Tag Archives: Bethel University

Bickel now in charge of baseball at Marian University’s Ancilla College

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

Attacking games and practices with passion.
That’s what Trey Bickel expects as the new baseball head coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind.
“It’s business out there,” says Bickel, 27. “In baseball you have to be 100 percent focused.
“There has to be 100 percent intensity and focus or they’re wasting time.”
Bickel, who came to the Chargers as an assistant in the fall of 2018, took over the three weeks ago when Chris Woodruff left to become Assistant Athletic Director/Compliance Director at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College.
At the moment, Bickel is a one-man show. He is seeking at least one assistant.
“I have feelers out with buddies I played with,” says Bickel. “I want to make sure I get someone who fits in with our guys and gets us where we want to be.”
Bickel relinquished his athletic groundskeeper duties when Marian University came into the picture and hired a company to handle that, leaving the coach free to focus on baseball.
That includes recruiting.
“If you’re not getting that offer from your dream school don’t shut down any other options,” says Bickel. “Junior college is the route to go for a majority of guys if you don’t have those dream schools calling.”
There are currently 21 on the Marian University’s Ancilla College roster, including four pitcher-only players and a number of two-way players. Ideally, Bickel would like 25 to 30 athletes.
“Next spring I hope to have 15 to 20 pitchers rostered,” says Bickel.
Outside practices are now short and intense. When the team goes indoors its at the LifePlex in Plymouth.
This fall, the school formally known as Ancilla College took to the diamond to play five games against outside competition with others cancelled for COVID-19 reasons.
The Chargers were in 9-inning contests against Bethel University and Purdue Northwest and a doubleheader (two 7’s) against Indiana University South Bend.
The spring portion of the schedule is to begin Feb. 12-13 for a four-game series at Southeastern Illinois College. The first on-campus game is slated for March 19 vs. Morton College.
Marian University’s Ancilla College is a member of the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and National Junior College Athletic Association District 12.
Bickel finished his playing career at IUSB in 2018. The 2012 Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate went to Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., of the fall of 2012.
While he was not around the following spring then Cobras head coach Matt Kennedy (now a Butler University assistant) made an impression on him.
‘He’s a go-getter,” says Bickel of Kennedy, who he encountered again in the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “He knows how to bring out intensity in his coaching. It shows in a (NJCAA) national championship (at Parkland in 2009 with a fifth-place finish in 2010). I definitely enjoyed the intensity he had as a coach.
“He attacks it. That’s what I’m looking to do.”
With a gap year mixed it, Bickel played two years at Holy Cross College for Brian Blondell before that program ceased and two at IUSB for Blondell, Mike Huling and Jon Koepf.
“They all brought something to the table to help me,” says Bickel, who was a right-handed pitcher. He threw a no-hitter in the Titans’ first-ever home game in 2016.
At Mishawaka, Bickel had John Huemmer as a head coach and Chadd Blasko as a pitching coach.
“(Huemmer) is one of the most genuine people I know,” says Bickel. “He’s a very nice guy and he’s there for his players and building relationships.
“He’s very good at that.”
Bickel spent a couple of seasons picking the brain of Blasko, who was selected 36th overall in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs out of Purdue University.
Born in South Bend, Bickel spent parts of his elementary school years in Goshen, Elkhart and Mishawaka and was in the latter city from Grades 6-12. Trey is from a big family. He has two older brothers and one older sister plus one younger sister and one younger brother.

Marian University’s Ancilla College baseball coach Trey Bickel (left) in third base box.
Marian University’s Ancilla College baseball coach Trey Bickel.

