Kelby Weybright is going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The organization voted Weybright in as part of the 2023 class (players Drew Storen and Jeff Samardzija and veterans committee selections Lenny “Lefty” Johnston and Wayne Johnson are the others) and he will be recognized at a banquet held during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The dinner is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis. Weybright coached baseball at Norwell High School near Ossian, Ind., for 17 seasons — the last 11 as head coach. On his watch, the Knights went 243-93 with two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles to go with two IHSAA Class 3A state championships (2003 and 2007) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2006). The 2007 team went 35-0. “It’s an award that truly represents the commitment and efforts of a lot of people in our community who gave of their time and talents to give kids an opportunity to learn and play the game of baseball and to play it at a high level,” says Weybright. “(It reflects) the kids who worked their tails off, coaches who gave of their time and talents, our community who supported those teams and our school who stood behind us. “I was fortunate enough to be the person who had the title of head coach.” Fundamental soundness was a priority for Weybright. “There were fundamental drills we did every single day. I’m sure kids got tired of seeing it. “Our practices were detailed down to the minute with what we were doing.” Success could be achieved if Norwell had strong pitching, made the “everyday” play and won as many innings as possible. “Whatever we were doing it was nine guys working as one as much as possible,” says Weybright. “I loved to look out at the baseball diamond and see a play happen and all nine guys moving in rhythm and going where they’re supposed to be. “It’s like a symphony playing.” Bunting and running were major parts of the Knights’ game. So was hustle. Many were the times when players went first to third or two players scored on a suicide squeeze bunt. “We tried to play like our rear ends were on fire,” says Weybright. “I wanted guys who played the game hard. I wanted guys who competed. When we went on the field or came off the field it was at a dead run. “We want to come out and have a great pregame. We wanted to be fast and crisp. We wanted the people in the other dugout to go, ‘Mmm, dang, we’re going to struggle today.’ “Those are the kinds of things our kids bought into. When you see team play that hard it carries over to different aspects of the game.” His teams were well-conditioned, frequently coming in for 6 a.m. Saturday workouts during the winter. But beyond baseball it was about getting teenagers ready to be fathers and productive members of the community. “We’re proud of watching these guys grow and become the men they are,” says Weybright. After the 2012 Norwell season, Weybright stepped away from his head coach post to guide his sons in travel ball and tend to his school responsibilities. After years as assistant principal and dean of students, Kelby was named Norwell’s athletic director in 2017. Those duties keep him busy though he does help out with the baseball program when time allows. When the Knights advanced to semistate a couple of years ago he found time to work with the infielders. He trades videos and ideas with current Norwell head coach Dave Goodmiller. “I still try to stay involved,” says Weybright, 52. Kelby and wife of 25 years, Lisa, have three children — Garrett (23), Jacob (21) and Maria (19). Garrett Weybright (Norwell Class of 2018) and Jacob Weybright (Class of 2020) both played baseball in high school. Maria Weybright (Class of 2021) was a four-year varsity cheerleader at Norwell. Kelby was born in Wooster, Mass., to Garry and Linda Weybright (who now live in Elkhart County) and moved to Indiana around age 5. Brother Teague Weybright is one year younger than Kelby. A 1988 graduate of North White Middle/High School in Monon, Ind., Before graduating from Indiana University, Kelby played three baseball seasons at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. “It’s about an hour from Busch Stadium (in St. Louis),” says Weybright. “When I was in college you could actually buy outfield seats for five bucks.” Growing up as a big Gary Carter fan, Weybright cheered for the Montreal Expos or New York Mets. Listening to Jack Buck on the radio or attending game changed his favorite team in college. “I’m a diehard (St. Louis Cardinals) fan,” says Weybright. “I live and die by the Redbirds right now.” For questions about Hall of Fame banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Patrick Kolks has given more than a third of his 31 years to Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy baseball and now he’s in charge of the Twisters. Kolks, who was athletic director at his alma mater the past three years, was recently named as head baseball coach and facilities specialist. A 2010 OA graduate, Kolks played four years for the man who founded the program and led it for 21 years — Doug Behlmer, who won 226 games and five sectional titles as Twisters head coach (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2021) after he aided Jeff Greiwe in coaching Milan to the IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up finish in 1999. “He has had multiple players at the next level and a lot of them come back (to visit Oldenburg),” says Kolks. “We want to keep OA baseball on the map like it’s been for the last 20 years thanks to him. “It was pretty impressive (the building the Oldenburg team that started out with no seniors). We competed every year when I played. We finally got over the hump and beat Jac-Cen-Del in the sectional.” For two summers, Kolks played for the Behlmer-managed Batesville American Legion Post 271 team. So far Kolks’ first baseball staff includes 2015 OA graduate Tyler Hogg as pitching coach as well as Behlmer. “He’s not ready to give up baseball all together,” says Kolks, who joined Behlmer’s staff in 2015 after graduating from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., in 2014. He was a lefty-swinging catcher for the NAIA-member Saints. OA alum Matt Bohman stepped away from the Twisters coaching staff to tend to his growing family. Kolks says he hopes to have seven or eight not playing a fall sport at Oldenburg to come to activities during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period Aug. 29-Oct. 15. “It’s great,” says Kolks. “I can start building that culture.” Some players are involved in a fall baseball league. Two members of the Class of 2023 — Cy Muckerheide and Jacob Stenger — have shown interest in pursuing college baseball. Kolks notes that the 2021 senior class — which includes Hanover (Ind.) College baseball players Chris Hautman and Andrew Oesterling — never missed a beat going from sophomores in 2019, deprived of a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then winning the school’s first sectional title in 11 years. As facilities specialist, Kolks is responsible for all athletic facilities and some cleaning. There are upgrades planned or underway for the private Catholic high school’s gym as well as the softball and soccer fields. Land is being sought for expansion. The Twisters share a baseball diamond at Liberty Park in Batesville, Ind., with Batesville High School and also practices at The Plex in Batesville. The park and training facility are about seven miles from campus. With Behlmer working a day job in Batesville, the Twisters often did not practice until 5:30 p.m. This gave players a chance to experience a gameday routine, catch up on studies and form relationships with younger teammates by giving them rides to the field. Oldenburg Academy (enrollment around 170) is independent for athletics. The Twisters were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2022 with Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Rising Sun and Trinity Lutheran. Born in Cincinnati, Kolks grew up in Brookville, Ind., playing in the Cal Ripken League there and representing Franklin County in all-star tournaments. He attended St. Michael Catholic School in Brookville through eighth grade and then went to Oldenburg Academy. Patrick and wife Emily Kolks married in July 2016 and reside in Lawrencburg, Ind., which is about 30 miles from Oldenburg Academy. The couple met at college. She is the sister of Thomas More teammate Sam Schmeltzer (who was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state third baseman for South Dearborn and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series player in 2007). “She loves baseball,” says Patrick of Emily. “She knows what it’s going to entail.” The Kolks are weekend season ticket holders for the Cincinnati Reds. Patrick is also an avid University of Texas fan. He and Emily visited the campus for his 30th birthday. He appreciates the impact made on and off the field by former Longhorns head baseball coach Augie Garrido.
Calumet Christian School is unbeaten in its first 17 games of the 2022 high school baseball season. The team made up of students from the tiny private school in Griffith, Ind., plus homeschoolers and online students could wind up playing 40 or more games — on either side of the Indiana-Illinois line – this spring. “We continue to try to schedule as many public schools as possible to compete with,” says head coach Bill DeRuiter. Not a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, the Patriots are not restricted to a maximum number of contests. According to DeRuiter, there are less than 200 students in grades K-12 with between 30 and 40 in the upper four classes. DeRuiter has been head boys basketball coach at Calumet Christian (formerly Calumet Baptist) the past two winters and took over the baseball program this season and has some expectations for his 12 varsity players (there is also a junior varsity squad of about 16). “What’s really important for us is that you understand your role on the team,” says DeRuiter. “We can’t have 12 players that want to be the star. “You strive to have a better role, more playing time, more responsibility. We talk about being all-in — do it for your team, for yourself as an individual and for your faith.” Senior Jordan Landkrom is hitting a robust .604 (32-of-53) with three home runs, four triples, four doubles, 31 runs batted in and 31 runs scored. Sophomore Carter Tymm sports a .469 average, 31 RBIs and 26 runs. Sophomore Isaiah Palanca is batting .463 with 14 RBIs and 36 runs. There’s also sophomores Jared McKinney (.429), Zack Murphy (.394) and Drew