Shawn Jenkins played baseball in South Bend, Ind., as a boy. Now he helps boys and girls get better with bat, ball and glove as owner of Teddy BallGames, a training facility of the city’s northwest side. Jenkins, who had been taking his South Bend River Bandits Softball teams to Teddy BallGames and helped set up 24-hour access and an alarm system as an ADT employee, took ownership from retiring Mike Branch on Feb. 1, 2021. The father of three daughters (freshman Lexington, 14, and sixth grader Dellancey, 11, are ballplayers), Jenkins switched from coaching baseball to softball and is now also the head coach of that sport at South Bend Riley High School as well as overseeing the TB Tigers Baseball & Softball Travel Organization. Softball teams played several games in the fall while baseball — with many in football and other fall sports — took the time off. The 11U TB Tigers went 50-2, won eight tournaments and ended up ranked No. 1 in the county by Baseball Players Association in 2021. Teddy BallGames, located just off Cleveland Road at 4085 Meghan Beehler Court, has batting cages and training space for individuals and teams and is outfitted with Rapsodo, HitTrax and
equipment. There are currently about 75 members and Jenkins says there is room for 120. Jenkins went from South Bend to Chicagoland and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights then came back to Indiana as a junior and graduated from the former South Bend LaSalle High School in 1991. His head coach was Scott Sill. “Scott Sill gave me a good foundation,” says Jenkins. After a junior college stint in California, Jenkins ended up playing baseball and basketball at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora, Ill. The baseball coach was Hall of Famer Dave Randall. “It was just a great program,” says Jenkins, who was a second baseman. “I was able to play for him and I really leaned a lot. I parlayed that into playing (NCAA) Division II baseball at Lincoln University (in Jefferson City, Mo.). The Blue Tigers were coached by Sergio Espinal, who grew up with Shawon Dunston and a teammate of Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura and Doug Dascenzo on a College World Series team at Oklahoma State University, was was selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs (1985 and 1986). Jenkins coached high school basketball in Louisiana and high school and college basketball in California then moved back to Indiana and was an assistant baseball coach at South Bend Washington High School for 12 years. He worked with former Maurice Matthys Little League teammate and best friend John Kehoe. Jenkins was 11 when Matthys won a district title a lost to Concord in sectional play. For more information on Teddy BallGames, call 574-329-1264.
Clay Woeste just played in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, where he made the all-tournament team as Indiana University Southeast’s starting second baseman and lead-off hitter. The NAIA Ball Podcast selected righty swinger Woeste (.374, 8 home runs, 21 runs batted in, 89 runs scored, 38 stolen bases and a 1.053 OPS) as second-team All-America and Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel as National Coach of the Year. While finishing fifth in its first World Series appearance, IUS went 50-16 overall and 26-1 in the River States Conference. At 22, Woeste (pronounced Wee-Stee) can look back on many baseball memories. “It was surreal,” says Woeste of playing in Lewiston. “That’s the best way to describe it. “That’s all we ever talked about and we were finally there.” But once the games began, it was all-business for the Grenadiers. “We would do what you’ve been doing all year,” says Woeste. “Our guys were so special to be around. “No matter what was thrown our way we found a way to get through it.” During the season, shortstop Daunte DeCelllo went out with an injury and Woeste moved to that side of the infield. DeCello came back at the end of year then RSC Player of the Year Matt Monahan got hurt and missed the postseason. Yet IUS just kept going. “No matter what was thrown our way we found a way to get through it,” says Woeste. Reel, who just completed his 13th campaign at the school in New Albany, has built a national power with limited resources. “He has the ability to recruit amazing guys and he does with only one scholarship,” says Woeste. “It’s amazing. “We work really hard in the fall and when we go out in the spring he just lets us play. We reap what we sow.” Woeste considers his athletic quality to be the work ethic and durability that has helped him stay on the field day in and day out. “I keep my body healthy,” says