Thoughts of American Legion baseball keep Cruz going during COVID-19 battle

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

Antonio “Tony” Cruz Jr., came close to losing his life and the sport that occupies much of thoughts.
The COVID-19 virus struck the husband and father of three in the first half of 2020 and he spent 25 days of May in Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. — nine in the Intensive Care Unit. His oxygen level dropped to 55 and twice was not expected to make it.
One night he was visited by a doctor and nurse. Cruz recalls the doctor’s words: “Well, we’re not going to sugar-coat it. We’re going to be honest with you. You might die tonight. We’ve got a yellow legal pad right here. If there’s anything you might want to write to anybody, now’s the time.”
There was also plenty of support of his family — wife Ilka, sons Carlos and Santana and daughter Neveah and Amiyah, father Antonio Sr. (who also in the hospital with COVID but released before his son) and mother Lucy.
“It wasn’t your time,” is what Lucy Cruz told her son of why he survived and recovered.
Baseball also played a big part.
“Legion was always on my mind,” says Cruz, the manager of the South Bend American Legion Post 151 senior baseball team. “It gave me a reason to keep fighting and get out of there.”
Drawing strength from messages sent by coaching friends including John Kehoe, Joel Reinebold, Tom Washburn and Dennis Ryans.
“You don’t forget that stuff,” says Cruz. “It means a lot to me.”
While the pandemic caused American Legion Baseball to cancel its state, regional and national tournaments in 2020, Indiana teams were allowed to play games if they could provide their own insurance.
Cruz got out of the hospital and with air bottle in tow came to the place he considers his home away from home — the baseball field.
Jim Reinebold Field — named for the late Indiana High School Baaeball Coaches Association Hall of Famer —  is where the South Bend Clay High School Colonials play and Cruz serves as an assistant coach and home to Post 151, though COVID caused cancellation of the high school season and had the Legion team playing home games at South Bend’s Boland Park in 2020.
For his baseball foundation, Cruz looks back to his days at Maurice Matthys Little League, where his coach from 12 to 16 was Terry Cline.
“He is who I pattern my coaching style after,” says Cruz of Cline. “He was about caring and giving back.”
As a player at South Bend LaSalle High School, where he graduate in 1997, Cruz played for Lions head coach Scott Sill.
Cruz was a coach on Kehoe’s staff at South Bend Washington High School and also led the baseball program at Dickinson Middle School — going 23-1 in two seasons — then joined Joel Reinebold at Clay.
“Joel is so supportive,” says Cruz. “I’ve been blessed to be around him for so many years.”
Carlos Cruz (now 23) and Santana Cruz (21) both played for the Colonials, graduating in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Carlos attended Indiana State University for three years. Santana also played at Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind.
Neveah Cruz (who turned 19 July 12) has been around Clay baseball from seventh grade until the present and has been a student manager, director of operations and coach. This summer, 2020 Clay grad and Sport and Recreation major at Trine University in Angola, Ind., is Post 51 Juniors (17U) team manager and assistant coach to her father with the Post 51 Seniors (19U).
“It’s a good bonding experience with my dad,” says Neveah. “I’ve met a lot of good people through baseball — role models.”
Being around teams has given Neveah something more.
“I have a lot of older brothers now,” says Neveah.
Youngest daughter Amiyah is 11.
This is the sixth year Tony Cruz has coached American Legion ball. When Lenny Kuespert was no longer able to manage South Bend Post 50, Cruz started Post 357. He was 357 manager for two summers and after guidance from former Bristol Post manager Jim Treadway and Legion baseball organizer Joe Kusiak and consulting with post commander Mike Vargo has led Post 151 since the 2018 season.
“Legion ball is good for families who can’t afford to play travel ball, which can be salty,” says Cruz.
Post 151 baseball is supported through $650 registration fees and fundraisers to cover things like insurance, uniforms, hat, socks, field rental, umpires and, in the advent of rain, field conditioner.
If there’s any money left over, Cruz use it to buy Legion shirts etc. for his players.
“I always give back to the kids,” says Cruz. “It’s not about me.”
Custom COVID masks were purchased as well a Post 151 visors for players’ mothers.
Believing that Legion baseball is also a tribute to veterans and patriotism, Cruz outfits his squads in red, white and blue uniforms.
American Legion teams are allowed to roster 18 players for the postseason. There is a total enrollment limit of 6,000 in the top three grades for the high schools that provide players.
Besides Santana Cruz at Ancilla, athletes who have played for Cruz and gone on to college baseball include Hunter Aker at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., Robbie Berger, J.P. Kehoe, Mason Ryans and Andrew Washburn at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Tyler Bortone at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Tyler Cuma at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Gabe Galvan at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Nathaniel Garcia at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Chris Gault, Cooper Lee, A.J. Klimek, Andy Migas and Lee Timmons at Trine, Colin Greve at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., Dylan Hensley at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Roman Kuntz and Bryce Lesher at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., Michael Payne at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., Hunter Robinson at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Ind., Cole Steveken at Ancilla, Chantz Stover at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., Tony Valle at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., Cameron Waters at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Community College and Gabe Yonto at BCA College Post Grad in Knoxville, Tenn.
Both 151 teams played about a dozen regular-season weekday games in 2021.
Thursday, July 15 at 5 p.m. and following and Friday, July 16 at 5 (if necessary), South Bend Post 151 hosts Bristol Post 143 in best-of-3 Regional 3 at Jim Reinebold Field for a berth in the eight-team State Finals Friday through Tuesday, July 23-27 at Highland Park in Kokomo.
Other feeder regionals are slated at Highland Post 180 Regional 1-2 (with Valparaiso Post 94, East Chicago Post 369/Lake Station Post 100 Region Legion Expos and South Haven Post 502), Regional 4 at Kokomo Post 6 (with Lafayette Post 11 and Muncie Post 19), Regional 5 at Terre Haute Post 346 (with Crawfordsville Post 72 and Sullivan Post 139), Regional 6 at Jasper Post 147 (with Washington Post 121) and Regional 7 at Rockport Post 254 (with Newburgh Post 44 and Boonville Post 200). As State Finals host, Kokomo will represent Regional 4 with the other highest finisher also advancing. The top two at Highland and the winner at the other sites will move on.
Vera Cruz Tree Service has tended to customers in the South Bend, Ind., area for four decades. Recently, Tony Jr. took over the running of the family business from his father.
Not long after the Legion season ends comes the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp (the instructional league is heading into its 27th year).
Between seasons and conditioning, Cruz is involved with baseball about 10 months a year.
The diamond — and what it represents — is his passion.

Neveah and Tony Cruz Jr. (Steve Krah Photo)
Tony Cruz Jr. and daughter Neveah.
Neveah and Tony Cruz Jr.
A regional title was won by South Bend American Legion Post 151 in 2018.
Tony Cruz Jr. battles COVID-19 in 2020. He was hospitalized 25 days in May, including nine in Intensive Care.
Tony Cruz Jr. had to go on high-flow oxygen during his battle with COVID-19 in 2020.
Out of the hospital after his COVID-19 battle, Tony Cruz came “home” to Jim Reinebold Field, home of South Bend Clay High School and South Bend American Legion Post 151 baseball.
Jim Treadway (left) and Tony Cruz Jr. bond over American Legion, high school baseball.

