Three buddies who trained together as they were rising through the ranks of Indiana baseball are now sharing their knowledge as part of a new business. Plainfield (Ind.) High School graduates Kalib Clark (24) and Daylan Nanny (22) and Columbus (Ind.) North High School alum Cooper Trinkle (23) have formed HitClub Player Development Services. “I want people to know how passionate we are about the game of baseball and helping out that next level of baseball player in Indiana,” says Trinkle, who played for Ben McDaniel at Columbus North, graduating in 2017 and going on to play infield at the University of Evansville, John A. Logan College, Indiana University and Saint Leo (Fla.) University. After playing for Jeff McKeon at Plainfield and high school commencement in 2017, lefty-swinging outfielder Nanny took the diamond at Arizona Western College and Western Carolina University. He transferred to Indiana State University for a fifth year of eligibility granted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. An injury in the fall of 2021 caused him to have spinal fusion surgery a little over a month ago. While Trinkle and Nanny are done as players, Clark is still pursuing a playing career at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan., where former Bethel University (Mishawaka, Ind.) pitcher and coach Ryan Thompson is Pioneers head coach, former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University assistant Colton Punches and Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan Univdesity graduate and former Grace College head coach Cam Screeton are on the coaching staff, former Bethel player Chad Jenkins in the sports information director and Jake Bisland (Zionsville) and Brycen Sherwood (Elkhart Central) are on the roster. Right-handed pitcher Clark has also played at Indiana University Kokomo and Post University in Waterbury, Ct., and studied Data Analytics and Applied Mathematics. At present, Clark is doing research and development for HitClub while Nanny and Trinkle — who tied for the most career hits in Plainfield High history with 100 — are conducting group lessons. Nanny is working with hitters and Trinkle with infielders. Following three months of lead-up time, the first HitClub training sessions were conducted Jan. 17. Lessons are for ages 13U and up and generally last 60 to 90 minutes. Training sites are Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. (7 to 10 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays), Hit Factory in Columbus (Thursday nights) and Powerhouse Athletics in Franklin, Ind. (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays). “Our goal is to help prepare players for their upcoming high school seasons and show them things they are going to see in college,” says Nanny. “We want to have Indiana hitters be more prepared for the next level. “We want to close that gap in preparedness time. Young players have to show up more prepared than we did. (College) rosters are more flooded (with talent). That’s what we want to accomplish through our training.” Nanny and Trinkle began training together while they were in high school and envisioned someday training players in Indiana, where winter weather is a reality. “Cooper and I both played college baseball in the southern part of the country and saw how many more at-bats and game reps southern players get,” says Nanny. “Northern hitters have to put themselves in more (game-like) scenarios. “Indiana is a very blue-collar state. People know how to work hard. That’s what we want to add to. It’s important that standard is upheld moving forward.” Nanny and Trinkle were at the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 14-16. “The coaches association gave us a great opportunity to come and meet all the coaches,” says Nanny. “We’re very thankful for that opportunity.” Nanny and Trinkle were both two-time all-stars in the College Summer League at Grand Park and both work for Prep Baseball Report Indiana. They have been invited to be a part of training in CSL in 2022, utilizing Pro X and on-field workouts. To contact HitClub, email Hitclub2022@gmail.com or call 317-908-8606.