Woeste, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder. That body has stolen 89 bases in 97 attempts from 2018-21. “My sophomore year I came into my own stealing bases (swiping 34-of-34),” say Woeste. “Coach Reel saw that and started leading off all the time and I was pretty much given the green light.” Woeste was supposed to play in the Coastal Plain League in the summer of 2020 but when the COVID-19 pandemic caused that loop to shutdown he took on with the Thoroughbreds in the Louisville Collegiate League, which played most its games at Trinity High School. This summer, Woeste is with the CPL’s Holly Springs (N.C.) Salamanders, coached by Kevin Soine. With a double major (Professional Selling and Marketing) and a minor (Communication) already completed, he plans to return to IU Southeast for his pandemic-related extra year of baseball eligibility. The diamond has been a big part of his life all these years. But that was not his first sport. Clay had his hand on the throttle before he really had his hand on a bat. At 5, he was racing 50 cc machines in motocross. His parents — Matt and Karen Woeste — moved from northern Kentucky to Aurora, Ind., so fourth grader Clay could ride on a track owned by the family of Ezra Hastings (who is now a professional motocross racer). Since there was no motocross in the winter, Clay played basketball in the winter. His hoops coach — Bill Rose — persuaded him to play in what is now called Aurora Youth Baseball. “I never really turned back after that,” says Woeste, who raced until 11 and placed in the top three twice and won at the Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., then turned more and more attention to the diamond. When he reached middle school, Woeste played for the Cincinnati Tribe travel organization. During his high school years, he was with Reds RBI team coached by Roosevelt Barnes, father of Tribe teammate R.J. Barnes. “We got close and I went with him,” says Clay of R.J. Roosevelt Barnes is now also the head baseball coach at LaSalle High School in Green Township, Ohio. Woeste played briefly during his senior summer for the Midland RedHawks and then that fall with the Midland Redskins. After attending South Dearborn schools for grades 4-8 and transferred to Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School as a freshman and played four baseball seasons for Tigers head coach Nick Tremain. “He was a great coach with us,” says Woeste. “My freshmen year he was more hands-on and harder. He developed us so that by the time we were seniors we just went out and played “That’s why we were so good our senior year.” In 2017, Lawrenceburg (31-2) won the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and IHSAA Class 3A South Dearborn Sectional then topped Boonville 7-5 in the semifinals of the North Harrison Regional before bowing 4-2 to eventual state champion Jasper in the final.
A 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty swinger who has started 109 games at Dayton (including 97 at third base the past two seasons with starts at designated hitter, right field, first base and second base as a freshmen in 2018), Tirotta did not get selected in the five-round 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Citing unfinished business, he decided not to sign a free agent contact with an MLB organization and he’s planning to come back for his senior season in 2021.
“We had a really good team at Dayton this year,” says Tirotta. “We can do a lot of special things. We have a lot of seniors returning. If I do some things individually and we win some games, I can put myself in an even better position (for professional baseball).
“We want to finish what we started.”
As a sophomore, Tirotta led Dayton in hits (59), at-bats (227) and stolen bases (18 in 20 attempts) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (41). He enjoyed 16 multi-hit games.
His freshmen year yielded 27 hits and seven stolen bases while he fielded at a .987 clip.
A past honoree on the dean’s and Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner’s academic lists, Tirotta is on track to earned his Finance degree at Dayton.
At the CSBI, Tirotta played on a team managed by former big league pitcher, Gary, Ind., native and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins and got to face former high school teammate Nate Thomas and college mate Cole Pletka.
Following workouts prescribed by trainers, including those at Dayton, Tirotta hits the gym five or six times a week. He goes through strength and conditioning moves and does sprint training.
“I use my speed as well as my power,” says Tirotta. “Just being at athlete on the baseball field is one of my biggest strengths.
