Tag Archives: Baseball

Wirsch, Rising Sun Shiners heading to regional again

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

Rising Sun (Ind.) High School has raised a sectional baseball trophy eight times — all on head coach Kevin Wirsch’s watch.
The Shiners have had Wirsch as head coach since the 2000 season and taken IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in 2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022.
The most-recent championship came at the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (which featured Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy and Trinity Lutheran) and earned Rising Sun a place in the Morristown Regional on Saturday, June 4.
The regional semifinals features 16-8 Rising Sun against Shakamak at 11 a.m., followed by Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. All but Traders Point received votes in the final regular season Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll.
In 2013, the Shiners won a regional title and took part in the Plainfield Semistate, bowing to eventual 1A state runner-up Vincennes Rivet.
Rising Sun (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). The Shiners went 9-3 in the ORVC, finishing behind Southwestern (11-1).
“We’re one of the smallest schools in the state,” says Wirsch, who has also been an English teacher at the school just blocks from the Ohio River since 1999-2000. “I had to work to get players this year.”
Because of various factors, Wirsch expects to take 11 players to regional and one of those — senior center fielder Kendell Montgomery — has also qualified for the state track meet in Bloomington and will head there after the regional semifinal to compete in the long jump (his seed mark is 21 feet, 3 3/4 inches).
“Believe it or not, we have four and five-sport athletes here,” says Wirsch. “All the coaches (at Rising Sun) know each other and work together.
“That’s what makes it possible.”
While participation numbers are often an issue, Wirsch has enjoyed success.
“The kids that come out, buy in and work hard,” says Wirsch. “They do what we ask them to do.
“We try to do the little things right — throw strikes and make plays.”
The Shiners won the sectional with a 3-2 win against Hauser in 10 innings and 2-0 triumph against Jac-Cen-Del. Rising Sun is 5-2 in games decided by two runs or less and 1-3 in extra innings.
Senior and Earlham College commit Jonathan Jimenez (.431, 3 home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases) leads the offense, which also features junior Peyton Merica (.384, 27 runs, 18 stolen bases), Montgomery (.297, 17 runs), senior third baseman Ashton McCarty (.277, 18 RBI) and junior catcher Brady Works (.267, 21 runs, 17 stolen bases). First baseman Peyton Creech has already joined the National Guard.
Right-handers Merica (7-1, 0.53 earned run average with 98 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings) and Jimenez (5-2, 1.83, 83 K’s, 29 walks, 49 2/3 IP) pace the Shiners pitching staff. Each generally takes turns at shortstop or is somewhere in the infield when not on the mound.
Wirsch’s assistants include Steve Jimenez, Keith Works, Jason Merica and one of Wirsch’s former players — Brandon Turner.
Rising Sun plays home games on its campus at Shiner Ballpark.
“It’s a nice field,” says Wirsch. “It’s been upgraded since I’ve been there. We’ve got new dugouts and lights.”
The school’s softball field is near the baseball diamond. The Shiners have won eight sectional softball titles.
A junior high program at Rising Sun was established about seven years ago. This feeds the high school. Many core players who hone their skills in travel ball in Madison, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
Recent graduates to move on to college baseball include Class of 2018’s Brent Turner (Huntington University), 2019’s Brayden Bush (Kentucky Wesleyan College), 2020’s Steven Jimenez (Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) and 2021’s Landon Cole (Franklin College).
Wirsch is a 1993 graduate of East Central High School in St. Leon, Ind., where his baseball coach was Bob Benner.
He played football and baseball for two years at the University of Evansville. Jim Brownlee was the Purple Aces baseball coach. When UE dropped football, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University, where he earned an English degree.
Wirsch is also an assistant football coach at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School — where son Ashton (18) played and graduated last weekend — and has coached that sport at South Dearborn.
Besides Ashton, Kevin and wife Amy Wirsch have a daughter named Alexandra (23).