Parker Maddox is soaking up baseball knowledge and life lessons as he heads into his third collegiate season. A right-handed pitcher and 2019 Columbus (Ind.) North High School graduate, Maddox spent 2020 at NCAA Division I Ohio University and 2021 at Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, Iowa) and is back with the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I program in 2021-22. Practice began Aug. 16 and the Marc Rardin-coached Reviers have worked out each day since that. “I’ve been able to take it all in and gain knowledge,” says Maddox, 20. “Junior college has prepared me for whatever happens next. Coach Rardin is preparing us for life. He wants us to be respectable young men and be ready for the real world. “He’s definitely helped me mature since I’ve gotten here.” Maddox admits he was “not doing well at the academic side” while at Ohio while playing for then-Bobcats head coach Rob Smith. “Things were moving too fast,” says Maddox, who went to Athens, Ohio, soon after the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series to take a summer class and to hit the weight room. “I wasn’t focused. I was immature, honestly. “COVID gave me a re-start.” He made the decision to transfer to Iowa Western, where he joined a JUCO powerhouse. The Reivers went 50-10 in the 2021 and saw the season end in the NJCAA Region XI Championship Series. Maddox, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, made four mound appearances (one start) with a 3.38 earned run average. In 5 1/3 innings, he produced two strikeouts and four walks. An IHSBCA honorable mention Class 4A all-stater in 2019 for Bull Dogs coach Ben McDaniel, Maddox identifies three qualities that define him as a ballplayer — Baseball I.Q., strength and athleticism. The first part often manifests itself in pitch sequencing. “I’ve learned how to throw to batters in certain counts and about hitters’ tendencies,” says Maddox. “I’m abel to watch the game and see the little things that hitters do and where to go (on defense) when the ball is in play.” When coming in from the bullpen, Maddox will use what he’s learned by observing how other pitchers on his team attacked the opposing lineup. “You can use what your teammate did as a blue print,” says Maddox. “If (the hitters) was late on an inside fastball, why throw a breaking ball and put them on-time?” In the weight room, Maddox has gained muscle and the mastery of certain moves like the barbell split squat, sumo deadlift (replicating the landing position for pitchers), kettle bell press (for shoulder stability) and Swiss bar bench press (with hands closer and tighter to the body to relieve shoulder stress) that he has been able to teach to other players. He did that while serving as an intern this past summer at PRP Baseball at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. He also trained there in the summer of 2020 and played for PRP founder Greg Vogt during his travel ball days. “They know what they’re talking about (at PRP),” says Maddox, who commuted each weekday between Columbus and Noblesville. “I gained a lot of knowledge. I got to help coach in the weight room. The internship helped me. It was worth the drive.” The previous summer, pro players were the interns. “I learned from Tristen Polley on pitch sequencing side,” says Maddox of the former Brownsburg High School and Indiana State University left-hander now in the Texas Rangers organization. Maddox, who played right field, first base and designated hitter when not pitching in high school, says his athleticism helps him field his position on the mound. Maddox throws three pitches from a mid-three-quarter arm slot — four-seam fastball, slider and change-up. His four-seamer has sat at 88 to 90 mph. His change-up is thrown with a two-seam grip taught to him by Iowa Western pitching coach Dillon Napoleon. “My fingers are shaped like a box around the ball,” says Maddox. “It has a sinker action if you throw it right. You let the grip do the work. It will change speeds for you.” Maddox was born in Columbus and moved to Louisville when he was very young. He then lived in Madison, Ind., moving to Columbus right before his freshmen year of high school. He played his first organized baseball at Walter R. Rucker Sports Complex in Madison. He played for the Indiana Bulls from 11U to 17U. His father — Jason Maddox — was his head coach for two seasons. Besides Vogt, he was also on Bulls teams led by Mike Helton, Dan Held and Sean Laird. In the fall of his senior year, he was with Team Indiana, coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. Jason and Lisa Maddox have two children. Besides Parker (who turns 21 in February), there’s Paige Maddox (17). She is a senior swimmer at Columbus North.
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)
“It was an amazing experience seeing the history of Indiana baseball,” said McKeon, who was excited to see the photo of the 2017 IHSBCA South All-Stars. He was the head coach of that team in Muncie.
The rest of the council includes executive director Brian Abbott, assistant executive director Phil McIntyre, president Kevin Hannon, second vice president Ben McDaniel, third vice president Jeremy Richey and past president Ricky Romans. Hannon’s official duties will end with the IHSAA State Finals, which are scheduled this year on Monday and Tuesday, June 17-18 at Victory Field in Indianapolis (followed by the IHSBCA Futures Game June 19 and North/South All-Star Series June 20-22 in Madison.
The Hall of Fame expansion has a curved wall and resembles an outfield.
The Hall in Jasper is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday through Sunday when Vincennes-Jasper is in session (August to May) and 11 to 3 daily when school is out (May to August). Admission is $4 for ages 13-and-older, $3 for ages 5-12, $2 for ages 60-and-older and free for ages below 5. Group rates are available. Special showings can be arranged by calling 812-482-2262.