“I like to use my athleticism a lot. I’m making plays and using my arm strength. I take extra bases when I can and get stolen bases. I’m hitting a few home runs here and there. I’m pretty well-rounded. I’m not a power-only guy.”
Dayton played just 14 games before the 2020 season was halted. Tirotta started cold and finished hot. He wound up hitting .228 (13-of-57) with one homer, one double, 15 RBIs, nine runs, four stolen bases.
He batted fourth in the Flyers’ final game on March 9 at Dayton swept a three-game series against Northern Kentucky.
The previous day, Flyers head coach Jayson King inserted Tirotta in the 3-hole and he went 3-for-6 3-for-6 with a home run, double, three runs batted in and three runs scored.
“I was putting good barrel on the ball and going in a good direction,” says Tirotta. “Then COVID happened.
“(Coach King has) done everything for me. He’s gotten me into the Cape and a lot of good leagues. He gets us where we need to be.”
Tirotta hooked up with the CSL when other collegiate summer leagues were canceled or scaled back for 2020.
He got into 28 games in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2019 — 19 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and nine with the Harwich Mariners. He signed a temporary contract with Y-D and finished with league runner-up Harwich. He supposed to go back to Harwich this summer, but the league canceled its schedule.
He knew he wanted to play summer ball. He was not sure where and then the opportunity came at Grand Park.
“There’s a lot of guys I grew up playing with and against,” says Tirotta, a 2017 graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., who played travel ball with the Indiana Bulls his 17U and 18U summers after being with the South Bend Silver Hawks for 15U and 16U and the Michiana Scrappers for 11U through 14U. Coached by his father, he started organized baseball at Southeast Little League in South Bend.
Playing summer ball two times a week in Indiana, Riley also gets to be around parents Mike and Stacy Tirotta and younger brother Jordan (a 2020 Marian graduate who plans to study dentistry at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis).
Sunday nights are for dinners at grandpa Frank Tirotta’s house. It’s not unusual for 40 or more relatives and friends to gather for these weekly feasts or on holidays.
“I have a very close family,” says Tirotta. When pandemic hit that shut down meals with his grandfather — a widower — and visits were kept at a distance. “He was fed up with it and itching to see everybody again.”
Mike Marks has broken bread with the Tirottas. He runs the Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., and has been helping Riley with his swing since Marian coach Joe Turnock and son Josh Turnock recommended him during Tirotta’s freshmen year with the Knights.
“He’s the reason I am a college hitter,” says Tirotta. “I put in a lot of hours with him.
“He’s definitely part of the journey in my baseball career.”
Baseball gears back up again next week. Right now, Tirotta is getting ready to join family for some camping.
“We’re always intense. We don’t have a problem taking extra bases. We’ll bunt. We’ll do anything we can to win. Pitching-wise, we’ll throw inside and outside.
“The system seems to work and we just pass it down. People say I’m softer than I was when I first started.
“I think I’m doing the same thing.”
After assistant stints at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (with Craig Moore) and Brownstown Central High School, Malott has been coaching in the South Dearborn program for 34 years and is coming up on 25 years of leading the Knights.
Larry Hornbach (who died Dec. 16, 2018) and Mallot are the only head coaches in program history. Mallot has also been a linebackers coach for SD football.
In 2018-19, the Knights were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Madison Consolidated and Rushville Consolidated. With 2019’s South Dearborn Sectional title, the Knights have won 12 sectional championships.
This spring produced a 21-8 mark, a co-championship in he EIAC and a Charlestown Invitational title. South Dearborn lost to Silver Creek in the semifinals of the Jasper Regional.
“Probably about everything,” says Malott. “I became a social studies teacher because of him. I tried to coach like him, but personality’s different so it still comes out different.
“Your personality comes out in your players, too.”
Malott has coached several IHSBCA North/South All-Stars, including Jim Townsend (1986), Brad Tyler (1987), Mark Morris (1994), A.J. Gray (1996), Jared Cutter (1997), Korey Kirkpatrick (1999), Jeremy Legge (2000), Sam Schmeltzer (2007), Wyatt Schwing (2016) and Ethan Getz (2019).