Dix ‘walks in his purpose’ with Region Legion Expos, Calumet New Tech

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

Ray Dix III is using baseball and education to help youngsters in northwest Indiana.
A 2001 Merrillville High School graduate and former East Chicago American Legion Post 369 player, Dix guides to diamond programs for the Region Legion Expos (E.C. Post 369/Lake Station Post 100) and Calumet New Tech High School in Gary.
“Post 369 is near and dear to my heart,” says Dix. “Bob Castillo, (father) Alonzo Olvera and (son) Juan Olvera kept it going for a long time.”
Dix expresses his gratitude to the late Joe Kusiak.
“My organization does not exist without Joe,” says Dix of the man who died in 2019. “He made it his personal mission to make sure some inner city kids got the same opportunities as suburban kids.”
The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost.
“We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.”
Dix notes that there was an Chamber of Commerce event with Gary native and former big leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins.
Initiatives by the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Home Field Advantage and MLB’s Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) were gaining traction before the pandemic.
The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost.
“We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.”
The 2021 season marks the fifth for the Region Legion Expos and there are senior (19U) and junior (17U) squads. While recent rains have taken games away, both teams scheduled around 20 regular-season games.
Most senior games have been played at the Kenny Lofton Baseball Complex in East Chicago with junior games at the former Lake Station Little League.
In the future, Dix expects that the Region Legion Expos will play home games at Calumet New Tech (the field was built on the campus just a few years ago) and renovated E.J. Block Stadium in East Chicago. Tim Stoddard played for Post 369 and East Chicago Washington High School (later consolidated into East Chicago Central) at Block on his way to the majors.
RLE are in the Michiana League along with Bristol Post 143, Highland Post 80, South Bend Post 151 and Valparaiso Post 94 in Indiana, Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204 in Michigan and Palos Park Post 1993 in Illinois.
“We hope to grow the league,” says Dix, who is assisted by East Chicago Central High School head coach Jimmy Flores. “We stay away from days that Babe Ruth games are scheduled to give kids more chances to play baseball.”
The plan is for league coaches to meet this fall to map out an even larger schedule for next season.
“We hope to get more Legion teams,” says Dix. “We’re growing every year. We have more junior teams.
“When I played 20 years ago almost everybody had a Legion team. It’s great competition. We don’t see a bad team all summer. Nobody’s bad. That’s what I love about it.”
The 2021 junior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Post 100 Region Riptide, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is scheduled for July 8-11 at Hobart.
The senior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Highland Post 80, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is slated for July 15-18 at Highland.
While the COVID-19 pandemic took away what was going to be Dix’s first season at Calumet in the spring of 2020, the Legion team had an abbreviated season without a state tournament last summer.
“We were wiping down everything,” says Dix. “We had no (COVID) cases.”
The ’21 Calumet New Tech Warriors had 15 players on the roster. Dix was assisted by former Gary Roosevelt and Bowman Academy head coach Kevin Bradley (who had Dix as an assistant at Bowman) plus Daniel Wendrickx and scorekeeper Steve Heck.
This week after the Region Legion Expos played Palos Heights the two sides went through an actual handshake line — something not allowed during the high school season in the spring though teams tipped their caps at the end of games.
“I didn’t know how much I missed the handshake line,” says Dix. “We show each other respect for what you just went through.
“Even at the MLB level, guys shake hands with (their teammates).”
The Region Legion Expos have sent Gary West graduates Antonio Reed (Clark Atlanta University) and Zamare Vincent (Calumet College of Saint Joseph), Merrillville alums Thomas Butler (Ancilla College and University of Indianapolis), Darius Kendall (Purdue University Northwest) and Thomas Smith (Bethel University) and Portage grads Shayne Devine (Trine University) and Kody McGuire (Goshen College) on to college baseball while Christian Ayala (Hammond Bishop Noll) and Dylan Coty (Merrillville baseball and basketball) have received offers.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have some talented players,” says Dix, who has watched others stay out of trouble, go on to trade schools and become productive citizens.
Dix, son of former Gary and current Fort Wayne minister Ray Dix Jr., and retired secretary Jewel Cody and grandson of former steelworker and court bailiff Ray Dix Sr., makes sure players are making their grades and get SAT preparation assistance.
He is three semesters from his education degree, which he will likely complete at Purdue University Northwest.
“If I get to teach high school and coach baseball I will not work for the rest of my life,” says Dix. “I will be walking in my purpose and be forever grateful.”
Dix says area youth coaches and organizers at all levels try to stick to together for the good of the kids.
“The goal to always have a safe space,” says Dix. “We all see the writing on the wall.
“We don’t want to see it die.”
It’s people like Bentley Ellis at Glenn Park Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken in Gary and Tracy Brough, president of Calumet Region Little League, which in 2021 included Duneland Park, Lake Station and Roosevelt Park and had about 150 players at all ages. Bradley, Ellis and Brough are on the CRLL board.
“We’re a feeder group for American Legion ball,” says Brough. “Players age out of Little League (4 to 16) and can keep playing.”
During the offseason, a group called the Gary United Baseball Collaborative was formed to meet in the offseason and discuss options for area youth.
“We see how can we increase the opportunities for kids with their skill levels, training and experiences,” says Brough. “We cross-post (on social media) and communicate in the offseason so (players and their families) know what’s going on.”
At Merrillville High, Dix played two seasons for Fenton Macke and two for Zac Wells.
“Other than with Coach Castillo, I have not learned more on the mental side of baseball than I did in the few conversations I had with Coach Macke,” says Dix. “He had an amazing way of getting young people to think the game. This is how you stay in the lineup.
“That is what you want once you get to the high school level and beyond. You find your niche and work it and that trickles to life. That stuck with me as a 14-year-old kid.”
Dix admires Macke and current Washington Township head baseball coach Randy Roberts — men who know what its like to each at the middle school level and coach high schoolers.
“If you have them from sixth grade on, they already know what you want (in high school),” says Dix, who plans add a middle school baseball at Calumet in the fall. “They know the style.
“Everything is about relationship-building.”
Wells, who also coached Ray’s little brother Rahdric Dix (Merrillville Class of 2007 who went on to play at Butler University and the University of Southern Indiana), was a three-sport start for the Pirates who had the ability to break down the intricacies of an athletic task.
“Absolute tactician,” says Dix of Wells. “He had that Innate ability to show you the technical part of the game.
“I use his hitting methods to this day.”
Rahdric was Ray III’s first trainee and he’s had many since. Dix indicates that he would like to eventually be able to direct a program that includes players as young as 8.
“It’s about being able to create uniformity and consistency,” says Dix.

Ray Dix III (left) celebrates a Region Legion championship with his team.
Ray Dix III, Gary Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Hughes and former big league pitcher LaTroy Hawkins appear at a Chamber event prior to Gary native Hawkins being inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Baseball organizers in northwest Indiana collaborate as evidenced by Calumet Area Little League president Tracy Brough (left) and Region Legion Expos manager and Calumet New Tech High School head coach Ray Dix III.
Ray Dix III at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., home of the indepedent pro baseball Gary SouthShore RailCats. He is the manager of the Region Legion Expos and head coach at Calumet New Tech High School.

IU Southeast dodges elimination at NAIA World Series; Notre Dame, Indiana State get NCAA bids

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana University Southeast was a winner in its first-ever NAIA Baseball World Series game. 

The Grenadiers beat Concordia (Neb.) 4-2 Friday, May 28 in Lewiston, Idaho.