Ruf (.333), junior Kadyn Foutz (.385) and senior Riley Thomas (.333). The combined earned run average of the pitching staff is 0.88 with 156 strikeouts in 95 innings. Thomas, Tymm and junior Ethan Duensing are all 4-0 on the mound while Murphy and Palanca are 2-0. DeRuiter’s squad plays an attacking brand of offensive baseball. “We want to challenge teams to have to make perfect throws and perfect plays,” says DeRuiter. “I’m willing to take chances and be aggressive. We want to take advantage of mistakes. It’s more fun that way.” Of the squad’s 167 hits so far, 47 are for extra bases. Playing in cold and windy conditions for many of their early games, the Patriots make the most of infield singles and bloopers. Calumet Christian plays most of its games on the road. The Patriots’ “home” field is at Schererville Baseball Complex in Crown Point, Ind. Led in scoring by Jordan Landkron, Calumet Christian’s boys basketball team went 22-10 and won a Christian school state championship in 2021-22, beating Heritage Christian (Dyer), Victory Christian (Valparaiso), Calvary Christian (Indianapolis) and Pleasant View Christian (Montgomery) in the playoff run. There is no equivalent postseason event for baseball. “We try to do cool experiences,” says DeRuiter of a slate that includes contests at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind., Ozinga Field in Crestview, Ill., and Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet, Ill. Those facilities are home to the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Northwest Indiana Oilmen, Windy City Thunderbolts and Joliet Slammers. DeRuiter’s coaching staff features Adam Lankrohn (father of shortstop Jordan), Joe Palanca (father of center fielder Isaiah) and Jeff Duensing (father of first baseman Ethan). The husband of Calumet Christian athletic director Jen Landkrohn, Adam handles scheduling and other details for the team. “He’s the person that makes everything go,” says DeRuiter, who also teaches seventh/eighth grade Social Studies at Crown Point Christian. Before coaching at Calumet Christian, DeRuiter was head women’s basketball coach at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., for five years. The 2005 graduate of Chicago Christian High School, where he played four seasons of football, basketball and baseball, earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Middle Grade Social Sciences from Trinity Christian and a master’s degree in Athletic Administration & Coaching from Concordia University Irvine. DeRuiter calls his high school basketball coach, Ross Douma, his top coaching mentor. “He’s been a great sounding board for me,” says DeRuiter of Douma. “He helped guide me through some tough choices as I was learning the business.” Head junior varsity baseball coach at Chicago Christian was DeRuiter’s first coaching job. He has also served as head boys basketball coach at Evergreen Park (Ill.) Community High School. Bill and Nichole DeRuiter have been married for 11 years and have three children — Trey (9), Charlotte (7) and Jameson (4).
The state has added another college baseball program. Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus is launching an athletic department and baseball is a part of it. Zach McClellan is the Crimson Pride’s first athletic director and baseball head coach. The school has applied for membership in the NAIA and hopes to be participating in the River States Conference. IUPUC is awaiting decisions on both. The 43-year-old McClellan says the NAIA is to visit the campus to look at academics and athletics Feb. 28-March 1. McClellan, a Toledo, Ohio, native who pitched three seasons at Indiana University (1998-2000) and 10 years in professional baseball including a stint with the Colorado Rockies (2007), says that regardless of NAIA status in the coming year, Crimson Pride teams will participate in cross country, softball and baseball during the 2022-23 academic year. The AD/coach says there are no immediate plans to build a baseball field on the small satellite campus, but IUPUC is in conversations with local high schools — Columbus East, Columbus North and Hauser among them — as well as CERALand Park (a host to many travel ball events) about a place to play home games. Athletes have already been announcing their commitment to the NAIA-applicant school. “I’m giving (recruits) very transparent answers about what could and couldn’t happen,” says McClellan. “For me, it’s more important for the players to commit to IUPUC and the process.” As a first-time college administrator and head coach, McClellan has welcomed help from those with experience. “One of the guys that I have a lot of respect for is Kyle Gould at Taylor University (in Upland, Ind.),” says McClellan. “He’s the AD at Taylor and he’s the baseball coach and great at both.” To help build the team and culture, McClellan will be hiring assistant coaches. “I want to win,” says McClellan, who had more than 150 players from around the world show interest when word got out about the formation of the start-up program. “To win I’ve got to build a great developmental plan for those kids. “The plan specifically for baseball is to bring in 50 players by the fall to have a varsity and (junior varsity) team and IUPUC. I took the job to help people. I took it to give them an opportunity