Sundays.

Baseball and the community are also getting a shot in the arm with the launch of The BASE Indy, which will be headquartered in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood near Forest Manor Park.

The BASE Indy plans to stage its Urban Classic in early July. An RBI Super Regional is slated for late July at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

There are four Indianapolis Public Schools high schools running now and three have a baseball teams in 2019 — Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks and Shortridge. Washington does did not field a team this spring.

None of those schools have a baseball diamond on their campuses. Tech shares Forest Manor Park with Attucks, Purdue Poly (a team with just freshmen and sophomores in 2019) and Tindley. Shortridge is at Arlington Park.

Of the other inner-city schools in Indianapolis, Manual has its own field while Irvington Prep Academy plays at Irvington Park while Providence Cristo Rey and Herron are at Rhodius Park. Howe did not have a baseball team this spring.

Haney is a production associate at the Honda plant in Greensburg, Ind. He is out the door most weekdays a little after 5 a.m. and begins work at 6:30. He is able to burn off his days off in two-hour increments and will leave two hours early at 1 p.m. during the baseball season.

He coaches the Arsenal Tech team then checks on the doings at the RBI parks.

“I love what I’m doing,” says Haney. “I feel like we’ve got things going in the right direction.

“There’s lot of work to do in the inner-city, but we’re looking to move RBI program statewide. Everybody wants to be a part of what we’re doing.”

Haney says Scottsburg and Muncie are two communities that have shown an interest in RBI.

At Arsenal Tech, Haney is assisted by Danny Turner, Stacy Fields, James Garmany and volunteers Warren Belton and Roger Rebeneck. Turner is a Howe graduate who runs the Indiana Styx travel organization. Fields and Garmany are Tech teachers. Fields is also an assistant varsity basketball coach at the school. Belton does many things in the RBI system, including umpiring. Rebeneck assists the most during the summer and fall months.

Arsenal Tech (enrollment around 3,000) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).

“We’re in an extremely tough conference,” says Haney. “The kids are getting to play in a lot of really neat places.”

The Titans are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, New Palestine and Warren Central. Tech’s lone sectional title came in 1970.

Most of the 2019 Tech squad is expected back for 2020.

Haney and wife Karri have four grown children — Jennifer, Robert Edward, Jeremiah and Jay. Karri Haney has battled breast cancer. Jay Haney played baseball at Warren Central and Perry Meridian high schools and for Vincennes University’s first Junior College World Series qualifier.

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Bob Haney and Scott Kehl reunite on the same field at Christian Park in Indianapolis where they played as boys decades before. Haney is active in baseball at head coach at Arsenal Technical High School and baseball director for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

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The 2018 Arsenal Tech Titans baseball team.

 

Franklin Community, Hanover grad Miller now coaching at Tusculum

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Todd Miller’s baseball coaching path has taken him to the eastern part of the Volunteer State.

A graduate of Franklin (Ind.) Community High School in 2002 and Hanover (Ind.) College in 2006, Miller is in his first season as an assistant at Tusculum University, an NCAA Division II school in Greeneville, Tenn.

Recruiting coordinator and assistant coach is charge of hitting, base runners and infielders are duties for Miller, who was hired in the summer of 2018.

He joined Brandon Steele, a former Tusculum assistant who was promoted when Doug Jones resigned as head baseball coach to concentrate on his duties as Pioneers athletic director.

Associate head coach Todd Ireland and graduate assistants John Topoleski and Hayden Pewitt round out the coaching staff.

Tusculum (24-14 through April 4) is part of the South Atlantic Conference (with Anderson of South Carolina, Carson-Newman, Catawba, Coker, Lenoir-Rhyne, Lincoln Memorial, Mars Hill, Newberry, Queens of Charlotte and Wingate).

The Pioneers play home games at Pioneer Park, a stadium owned by the school and also used by the short-season Appalachian League’s Greeneville Reds (Cincinnati Reds affiliate).

“We have, arguably, the best facilities in Division II baseball,” says Miller. Tusculum has indoor covered batting cages. A clubhouse, weight room, video lab and coaches offices are all underneath the stadium. A nearby building is used for defensive work.

