Tag Archives: BAM

Danner brings aggressive style as Monroe Central baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s an assertive brand of baseball that will be promoted by Tyler Danner, the new head coach at Monroe Central Junior/Senior High School in Parker City, Ind.
“I am very much an aggressive coach,” says Danner, who took over the Golden Bears program in mid-September and looks forward to a few IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices this month. “Our goal in 2023 is 100 stolen bases (at a success rate of 85 percent or higher). Anything that’s a 50-50 ball in the outfield, we’re going for it. Outfielders are expected to play aggressively and lay out for the baseball.”
Danner was the pitching coach at Indianapolis Lutheran the past three years and has coached travel ball for a decade — five years with the Delaware County-based Indiana Magic and the past five with Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM). He was with 12U through 16U teams with the Indiana Magic and 14U through 17U squads with BAM, including 15U this past summer.
The 2022 Lutheran Saints swiped 183 bases, won 22 games and advanced to a regional championship game.
As it was at his previous stop, “Attack the zone” will be Danner’s mantra with his MC pitchers. He insisted that his Lutheran hurlers were aggressive in the strike zone and this helped lower the team ERA and walk rate.
“Guys went deeper (into games) because the pitch count was not driven up by full counts,” says Danner. “You get to trust the gloves behind you.”
As for hitting approach, Danner will have each batter focus on their strengths and weaknesses. If they hit the inside pitch best, they may lay off the outside one before two strikes.
Danner wants his team to collect more free bases (errors, walks, overthrows etc.) than its gives up. The goal is to hold the opponent under 10 and to gather more than 12.
“You have a 75 percent win percentage when you do that,” says Danner.
Monroe Central (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
The Golden Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Alexandria Monroe, Elwood, Frankton, Lapel, Muncie Burris, Wapahani and Winchester. Monroe Central has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2014.
After meeting players during a call-out and at home football games, Danner came away impressed.
“They were respectful,” says Danner. “They were all eye contact, all engaged and asking questions.
“These are guys who have played at a high level and expect to play well.”
It was as a toddler that Tyler first learned to think and talk the game with his father. Chuck Danner devoured baseball knowledge from books and the Internet and coached youth teams and as a hitting coach for Ed Jones at Muncie Burris.
Chuck Danner died in 2015 at 69.
At Yorktown (Ind.) High School, where he graduated in 2009, Tyler Danner was a pitcher, catcher and outfielder for Tigers head coach Mike Larrabee.
“He showed us the way to stay even-keeled,” says Danner of Larrabee. “It’s very easy in the heat of the moment to get too high or too low. That was not Coach.
“You need a guy that steers into the storm and never seems to panic.”
Yorktown won sectional titles in 2007 and 2008 and a regional crown in 2008.
The approach at BAM is for players to work through the approaches to the game and breaking it down on the field and in the classroom.
“They understand why they’re doing it at such a high level,” says Danner.
His Monroe Central assistants include Daleville graduates Ethan Pittsford (Class of 2019) and Drew Watson (Class of 2021). Daleville won state titles in 2016 and 2018. Watson was a volunteer assistant at Daleville in 2022.
There were 16 players in the Monroe Central program last spring. A similar number would mean a varsity-only schedule in 2023. Danner’s goal in the future is to have enough numbers for varsity and junior varsity.
The Golden Bears play on-campus.
“We have beautiful dugouts and a nice press box,” says Danner. “The field is in good condition. It was maintained by the previous coaching staff very, very well.
“Monroe Central truly believes in its sports program and makes sure everything is taken care of really, really nice.”
Monroe Central Athletic League has baseball teams from T-ball through 12U. Junior high baseball is conducted in June on the high school diamond.
Danner plans to be active with both feeder systems, volunteering with the MCAL (and asking his high school players to do that same) and overseeing the junior high.
Aidyn Coffey (Monroe Central Class of 2022) committed to Coastal Carolina University after the Golden Bears’ 20-win season.
Among players expected back are Blake Bogue (Class of 2023), Cole Luedike (Class of 2024) and Lane Wilson (Class of 2025).
Outside of coaching Danner, who attended Purdue University for three years, is single and works as a major account representative for a lending company.

Tyler Danner.