Head coach Kevin Wirsch and the Rising Sun Shiners, champions of the 2022 IHSAA Class 1A Jac-Cen-Del baseball sectional.

Even though program’s slated to fold, Ivy Tech Northeast baseball moving forward

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

Ivy Tech Community College Board of Trustees voted 8-1 April 7 to discontinue athletics at the Northeast campus in Fort Wayne, Ind., after 2022-23.
Titans baseball (established in 2017-18 by Lance Hershberger) is moving forward with the 2022 season and is looking to the 2023 slate, which appears it will be the school’s last.
Ivy Tech Northeast is 15-18 heading into a doubleheader Saturday, April 30 at Indiana Tech JV. After that comes a May 3 twin bill at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College followed by a National Junior College Athletic Association Region XII sub-regional May 5 in Sandusky, Ohio. The Titans must win two games in the four-team single-elimination event featuring the Nos. 2-4 seeds from the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference to advance to regional play.
“I’m enjoying the public response and fight to keep the program,” says Ivy Tech head coach and dual-credit advisor Connor Wilkins, 29. “I’m doing my part. (The board is) pretty dead-set on not having athletics. It comes down to financials and Title IX (gender equity).”
Wilkins describes the mood of the team.
“There’s a little defiance there,” says Wilkins, a Fort Wayne native. “We’ll show you how good we are and lay everything on the line representing our college. It’s frustrating as a coach knowing what we’ve built as a program and serving the community.
“In my opinion, northeast Indiana needs a junior college program.”
The Fort Wayne campus is the only one in the statewide Ivy Tech system with sports. An Ivy Tech Northeast volleyball team folded when the coach left and players followed after the COVID-19 year.
There are currently three junior college baseball programs in the state — Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson and Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Ivy Tech’s 2022 baseball team has 38 players with 22 on-target to graduate from the two-year school this spring. Some of that number have indicated that they will come back for a third year (granted because of the pandemic).
Six players — right-handed pitcher Matt Peters (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School graduate) to NCAA Division I Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), twins outfielder Conner Beatty and catcher Alec Beatty (Augusta, Mich.) and catcher/outfielder Joel Deakins (Heritage) to provisional NAIA start-up Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, infielder Brayden Dockery (Continental, Ohio) to the NCAA D-II University of Indianapolis and Coby Griffith (Papillion, Neb.) to NAIA Huntington University — have made commitments to their next school and others are expected to make that announcement soon.
This summer, fireballer Peters is to play in the MLB Draft League. Other Ivy Tech players are bound for the Great Lakes, Jayhawk and Florida circuits plus the local Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League.
Two players whose only college offers coming out of high school were from Ivy Tech Northeast are Grant Lashure (now a starting catcher at NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois University) and Zach Haefer (a right-handed pitcher at NCAA Division II Davenport University in Grand Rapids).
There are also 13 recruits coming to the Titans in 2022-23.
“We still have next year,” says Wilkins. “The recruits are still coming. It’s a testimony to our staff that they wanted to develop and leave after that.
“We’re going to do right by them. It’s our job to get them on to four-year or two-year schools.”
Besides Wilkins, the 2022 coaching staff features Scott Bickel (who is heading to IUPUC as part of Crimson Pride head coach Zach McClellan’s staff), recruiting coordinator Drew Buffenbarger (a member of the “Dirty Dozen” — Ivy Tech’s first team and an assistant admissions director at the school), pitching coach Javier DeJesus and hitting coach Mark Flueckiger.
Without conference membership, the Titans schedule this spring has been on-the-fly and inclement weather has not helped. NJCAA Region XII has a rule that teams are not supposed to play when the “Real Feel” temperature dips to 35 degrees.
Ivy Tech Northeast plays home games at Shoaff Park. The diamond is owned by the city, but is maintained by coaches and players.
“We take care of it,” says Wilkins. “We mow it. We weed-and-feed. We do it as a team.”
Fundraisers and donors have made it possible to do things like laser-grading the infield.
“It was hard to get donations during the COVID year,” says Wilkins.
And if the Titans are heading into their final days, the coach wants them to go out with their heads held high, representing their institution and community.
Says Wilkins, “We’re going to finish it out and hopefully make them proud.”