The next day IUS fell 11-5 to Central Methodist (Mo.) and played in an elimination game Monday, May 31 against Keiser (Fla.). 

IU Southeast (50-15) was a 9-7 winner in that one. The Grenadiers  face Faulkner (Ala.) today (June 1).

The NAIA Word Series continue until June 4.

Notre Dame and Indiana State are the teams from the state making the NCAA Division I tournament (the draw for the Road to Omaha was announced Monday).

After beating Virginia Tech 8-0 and losing to Virginia 14-1 at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the Irish will host the South Bend Regional. It will be the first time postseason baseball has been at ND since 2004.

Each regional field features four teams, playing in a double-elimination format. All 16 regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, June 4 to Monday, June 7 (if necessary).

Notre Dame (30-11) plays Central Michigan (40-16) at 1 p.m., followed by Connecticut (33-17) against Michigan (27-17) at 7. Irish head coach Link Jarrett was named the ACC Coach of the Year.

Indiana State went 3-2 at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Carbondale, Ill. — beating Illinois State 5-2 and Southern Illinois 11-8, losing to Dallas Baptist 10-1, beating Southern Illinois 9-7 then losing to Dallas Baptist 12-8 (in 11 innings).

The Sycamores are in the Nashville Regional. Georgia Tech (29-23) plays Indiana State (30-19) at 1 p.m. Friday while Vanderbilt (40-15) takes on Presbyerian (22-21) at 7.

Indiana State earned its 11th NCAA postseason appearance in program history and the third under head coach Mitch Hannahs.

Ball State (38-18) swept a four-game Mid-American Conference home series with Miami (Ohio). The Cardinals did not hear their name called Monday.

Nor did Indiana (26-18). The Hoosiers went 1-2 in a Big Ten Conference series at Maryland.

Purdue (16-26) wrapped the season with one win against Penn State and a doubleheader split against Minnesota in a Big Ten pod weekend.

The 2021 season also closed at the MVC tournament for Valparaiso (16-35) and Evansville (28-27). Valpo went 2-2 and UE 1-1 in Carbondale.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 23

NCAA Division I

Ball State 38-18 (25-11 MAC) 

Notre Dame 30-11 (25-10 ACC) 

Evansville 28-27 (11-16 MVC) 

Indiana State 27-17 (14-10 MVC) 

Indiana 26-18 (26-18 Big Ten)

Purdue 14-25 (14-25 Big Ten) 

Butler 14-23 (8-13 Big East) 

Valparaiso 16-35 (9-19 MVC) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 11-35 (8-28 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-14 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 25-20 (21-18 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Anderson 23-19 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 50-15 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 44-14 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Indiana Tech 35-27 (16-6 WHAC) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 24-31 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Big Head Sports’ Miranda puts love into every glove

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A baseball or softball glove is like a person.

Both need TLC.

A person who provides tender loving care to those fly catchers and grounder grabbers is Joey Miranda. 

He taught himself how to repair his own glove as a ballplayer and he’s been doing it for others as owner of Big Head Sports. His repeat customers include the South Bend Cubs, Notre Dame, Bethel University, Indiana University South Bend and several travel organizations.

“I really enjoy doing glove work. I really do,” says Miranda, an Osceola, Ind., resident. “It keeps me around baseball.”

Miranda, 51, grew up in Woodland, Calif., near Sacramento and went to Oakland A’s game with father Joe Sr., and San Diego Padres with his grandfather (Luis and grandmother Eva lived in Tijuana and had Joey visit each August after his baseball season) and uncle and played lots of ball while tending to his glove and those of his ball-playing buddies.

“I got really good at it,” says Miranda, who moved to northern Indiana in 2008. 

Over the years, he did research and learned how to break in gloves — what to do and not to do.

Miranda says a glove should not be put in the oven, microwave or steamer.

“It causes cracking,” says Miranda. It will also void the warranty at some sporting goods retailers. “Conditioner soothes the outside of the glove and puts moisture back into glove.”

Proper care will also extend the life of the glove.

“It won’t last as long if you don’t clean it with conditioner,” says Miranda. “I used to to use mink or Neatsfoot oil, but I’ve gotten away from that.

“If you use too much it will make the glove heavy. (Oil) doesn’t dissipate.”

Miranda, who sells new and used gloves, gives maintenance information.

“I recommend conditioning twice a year — the middle of the season and the end to protect the glove over the winter,” says Miranda. “I really like it when parents bring their athlete with them. I can inform the player on how to take care of their glove.

“At $200-$400, that’s a little bit of an investment for the parents.”

High-end gloves can have map or steer or some other kind of leather while low end ones are made of average hyde.

Miranda invites customers to shoot him a text and he will walk them through any questions they might have.

“It’s about my customers,” says Miranda. “It’s like an honor for me working on their glove.

“I have some really loyal customers that only come to me.”

Joey and Rebecca Miranda had four children. The oldest — Casey — died a few years ago. Then there’s sons Andrew and Anthony and daughter Jordan. The boys all played baseball.

When Anthony was at what is now Harris Baseball/Softball in Granger, Ind., and his glove broke his father informed him that he could fix it. The laces were swept out for white ones and it was a real attention-getter.

The next thing you know other players and parents are coming to Miranda for his glove TLC.

He started buying lace from a local man and word of his work began spreading like wildfire.

Then came Big Head Sports. The name comes from the inflated egos Miranda saw while he was a player.

“I grew up with guys who were supposed to get drafted and didn’t,” says Miranda. 

Best friend Jeff Moore is a graphic designer in California and crafted Miranda’s logo. The business motto is “Don’t let your head get bigger than the game.”

“That’s what keeps me humble in what I’m doing. I have yet to advertise other than on Facebook (or Twitter). I get new people every year by word of mouth. That feels good.

“I treat each glove as if it was my own. That’s my work that I’m putting out there.”

Joey and Rebecca have talked about one day opening a store and have been collecting old gloves and baseball memorabilia for decor.

Miranda backs up his work. He will replace materials up to four months and offers free glove-tightening.

