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Evansville’s Myers brothers playing independent pro baseball together

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brothers Lance and Austin Myers have been baseball teammates during various stages of their lives.

There was Evansville (Ind.) Youth Baseball West as youngsters, the Evansville Panthers travel team as teenagers, a few games together at Evansville Reitz High School and one fall at Vincennes (Ind.) University before donning the same uniform again in 2020 with the independent Liberation Professional Baseball League.

An answer to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down or changed so many leagues, the four-team circuit is playing all its games at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind. 

“If there’s after this, we get one more year of ball that we get to experience together,” says Lance Myers.

In his fourth year of pro ball, 27-year-old Lance Myers played in the independent Pecos League since 2017. He was with the Alpine (Texas) Cowboys through 2019 and was with the traveling Salina Stockade when he learned about the Liberation League.

“This is too good of an opportunity to pass up,” says Lance Myers, who is now a utility player (he’s played every position as a pro except shortstop and center field) and the manager of the LPBL’s Indy Windstorm.

Myers worked his connections to put the roster together. One of his invitees is his brother.

Austin Myers, 25, is a right-handed pitcher playing baseball for the first time in seven years.

“I’m just glad being back on a ball field doing what I love to do,” says Austin Myers, who is working himself back into shape and rediscovering his mechanics while recuperating from injury.

As the 36-game regular season winds down, the Windstorm (21-8) is in first place, followed by the BaseballResume.com Bandits (16-14), California Dogecoin (13-17) and Indiana Barn Owls (9-20). 

The Bandits are managed by Albert Gonzalez and owned by pitcher Sam Burton.

Dodgcoin skipper Brian Williams is the league commissioner.

Derrick Pyles, a long-time indy ball player and hitting instructor formerly based in Avon, Ind., manages the Barn Owls.

Ray Ortega, a coach in the San Francisco Giants system, is also involved.

While Evansville is only 60 miles from Huntingburg, the Myers boys often stay with their aunt. Tina Dearing lives on First Street — two blocks from League Stadium.

Attendance at LPBL games has been hit-or-miss.

“A lot of people don’t know we’re here,” says Lance Myers. “But it is a good sports community (that supports Heritage Hills High School) and they’ve showed us a lot of love in the town when we go out to eat.”

Current plans call for the playoffs to begin Oct. 15. The No. 1 seed meets No. 4 and No. 2 takes on No. 3 in one game to advance to the best-of-3 finals. 

Lance Myers, who was hitting .340 (32-of-94) in his first 22 games, wants to change the format. His plan would give the No. 1 seed a bye to the finals. 

Lance Myers did not play his senior year at Reitz after three years with Greater Evansville Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Robin Courtney as coach.

After taking off a year, he played 111 games in two seasons at Vincennes U. for Chris Barney (earning all-National Junior College Athletic Association Region 12 honors in 2015) and two seasons at NCAA Division II Ashland (Ohio) University for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Schaly.

“I loved Chris Barney,” says Lance, “He was definitely a good coach. I really enjoyed playing for him. 

“He had an open door in his office and he or assistant Cole Vicars was always there if I wanted extra ground balls or batting practice. (Barney) definitely left a good impact on me. I want to give back to the guys playing for me now and in the future.”

Schaly has a career record of 1,180-645-7 amassed at Berry College (Ga.), Saint Leo (Fla.) University and Ashland U.

Lance Myers is impressed about how the coach still takes the time to stay in-touch.

“I get a call once or twice a year asking me how I’m doing or how my family is doing,” says Lance. “He still cares enough about me as an individual to take the time.”

Parents Wayne and Lisa Myers made the 410-mile trek from Evansville to Ashland for every home game. They can also be found with Austin’s three children — daughter Bristyl and sons Stetson and Remington —  cheering on Lance, Austin and the Windstorm in Huntingburg.

Lance and Austin have three siblings — Ashley Bush (29), Zach Martin (24) and Amber Myers (23).

Lance Myers has been offered a couple of baseball coaching positions.

“My heart is not ready to be done playing yet,” says Lance. “And I’m playing well. I’m near the top of the league in offense and playing really good defense as well.”

Austin Myers plans to be ready if any pro tryouts come along for 2021.

“Meanwhile I’ll keep working out, working on mechanics and being the best I can be,” says Austin, who pitched 2/3 of an inning and has a single in his only at-bat.

Brothers Austin (left) and Lance Myers are playing together for the Indy Windstorm of the independent Liberation Professional Baseball League, which is playing all its games at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind. The brothers are from Evansville, Ind. Both played at Reitz High School and were briefly together at Vincennes (Ind.) University.

Pyles comes back to Indiana with Liberation Professional Baseball League

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

With the onset of a COVID-19 pandemic, no high school baseball season was contested at historic League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind., in the spring.

The Dubois County Bombers did not get to play when the Ohio Valley League canceled its 2020 summer collegiate campaign.

But there is now diamond action at the old ballpark thanks to the independent Liberation Professional Baseball League.

The four-team circuit staged its first game at League Stadium Aug. 7 and the schedule is slated to go through Oct. 18.