Gavin Smith makes a throw at third baseball for Ivy Tech Northeast baseball.
Gavin Smith swings the bat for Ivy Tech Northeast baseball.

Auburn Sports Park to bring baseball, so much more to northeast Indiana

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

Northeast Indiana is moving toward a large sports facility and baseball will be part of the mix.
Auburn Sports Group is bringing Auburn Sports Park — a $42 million 170-acre multi-sport complex plus 90 more acres for retail (restaurants, gas stations, hotels) — to land adjacent once owned by RM Auctions/RM Sotheby’s on the east side of I-69 .1 of a mile off Exit 11A.
Auburn Sports Park will be located about 30 miles south of the Indiana-Michigan line on I-69; about 20 miles to the heart of Fort Wayne, Ind.; about 60 miles west of Napoleon, Ohio; about 50 miles northeast of Warsaw, Ind.; about 120 miles southwest of Lansing, Mich.; about 100 miles southeast of Kalamazoo, Mich.; about 130 miles northeast of Grand Park in Westfield, Ind
Auburn Sports Group’s leadership team features co-owner Joe Fisher, president/co-order Rod Sinn, vice president/director of basketball Grant Sinn and director of operations/director of outdoor fields Cole Walker.
Brett Ratcliffe, assistant baseball coach at Trine University in Angola, Ind., and former head coach at Garrett (Ind.) High School, is the director of baseball/softball. Auburn Sports Park is to have eight turf fields suitable for high school/college baseball and softball.
“A multi-sport complete in northeast Indiana is something that’s needed,” says Ratcliffe of the place which has already had commitments to bring events to serve athletes from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and beyond. “This is another venue they can go to.”
Existing buildings will be used and there will be construction and renovation to bring indoor basketball and volleyball courts and a multi-purpose field for football, soccer and lacrosse. One building will house seven batting cages.
In addition, a 2-mile walking trail around the campus is planned as well as a splash pad.
“We want to make sure it’s a great experience for kids and a good memory for people who come here,” says Ratcliffe, who expects some of the facility to be ready for events by late summer.
Auburn Sports Park will be home to Prospect Select and Crossroads Baseball Series and the site of national championships.
Eric Blakeley, who played baseball at Indiana University and in the Seattle Mariners organization, is Crossroads Baseball Series CEO.
Jeremy Plexico, former pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Ball State University, is Prospect Select president.
Travis Keesling, who played and coached at Pendleton Heights High School, is Crossroads Baseball Series executive vice president.
Ratcliffe says entities like the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau have been supportive and other partnerships have been discussed with the World Baseball Academy, Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League and Empowered Sports Club —all based in Fort Wayne — plus the YMCA of DeKalb County in Auburn and Team Pineapple Volleyball Club/Ball Sports Academy of Angola.
With its location, Ratcliffe says Auburn Sports Park will be a great place for teams from NCAA D-I, D-II and D-III to NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association schools to recruit.

Auburn Sports Group runs Auburn Sports Park in Auburn, Ind.