Prior to Tusculum, Miller served four seasons as an assistant to Chris Anderson at Belmont (N.C.) Abbey College and four campaigns as an assistant to Jim Gantt at Cattawba College (Salisbury, N.C.).

Anderson played for Gantt at Catawba and joined Miller in turning the Crusaders’ fortunes around.

“We had a lot of success there,” says Miller.

After going 25-25 in 2015 (Miller’s first season), Abbey was 40-14  with a No. 2 national ranking (best in program history) in 2018 (Miller’s last).

“(Gantt) is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around — bar none,” says Miller. “He’s got a fantastic program. He does a great job of developing players. He’s truly winner.”

Miller was a part of winning teams for the Indians. During his time there, Catawba won three conference titles and qualified for regional play three times. The program’s first regional crown and D-II College World Series berth in Cary, N.C., came in 2012.

He was an assistant at his alma mater, Hanover, and helped head coach Shayne Stock in 2009 and 2010. Those were also the junior and senior seasons for brother Adam Miller (Hanover Class of 2010). Their sister, Jessica (Class of 2012), was also a student there at the time.

Two seasons at Bluffton (Ohio) University, where James Grandey was head coach, came right after Miller graduated from Hanover.

In March 2007, Miller was involved in a tragic highway accident in Atlanta. Bluffton was on its way to Florida on its southern trip when a crash took the lives of seven people, including five players.

“I was thrown from the bus,” says Miller. “I went through the front windshield.

“I had four broken bones in my back, a skull fracture and a broken jaw.”

Head coach Grandey was hurt even worse and stayed weeks in a hospital before going back to Ohio.

At 22, Miller became temporary head coach.

“I was talking to guys about losing their best friend and roommate,” says Miller. “We had a team meeting after all the funerals. We said we can play this year if you’d like or not. Nobody is going to judge you either way.

“The team decided it wanted to play and do its best. We played the rest of that season with heavy hearts.”

The first game after the fatal accident was a loss, but the Beavers scored five runs — one for each lost player.

“That was symbolic,” says Miller, who recalls that the outreach locally and nationally was tremendous.

After a month after the accident, Tiffin University (located about 45 minutes from Bluffton) held a Purple Day (in honors of Bluffton’s school colors) and raised $13,000.

He was still dealing with physical and mental issues when Miller met one of the Tiffin students that were a part of the effort. A year later, they went on a date and are now married with three children.

Todd and Leigh Miller have Madeline (6), Brooks (3) and Boone (almost 10 months).

“It shows you that even through that tragedy, there can be a silver lining,” says Miller.

Bluffton is where Miller received his masters degree in business administration and formed a bond with Grandey.

“He’s been a teacher, mentor and friend to me through the years,” says Miller.

He played four seasons at Hanover — the first three for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dick Naylor and the last for Shayne Stock.

“I enjoyed Coach Naylor very much,” says Miller. “He was very organized and demanded excellence everyday — not only in the game but it practice.

“He was a winner. He was always able to get the best out of you. He was hard on you. But you had to read through the message a little bit. It was what he said not how he said it.”

Miller also played football at Hanover. He was a three-sport athlete in high school, spending his winters with basketball.

At Franklin Community, Miller’s baseball coaches were Jeff Mercer Sr. and Mark Pieper.

Jeff Mercer Sr. is the father of Indiana University head coach Jeff Mercer Jr., a Franklin Community graduate and two years younger than Todd Miller. The Miller and Mercer families are long-time friends.

Miller is an American Baseball Coaches Association member and regular attendee of the ABCA Convention in January (the 2020 event is slated for Nashville).

“The ABCA is a must-attend for anybody serious about baseball,” says Miller. “I pick up something new every year.

“It’s relevant for all stages of coaching — youth, high school, college and professional.”

Miller also coached three summers with the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization, leading a 14U squad for two years and a 15U team for one. Brother Adam assisted for all three seasons. He also got help from Ben Kleber, who is now head coach at Trinity Christian High School in Seymour, Ind.

One of the players on those Bulls team was Drew Ellis, who went on to play at Jeffersonville High School and the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization (he begins 2019 at Double-A Jackson, Tenn.).