to go to a great institution and get a degree from Indiana or Purdue with very affordable tuition.” Giving advice to players and their families looking at college baseball, McClellan implores them to do their research to find the right fit. “I don’t think anybody truly wants to transfer four times in four years,” says McClellan. “The transfer portal stuff is a necessary evil. I’m glad it empowers players to become happy. But you really should be looking for that spot you can call home for four to five years. Get your degree, play at a high level and enjoy it. “Pick the right opportunity for yourself and don’t short change any opportunity.” McClellan moved to Columbus, Ind., in 2010 after taking a job with LHP Engineering Solutions. He has established two businesses including Demand Command (a travel sports organization with teams in Indiana, Ohio and Arizona) and CG Velocity (an entity created to develop baseball pitching expertise for players ages 7 to 25). He holds a B.S. degree from Indiana University and an Masters of Business Administration from University of Phoenix and is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Division of Business at IUPUC. “I’m a big advocate for education and teaching,” says McClellan, who enjoyed guiding a Personal Brand class for MBA students. Besides Business, Nursing and Mechanical Engineerina (Purdue) are among the major offered at the school. “There’s a lot of knowledge at IUPUC,” says McClellan. “There’s a lot of knowledgable people with smaller classes. That’s value-added. “Hopefully academics can shine the light on how good academics really is.” “So far everyone has expressed interest in working with us,” says McClellan. “There are a lot of options here in Columbus.” There are just over 900 undergraduate students at IUPUC. Many are commuters. Student-athletes looking for housing are being referred to The Annex of Columbus — apartments within walking distance of the campus. McClellan sees being close rather than having a long commute as ideal. “You have to understand that you are a student-athlete and not an athlete-student,” says McClellan. “You have to be committed to your books. That’s tough because — let’s face it — baseball at the collegiate level is like a second job. It’s hard to commute from more than 30 or 40 minutes away and do what we’re trying to do. You’re going to be working out early in the morning and late at night. You’re going to be studying and finding something to eat. And you have to get your sleep. “We’re looking for elite-level players — on and off the field — that’s what college baseball is.” McClellan notes that there is a reason sports is a pyramid and not a square. “Sometimes it weeds you out when you’re not fully-committed to what you’re doing,” says McClellan. “That’s why The Annex of Columbus is a pivotal piece.” Zach and wife Sarah live in Columbus with three daughters — Mia, Miley and Emery.
Shannon Floor has been coaching baseball for more than three decades. He began in the Wabash (Ind.) Little League and Junior/Senior League and later led travel teams with the Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers and seventh and eighth graders at North Miami Middle/High School in Denver, Ind. He was asked to join the varsity coaching staff and 2021 was his first season as Warriors head coach. Floor credits three men for getting him to where he’s at as a coach — Carl Pace, Mark Delagarza and Troy Hudson. “They’ve been tremendous mentors to me,” says Floor. Pace, who is now head softball coach at Southwood Junior-Senior High School in Wabash, led Little League teams with Floor as his assistant. Delagarza is the founder of the Summit City Sluggers and has run the organization since 1996. He counts Floor as a 17U head coach. Hudson, the North Miami athletic director, ran the Warriors baseball program and brought Floor on board when Hudson moved up from assistant to head coach for 2017. The 2022 season will be Floor’s fifth at North Miami. In 2018, he guided middle schoolers in the spring and then took players into Babe Ruth ball in the summer and finished as state runner-up to New Castle and placed fourth at the Ohio Valley Regional in West Virginia. The following spring (2019), North Miami won its first-ever IHSAA sectional championship, besting West Central, Caston and Northfield to win the Class 1A tournament at Caston. Hudson stepped down after what would have been the 2020 season (canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and Floor was installed as head coach. Floor holds three things dear while guiding his team. “No. 1 is family,” says Floor, himself a married man with three ball-playing three sons. “No. 2 is team fundamentals and development. We want to rely on each other and make each other accountable. We also want to be succeeding in academics. “Then we work on playing good ball on the field.” North Miami had just over 20 players for varsity and junior varsity teams in 2021. “We could have 28 to 30 (for 2022) if everything holds up,” says Floor. “(Winning) has spring-loaded our program. It’s the first time the excitement has been at that level and the numbers started growing. “We want to keep going in that direction.” An IHSAA Limited Contact Period went from Aug. 30-Oct. 16 and the Warriors took full advantage of it. “We had a very good