Swinson now leading Southwood Knights on diamond

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

Steve Swinson likes the kind of athletes he’s working with as the new head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School, part of the Metropolitan School District of Wabash (Ind.) County.
“It’s been really good transition,” says Swinson, who has been leading the Knights since January. “The players’ philosophies are pretty much on the same page as myself.
“These are competitive, hard-nosed kids. They want to succeed. They want to be better.
“It’s a winning attitude at Southwood. They don’t throw in the towel.”
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Swinson has been working with players who are not involved in basketball. Twenty eight have signed up for Southwood baseball this spring.
“We lost lost five pretty good seniors and a lot of pitching (from the 2021 team),” says Swinson. “The big thing is being consistent. not walking a lot of guys and letting the defense play behind us.”
The coach is confident his Knights will do their best to do just that.
“They’re going to work at it,” says Swinson. “By the end of the year they’re going to figure some things out.”
An advocate of arm care, Swinson wants to make sure he’s maintaining the health of his throwers.
“I like the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days),” says Swinson. “A lot of it’s on the athlete. He has to make sure to take care of his arm.”
Swinson, who is working with a coaching staff of Cory Blocker and Dan Lloyd at the varsity level and Christian Deeter with the junior varsity, sees college potential in senior left-handed pitcher Koby Thomas, junior catcher Mo Lloyd and junior right-handed pitcher/outfielder Cole Winer.
Southwood (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko).
TRC play each other once and games on Tuesdays and Thursdays
In 2021, the Knights were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Caston (host), North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer and West Central. Southwood has won five sectional titles — the last in 2021. Carson Rich (Class of 2021) tossed a no-hitter in a 4-0 championship game win against Pioneer.
Fundraisers will be held to help maintain and upgrade Southwood’s home diamond located north of the football field on the northeast corner of the campus.
Swinson says the batting cage is top priority. Dugouts are likely to be re-painted with trimming and edging done to the infield.
Stepping down at Eastbrook High School near the end of the 2019 season, Swinson did not coach at high school baseball in 2020 and 2021 but did lead Indiana Nitro travel teams both summers.
He was head baseball coach at Eastern (Greentown) High School 2007-11 and has assisted at Western High School.
Swinson has served two stints as head wrestling coach at Northwestern High School and is currently head wrestling coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
A 1987 Kokomo High School graduate, he retired after 27 1/2 years with the Howard County Highway Department, where he was a supervisor/foreman.
Swinson coached Southside baseball in Kokomo to the 1995 Bambino World Series in Abbeyville, La. His coaching stops also include Indiana Wesleyan University (football), Marion High School and Lewis Cass High School.
Steve and wife of 29 years — Stacey — live in Greentown and have two children. Son Saxon Swinson (28) is in the IT department at Marian University in Indianapolis. Daughter Shayden Swinson (18) is a Manchester University freshman.

Steve Swinson

Kutch, North Central Thunderbirds enjoy competition

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

Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind.
Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg.
He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds.
After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator.
COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group.
The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago.
Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics.
As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County).
Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University).
North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball.
Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021.
“I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.”
In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011.
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring.
“Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).”
Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins.
The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41.
A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed.
The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program.
“You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.”
Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

North Central Thunderbirds.
Head coach Joe Kutch (left) and the North Central Thunderbirds.
Joe and Dianna Kutch.
Joe Kutch (foreground) with wife Dianna and sons Austin and Brayden.

Huntington, Taylor play first games in Arizona; other teams open this month

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

Two NAIA teams got a head start on the rest of the state’s 38 college baseball programs in starting the 2022 baseball season.
Huntington University and Taylor University of the Crossroads League got going in Mesa, Ariz., the Foresters going 1-3 (HU beat Benedictine at Mesa 14-10 in 10 innings Feb. 20 and lost 19-4 to Arizona Christian and 13-9 to Benedictine at Mesa Feb. 21 and 15-3 to Arizona Christian Feb. 22 ) and the Trojans 2-2 (TU beat Kansas Wesleyan 6-2 Feb. 26 and San Diego Christian 20-8 Feb. 27 and lost 7-5 to Arizona Christian Feb. 28 and 10-8 to The Master’s Feb. 29).
Oakland City, Bethel, Grace, Indiana University-Kokomo, Marian Saint Francis, are scheduled to lift the lid Friday, Feb. 4 and Vincennes Saturday, Feb. 5.
For many other teams, the first game of 2022 is a few weeks away. See below:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through Jan. 30

NCAA D-I
Ball State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Bucknell at Charleston, S.C.
Butler (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Murray (Ky.) State.
Evansville (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at North Carolina State.
Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Clemson.
Indiana State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Brigham Young at Port Charlotte, Fla.
Notre Dame (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Manhattan at Deland, Fla.
Purdue (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. South Dakota State at Sugar Land, Texas.
Purdue Fort Wayne (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Georgia State.
Valparaiso (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Memphis.