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Todd Miller (left), a graduate Franklin (Ind.) Community High School and Hanover (Ind.) College, is in his first season as an assistant baseball coach at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn. (Tusculum University Photo)

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Todd Miller is an assistant baseball coach at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn. His duties include recruiting coordinator and he is in charge of hitters, base runners and infielders. (Tusculum University Photo)

Relationships are key for Lowrey, Harrison Raiders

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Pat Lowrey wants to know how his players can hit, pitch or field the baseball.

But he also wants to relate to them as people.

The head baseball coach at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Ind., puts a priority on building relationships as he develops his Raiders on the diamond.

“Without the relationships, players aren’t going to listen to you,” says Lowrey, who enters his seventh season in charge at Harrison in 2019. “It doesn’t matter how much you know.

“Then the baseball comes.”

Lowrey’s baseball knowledge was built as a player at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette and at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Senior right-hander Lowrey was the winning pitcher for the 1999 IHSAA Class 4A state champions (McCutcheon beat Lawrence North 7-6). He recorded a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the game.

“I threw a lot of pitches that day,” says Lowrey. “It was one of those drizzling nights. Between me and my catcher (Nick McIntyre, who went on to play at Purdue University then pro ball and is now an assistant coach at the University of Toledo), we had passed balls and wild pitches. But were able to get out of the sticky situation.”

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Jake Burton was then the Mavericks head coach.

“He had high expectations which made us better,” says Lowrey of Burton. “He helped me as a coach know the importance of organization and discipline both as a player and a coach.”

At Ball State, Lowrey spent three seasons for Rich Maloney and one with Greg Beals. Lowrey appeared in 32 games and the Cardinals won the Mid-American Conference title in 2001 and MAC West crowns in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

“(Maloney) does such a good job of building relationships with the community and players,” says Lowrey. “He connects to so many top-end recruits. He’s one of the best recruiters nationally. He has had a lot of success in the Big Ten and the MAC.”

Teammates who went high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft during Lowrey’s time at BSU include right-hander Bryan Bullington (No. 1 overall in 2002 to the Pittsburgh Pirates), left-hander Luke Hagerty (first round in 2002 to the Chicago Cubs), outfielder Brad Snyder (first round in 2003 to the Cleveland Indians), right-hander Paul Henry (seventh round in 2002 to the Baltimore Orioles) and right-hander Justin Weschler (fourth round in 2001 to the Arizona Diamondbacks).

Outfielder Larry Bigbie went in the first round of the 1999 draft to Baltimore. Burlington played high school ball at Madison (Ind.) Consolidated, Weschler at Pendleton Heights and Bigbie at Hobart. Hagerty and Snyder are Ohio products while Henry played in high school baseball in Tennessee.

Lowery remembers Beals (now head coach at Ohio State University) as having a high Baseball I.Q. and the ability to enjoy it.

“He really understood the game and he had a lot of fun doing it,” says Lowrey. “Baseball is a kid’s game and it’s meant to be fun.”

Lowery began his coaching career with junior varsity stints at Delta (2004) and McCutcheon (2005). He was pitching coach at Harrison in 2006 and 2007 before serving as head coach at Delphi (2008-12). He was going to be head coach at Brownsburg, but some health issues arose and he stayed in Lafayette, eventually becoming head baseball coach and a special education teacher at Harrison.

The Raiders have sent a number of players on to college baseball during Lowrey’s tenure.

“I take pride in that,” says Lowrey. “I try to help our kids reach those goals if that’s what they want.”

Outfielder/shortstop Carter Bridge has transferred from Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., to Indiana University, where Franklin Community High School graduate Jeff Mercer is now head coach. Left-hander Matt McConnell and outfielder/left-hander Bobby Dearing are both at Western Michigan University, where New Albany graduate Billy Gernon is head coach.

Current Harrison senior Jack Ross, now recuperating from Tommy John surgery, has committed to play at Taylor University.

Lowrey says shortstop Trey Cochran and catcher/first baseman Jacob Kyle are starting the recruiting process.

The Harrison coaching staff for 2019 includes Christian Vukas, Dave Gilbert and Kerry Yoder with Lowrey and the varsity plus Jon Laird and Deryk Quakenbush as well as Shawn Louks, Leighton Mennen and Hayden Kuxhausen with the Blue and Orange units.