Hall of Famers attending the expansion dedication of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019 are (from left) Terry Gobert, Tim Nonte, Ray Howard, Joe Rademacher, Jim Reid and Paul Gries. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
A crowd gathers for the expansion dedication of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
Executive director and Hall of Famer Ray Howard shows some items at the expansion dedication of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
History is preserved at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The induction classes of 2018 and 2019 are show in their space at the expansion dedication of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
One view of the displays at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
A collection of bats at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The new outfield area at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
A photo of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association South All-Stars with Jeff McKeon as head coach is on display at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
Some uniforms on display at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
Another view of the displays at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
A tribute to Hall of Famer Don Mattingly at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
A salute to Hall of Famer and Jasper High School graduate Scott Jasper at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame is located in the Ruxer Student Center on the Vincennes University campus in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
Architect drawings for the expansion of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The expansion of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper was made possible through a substantial donation by the Buehler family. The new space was dedicated on Jan. 26, 2019. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Jasper — home to the five-time state champion Jasper High School Wildcats. (Jeff McKeon Photo)
The ribbon cutting for expansion of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper on Jan. 26, 2019. (Picture Perfect Photo)
At 6-foot-3, first-year professional Devin Mann is not a typical second baseman.
Of the 30 second sackers in the No. 1 slot on the latest Major League Baseball depth charts, just two are listed as taller than 6-3. Colorado’s D.J. LeMahieu and Milwaukee’s Travis Shaw are both 6-4. Eleven current 2B starters are shorter that 6-foot. And that doesn’t count two stars on the disabled list — 5-6 Jose Altuve of Houston and 5-9 Dustin Pedroia of Boston.
Pedroia is Mann’s favorite player.
“I just like how he plays the game,” says Mann. “He plays the game really hard.
When Mann arrived at the Louisville, he was moved to second base by Cardinals head coach Dan McDonnell.
That was the position played by McDonnell at The Citadel and he put Mann through enough reps on that side of the infield that it became his natural defensive spot.
“(McDonnell) helped mold me (at second base) everyday,” says Mann. “Every kid deserves to play for a coach like that — the things he does for you as a baseball player and a person off the field don’t compare to anyone else.”
Mann also learned to flourish with the bat.
The right-handed swinger hit .303 in 39 games with no homers, nine doubles, 17 RBIs and one stolen base in 2016, .268 in 64 games with eight homers, 11 doubles, 44 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 2017 and .303 in 69 games with seven homers, 17 doubles, 52 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 2018. He hit in the No. 3 slot for the Cards this past spring.
Mann earned Atlantic Coast Conference honors in each of his three college seasons — all-freshman in 2016, third team in 2017 and all-tournament in 2018.
During that span, the Cardinals combined to go 148-45 with NCAA tournament appearances each season. U of L went to the College World Series in 2017. Louisville had eight players drafted each year, including first-rounder Brendan McKay and Jeffersonville’s Drew Ellis in 2017 and Batesville’s Bryan Hoeing (who’s announced he’s returning to Louisville for 2018-19) and Mann in 2018.
After two games with Arizona League Dodgers, Mann has logged 38 with the Low Class-A Midwest League’s Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Mich., and is hitting .252 with one homer, eight doubles, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases. He consistently hitting from the third or fourth hole in the Great Lakes lineup.
Mann’s first professional long ball — a two-run shot — came July 8 in Midland against Dayton.
Mann says he has gained an awareness as a hitter. He recognizes the pitches he can do damage on and aggressively pursues those pitches.
“I’ve trained myself to see pitches early and have an awareness of the strike zone,” says Mann. “It’s paid dividends for me.
“I’ve definitely worked hard at it.”
Watching his power numbers go up at the end of his college career, Mann credits the increase too good mechanics and hitting his preferred pitch more times than not.
“It’s about not missing the pitch you’re getting each at-bat,” says Mann. “The rest might be pitcher’s pitches which are tougher to hit.”
Told the importance of finding a daily routine in pro baseball, where games are played nearly everyday, Mann says he was able to find one early.
Mann more of less re-wrote the offensive record book at Columbus North, finishing his prep career as the Bull Dogs’ career leader in average (.449), runs (118), hits (150), doubles (36), triples (10), home runs (20), RBI (111) and stolen bases (92). The right-handed swinger batted .410 with nine homers and 35 RBIs as a senior, earning all-state honors. He hit .433 average with 14 doubles and 24 RBIs as a junior. He set single-season records for average (.532) and stolen bases (30) as a sophomore.
“He’s similar to Coach McDonnell,” says Mann of McDaniel. “He cares about you as a person off the field and knows the game.
“He demands the most out of you everyday. That’s what a team needs. He treats everybody the same — varsity, JV and freshmen.”
Devin, an only child, calls McDaniel “a second father” and says he and his parents — Bill and Diana Mann — are close friends. Bill owns Moore’s Roofing and Diana works for an asset management company.