NCAA D-II
Oakland City (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Johnson University (Tenn.).
Indianapolis (0-0) —Opens Feb. 18 vs. Notre Dame (Ohio).
Southern Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Young Harris (Ga.).

NCAA D-III
Anderson (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Sewanee (Tenn.).
DePauw (0-0) — Opens Feb. 19 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Carbondale, Ill.
Hanover (0-0) — Opens Feb. 22 at Centre (Ky.).
Manchester (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park).
Earlham (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Olivet (Mich.).
Franklin (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Albion (Mich.) at Chillcothe, Ohio.
Trine (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 at Asbury (Ky.).
Wabash (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Heidelberg (Ohio) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park).
Rose-Hulman (0-0) — Opens Feb. 27 vs. Northern Vermont-Lyndon at Auburndale, Fla.

NAIA
Taylor (2-2) — Next game Feb. 4 at Tennessee Southern.
Huntington (1-3) — Next game Feb. 11 vs. Ottawa (Kan.) at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Bethel (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Champion Christian (Ark.).
Grace (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 vs. Trinity International (Ill.).
Indiana University-Kokomo (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Louisiana State-Shreveport.
Marian (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Brewton-Parker (Ga.).
Saint Francis (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Bethel (Tenn.).
Indiana Tech (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 vs. Columbia (S.C.) International at Emerson, Ga.
Indiana University South Bend (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Rio Grande (Ohio).
Indiana University Southeast (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Louisiana State-Shreveport.
Indiana Wesleyan (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
Goshen (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Oakland City.
Calumet of Saint Joseph (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 at Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.).
Purdue Nortwest (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 at McKendree (Ill.).

Junior College
Vincennes (0-0) — Opens Feb. 5 at Motlow State (Tenn.).
Marian’s Ancilla (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Southeastern Illinois.
Ivy Tech Northeast (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. Jackson (Mich.).