Lowery expects about 65 to 70 for tryouts with 45 to 50 making the three squads. There will be 14 to 20 players per team, including some used as courtesy runners and some pitcher-onlys.

“We want to develop these kids,” says Lowrey. “Especially at the two JV levels, we want to make sure we don’t miss out on the develop.”

Harrison has one on-field diamond.

“That goes back to Coach Burton and that organization,” says Lowrey. “We have to be organized and creative in how we approach practices and games.”

Harrison uses a batting practice circuit with every player on the field. The Raiders sometimes utilize the adjacent football field.

“We want to make sure kids are in small groups and constantly working,” says Lowrey.

Harrison is part of the North Central Conference (with Harrison, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport and McCutcheon in the West Division and Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Marion, Muncie Central and Richmond in the East Division). Teams play home-and-home series within their divisions then compete in a seeded cross-divisional tournament the two Saturdays in May.

The Raiders are in an IHSAA Class 4A grouping with Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, McCutcheon and Zionsville. Harrison has won 11 sectional crowns — the last in 2015.

Pat and Lauren Lowrey were married in 2005. She is the former Lauren Jillson, who played three sports at Munster (Ind.) High School and volleyball at Ball State, where she met Pat. The couple have two sons — Jeremy (11) and Brady (8).

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Pat Lowrey, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Ball State University, is entering his seventh season as head baseball coach at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Ind., in 2019.

 

Turner has Richmond Red Devils focusing on the details

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Shawn Turner wants his Richmond (Ind.) High School Red Devils to sweat the small stuff.

“We focus on the details,” says Turner, a veteran coach who heads into his fourth season of leading the Richmond program in 2019. “We want give it our best effort 100 percent of the time. We pay attention to the defensive side and how we’re pitching.

“Offensively, we look to ‘get on, get over and get in.’ We play at a big facility (Don McBride Stadium). We don’t sit back and wait on the three-run home run.”

Turner looks for his Red Devils to hit balls to the gaps and rack up doubles.

“We teach the concept of using the whole field,” says Turner.

When it comes to launch angle, Turner says it is for the advanced hitter. T.J. Collett, who began working with Turner at a young age, put in the time to make himself into a potent left-handed hitter who named Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond Magazine in 2016 and is now swinging for the University of Kentucky.

“It’s fantastic for kids with elite talent who have great hitting philosophy and the ability to execute it,” says Turner. “I’m more concerned with hitting a solid. Exit velocity is a factor. We do chart that. If you have four at-bats, we try to hit it hard four times and see what happens.”

Contact is key and strikeouts don’t help in moving runners.

“We do try to put pressure on the defense and put the ball in play,” says Turner, who coached his first season in Richmond in 2016 after serving as a Wabash College assistant in 2015.

The 1988 Terre Haute North Vigo High School graduate was head coach at his alma mater 1998-2014 after serving two seasons as a Patriots assistant.

The 2014 North Vigo team was IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up.

He was a McCutcheon assistant in 1994 and 1995, West Vigo assistant  in 1993 and Terre Haute North Vigo assistant in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

Turner played two seasons for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings and two for Steve Moore. He later was a part of Moore’s coaching staff.

“(Jennings) was always a very positive influence not only on me but on his coaches and the team as a whole,” says Turner. “In practice, we did a ton of offensive work. If we put runs up we had a chance of competing.

“(Moore) carried on a lot of Coach Jennings’ traits. My first couple of years coaching within were a continuation of what I learned in high school.”

Turner also gained from the teachings of North Vigo assistant Mike Sturm.

“He was more into fundamental skills and defensive work,” says Turner of Sturm. “He broke things into positions and individual parts.”

Turner played one season for head coach Jim Rendel at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology while studying civil and mechanical engineering.

“(Rendel) had the biggest influence on me becoming a coach,” says Turner. “He was an amazing individual that did so much for people through sport.”

Turner decided to change gears and pursue a different life path. He transferred to Indiana State University to major in mathematics and become a teacher and coach.

He did his student teaching at West Vigo and worked with Steve DeGroote then joined the staff of Jake Burton at McCutcheon. Both are IHSBCA Hall of Famers.