Growing up in Columbus, Devin played early travel baseball for the Indiana Blazers. His 12-year-old summer, he was at Bartholomew County Little League as it attempted a run at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
Mann also played travel ball for the Indiana Nitro and then the Indiana Bulls leading into his junior and senior years at Columbus North.
Mann was a sport management major in college and is a semester shy of graduation. He says he plans to finish his degree this year or next.
Devin Mann, a Columbus, Ind., native is playing with the Great Lakes Loons in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. (Great Lakes Loons Photo)
A shortstop at Columbus (Ind.) North High School, Devin Mann was moved to second base at the University of Louisville and that’s where he plays much of the time in his first professional baseball season. (Great Lakes Loons Photo)
Devin Mann, who played at Columbus (Ind.) North High School and the University of Louisville, smacks a pitch as a member of the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. (Great Lakes Loons)
Selection of the squads, which will include senior players from all four classes (25 from the South and 25 from the North), is scheduled the morning of the IHSAA State Finals on Saturday, June 16 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
North and South committees will review the names sent in from the 16 district meetings held on June 3.
Each head coach, who is an IHSBCA member, will receive notification from the district representative informing him of the time and place of the meeting.
Heading into his fifth season of leading the Columbus North Bull Dogs, McDaniel has been with the Indiana Outlaws and now it’s the Evoshield Canes Midwest. The Indianapolis-based Canes draw players from around Indiana plus Ohio and Kentucky.
“And he hasn’t even played an inning of high school baseball,” says McDaniel of North freshman Bode. “Kids are worried about (playing in college) at earlier ages. More and more, there are coaches at every game. It used to be that I didn’t used to have a roster with me (with contact information and grade-point). Now if you’re going to coach these players, you have got to play the game.”
If McDaniel has his way, the IHSAA rule of allowing coaches to work with just two players at a time three days a week out-of-season would be lifted.
“If the kids going to put the time in, it would be nice to provide the instruction,” says McDaniel, a member of the Indiana High School Coaches Association executive committee. “I think more high school coaches would coach summer baseball if it wasn’t so strict during the summer. The game could go completely to travel and that’s not good for high school baseball.”
McDaniel says the trend now is for recruiting to be handled more by travel coaches — who have more exposure college coaches — than leaders of high school programs.
“I’m very involved (with recruiting) as a high school coach,” says McDaniel. “I know all the (travel) coaches my (Columbus North) kids are player for. You have to work in-tandem. I believe it’s a high school coach’s job to build that relationship with the college coach.”
It’s also important to not over-sell a player. That’s a good way to burn a bridge.
“You come into this world with a few things — your last name and your word,” says McDaniel. “My kids know that if a coach calls me, they’re going to get an honest assessment.”
McDaniel says his No. 1 priority as a coach is getting players who want to play college baseball, the opportunity to do so.
Mann represented North as an all-state shortstop and IHSBCA North/South All-Star in 2015. Trinkle was an all-state shortstop as a junior and all-state second baseman as a senior. He and teammate Thompson were both IHSBCA South All-Stars.
Current senior Tyler Finke is to follow brother Evan’s foot steps to Snead State.
The Dogs are members of the Conference Indiana (along with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
In a format change for 2018, all conference teams will play each other once to determine the champion. Before, there were divisions with an end-of-season tournament.
McDaniel works closely with the school administration on North’s non-conference slate.
“I’m constantly trying to improve our strength of schedule,” says McDaniel, who typically sends his teams against the powerhouses around central and southern Indiana and will again take the Dogs to the early-April Super Prep Tournament hosted by Louisville Ballard. The annual event brings some of the best from multiple states.
“It’s a very good measuring stick for us at the start of the season,” says McDaniel, whose team is to play twice Friday and twice Saturday. “We get the toughest schedule I can get to prepare the guys for the postseason.”
Also helping to prepare the team is a staff featuring three pitching coaches — Jason Maddox (third season), Hunter McIntosh (second season) and Daniel Ayers (second season). Ayers pitched in the Baltimore Orioles organization and McIntosh pitched at Alabama State.
McDaniel leaves strength training, professions etc. up to his pitching experts. With their input, he sets the starting rotation and relief assignments.
North has mound depth and the new pitch count rules (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) adopted in 2017 really meant they now had something to track and report (to the athletic director) and they developed a third starter in order to deal with the sectional.