turnout,” says Floor. “We averaged 16 to 18 guys (in twice-weekly two-hour sessions) — about triple from last year.” Since North Miami is a small school with many fall athletes, one of the sessions was held on Saturday afternoons so it did not interrupt football activities. North Miami (enrollment around 290) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). Based on the IHSAA Portal, Maconquah and Peru are the largest TRC schools with around 660 students reach, followed by Tippecanoe Valley (around 570), Rochester (around 510), Manchester (around 500), Wabash (around 470) and Whitko (around 450). Below North Miami are Northfield (around 275) and Southwood (around 230). “For a 1A school it’s one of the tougher conferences,” says Floor. In 2021, the Warriors were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Caston, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood and West Central. Warrior Field — on the North Miami campus — has received upgrades in recent years, including new layers of soil. Last year, a nine-inning scoreboard and flagpole was installed. This year warning tracks, dugouts and bullpens are getting facelifts. The setting includes pine trees circling much of the outfield. “Its come a long way,” says Floor. “It is one of the most beautiful fields you can play on.” Floor’s assistants are Peru graduate Josh Donathan and North Miami alums Pat Masters and Chad Wright. Masters is a senior at Manchester University. Wright lead the JV Warriors. Besides the middle school teams, North Miami Youth League, a Town & Country Baseball-sanctioned organization in Denver, feeds the high school. The diamond is in Floor’s blood. “My entire family has been a baseball family,” says Floor, a 1988 graduate of Manchester High School in North Manchester, Ind. While he did not play the game in high school, Shannon did suit up until 16 and began coaching at 20. Shannon (51) is the oldest of three sons born to Gene (now deceased) and Rita (now known as Rita Slater and living in North Manchester) and is six year older than Shawn and eight older than Shane. Shawn Floor, who coached with Shannon, has two boys who played at Wabash High School and the next level — Jordan Floor at Jackson (Mich.) College and Trevor Floor at Indiana Wesleyan University. Shane Floor played, but has not done much coaching. He has girls who are not into sports. For as long as he’s coached baseball, Shannon Floor has been a cattle farmer — the last 15 years with his own farm. Shannon and wife Amy have been married of 17 years. Their sons are junior Kolton (17), eighth grader Karter (14) and fifth grader Keaton (10). Kolton Floor has been with the Summit City Sluggers since 8. The other two play baseball and other sports.
IHSBCA members may vote for up to four coaches and two players/contributors. Deadline for returning the ballot is Oct. 31. Inductees will be honored at the State Clinic Jan. 14-16 at Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Steve Strayer (Active) A graduate of Prairie Heights High School, Manchester College (bachelor’s degree) and Indiana University Northwest (masters degree), Strayer has been a head coach at Boone Grove and Crown Point (current) and has a record of 641-238 with 15 conference, 14 sectional and nine regional titles. He has coached 13 IHSBCA All-Stars, 64 future college players (23 NCAA Division I). He is a six-time District Coach of the Year (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2019). In 10 seasons at Boone Grove, Strayer won 223 games with seven Porter County championships. His Crown Point teams have won 418 in 19 seasons with numerous sectional regional crowns and eight Duneland Athletic Conference titles. He has been IHSBCA president and was a North All-Star coach in 2005 and 2021. Strayer teaches math at Crown Point High School. Steve and wife Jennifer live in Crown Point with daughter Charlotte.
Lea Selvey (Active) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey has spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 32 as head coach — and is 515-343 with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 42 years — nine at Woodlan and 33 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 615 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 ears and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Mark Grove (Retired) A graduate of Bluffton High School and Ball State University, Grove won 513 games, nine sectionals, four regionals and was a semistate runner-up in 1995 at Churubusco High School. His teams won nine Northeast Corner Conference championships (four tourney titles) and two Allen County Athletic Conference crowns. Grove coached 40 players who went on to college baseball and one MLB Draft selection. He has coached 25 All-Staters, six North All-Stars and twice coached the All-Stars. He was a District Coach of the Year several times. A longtime IHSBCA member, he has served on several committees (co-chaired “Baseball Strikes Out Kancer”) and is currently helping at the state clinic registration table. He is a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer and has mentored many coaches. He is a willing participant/organizer of clinics and youth baseball events.
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., 26, Carlton, 22, Cooper, 21, and Easton, 16).