Schofield embraces toughness on his baseball journey

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tenacity has taken Peyton Schofield to where he’s gotten on the diamond and it will continue to be with him as he works toward where he wants to go.
A 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-handed pitcher, Schofield is a 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Cathedral High School who has made two collegiate baseball stops — NCAA Division I Charleston (S.C.) Southern University and National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Southeastern Community College (Whiteville, N.C.) — and is committed to join NCAA D-I Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, N.C.) in the fall. The Catamounts have a new head coach — Alan Beck.
Schofield credits two Cathedral head coaches — Rich Andriole (who was Irish head coach when was a freshman dressing on varsity) and Ed Freje (who was his head coach for three years) — for helping to develop his fortitude.
“You won’t survive if you’re not the toughest guy out there,” says Schofield of the lessons taught by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andriole (who died in 2020) and his former assistant Freje. “They taught us how to win and do it humbly.
“You expect to win but you also have to do all the right things
best team in the world or the worst team in the world, you approach it the same,” says Schofield.
It’s the idea of respecting all opponents but fearing none.
He also counts former Charleston Southern coach George Schaefer as a mentor. Even though he is now a scout, Schaefer and Schofield still have phone conversations.
This summer, Schofield is with the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. In his first six mound appearances (two starts) covering 16 2/3 innings, he is 0-1 with 18 strikeouts, 15 walks and a 4.86 earned run average.
With an arm angle that comes over the top, Schofield throws six different pitches — four-seam fastball (which has vertical ride and has been up to 91 mph), two-seam fastball (which sinks and moves away from a right-handed hitter and into a lefty), change-up (which drops and fades to the arm side), curveball (with 12-to-6 action), slider (with horizontal movement) and a seldom-used cutter (which gets swings and misses).
“Throwing over the top gets the vertical ride on four seams and more horizontal movement to the arm on two seams,” says Schofield. “The guys that throw three quarters get more sink.”
Schofield, 21, was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Noblesville, Ind. He played Noblesville Youth Baseball then was in travel ball with the Noblesville Heat, Indiana Prospects, Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM) and Indiana Mustangs.
Peyton’s father still lives in Noblesville. Father Mark owns a contracting service. Mother Nicole works as an AT&T account manager. Younger sister Laney (20) is a student at the University of Alabama.
An Economics major, Schofield still has two years to go for his full degree.

Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Charleston Southern University Photo)

Wickliff, baseball-playing Beech Grove Hornets ‘turn the page’

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Beech Grove (Ind.) High School baseball adopted a mantra as the Hornets took to the diamond in 2021 under head coach Jacob Wickliff: Turn the page.
“Physically and philosophically one will never reach the end of the book unless you turn the page,” says Wickliff of the fresh-start approach in a program he was hired to lead in the summer of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season.
“The clear message to everyone is that we’re starting over,” says Wickliff. “That’s been big with parents. Our upperclassmen and key underclassmen have bought in.”
Wickliff has been made excitement and standards a high priority at Beech Grove, which is just inside the I-465 corridor southwest of Indianapolis.
“Kids weren’t excited to play here and that’s been our big push,” says Wickliff, who says there is a buzz around the Hornets who play at new all-turf on-campus facility — Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
The diamond, which debuted in 2021, is part of a district referendum that put turf on the football field and added the baseball and softball fields and other school-related projects.
Baseball games and practices used to be at Sarah T. Bolton Park in Beech Grove.
Since the new baseball field is landlocked, it is 297 feet down the left field line and there’s 10-foot high fence from the pole to left-center.
Planes that fly by can’t miss the place since there’s a huge black, orange and white Hornet logo in center field.
The field also brings in plenty of rental fees that Wickliff turns right back into the baseball program to cover the cost of spirit packs and more.
Wickliff, who teaches at Beech Grove Middle School, wants the excitement to reach down to the community’s younger players from Beech Grove Little League which leads to the junior high program then the high school.
A tradition has been started of inviting junior high players to have a practice and play a game on the turf at the end of the season. Beech Grove Middle School play its home games at South Grove Intermediate.
“It goes back to excitement,” says Wickliff of getting those youngsters charged up about baseball.
Beech Grove (enrollment around 1,000) is a member of the Indiana Crossroads Conference (with Cascade, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis Lutheran, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Monrovia, Speedway and Triton Central).
Last spring, the ICC adopted a two-game series format. There are home-and-home conference games each Tuesday and Wednesday.
In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, George Washington and Indianapolis Shortridge. Beech Grove has won six sectional crowns — the last in 2014.
With a smaller student-athlete pool and so many multi-sport athletes, Beech Grove did not participate in the recent fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period.
But many returnees play travel ball and fall ball in addition to a fall sport.
“Guys doing it year-round deserve a little bit of a break,” says Wickliff. “Winter time is where we have to make the most growth and development.”
Two seniors finished the season at Beech Grove in 2021. One of those — Garrett Esposito — is now on the baseball team at Kaskaskia College in Centralia, Ill.
Wickliff says hopes to have several college baseball-worthy players in the Class of 2023 by the time they’re entering their senior year.
Beech Grove assistant coaches include Garry Hampton, Austin Jones and Ryan Kendall with the varsity and Christian Brown (head coach) and Justin Duhamell (assistant) with the junior varsity.
Wickliff is a 2012 graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis, where he played baseball for John Rockey and football for Michael Karpinski.
“I’m still in-touch with him to this day,” says Wickliff of Karpinski. “He’s one of my pivotal role models.”
Head JV baseball coach Devin Phillips was someone Wickliff looked up to going through school and had a big impact on him.
“He started process of me becoming a coach,” says Wickliff of Phillips. “It’s the way he was able to relate with the players and build those relationships.”
After earning a Physical Education degree with a Coaching minor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, he completed a Masters in Coaching Education and Athlete Development from Xavier University in Cincinnati.
While in college, Wickliff coached baseball with Rockey at Franklin Central and also was a middle school then freshmen football coach in an FC program led by Burt Austin followed by Grant Lewis.
Wickliff has been involved with three travel baseball organizations — the Indiana Astros, Midwest Astros and currently, Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM).
After years of coaching 15U to 17U teams, he is now helms the 18U Signature team and serves as Director of Baseball Operations for high school age groups and is a lead evaluator on the Coaching Evaluation Team.
Jake Banwart, who counted Wickliff as an assistant at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis before the latter took his current Beech Grove job, is BAM president.
Jacob and wife Bridget Wickliff were married Nov. 2, 2019. They reside in Perry Township.