In the mix is independent baseball veteran Derrick Pyles. The 37-year-old outfielder is in his 11th season of indy ball. The former Avon, Ind., resident now has experience in 10 different leagues.

Pyles has been acting as a player-manager in the Liberation, which when it gets up to speed will have four full squads — Indiana Barn Owls, Indy Wind Storm, BaseballResume.com Bandits and California Dogecoin.

The league features players with professional experience and those looking to get some. Former major leaguer Johnny Barbato pitched in the first game and is now in the Atlantic League-satellite Constellation Energy League with four teams playing in Sugarland, Texas. The Atlantic — independent pro ball’s top circuit — is not operating in 2020.

The Liberation came to Indiana thanks to owner Brian Williams. He was ready to go in the Pacific Association when that league was shut down because of the coronavirus.

“Brian pounded on doors all over the country,” says Pyles, who is leading players in the new league along with Ray Ortega and Lance Myers

Huntingburg answered the knock.

“It’s better than 90 percent better of the other places we could have went,” says Pyles. “It’s a wonderful place to play.”

It happened very quick. It was less than two weeks ago that Pyles first heard about the league, which is the only pro loop operating in Indiana this year.

“There was zero advertisement,” says Pyles. “It’s literally come out of the woodwork.

“If people give us a shot, I think they’ll enjoy it. This is a legit professional baseball league taking part inside their city.”

There is a plan to meet with the community this week with the hopes of picking up a few more host families. Some players are staying at nearby hotels.

Pyles commutes to his in-laws in Mooresville, Ind.

While it’s too early to say what level the Liberation will equate to in affiliated baseball, Pyles and the rest are hopeful.

“There’s just so much talent,” says Pyles. “Guys are hungry for opportunities.”

Pyles notes that in recent years the Pacific Association was equivalent to Low Class-A with the Frontier League Low-A or High-A, the Can-Am League High-A, American Association High-A to Double-A and Atlantic Double-A to Triple-A.

When the Empire League started in 2015 it was solid at the start and very good in the second half with Triple-A pitchers starting many games.

With Major League Baseball whittling down its minor leagues and no games at the lower levels this year, that’s raised the level in talent pool for independent ball.

But indy ball is not the same as being tied to a major league organization.

“Independent ball can be extremely cut throat,” says Pyles. “It’s way more about winning.

“In affiliated ball you’re getting prepped for the big leagues.”

Pyles, who bats and throws right-handed, has been a player-coach or player-manager the past few seasons. He hopes to get back to a higher league such as the Atlantic (he played for Sugarland and Long Island in 2017) would like to play until he’s 40.

After the 2019 season, he moved from Avon to Goodyear, Ariz., where it’s easier to stay in shape with the warm weather. He still comes back to train players in central Indiana. 

“I love the people in Avon,” says Pyles. “Indiana definitely feels like home to me.”

A hitting instructor, Pyles has worked with Avon Baseball Club and taught players on the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Expos and other travel ball organizations.

He started with Zyon Avery (a Ben Davis High School graduate who is now at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) and Allbry Major (an Indianapolis North Central grad who plays at Xavier University) when they were young.

Matt Moore, an Avon High School graduate, was a hitting Pyles hitting pupil who became a hard-throwing pitcher. The Purdue University left-hander is a MLB draft prospect.

“I love to train players that are very motivated,” says Pyles. “I’m 100 percent confident I can help the top players get better.

“The road has been so hard for me I really had to figure out the best stuff.”

Pyles’ best friend — Lance Zawadzki — is now working as a hitting coach with the Boston Red Sox

In his approach to teaching hitting, Pyles borrows from the old school while embracing the new technology-driven methods.

“There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from the old guys who have been there,” says Pyles. “Technology is extremely important, too.

“We need to find a happy medium.”

The Liberation League is employing Blast and Rapsodo analytics through BaseballResume.com.

A native of Temecula, Calif., Pyles played two seasons at Riverside (Calif.) City College and two at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Led by head coach Dennis Rogers (who was also a short-season manager in the Oakland Athletics system), led Riverside to back-to-back state titles during Pyles’ time with the Tigers (2003 and 2004). Rogers was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2020.

Embry-Riddle was ranked No. 1 in the country among NAIA programs in both 2005 and 2006, finishing as national runner-up in Pyles’ junior season and fifth when he was a senior.

Greg Guilliams was the Eagles head coach with Nick Mingione and Todd Guilliams as assistants.

Mingione is now head coach at the University of Kentucky and former Embry-Riddle hitting coach Todd Guilliams is on the UK staff.

Greg Guilliams is now head coach at Valdosta State (Ga.) University. Both Guilliams brothers are both in the Embry-Riddle Athletics Hall of Fame.

Pyles can be reached at nolimitspyles@yahoo.com.

The Liberation Professional Baseball League opened its first season Aug. 7 at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind. (LPBL Image)
Independent professional baseball veteran Derrick Pyles (left) hangs out with friend and batting practice pitcher Ray Hancock. Former Avon, Ind., resident Pyles is back in Indiana with the Liberation Professional Baseball League at League Stadium in Huntingburg.