The 2008 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series was held in Evansville and Malott was a South assistant.
“My favorite day is the one where they use the wooden bats and you can see all the kids’ (high school) uniforms,” says Malott. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I get to meet some of the other coaches and tell stories.”
Stepping back on Gary O’Neal Field at Madison brings fond memories to Malott. His South Dearborn team played the Cubs in the sectional championship game in 1999, the year Madison won the 3A state title.
“It was a close game (5-3),” says Malott. “They were better than us.
“We played these guys in football, basketball and baseball and six times in Legion ball (Malott coached with South Dearborn American Legion baseball for more than 25 years). I knew most of these kids’ families.”
Ben Reel, the head baseball coach at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany since the 2009 season, played at South Dearborn for Malott.
His assistant coaches in 2019 included, Adam Wheat, Dave Burress, Greg Hughes, Tim Studer and T.J. Schomber. Most of them played at SD for Malott and know the system and are able to pass it along to the high schoolers and those in the junior high program which is part of the Knights feeder system.
Youth baseball in Aurora, Dillsboro, Manchester and Moores Hill as well as select teams in the Cincinnati area (Aurora is 25 miles west of Cincy) help develop players for South Dearborn.
Highlander Park, located adjacent to the South Dearborn campus, is the Knights’ home field. In the past three years, the lighted facility has had a nine-inning scoreboard installed with new dugouts, press box and wind screens.
“We keep trying to update it,” says Malott.
Jay and Teresa Malott have one daughter — Ashley. She lives in Lafayette with her husband and three children.
Jay Malott has been coaching baseball at South Dearborn High School in Aurora, Ind., for 34 years and is coming up his his 25th in charge of the Knights program. He was an assistant for the South in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Twisters of Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy enjoyed the highest number of participants and victories in a number of years in 2019.
The IHSAA Class 1A member in Franklin County near Batesville had 24 players in the program and followed up two straight five-win seasons by going 16-8-1.
The Twisters fell to Rising Sun in the championship game of the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional. The win total is two shy of single-season school record.
“We’re on the uptick with enrollment and with kids being interested (in baseball),” says Doug Behlmer, who just finished his 19th season as OA head coach (the private school went coed 19 years ago). “Hopefully, it keeps going.”
With more than a dozen incoming freshmen indicating a desire to play baseball in 2020, Behlmer says the program could have an all-time high of more than 30 players and could even have to make cuts for the first time.
When the program began, there was just 13 freshmen and the Twisters played a junior varsity schedule. That moved toward a full varsity schedule in the next few years.
The 2019 team was led on the mound by sophomore right-handers Chris Hautman, Andrew Oesterling and Riley Schebler and in the batter’s box by Oesterling, Hautman, Schebler, sophomores Race Carle and Patrick Thompson and juniors Matt Sedler, Adam Huber and Michael Hoff.
Senior Hunter Sullivan has committed to play baseball for Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Behlmer’s coaching staff included former OA players Spencer Gommel, Patrick Kolks and Matt Bohman and pitching coach Jeff Ahaus (a Lawrenceburg eye doctor who had two sons play for the Twisters). Bohman is in charge of the junior varsity team.
Points of emphasis include dependability and hard work.
“If you say you’re going do something, make sure you do it,” says Behlmer. “Family, faith and academics all come in front of baseball.”
A 1988 graduate of Greensburg (Ind.) High School, Behlmer played for head coach Roger Cash.
“Coach Cash was an old school guy,” says Behlmer. “He believed in fundamentals and making the routine play. I’ve carried that over to our guys. Nothing too flashy. Be solid. Throw strikes. That sort of thing.”
Doug and Judy Behlmer have been married 21 years and have no children. He is employed by Hill-Rom in Batesville.