Former three-sport star Mucker entering 22nd year as Oakland Athletics scout

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

Kelcey Mucker grew up in the southern part of Indiana and excelled at multiple sports.
Born in Washington, Ind., and moving to Lawrenceburg, Ind., around 18 months, Mucker would go on to shine at Lawrenceburg High School. The 1993 graduate played in the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Boys Basketball Series as well as the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and the Indiana Football Coaches Association North/South All-Star Game.
At the time, he was told he was the first to ever pull off that three-sport feat.
One of his teammates in the Indiana-Kentucky and IHSBCA North-South games was Jasper’s Scott Rolen. Both were named to the 2018 Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Silver Anniversary Team.
Mucker, who swang the bat from the left side and threw the baseball and the football with his right arm, was headed to Indiana University on a football scholarship with plans to also represent the Hoosiers in basketball and baseball when his path turned to professional baseball.
Selected in the first round of the 1993 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins, all-state outfielder Mucker did not sign right away and had time for those summertime all-star appearances.
One day before he was to begin classes at IU — Aug. 9, 1993 — the 6-foot-4 athlete signed with the Twins.
“The offer was good and I weighed my options,” says Mucker, the Lawrenceburg High School Athletics Hall of Famer. “I feel like I could’ve played baseball a lot longer than the other sports.”
Basketball was his favorite and he excelled at football. He did not put the time into baseball he did the other two.
“It was something I could do,” says Mucker, who went on to play 597 pro games, including 109 with the 1995 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wizards.
Mucker played in the Twins system 1993-99 — seeing time at Double-A the last two years. He hooked on with the Cleveland Indians organization as a minor league free agent in 2000 and was released in April.
The Oakland Athletics hired him as a scout and assigned him to a Deep South territory. He first moved to Metairie, La., outside New Orleans. He was in Baton Rouge, Fla., for 14 years and three years ago moved 20 miles east to Denham Springs, La., where he lives with wife Lisa.
Mucker, who is beginning his 22nd year with the Athletics, is responsible for knowing the baseball talent in Louisiana, Mississippi and southeast Texas (Houston area).
At this time of the year, Mucker is spending much of his time getting ready for the spring season. He meets with potential signees through in-home visits or (since the COVID-19 pandemic) sometimes over Zoom calls.
“Getting into homes was pretty big for us as area scouts — that face-to-face contact,” says Mucker. “That’s still challenging going into 2022.
“I like talking to parents and kids at the ballpark. It’s not so impersonal.”
Mucker’s job is tied to being organized.
“It’s knowing my area and what’s going on on a daily basis — not only for me but my supervisors and everybody above me so they can get that second look,” says Mucker. “We all can evaluate a player. What ballparks are we going to get in?”
Emails let him know when there are changes in games and he’s always on top of the forecast.
“I feel like I’m a weatherman,” says Mucker. “Rain is not good for a baseball game.”
But — generally speaking — the weather is good and baseball can be played 12 months a year in Mucker’s area. In the winter months, that is often a workout or showcase.
“Kids are always working out — sometimes a little bit too much,” says Mucker. “From the draft (now in July during the MLB All-Star break) until start of the season, we’re getting ready for 2022.
“I try to see everybody we can prior to next spring so we have an idea.”
Unlike Indiana when the snow might still be flying in April, high school baseball in Mucker’s territory tends to start the third week of February.
Mucker also keeps tabs on players’ social media accounts.
“They might Tweet something they shouldn’t and be a bigger risk,” says Mucker. “For us as scouts that’s part of the equation.”
Not all MLB organizations bring their scouts together during the draft. With the exception of 2020 with travel restrictions, Mucker and his colleagues go to Oakland during that time.
Mucker is vice president of the Southeastern Scouts Association — a group made up of scouts living in the Deep South and representing all 30 MLB teams.
“We meet once a year and talk about initiaves and giving back to the game within our region,” says Mucker, who has also been part of the Buck O’Neil Professional Baseball Scouts & Coaches Association.
Mucker notes that there is some uncertainty about what will transpire in baseball until the current lockout is resolved.
Scouting has always been competitive, but now that the draft has been cut down to 20 rounds (it was 40 in 2019 and five in 2020) it is even more important to know as much information as possible about players and also what other organizations think about him.
How much do the Reds like that player? Can we wait until the third round or take them in the second?
“It’s another way — on a bigger scale — to be organized within your territory,” says Mucker.
Though he’s lived away from Indiana more than two decades, Kelcey Adair Mucker still has family ties there. His father — retired Indiana State Police trooper of 30 years — Hubert Mucker Jr., is just outside Lawrenceburg. Brother Stacy Mucker and son Kelcey Aaron Mucker live in Lawrenceburg with many other family members in Washington or Indianapolis.

Kelcey Mucker in 1996.
Gathering at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, Ind., in 2018 (from left): Hubert Mucker Jr., Kelcey Adair Mucker, Stacy Mucker, Kelcey Aaron Mucker and D’Kari Mucker.

Sprinkle helping Franklin College as assistant coach

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

Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021.
The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases.
Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers.
“We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated.
“We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.”
NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter.
“We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.”
Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park.
“This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.”
The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana.
Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey.
“He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college.
“We wanted to show up and work every single day.”
Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers.
Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis.
As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning.
Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings.
Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year.
“(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them.
“(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.”
Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons.
After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy.
He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020.
“(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way.
“He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.”
Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers.
“With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic.
“The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.”
Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022.
“I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches.
“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.