A relationship with former South Bend Silver Hawks manager and current general manager of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and head of the South Bend Cubs Foundation travel baseball organization Mark Haley got Miranda in with the South Bend Cubs.

Miranda’s turnaround time is often a few days depending on his schedule. Miranda is a material handler at RC Industries in Elkhart and coaches a Hitters Edge 14U travel team.

Sometimes a glove emergency arises. Like this spring when there was a blowout of Notre Dame senior and Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft prospect Niko Kavadas’ first baseman’s mitt during pregame of a game at Frank Eck stadium.

Miranda, who often took glove-related calls from Irish assistant coach Rich Wallace, got a call from the ND staff and he was off to the ballpark — about 10 miles away.

Miranda knew Kavadas from the player’s time at Penn High School and training with Mike Marks at the Hitters Edge in Sturgis, Mich., and had done a small repair on the same beloved glove.

“Niko is pretty superstitious,” says Miranda.

When Joey saw the mitt this time it had zip ties holding it together. Miranda feverishly did his thing and got it to Kavadas in the nick of time.

“I got the glove done as lineups being announced,” says Miranda.

Many folks will use bunny cords or rubber bands when breaking in a glove. Miranda discourages this because it can cause the glove to flex where the cord or band is placed. 

With his wife’s permission, he uses old dish towels and puts a ball in the glove pocket where his has been pounding it with a 5-pound weight or glove mallet.

“There’s no flex point and you’re covering a wide area,” says Miranda. “You want to make the pocket round. 

“The ball is round — not flat or taco-shaped.”

Miranda recommends catching balls off a pitching machine as part of the break-in process.

“You need to get use to the glove,” says Miranda. “A lot of it is feel.

“Also— old or new — you should be squeezing all the time.”

Many players look for the glove to do all the work.

It’s just part of fundamentals — the kind that Miranda teaches as a coach with his travel team or as an assistant to Lawrence “Buster” Hammond at South Bend Washington High School (the Panthers did not field a team this spring because of low participation numbers).

Miranda has been coaching baseball for more than two decades.

“I love coaching because it’s about the kids,” says Miranda. “You make a difference in a young man’s life.

“I’ve been clean and sober for 24 years. That’s my way of giving back.”

To contact Miranda, call 574-855-6332 or email bigheadsports28@gmail.com.

Joey Miranda (left) of Big Head Sports and Eloy Jimenez when the ballplayer was with the South Bend Cubs.
The motto of Big Head Sports — a glove care and re-lacing business owned by Joey Miranda of Osceola, Ind.

Notre Dame top seed in ACC; Indiana State No. 2 in MVC

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Notre Dame (29-10, 25-10) has earned the No. 1 seed for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament

The event is slated for May 25-30 in Greensboro, N.C.

The Irish meet No. 12 seed Virginia Tech in Tuesday’s second game. ND’s current four-game win streak includes a three game weekend sweep at Virginia Tech.

Penn High School graduate and Notre Dame first baseman Niko Kavadas heads to Carolina with 16 home runs and 49 runs batted in.

Missouri Valley Conference tournament play begins and Indiana State (27-17, 14-10) goes in as the No. 2 seed while Evansville (28-26, 11-16) is No. 7 and Valparaiso (14-33, 9-19) No. 8.

Games will be played May 25-29 at Southern Illinois-Carbondale.

The Sycamores receive a first-round bye to Day 2 while UE (vs. Illinois State) and Valpo (vs. Missouri State) play on the first day.

Indiana State overcame an 8-0 deficit to win 13-10 at Evansville Saturday to secure the No. 2 seed in the eight-team tourney behind Dallas Baptist (33-15).

Left-hander Geremy Guerrero is 9-1 with a 1.92 earned run average and catcher Max Wright has 14 homers and 37 RBIs for the Sycamores.

Ball State (34-18, 25-11) won its first two games then lost two in a Mid-American Conference series at Ohio. The Cardinals wrap the MAC season May 28-30 with four games against Miami (Ohio) in Muncie.

Nick Powell (.353) leads BSU in hitting. Right-hander John Baker (7-3, 2.45) has been the No. 1 starting pitcher.

Indiana (24-16, 24-16) has lost the first three games of its Big Ten Conference pod series, dropping two to Nebraska and one to Ohio State in Bloomington. The Hoosiers host the Buckeyes again today (May 24).

A 9-8 loss for Purdue (14-25, 14-25) at Minnesota Sunday kept the Boilermakers from a four-game sweep of the Golden Gophers. 

A three-team pod (Purdue, Penn State, Minnesota) in West Lafayette is slated for May 27-29.

The 2021 season came to a close for both Butler (14-23 overall, 8-13 in the Big East Conference) and Purdue Fort Wayne (11-35 overall and 8-28 in the Horizon League).

The five-team finals of the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament saw Transylvania emerge as champions.

Transy bested Earlham (25-20, 21-18) in the final game. Bluffton knocked out Anderson (23-19, 20-17). A loss to Anderson eliminated Franklin (25-14, 23-12).

Indiana Tech (35-27) and Indiana Wesleyan (44-14) both bowed out in NAIA Opening Round play in the Marion Bracket.

Vincennes (24-31) saw its slate finish in the junior college Mid-West Athletic Conference tournament.

Of the state’s 38 college baseball programs, eight are still playing. There’s seven in NCAA Division I and there’s one in NAIA.

Indiana University Southeast (48-14) earned its first trip to the NAIA College World Series, which is May 28-June 4 in Lewiston, Idaho.

More on the Grenadiers’ special season can be found here.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 23

NCAA Division I

Ball State 34-18 (25-11 MAC) 

Notre Dame 29-10 (25-10 ACC) 

Evansville 28-26 (11-16 MVC) 

Indiana State 27-17 (14-10 MVC) 

Indiana 24-16 (24-16 Big Ten)

Purdue 14-25 (14-25 Big Ten) 

Butler 14-23 (8-13 Big East) 

Valparaiso 14-33 (9-19 MVC) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 11-35 (8-28 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-14 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 25-20 (21-18 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Anderson 23-19 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 48-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 44-14 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Indiana Tech 35-27 (16-6 WHAC) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 24-31 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Tourney time here in NAIA, NCAA D-III; many teams close seasons

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The 2021 NAIA Opening Round baseball tournament begins Monday, May 17 and three Indiana teams will be involved.