Jacob Wickliff.
The Beech Grove (Ind.) High School Hornets with head coach Jacob Wickliff.
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School’s Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School’s Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School’s Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School’s Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School’s Jim Hensley Field of Dreams.
Coach Jacob Barnwart.

Baseball Academics Midwest emphasizes the six-tool player

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Developing the six-tool player is the focus for Baseball Academics Midwest, an Indianapolis-based travel organization which will field 19 baseball and softball teams in 2019.

“We have the five physical skills of baseball (speed, arm strength, fielding, hitting for average, hitting for power), but the most overlooked part is the mental skill,” says BAM president and co-founder Jake Banwart. “We maximize physical performance through mental training.

“We do classwork as well as visualization. We take what they learn mentally and implement that into physical performance (through drills, done at the Extra Innings Indy South indoor training facility).”

Off-season training is broken into two semesters — positional training (middles, corners, outfielders, pitchers, catchers and base running) and team training.

“We do it in a way that keeps their attention, keeps it interesting and keeps them engaged,” says BAM vice president and co-founder Adam Gouker. “Practice plans are designed to take what we learn in the classroom and immediately take it out in the indoor facility.

“We’re still teaching the physical and making sure they’re getting all the training they need there,” says Banwart. “We’re just adding that sixth element to it to make sure they understand.

“We’re teaching physically how to do it, but also mentally how to approach it.”

BAM players are taught the concepts of baseball philosophy, how to be a good teammate, positive body language and self talk, offensive approach to hitting defensive relays and cut-offs, pitching and pitch calling and base running.

All those areas span six or seven weeks and build on each other throughout that winter.

BAM coaches have been trained so it’s consistent language from the time they’re 8 through 17.

“When we talk hitting approach, I can talk to anyone in our organization with that same language,” says Banwart.

There’s no need to re-start each season.

“We teach each age group one year ahead of where we should be teaching them,” says Banwart. “If our expectations are higher, their expectations for themselves will match that. We teach our 9’s like 10’s and so on.

“We’ve seen good results from that.”

Gouker sees players grasping more about baseball earlier in life.

“They’re learning at a lot younger age there’s a lot going on in the game,” says Gouker. “They’re focused on where they’re supposed to be without the baseball, where they’re supposed to back up, where they go with the ball in certain situations.”

Banwart is a graduate of McHenry High School in the Chicago suburbs. He played baseball through his junior year.

“I had decent (college) offers,” says Banwart. “But I was so fed up with travel ball and coaching, I hated baseball for about five years of my life and I stopped playing.”

Banwart attended Anderson (Ind.) University and played tennis for a few seasons. That’s where he met Gouker, who went to Alexandra-Monroe High School and then played one season of baseball at AU.