“We always kept our guys around the 120 number anyway,” says McDaniel. “Before (the new rule), we did it more based on performance. We didn’t keep our guys on a pitch count. It was what they were conditioned to do.
“We pride ourselves that we’ve never had any arm injury.”
The varsity coaching staff also features Chris Gerth (sixth season), Will Nelson (second season) and speed and agility instructor Nathan Frasier.
Junior varsity coaches are Mike Bodart (fifth season) and Alex Engelbert (second season). North typically plays 24 to 28 JV games per spring.
The Bull Dogs play their games at Southside Elementary School near the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds — about five miles from the high school campus. The five-year facility features a locker room that’s equipped with a sound system and a TV to watch instructional videos plus ping pong and air hockey tables.
“The community gave us a pretty nice complex,” says McDaniel. “We take pride in the facility. Having a place to call their own is something special.”
Players and coaching tend to field maintenance.
“It instills a little discipline and appreciation into the kids,” says McDaniel.
Ben McDaniel is head baseball coach at Columbus North High School and also coaches for the Evoshield Canes Midwest travel organization. He also serves on the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association executive committee.
“I believe you must respect the game,” says McKeon, who resigned as head coach at Plainfield High School after the 2017 season (Shane Abrell has been named as his successor). “Once you cross that line, you have to give 100 percent every single time. The game will humble you in a second. If you ever think you are bigger than the game, it will strike back at you in a second.”
At Plainfield, McKeon got to be the host coach for the IHSAA’s South semistate games. The field has two berms for spectators and a scoreboard in center field.
Coming from Evansville, where iconic Bosse Field and other parks all have unique features, McKeon likes that the facility is not a “cookie-cutter.”
“I’m a big baseball purist,” says McKeon. “The ballpark should be part of the experience.
“Plainfield has some uniqueness to it.”
A 1993 Evansville North High School graduate, his high school coach was Dan Sparrow. He was a catcher and then a middle infielder at Ashford University in Iowa, graduating in 1997. He also worked two years for the Clinton LumberKings as an intern, grounds crew worker and clubhouse assistant and one for the Birmingham Barons as assistant GM for concessions and in sales.
Jeff comes from a baseball family. He is the son of former minor league catcher and scout and current Evansville Ottersradio analyst Bill McKeon. In 2010, Bill was briefly the Otters manager with Jeff as a coach.
Bill’s older brother and Jeff’s uncle is Jack McKeon, the manager for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins. Jack also served as skipper for the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.
In his first off-season as general manager of the Padres, he began to rebuild the club with a series of deals and became known as “Trader Jack.”
Jack’s sons have also been involved in professional baseball. Kasey McKeon was a catcher in the Detroit Tigers system and is now director of player procurement for the Washington Nationals.
Kelly McKeon has scouted for the Padres, where he signed Greg Booker, son-in-law to Jack, brother-in-law to Kasey and Kelly father of former Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer Zach Booker. Greg Booker is now a pro scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Those are awesome guys,” says McKeon. “They are great coaches and even better men. Being with those guys has been life-altering for me.”
Fundamentals and instruction are important to McKeon, who has thrown countless hours of batting practice trying to turn weaknesses into strengths.
“I’ve worked with a lot of very good players,” says McKeon. “But you win not with best players, you win with the role player that has to step up.”
McKeon, who is in charge of vendors at the IHSBCA State Clinic in January, will serve as a vice president in 2017-18 and is due to be president the following year.
This year marked his third as South representative and coach for the Crossroads Series, held the past two season at Ball State.
With Rich Andriole as head coach, the South swept the North in three games at Whiting in 2016.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” says McKeon, who will be assisted by Brad Catey (Hagerstown), Justin Tucker (Batesville), John Major (Columbus East) and have a Plainfield Quaker on the roster for the third straight year. It’s first baseman Daylan Nanny (bound for Arizona Western College) in 2017. Outfielder/first baseman Jackson Blevins was selected in 2016 and went on to Saint Joseph’s College. He is playing for the Dubois County Bombers this summer. After the closing of SJC, Blevins is slated to play at Wabash College in 2017-18.
Pitcher Antonio Lucciola represented Plainfield in the North/South series in 2015.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be recognized for their accomplishments,” says McKeon.
Jeff and wife Liz have a son and a daughter — Gavin (9) and Katie (5).
Jeff McKeon, head baseball coach at Plainfield High School 2012-17, will be head coach for the South in the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Muncie.