Jake Sprinkle (Franklin College Photo)

IHSBCA Hall of Famer Robinson made calls at Indiana’s highest prep levels

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

Growing up on the southeast side of Indianapolis, James Robinson was drawn to sports.
Robinson played baseball as a junior for Woodchucks coach Ed Ward and was a basketball student manager for his last three years at Harry E. Wood High School, where he graduated in 1966.
When Robinson became an adult, he was attracted to officiating. After high school, he attended Indiana Business College in Indianapolis for two years, entered the working world and wound up in Kokomo, Ind., in the mid-1970s and began making calls.
After a few years of umpiring slow pitch softball, Robinson became a Indiana High School Athletic Association-licensed baseball umpire and a basketball referee the same year.
“Being involved in the game and being in-charge, I liked that idea,” says Robinson. “I could help the game and do the right thing.”
Doing the right thing to Robinson meant making the right call.
He also set a goal for himself.
“I wanted to work the State Finals in the three sports I had licenses for (football, basketball and baseball),” says Robinson. “I did attain that.”
Robinson, who was elected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association‘s Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021 and will be honored Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 at the Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis along with the Class of 2022, began umpiring high school games in 1980.
He worked for 35 years with 33 sectionals, 25 regionals, 14 semistates and six State Finals — the first in 1990 (LaPorte beat Bedford North Lawrence in the final and semifinalists were Logansport and Wes-Del with Robinson working a foul line and the bases) and the last in 2007 (Jarrod Parker and Norwell beat Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 3A title game and Robinson worked the plate).
He umpired six IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and was voted IHSBCA Umpire of the Year five times.
In 1994, Robinson was elected to the National Federation of State High School Associations Baseball Rules Committee and served from 1995-1998.
In 2002, he was named IHSAA/ NFOA Baseball Official of the Year and he was named as the National Federation Distinguished Official of the Year.
He coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball for 10 years.
He has been a rules clinician at the IHSBCA State Clinic since the mid-1990s. Prior to the clinic, he attends National Federation rules meetings in Indianapolis and talks with IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens about rule changes.
Robinson went far and wide to blow a basketball whistle for 30 years.
“I tried to travel all over,” says Robinson. “I wanted to be seen by as many coaches as possible and rise in through the tournament structure.”
He’d trek as far from Kokomo as East Chicago, South Bend or New Albany. He officiated the 2001 3A state championship boys basketball game between Muncie Southside and Evansville Mater Dei.
He attends the biannual “Rosie’s Round-up” basketball dinner at Stookey’s Restaurant in Thorntown, Ind.
His 33 years as a football official included the 1993 2A title contest between West Lafayette and Providence.
In football, Robinson is now an IHSAA officials observer, Big Ten Conference replay official and back-up clock operator for the Indianapolis Colts. He worked six years in NCAA Division II and seven in the Mid-American Conference. He has also been a replay official for the MAC. He was a replay official for the 2014 National Championship game at the Rose Bowl between Florida State and Auburn.
Robinson, who turned 73 in October, is very appreciative of the recognition by the IHSBCA.
“It’s an honor,” says Robinson. “I’m very, very thrilled to be thought of with all the coaches and players who came through Indiana who played the great game of baseball and be known as an umpire where you’re supposed to be neutral.”
Jame’s wife Nada is deceased. He has one daughter and grandson — Chiquita and Kameron — in Kokomo. One of seven children (four boys and three girls), James has two living sisters residing in Indianapolis.

James Robinson.