“Those two were cut from the same cloth,” says Turner of DeGroote and Burton. “They were Fantastic at setting up indoor practices where you were going from station to station and maximizing your practice time.”

Turner notes that there are areas around the state have embraced the idea of getting better at baseball and that’s where indoor facilities have popped up and produced many players who have succeeded at the lower levels and gone on to college and professional diamonds.

“We’ve got baseball talent in the state of Indiana,” says Turner, who gets indoor work done at Richmond at the spacious Tiernan Center and the school’s auxiliary gym.

While McBride Stadium is run by the city and is off-campus, the Red Devils sometimes take advantage of the turf on the football field for outdoor practice.

Turner gives a few private lessons on the side. Several Richmond players get in work at Cate’s Cages and Hitters Hangout. IHSBCA Hall of Famer John Cate started both facilities. He now teaches at Cate’s Cages along with Jordan Ashbrook, Patrick Flanagan and Mike Morrow. Tyler Lairson is an instructor at Hitters Hangout.

Former Red Devils moving on to college baseball in recent years include right-handed pitcher John Cheatwood (Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and committed to Marshall University in Huntington, W.V.), right-hander Jordan Christian (Earlham College in Richmond) and middle infielder Austin Turner (Indiana Wesleyan University). Austin is Shawn’s oldest son.

Current senior outfielder/right-hander Josiah Sizemore has committed to Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Ind. Versatile Phillip Hobbs and right-hander/third baseman/shortstop Mikey Vance are also exploring their collegiate options.

When building his Red Devils pitching staff, Turner looks to develop a number of arms to lesson the workload on the top hurlers so they will be fresher for the postseason.

The exception might be Blake Holler, who threw many innings for Terre Haute North Vigo before going on to Stanford University and the Los Angeles Angels system.

But sharing the work has been a philosophy Turner carried in Terre Haute and long before the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“We focus on longevity,” says Turner. “The season is a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve always make sure our top two or three pitchers are strong at the end of the season. We might go eight-, nine- or 10-deep during the season.”

This approach also helps those pitchers to be ready the following season.

Turner’s 2019 Richmond staff includes Dave Marker, Scott Vance and Ben Fox. Marker is the Red Devils pitching coach and a former Randolph Southern head coach.

Richmond fields two teams — varsity and junior varsity. The most players Turner has had is 33 and he’s never made any cuts.

Contrast that with Terre Haute North Vigo, where he says the fewest number to try out was 80 and he’d keep 50 to 55 for three teams.

Richmond belongs to the North Central Conference (with Richmond, Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Marion and Muncie Central in the East Division and Harrison, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport and McCutcheon in the West Division). Teams play home-and-home series within their divisions then compete in a seeded cross-divisional tournament the two Saturdays in May.

The Red Devils, which are coming off a 14-14 season in 2018, are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Connersville, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights.

Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last coming in 2011.

Shawn is married to Tiffany, who is Chief Nursing Officer at Paris (Ill.) Community Hospital. Their sons are Austin and Nick. Besides playing baseball, Austin Turner is neurology student at Indiana Wesleyan. Nick is a Richmond freshmen and a lefty-swinging catcher.

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The Turners (from left): Nick, Tiffany, Austin and Shawn. The 2016 season was Shawn Turner’s first as head baseball coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School.

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Austin Turner (27) is greeted by Terre Haute North Vigo baseball coaches Mark Sturm (left), Tony Smodilla, Lance Walsh, Steve Bryant, Fay Spetter and Shawn Turner at the IHSAA Class 4A State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Shawn Turner is now head coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School.

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Terre Haute North Vigo High School head baseball coach Shawn Turner (left) talks with his son, Austin Turner (27), and assistant Fay Spetter during the 2014 IHSAA Class 4A semistate.

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Shawn Turner enters his fourth season as head baseball coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School in 2019.

 

Anderson’s Earley enjoying his time with independent Southern Illinois Miners

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nolan Earley is in his third season of independent professional baseball.

The Anderson, Ind., native is playing with the Marion, Ill.-based Southern Illinois Miners in the Frontier League.

While the lefty-swinging outfielder is driven to get back into Major League Baseball-affiliated ball, he is enjoying where he is now.