The two later found themselves coaching together in travel ball. They eventually decided to start their own organization and do things their way.

After a stint as assistant to Terry Turner at Daleville (Ind.) High School (the Broncos won an IHSAA Class 1A title in 2016) and head coach at Liberty Christian School in Anderson, Ind., Banwart is heading into his second season as head baseball coach at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis in 2019 with a staff of Gouker, Nathan Latimer and Cortez Hague (all of whom are also BAM coaches and utilize BAM concepts with the Falcons).

“It’s a culmination of what we’ve learned from other coaches, research and data collection,” says Gouker, who have talked about mental skills training with Diamyn Hall and hitting with Ryan Fuller among others. “We’re teaching kids a language.

“We’re pushing the academic portion a lot. We feel like we know the physical side as well as anybody.”

The idea is for players to understand the game. This is especially valuable for players who are being recruited by colleges. BAM had its first season in 2015 and has had 23 college commitments in two groups of graduating classes, including 2019.

“Coaches will get your 60 time, exit veto, throwing velocity and all those pieces but the one thing they don’t get to see very often is your baseball smarts or I.Q,” says Banwart. “If they’re there for one game, they might not see you make a play.

“If we’re able to win the 50/50 recruiting by providing opportunities for players to actually show off their mental skills and training, we’re giving those players an opportunity to be more successful or get to the highest level they’re capable of (attaining).”

There’s another piece to the puzzle.

“If you’re in a game and you’re over-prepared mentally then you’re able to transition what you’re doing to subconscious thought versus conscious action,” says Banwart. “We want players to know something well enough to feel like they’re just reacting.

“They’re not having to process and consciously think through those actions. It’s subconscious action that takes over.”

BAM, which operates with the help of several key partners, uses many of the same drills as high-level coaches.

“When we go into those we make sure players are aware of what the intent of that drill is,” says Banwart. “We’re not focused solely on result training. We break it down with intent so the mind can connect to the body.”

Banwart notes that professional athletes seem to rise to the occasion late in a game while some players sink to the level of their training.

“The better trained they are, the better they’re going to perform late in games or in tough situations which will give that visual appearance that they’re rising when, in reality, they’re playing with the same level they were earlier in the game,” says Banwart.

High school level players take into consideration things like the score, inning, number of outs, speed and direction of the ball and speed and position of the runners.

Banwart notes that the average time between pitches in Major League Baseball is 21.5 seconds.

“In those 21 1/2 seconds players are going to be thinking no matter what,” says Banwart. “They’re going to be thinking something. We just want to change their thinking and point it to what they should be thinking about.

“When they step in the (batter’s) box, they’re proactive with a plan instead reactive to a pitcher. We want to give our guys the feeling they’re in control of that at-bat versus they’re at the mercy of what the pitcher does.”

BAM players are encouraged to win the games within the game and things like swing count, average distance in the zone, max hand speed, max barrel speed and more are tracked on single-season and career leaderboards. Hits, stolen bases, saves etc. are also tracked.

BAM coaches are in the process of gathering baseline data and developing a Baseball Academics Rating (BAR) that can be used to show a player’s knowledge.

“It’s not catered to our program,” says Gouker. “It’s things anyone playing baseball or softball anywhere should know if  they want to be as successful as possible.

“We’re finding some pro guys are missing some things they should know.”

They have also developed a metric — WIN (Worth In Numbers) — to valuate players.

WIN takes out everything out of a players control and counts how many runs they create total or average per game. Each base is treated like a quarter of a run.

“Players with a third of a run per game or more are typically high level players,” says Banwart.

By running the numbers for the last three seasons, the MVP winners and Cy Young Award winners in the American League and National League were the ones that should have won based on WIN.

BAM coaches talk about metrics and more on their YouTube Channel.

Latimer, who played at Perry Meridian and one season at the University of Indianapolis and coached with Andy Gossel at Covenant Christian before joining the staff at his alma mater, has totally bought into the BAM way.

“We can’t have academic in our name if we don’t teach it,” says Latimer. “We want you to be baseball smart.

“If you have the sixth tool that makes you a more complete player.”

Banwart and Gouker says BAM teachings have spread across the Indianapolis area and the organization is exploring expansion possibilities.

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Representing Baseball Academic Midwest are (from left): vice president and co-founder Adam Gouker, president and co-founder Jake Banwart and Nathan Latimer. Banwart is also head coach at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis and Gouker and Latimer are among his assistants. (Steve Krah Photo)