Kinzer enjoys baseball bonds as player, scout, agent, coach

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

Matt Kinzer has an eye for baseball talent.
The former Norwell High School (Ossian, Ind.) and Purdue University athlete who played in the majors and the National Football League was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he became an amateur scout in 1995 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Kinzer was responsible for assessing amateur players in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario and Quebec.
After five years with Tampa Bay, Kinzer spent a decade as a baseball agent for Reynolds Sports Management, whose owner and CEO is Larry Reynolds (older brother of big league second baseman Harold Reynolds).
“I was his recruiting coordinator for the whole country,” says Kinzer. “We hoped these amateurs are going to make the big leagues and get paid.”
Among others, Kinzer got the Upton brothers — B.J. and Justin — to commit to the company.
LaTroy Hawkins, a Gary, Ind., native who pitched in 1,042 games over 21 MLB seasons, was also a Kinzer client and later went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Dan Jennings (who had been with the Devil Rays) hired Kinzer as a pro scout for the Miami Marlins.
Kinzer went to minor league games and an occasional major league contest to evaluate players and file reports for potential trade opportunities.
The first year he scouted the entire Midwest League out of Fort Wayne. During his five years with the Marlins, he also did international scouting in the Dominican Republic.
While Kinzer was still with the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves called for permission to interview him to scout on the major league side and take on special assignments. He talked with general manager John Coppolella and accepted the deal.
“That gave me a seat at the big table,” says Kinzer, who worked with top executives including president John Hart and senior advisor John Schuerholz in giving opinions and developing a preferential list of who could be traded and who was hands-off in the Braves minor league system. “It took us a couple of years to turn that club around.”
Kinzer also did advanced scouting to check out possible playoff opponents for Atlanta. He had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League.
Because of COVID-19 and budgetary reasons, the Braves dismissed the entire major league scouting staff toward the end of the 2020 season.
Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics (which were postponed from 2020 to 2021), Kinzer selected by his peers to sit on the committee that chose Team USA. They started with a big pool and narrowed it down to the final roster.
“It was hard assignment because you could only get guys not on a 40-man roster or had get permission from a club for them to play,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to be part of the decision-making for our country.”
When Kinzer joined the process, Joe Girardi was Team USA manager. When Girardi became Philadelphia Phillies manager the job was passed to Scott Brosius and it wound up with Mike Scioscia.
“I got to listen to Joe Girardi on how he likes to design a team and I said to myself, ‘this is pretty cool,’” says Kinzer. “It was a very humbling experience. You put all those years into working the game of baseball and someone has recognized your ability to evaluate.”
More recently, Kinzer has lent his appraisal skills as a consultant for Program 15 — a part of New Balance Future Stars baseball tournaments. He lives in Lakeland, Fla., and writes player reports on weekends.
Kinzer is also a special events coordinator and fundraising director for Major League Fishing — a circuit that features the world’s top bass anglers.
He is helping prepare for a charity fishing event featuring current and former major leaguers Nov. 19-21 in Guntersville, Ala.
“I’ve spent three decades in the game professionally building trust with current and former guys and their second love is fishing,” says Kinzer. “I grew up on a pond and I liked fishing.”
Participants have baseball and angling in common.
“There’s a connection there,” says Kinzer. “They have a tight fraternity. They’re good old boys.”
Kinzer played youth baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and graduated from Norwell in 1981.
As a sophomore, it was discovered how well he did in booting a football and he led Indiana high schoolers in punting as a junior and senior. He went to Purdue on a full ride in football and also played baseball.
He was selected in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 1989 at age 25 and went on to pitch nine games for the 1989 Cardinals and 1990 Detroit Tigers. He punted seven times in his one NFL game with the Detroit Lions with a long of 42 yards in Week 5 of 1987 against the Green Bay Packers.
Kinzer, 58, has three sons who all played baseball and graduated from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
Taylor Kinzer (33) was drafted twice as a right-handed pitcher — once at the end of his high school career in 2006 in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals and then out of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) in the 24th round in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels and competed three seasons in the minors.
Derek Kinzer (31) was an outfielder for IHSAA Class 4A state runner Homestead in 2008, graduated in 2009 and also played at Taylor.
Jordan Kinzer (29) played junior college baseball and now serves in the U.S. Navy.
Matt Kinzer, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer, was head baseball coach at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 1993 and 1994 and a volunteer assistant coach at Taylor 2011-14 and got to work with Trojans head coach Kyle Gould and assistant and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson.
‘Kyle is one of the best non-Division I coaches around,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to share a bench with Coach A.
“The game itself creates a fraternity and a bond that lasts forever.”

Matt Kinzer.