No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan (43-12) and No. 5 Indiana Tech (31-25) are part of the five-team Marion (Ind.) Bracket at Indiana Wesleyan.

IWU, coached by Rich Benjamin, won the regular-season and tournament titles in the Crossroads League.

Indiana Tech, coached by Kip McWilliams, was the regular-season champion in the Wolverine-Hoosier Conference.

No. 2 seed Indiana University Southeast (45-14) will be one of five teams competing in the Kingsport (Tenn.) Bracket.

IU Southeast, coached by Ben Reel, was the regular season and tournament champion in the River States Conference.

The NAIA season has ended for Taylor (37-20), Saint Francis (34-22), Huntington (33-16), Indiana University-Kokomo (28-20), Marian (25-29), Indiana University South Bend (24-24), Oakland City (17-27), Bethel (15-39), Grace (12-31), Calumet of Saint Joseph (7-29) and Goshen (3-34).

The 34 wins is a single-season school record for Saint Francis and Panthers coach Dustin Butcher.

Franklin (25-12), Earlham (23-18) and Anderson ( 20-17) were among teams winning opening round series and making it to the five-team finals in the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Conference tournament.

Transylvania and Bluffton will be the other two teams. The tourney is to conclude Sunday, May 23.

The 2021 season is over for Indiana’s other D-III programs — Rose-Hulman (23-14), Hanover (20-20), Manchester (19-22), Wabash (18-15), DePauw (15-21) and Trine (6-28).

NCAA D-III teams Indianapolis (27-21), Southern Indiana (24-20) and Purdue Northwest (11-22) have also seen their slates come to a close.

Ivy Tech Northwest (31-25) lost 2-1 to Kellogg in a three-game National Junior College Athletic Association Regional in Battle Creek, Mich., and wrapped its season.

Max Flock homered three times and collected five hits and six runs batted in as Vincennes swept a doubleheader from Spoon River and made the Mid-West Athletic Conference tournament May 20-23 in Normal, Ill.

NJCAA member Ancilla (6-29) has concluded its season.

NCAA Division I Notre Dame (26-10) was idle in Atlantic Coast Conference play and yet the Irish earned the program’s first regular season title since 2006 by winning the ACC Atlantic Division.

ND has one more ACC series May 20-22 at Virginia Tech before the conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C.

Indiana (24-12, 24-12) is second in the Big Ten Conference to Nebraska (25-11, 25-11). The Hoosiers have eight more conference games remaining. There will be no Big Ten tournament.

Ball State (32-16, 23-9) holds a slight lead on Central Michigan (32-17, 23-10) at the top of the Mid-American Conference standings. 

BSU has a May 21-23 road series against Ohio and May 28-30 home series with Miami (Ohio) before the postseason.

The eight-team Missouri Valley Conference tournament is scheduled for May 25-29 in Carbondale, Ill. Right now Dallas Baptist (31-13, 16-4) and Indiana State (25-15, 12-8) are the top two seeds with Evansville (26-24, 9-14) No. 6 and Valparaiso (14-29, 9-15) No. 7.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 16

NCAA Division I

Ball State 32-16 (23-9 MAC) 

Notre Dame 26-10 (22-10 ACC) 

Indiana State 25-15 (12-8 MVC) 

Evansville 26-24 (9-14 MVC) 

Indiana 24-12 (24-12 Big Ten) 

Valparaiso 14-29 (9-15 MVC) 

Purdue 11-24 (11-24 Big Ten) 

Butler 11-22 (5-12 Big East) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 10-32 (7-25 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-12 (23-12 HCAC)

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Earlham 23-18 (21-18 HCAC)

Anderson 20-17 (20-17 HCAC)

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 45-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 43-12 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana Tech 31-25 (16-6 WHAC) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 23-29 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Ivy Tech gives Hershberger 10th postseason title; other tourneys under way

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ivy Tech Northeast (30-23) swept a National Junior College Athletic Association sub-regional series against Lakeland over the weekend.

The Great Lakes Region 12 tournament will be hosted by the highest seed.

In the second season of the program (2019), Ivy Tech went 33-14. For now, that is the school victory record.

The 2021 sub-regional win was also the 10th postseason championship of Titans boss Lance Hershberger’s college coaching career.

He had earned two NAIA independent sectionals (1996, 1998), one conference tournament title (2000), five consecutive NAIA regional crowns (1998-2002) and one NAIA super regional title (2001) at Indiana Tech prior to Saturday’s feat for Ivy Tech.

Hershberger’s 55 postseason victories is the most all-time among college baseball coaches in Indiana.

Indiana University Southeast (43-14) has made it to championship game of NAIA River States Conference tournament.

By going 3-1 Thursday through Saturday, the Grenadiers earned the right to meet Point Park Monday (May 10) for the right to move on to the NAIA Opening Round.

With a RSC tournament loss to IU Southeast, Indiana University Kokomo (28-20) saw its 2021 season come to a close. Point Park put out Oakland City (17-27).

The top six seeds — Indiana Wesleyan (41-12), Taylor (36-19), Huntington (33-14), Saint Francis (34-21), Mount Vernon Nazarene (29-18) and Marian (25-28) — are still alive in the NAIA Crossroads League tournament at IWU in Marion, Ind. 

Play began Friday and resumes Monday, May 10. The championship will be Tuesday, May 11 (Wednesday, May 12, if necessary). 

With each win, Saint Francis adds to its single-season school record for victories.

With a 10-inning Saturday loss to Saint Francis, Bethel (15-39) concluded its season.

Indiana Tech (31-25) went 1-2 in the NAIA Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament and now awaits the NAIA Opening Round pairings.

Indiana University South Bend (24-23) went 1-1 in its first two games of the NAIA Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament and was slated to play again Monday, May 10 in Joliet, Ill.

Next up for NCAA Division II Indianapolis (21-19) and Southern Indiana (22-18) is the eight-team Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament, slated for Thursday-Sunday, May 13-16 at Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo.