Doug Greenlee (Retired) A graduate of South Putnam High School, Indiana State University (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (masters), Greenlee won 503 games in a 28-year span, including 25 at Kankakee Valley High School with three sectionals, two regionals and seven conference championships. He was the 2013 IHSBCA North All-Star head coach and coached nine All-Stars and numerous future collegiate players. His Kankakee Valley teams were ranked No. 1 on three occasions. Greenlee has served on several IHSBCA committees and been an athletic director of 16 years at four different schools. He officiated baseball for more than 25 years and worked four State Finals.
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 400-142 in 19 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 10 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 22, Dresden, 20, and Jantzen, 17). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Jamey Carroll (Retired) A graduate of Castle High School (1992) and the University of Evansville (1996), Carroll played for Dave Sensenbrenner in high school and Jim Brownlee in college. He was an All-American in 1996 and Caroll’s name is in the UE record book 27 times. Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 14th round, he went on to a 12-year big league career with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Carroll posted a 16.6 WAR WITH 1,000 hits, 13 homers, a .272 average, 580 runs, 265 RBIs, 74 stolen bases, .349 on-base percentage and .687 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 2006 and plated Matt Hollday with a sacrifice fly in a 2007 NL Wild Card Game. Jamey and wife Kim have 11-year-old twins (Cole and Mackenzie). He works in the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.
Players/Contributors Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college in January to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Baseball players at George Washington High School in Indianapolis are analyzing data in an attempt to get better. Coach Kyle Carlisle’s Continentals have been going through individualized player development this fall and are crunching the numbers and studying the video. They are looking at on-base percentage, quality at-bats, batting average and more to improve the offensive side of the game. GameChanger clips are being used to change hitting mechanics, plate approach, defensive tendencies, etc. Indianapolis Washington is even doing a little scouting for the 2022 season. This effort is player-led. Carlisle provides the means and lets the athletes take it from there.
Carlisle is heading into his third season (second on the field since the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 campaign).
The Continentals made great strides during the 2021 season, with four players earning First-Team All-GIAC honors. Senior Alfonso Gonzalez was an all-conference catcher and Indianapolis Washington’s 2021 Male Athlete of the Year. Junior outfielder Isaac Kolela earned First-Team honors, boasting a .333 batting average, and .500 OBP. Sophomore standout Frank Amador earned First-Team honors by posting a win vs. Purdue Poly on the mound in the conference tournament, pitching five innings, with 11 strikeouts and only three walks. Sophomore third baseman Darnell Stewart earned First-Team with a .400 batting average, and .600 OBP. His biggest moment was the walk-off single to send the Continentals to the GIAC Tournament Championship game. Carlisle teaches fourth grade at Phalen Leadership Academy 93. He also runs Carlisle Baseball Academy and gives lessons all over the city and consults for travel and youth teams.
“It almost doesn’t feel like work for me,” says Carlisle of coaching baseball. “I love doing it.”
Scott Hicks, George Washington’s athletic director and former Indianapolis Cathedral High School and University of Notre Dame basketball player and longtime Cathedral varsity basketball coach is in Carlisle’s words, “Is our biggest supporter.” Carlisle went on to say, “Scott has done an amazing job in being a mentor to my development as a varsity coach.”
There are challenges in every program and Carlisle and assistant coach James Tradup have their own unique obstacles. Indianapolis Washington went 11 years without baseball prior to Carlisle taking his first varsity head coaching job to reboot Continentals’ baseball.Washington’s “home” diamond is at Indy Sports Park, which is about 10 miles south of campus. The teams’ practices on-campus on a converted softball field and roll in portable mounds.
Indianapolis Public Schools are a “school of choice” – which essentially means that students living in Indianapolis, that attend public schools, can choose where they go to High School. No specific middle schools feed Washington.
“Coaching in the city is the hardest thing in the world to do,” says Carlisle. “We have to build relationships with families whose students play middle school baseball and/or travel ball in the city to commit to George Washington. “And based on proximity to where those families live, can be a hard sell. We hope to build a reputation that does recruiting for us soon.
”While there have been no commitments yet, Carlisle notes that he sees potential college players throughout his team.