“It’s a great facility and the community is really supportive,” says Earley, 27, “This is a competitive league.”

Earley played at Brooklyn Little League in Anderson until age 12 and travel ball with the Indiana Bulls from 13 to 18. He also competed for Anderson High School and the University of South Alabama and then in the Chicago White Sox organization before joining the Miners in 2016.

Terry Turner was his high school head coach. His older brother Michael also played for the man who went on to win IHSAA Class 1A state titles at Daleville in 2016 and 2018.

“I remember his enthusiasm for baseball,” says Nolan Earley of Turner. “He’s probably one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. All the positive energy spreads throughout the team.

“I really enjoyed playing for him.”

At USA, Earley appeared in 201 games in four seasons with a .318 average, 11 homers, 138 RBIs, 53 doubles and 220 runs.

Steve Kittrell was head coach for the Jaguars when early arrived in Mobile, Ala., and Mark Calvi was and still is the leader of the program when he departed.

“I learned a lot from both of them,” says Earley. “(Kittrell) had an old-school look to the game. He all preached playing hard and control the things you can control.

“(Calvi) talked about being positive about the game. He had that hard-nosed mentality, but wanted you to keep your composure on the field.

“If stay positive and you can go a long way.”

Calvi was an assistant on the University of South Carolina staff when the Gamecocks won the 2010 College World Series. The next season, he became a South Alabama assistant and took over as head coach for the 2012 season.

Earley was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox and signed by scout Warren Hughes. The outfielder saw time at Short Season Class-A Bristol, Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem through 2015. In 181 games in the affiliated minors, he hit .283 with five homers, 37 doubles, 76 RBIs and 62 runs.

Nolan was released out of spring training in 2016 and hooked on with the Miners — a team brother Michael hit .325 for in 96 games in 2015 after he was let go by the White Sox at the end of the 2014 season.

Michael Earley, a rigthy-hitting outfielder, graduated from Anderson High in 2006 and played one season at the University of Cincinnati and three at Indiana University before being drafted in the 29th round by the White Sox in 2010. After scout Mike Shirley signed him, Michael logged five seasons in the system, getting up to Triple-A Charlotte for 27 games in 2013.

Both Earley brothers have gotten instruction from and worked for Shirley at his Pro Source Baseball facility — aka “The Barn” — in Lapel, Ind.

Michael gave his endorsement of the Miners to his little brother.

“He definitely has a lot of influence when I make decisions,” says Nolan of Michael. “He told me how well he enjoyed this place. I’ve enjoyed everything about it.”

In 96 games in 2016, Nolan hit .291 with nine homers, 20 doubles, 70 RBIs and 53 runs.

The 2017 season saw him in 95 games and batting .264 with 11 homers, 16 doubles, 45 RBIs and 43 runs.

Through 56 games in 2018, Earley was hitting .264 with seven homers, 16 doubles, 21 runs batted in and 31 runs scored.

Mike Pinto is the longtime Miners manager.

“He’s definitely one of the most competitive field I’ve ever met,” says Earley. “He loves to win and hates to lose.

“If you’re going to play this game, you’ve got to have that feeling.”

Since there’s an age limit in the Frontier League, this season will be Earley’s last. If he is not picked up by an MLB organization, he has his sights on the independent Atlantic League or American Association.

Michael Earley is heading into his third year as an assistant baseball coach at Arizona State University, where Indiana native and former Indiana University head coach Tracy Smith is in charge of the Sun Devils.

Smith has turned over hitting coach duties to Earley.

Nolan gets pointers from Michael on the phone or makes a trek to Arizona to work with him.

“I take as much information as a I can and add it toward my game,” says Nolan, who enjoys learning things and holds a history degree from South Alabama.

Kevin and Tammy Earley are parents to Michael (married with children) and Nolan (single).

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Nolan Earley, a 2009 Anderson (Ind.) High School graduate, is now in his third season with the independent Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League. (Veronica Francis Photo)

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Nolan Earley celebrates after scoring a run for the Southern Illinois Miners. Earley is graduated for Anderson (Ind.) High School and the University of South Alabama and played in the Chicago White Sox organization. (Southern Illinois Miners Photo)