The first part of the two-tier NCAA Division IIII Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament has been set.

Best-of-3 series are slated for Friday-Saturday, May 14-15 with No. 10 seed Defiance (6-31) at No. 1 Transylvania (26-10), No. 9 Mount Saint Joseph (12-26) at No. 2 Franklin (23-12), No. 8 Bluffton (16-22) at No. 3 Rose-Hulman (23-12), No. 7 Manchester (19-20) at No. 4 Earlham (21-18) and No. 6 Hanover (20-18) at No. 5 Anderson (20-17).

A five-team double-elimination tournament will follow May 20-23 at the best remaining seed after Round 1.

Fifth-year senior Danny Dopp is now the career hits leader at Earlham. His 194 — reached in Saturday’s doubleheader against Manchester — surpass the 192 of Nate Lynch, who played for the Quakers 2014-17. 

DePauw (15-21) saw its season wrap Saturday in non-conference D-III play against Washington University of St. Louis.

NCAA Division I Indiana (23-10, 23-10) went 2-0 against Rutgers and 1-1 against Nebraska in Piscataway, N.J., and hold a 1/2-game lead on Michigan for the lead in the Big Ten Conference standings. IU is slated to play three at Michigan Friday-Sunday, May 14-16.

Even with a 1-2 series against Florida State, Notre Dame (25-10, 22-10) is well ahead of Louisville (26-15, 16-10) for the lead in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

By splitting a four-game series at Central Michigan, Ball State (30-14, 21-7) remains 1 game behind first-place CMU in the Mid-American Conference standings.

Indiana State (24-12, 11-5) went 3-1 in a Missouri Valley Conference series at Missouri State. The Sycamores trail MVC front-runner Dallas Baptist by 2 games.

With a win in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Youngstown State, Purdue Fort Wayne gave Mastodons head coach Doug Schreiber the 500th win of his collegiate coaching career. 

Because of health concerns within the Northwestern program, the Northwestern at Purdue series was postponed.

Purdue has worked an arrangement with Ohio State to add a Tuesday, May 11 game at Alexander Field.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 9

NCAA Division I

Ball State 30-14 (21-7 MAC) 

Notre Dame 25-10 (22-10 ACC) 

Indiana State 24-12 (11-5 MVC) 

Evansville 23-23 (6-13 MVC) 

Indiana 23-10 (23-10 Big Ten) 

Valparaiso 13-25 (8-12 MVC) 

Purdue 11-20 (11-20 Big Ten) 

Butler 10-19 (4-9 Big East) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 10-28 (7-21 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Southern Indiana 22-18 (18-14 GLVC) 

Indianapolis 21-19 (19-13 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-21 (5-18 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 23-12 (23-12 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-12 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 21-18 (21-18 HCAC) 

Anderson 20-17 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-18 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-20 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-26 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 43-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 41-12 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 36-19 (24-12 CL) 

Saint Francis 34-21 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-14 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana Tech 31-25 (16-6 WHAC) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-28 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-23 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 30-23 

Vincennes 19-27 (7-19 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

D-Bat Elkhart offers place to get better for baseball, softball players

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There’s a place to get better at baseball and softball in Elkhart, Ind.

Opened in June 2020 and located in an eastside industrial park at 4411 Wyland Drive, the 22,000-square foot facility at D-Bat Elkhart has been attracting families, individuals and teams to train.

Owners are Shelbi and Jason Baugh and Eric Miller. Shelby and Eric are siblings. 

Kaitlyn Frost became general manager in February and is in charge of daily operations. Most days she is at the front desk.

A 2008 graduate of Lakeland High School in LaGrange, Ind., Frost played three seasons at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne before serving as an assistant coach at Westview High School in Topeka, Ind., and has been a coach and director of softball for the Michiana Lady Scrappers travel organization.

The training space, which includes batting cages and areas for pitchers and full teams, has been named Francis and Nancy Taylor Fieldhouse to honor Shelbi and Eric’s grandparents.

The Baughs experienced D-Bat locations when they lived in California.

D-Bat baseball and softball academies began in Dallas in 1998 and now has around 120 franchises in the U.S. and China with about 20 more in the works. D-Bat Elkhart franchise is the company’s old one in Indiana so far.

Frost says owners have been discussing the possibility to installing a playing field — or at least a training area — next to the D-Bat Elkhart building, which also includes a room for birthday parties and other celebrations.

D-Bat Elkhart purchased the naming rights to the new turfed baseball and softball fields at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind.

Current D-Bat Elkhart instructors are Donnie Weatherholt, Jesse Zepeda, Judah Zickafoose for baseball and Heather Erlacher for softball. 

Weatherholt was an all-state player at Concord High School in Elkhart and has coached extensively at the Little League, Babe Ruth and travel levels.

Zepeda was a standout at Elkhart Central High School (he was a junior starter on the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state champions) and Bethel College (now Bethel University). He is on the Bethel coaching staff and is the founder of the Indiana Black Caps travel organization.

Zickafoose played at Westview High, Arizona Western College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University. 

Erlacher played at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and Franklin (Ind). College. She has served as pitching coach at Elkhart Central and with the Elkhart Blaze travel team.

Frost says she is looking for more instructors.

“The biggest perk for our instructors is that we make the schedules and deal with the clients,” says Frost. “They don’t have to chase the money.”

Sam Troyer, who played baseball at Northridge and at the University of Evansville, has been working part-time and training at D-Bat Elkhart before resuming his professional career with the independent Pioneer League’s Missoula (Mont.) PaddleHeads. That team also features South Bend Clay graduate and former San Francisco Giants minor leaguer Aaron Bond.

Current hours for D-Bat Elkhart is noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Frost says the facility may open at 10 a.m. weekdays when school lets out for the summer.

“What sets us apart is that we don’t require memberships (though there are nearly 300 current members),” says Frost. “We have non-member pricing. 

“Memberships are good if you can come often.”

Memberships are month to month and can be suspended and resumed.

A $38-per-month Gold package includes 15 daily batting cage tokens (about 225 pitches) with discounts on camps, clinics and the pro shop for one person.