A recent graduate received college baseball offers but opted to join the U.S. Army. Coach Carlisle is a 2007 graduate of Flint (Mich.) Kearsley High School. Carlisle was a pitcher for two seasons each at Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Ill.) and Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.). His head coaches were Todd Reid at ONU and Josh Bailey at Grace. Carlisle earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Grace in 2012 and holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership (2015) and a Master’s Degree in Psychology/Life Coaching (2017) from Grand Canyon University (Phoenix). Kyle married his wife, Valerie, in 2013. They reside in Speedway, Ind.
All the hats that Sherard Clinkscales has donned thus far — many of the baseball variety — have helped him to his current role as athletic director at Indiana State University. The former baseball and basketball player at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and Purdue University went on to play and scout in professional baseball and coach in the college ranks before going into athletic administration. He was hired by then-ISU president Dr. Daniel Bradley to lead the Sycamores in February 2016 and now serves for current president Deborah J. Curtis. Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State fields baseball, basketball, cross country, football and track and field teams for men plus basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, track and field and volleyball teams for women. Two weeks ago Clinkscales, 51, was named to the NCAA Baseball Committee. As the 2022 Division I season gets closer to the postseason, the committee will meet to discuss the teams that are trending up or down and then determine the top seeds. Committee members will become regional and super regional directors and serve as team administrators at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. “We’ll make sure their experience is top notch,” says Clinkscales. In 2021, Indiana State went 31-21 and played in the Nashville Regional. It was the eighth season for ISU alum Mitch Hannahs as Sycamores head coach. While they never competed against one another, Clinkscale’s relationship with Hannahs goes way back. “I know Mitch well,” says Clinkscales. “He’s a good man that I respect immensely. He’s one of the best coaches in the country.” Clinkscales says Hannahs’ success stems from his understanding of players and an intuitiveness as a tactician. “He has a knack for getting the best out of players and knows when to push them and when not to,” says Clinkscales. “He’s an excellent recruiter and finds guys that fit his system. “He genuinely cares about his young men. He’s authentic. You always know where you stand with Mitch.” While Indiana State is a northern school and — in football terms — is not in a power five conference, Sycamores baseball has long been competitive on a national level. “That starts with Coach (Bob) Warn,” says Clinkscales of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer whose name is on the ISU baseball field. “I grew up in the ‘80s and Indiana State was the best program in the state of Indiana. “Mitch was a part of that and he has taken that even further. Indiana State is just a wonderful institution. We get kids that love the game of baseball, love to play it and love to learn it.” Clinkscales says generations of parents have come to understand the toughness that it takes to play in Terre Haute. “They’re more than happy to send their kids to play for a man like Mitch,” says Clinkscales. “They know what they’re getting.” A standout basketball player for Mike Miller, Clinkscales began getting noticed at the college level for his baseball skills with Brebeuf’s summer team. “I was always a good athlete,” says Clinkscales, a 1989 Brebeuf graduate. “I played baseball because it was fun.” The baseball Braves were coached by Kevin Stephenson. “Coach was outstanding,” says Clinkscales of Stephenson. “He was a really good guy who stuck with me.” At Purdue, Clinkscales played one season (1989-90) as a walk-on guard for Boilermakers head basketball coach Gene Keady and three springs for head baseball coach Dave Alexander (1990-92). “(Keady and Alexander) stuck by me when I struggled,” says Clinkscales. “I owe everything to where I am today to Dave Alexander. Dave took a chance on me. “He was tough, authentic and honest. Coach definitely cared about me and got the most out of me.” The relationship continued a few years after his playing days when Clinkscales and Alexander were scouts in the same Midwest territories. Right-handed pitcher Clinkscales was a “sandwich” round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (31st overall selection) and played for the 1992 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, 1993 and 1994 Rockford (Ill.) Royals and 1994 Gulf Coast (Fla.) Royals. What did Clinkscales appreciate most about being a player? “The camaraderie and going to the ball park to spend time with buddies,” says Clinkscales. “Baseball is such a team sport. You’re getting to know guys (from diverse backgrounds).” After being released by the Royals, Clinkscales went to extended spring training with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 then decided to pursue scouting and other ventures. Clinkscales was an area scouting supervisor of the Atlanta Braves 1997-99, assistant director of scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays 1999-2001 then a professional and amateur scout for the Braves 2001-06. He was also founder and president of Indianapolis-based AfterSport Group, a consulting firm for high school, college and professional athletic communities. “I absolutely loved it,” says Clinkscales of scouting. “It was one of the thrills of my life.” He relished identifying potential big leaguers through observation. Baseball was not so analytics and stats-driven at that time. “I was able to get to know the player,” says Clinkscales. “Make-up is everything. You have to be a tough son of a gun to play Major League Baseball. Only the strong survive. “It comes down to toughness, luck, consistency and being in the right place at the right time.” Then came the opportunity be pitching coach for head coach Dave Schrage at the University of Notre Dame for three seasons (2007-09). “I’m grateful for the chance he took on a guy who’d never coached before,” says Clinkscales of Schrage, now head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. “He saw the positive things. He knows the game inside and out.” Clinkscales learned how difficult coaching can be. “It’s hard,” says Clinkscales. “You have to really love coaching. It all starts with leadership. You have to work together as a team and assistants have to do their jobs well. “It takes a special person to be a coach.” Clinkscales equates coach with teacher. “To get the most out of a young man that doesn’t know how much he has is a gift,” says Clinkscales, who has gotten to interview and hire many coaches in his AD role. Clinkscales was Assistant Director of Championships for the NCAA in Indianapolis 2009-11 and Senior Associate Athletic Director at North Carolina State University 2011-16 — serving on the staff of Wolfpack AD Debbie Yow. A holder of a History degree from Purdue in 1994, Clinkscales completed a masters in Sports Management from North Carolina State in 2016. The fall semester at ISU begins Aug. 18 and young people are now back on the campus. “I enjoy the student-athletes,” says Clinkscales. “It’s the purity that I really enjoy. They are students first and achieving in the classroom and on the field. “You build relationships with students and coaches. They get kids to execute and learn how to deal with the losses. I’m working with a staff that loves doing what I’m doing. They work hard and pick each other up. “I thank God I have the opportunity to be an athletic director.” Clinkscales has two children — North Carolina Wesleyan University graduate Alex Clinkscales and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tara Clinkscales. Sherard and second wife Monica reside in Terre Haute.
Jack Firestone is getting his cuts and hitting his cut-off man while preparing for his next college baseball season. A lefty-swinging outfielder, Firestone is playing for the Patrick Morey-coached Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and works on his swing at The Barn in Lapel, Ind., with Mike Shirley and Scott French and with current Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School head coach Jered Moore and former ZCHS assistant and current University of Indianapolis volunteer coachJeremy Honaker and lifts weights with Laird Training’s Sean Laird. “I’ve always believed in those guys and they’ve always been there for me,” says Firestone of Moore and Honaker. Firestone smacked a home run and rapped two singles in a CSL game this past week. “I’m just trying to put the bat on the ball the best I can — just put the ball on the ball,” says Firestone. “If it gets out, it gets out.” Firestone was a redshirt freshman at Purdue University in the spring of 2021 and got into 24 games (four as a starter) on a team that had three seniors starting in the outfield — Ben Nisle in left, fifth-year Skyler Hunter in center and Miles Simington in right. “It was a waiting year for me,” says Firestone, a Financial Counseling and Planning major and Management minor. “Just be patient for next year.” Firestone did not see action during the 2020 Boilermakers season that was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach. “I love playing for him,” says Firestone. “He’s high energy. I love him. He knows what he’s doing.” He did play in the inaugural CSL season for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers and was named to the all-star team. While at Zionsville, where he graduated in 2019, Firestone earned three baseball letters playing for Moore. Firestone was named offensive player of the year as a senior. The Eagles won sectional titles in 2017 and 2018 and regional crown in 2017. That was year the year he was named junior varsity MVP. He was the freshmen squad MVP at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., before his family moved to Zionsville. Born in Warsaw, Ind., to golf pro Todd and Purdue alum Jennie, Jack went to Fort Wayne while in kindergarten and played his first organized baseball in Don Ayres Little League. He played travel ball for the Summit City Spartans, Leo Lions and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks then — after moving to Boone County — the Indiana Mustangs. He also played fall ball for the San Francisco Giants scout team. Todd Firestone, the son of Tom Firestone, played golf and basketball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., served as head golf pro at Tippecanoe Lake Country Club in Milford, Ind., and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking that post at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis at the start of 2016. Tom Firestone is in the Kosciusko County Basketball and Bethel University Athletic halls of fame and was athletic director at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School. Trey Firestone, Jack’s little brother and a senior at Zionsville Community in 2022, is a football wide receiver getting NCAA Division I offers.