A $58-per-month Platinum membership includes unlimited daily swings and covers the whole family. There are bigger discounts for camps and clinics etc.

Non-members may purchase 15 tokens for $25.

Free 30-minute cage rental is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

As a company policy, D-Bat does not sponsors teams in youth or adult leagues or for travel ball. 

“We’re open to all travel, high school, college and Little League (teams and players),” says Frost. Fast pitch and slow pitch softball players also train at D-Bat Elkhart.

Frost has been spreading the word about D-Bat Elkhart on social media and has reached out to nearby Riverview Park, where softball and youth baseball teams hold events.

To reach D-Bat Elkhart, call 574-500-DBAT (3228) or email info@dbatelkhart.com.

Whitehead promotes lifelong lessons with Park Tudor Panthers

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s about baseball and beyond for Courtney Whitehead as head coach at Park Tudor School on the north side of Indianapolis.

Whitehead is in his 19th season leading the Panthers program. He is also the Upper School athletic director at the private K-12 school (Grades K-5 in the Lower School, 6-8 in the Middle School and 9-12 in the Upper School – 9-12). The institution, which has about 375 in the Upper School, sports a 100 percent college placement rate.

“We’re big on education-based athletics and helping shape these young men and prepare them for their future,” says Whitehead. “It’s about having them learn lifelong lessons through baseball and what it means to be a good teammate, be focused, win and lose with grace and learn how to compete.

“Pretty soon they’ll have to compete in the game of life and it’s pretty tough out there.”

As far as the baseball part of the equation?

“We want to be fundamentally sound, have a high baseball I.Q., throw strikes (as pitchers) and make the right play,” says Whitehead. “We play fundamentally well and we execute.”

Park Tudor has 21 players in the program in 2021 and plays both a varsity and junior varsity schedule. That means players are asked to play multiple positions and many get a chance to pitch.

“Guys have to be ready for their turn in the rotation,” says Whitehead, whose Panthers compete in the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference (with Anderson Prep, Bethesda Christian, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic and University). 

The baseball-playing schools see each other once each during the season.

The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Cascade (the 2021 host), Covenant Christian, Monrovia, Speedway and University. Park Tudor has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2013. A 1A state championship was earned in 1999 (Bob Hildebrand was head coach).

Among the other teams on the PT schedule are Brebeuf Jesuit, Bishop Chatard, Crawfordsville, Knightstown, Lapel, Scecina, South Putnam, Waldron and Wapahani.

Micah Johnson, a 2009 Park Tudor graduate, was a standout at Indiana University and played in the majors for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. He is now blossoming in the art world, frequently traveling back and forth from Indy to LA.

Current Panthers senior C.J. Richmond has committed to Western Illinois University. Whitehead says he expects that underclassmen will have a chance to play college baseball.

Park Tudor plays its home games on its campus located on College Avenue — about three miles northwest of Bishop Chatard High School and three miles northeast of Butler University.

A large backstop/net system was just installed at the Panthers’ field, which typically hosts IHSAA sectional and regional tournaments but with the construction of a new wellness center those events will be hosted in 2021 by Cascade.

In a non-COVID-19 year, Park Tudor will usually field a sixth grade team and a seventh/eighth grade squad that take on area independent and public middle schools.

“This is not a normal year,” says Whitehead. “(Grades 6-8) are practicing but not competing due to the pandemic.”

Whitehead is a 1996 graduate of Crawfordsville High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge and longtime assistant Rhett Welliever and was a teammate of current Athenians head coach Brett Motz.

“My four years we won a lot of ball games,” says Whitehead. “Coach Froedge was a big fundamentals guy. We were the start of Crawfordsville being really good.

“We went 30-3 and lost to Portage in semistate my junior year. That’s when there was one class.”

A celebration honoring Froedge was postponed in 2020 and is slated for Saturday, May 15 when Park Tudor plays at Crawfordsville. Bruce Whitehead, Courtney’s father, was Athenians AD for many years.

Courtney Whitehead played three seasons of college baseball — two at Indiana University Purdue University (IUPUI) for Bret Shambaugh and one at Goshen College for Todd Bacon

Purdue University presented Whitehead with a Secondary Education degree in 2000. He earned a masters in Athletic Administration from Western Kentucky University in 2013. Whitehead is also in charge of awards for the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

As AD at Park Tudor, Whitehead oversees an athletic department that has 20 varsity teams, including baseball, boys golf, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, girls softball, girls tennis, boys track and field and girls track and field in the spring.

“I’ve got good people to help me to manage events and good set of coaches,” says Whitehead. “We communicate well.”

Whitehead began his coaching career at Lowell (Ind.) High School, assisting Kirk Kennedy in football and Mike Magley in basketball.

He was then a football assistant to Sean Tomey at Lafayette Central Catholic High School in the same school year that he helped Jamie Sailors with Harrison High School (West Lafayette) baseball.

Assisting Whitehead at Park Tudor in 2021 are Toby Rogers, Fred Pinch and Madison Foster with the varsity and Brent Smith and Lane Waters with the JV. Rogers played high school ball at Bloomington South then at IUPUI for Shambaugh. Pinch is from the Washington D.C. area. Foster, a 2012 Park Tudor graduate, played for Whitehead and was on three consecutive semistate teams before playing at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.

Brent Smith is the father of former Whitehead player Calvin Smith. Harrison graduate Waters played baseball for the Raiders then basketball at Calvin University in Michigan.

Courtney and wife Beth have two sons and a daughter — all attending Park Tudor — freshman Nolan (as in Nolan Ryan), sixth grader Camden (as in Camden Yards in Baltimore) and second grader Addison (as in Clark and Addison, site of Wrigley Field in Chicago). 

“My wife is a big sports and baseball person,” says Courtney Whitehead.

Many of Whitehead’s relatives are in the Nappanee/Bremen area.

A.J. Whitehead, who was a basketball standout at NorthWood High School in Nappanee and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., is associate director of strength and conditioning at Purdue.

Courtney Whitehead is head baseball coach and athletic director at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis.