In his last appearance of the summer, he pumped in a pitch at 100 mph.
Klein was the EIU Panthers’ Friday starter in 2020 and went 1-2 in four appearances with a 3.33 earned run average, 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in 24 1/3 innings before the season was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While university facilities were off limits, Klein and two of his three roommates stayed in Charleston, Ill., and got ready for the MLB Draft, which was shaved from 40 to five rounds this year.
Klein played catch in parking lots and open fields, threw PlyoCare Balls against park fences and used kettle bells, benches and dumb bells in the living room.
Kansas City took Klein with the 135th overall pick.
“I talked to every team,” says Klein, 20. “I could tell some were more interested than others.
“The Royals were definitely the team that communicated with me the most.”
The pitcher, who has added muscle and now packs 230 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, saves time and fuel by staying with an aunt and uncle in Fishers.
“The Royals sent a weight lifting, throwing and running schedule,” says Klein. “I blend that with what Greg’s doing.”
Klein first worked out at PRP Baseball last summer and also went there in the winter.
Klein’s natural arm slot has been close to over the top.
From there, he launches a four-seam fastball, “spike” curveball (it moves from 12-to-6 on the clock face), “gyro” slider (it has more downward and less lateral movement than some sliders) and a “circle” change-up.
In three seasons at EIU, Klein’s walks-per-nine innings went from 9.6 in 2018 to 9.9 in 2019 to 4.8 in 2020.
Why the control improvement?
“A lot of repetition and smoothing out the action,” says Klein. “I’ve been able to get a feel for what I was doing and a more efficient movement pattern with my upper and lower halves.
“Throwing more innings helped, too. I didn’t throw a whole lot in high school.”
Playing for head coach Richard Hurt, Klein was primarily a catcher until his senior year. In the second practice of his final prep season, he broke the thumb on his pitching hand and went to the outfield.
“(Anderson) was very helpful coming from pro ball,” says Klein of the former University of Illinois right-hander who pitched in the big leagues with the New York Yankees and New York Mets. “He knew what it took mentally and physically and took me from a thrower to a pitcher.”
Former catcher Godinez brought energy and also helped Klein learn about pitch sequences.
Brown was given full reign of the Panthers staff by Anderson this spring.
Klein struggled his freshmen year, starting three of 14 games and going 1-1 with a 6.62 ERA. He was used in various bullpen roles as a sophomore and went 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA.
He was the closer and Pitcher of the Year with the Lakeshore Chinooks in the summer of 2019 when he hit 100 on the gun and was told he would be a starter when he got back to EIU in the fall.
For his college career, Klein was 2-2 and struck out 62 in 42 1/3 innings.
Born in Maryville, Tenn., Will moved to Bloomington at 3. Both his parents — Bill and Brittany — are Indiana University graduates.
Will played youth baseball at Winslow and with the Unionville Arrows and then with local all-star teams before high school. During those summers, he was with the Mooresville Mafia, which changed its name the next season to Powerhouse Baseball.
At 17U, Troy Drosche was his head coach with the Indiana Bulls. At 18U, he played for the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays.
The summer between his freshman and sophomore years at EIU, Klein was with the Prospect League’s Danville (Ill.) Dans.
“I grew up loving science,” says Will, who has had both parents teach the subject. Bill Klein has taught at Jackson Creek Middle School with Brittany Klein is a Fairview Elementary. Both schools are in Bloomington.
Will is the oldest of their three children. The 6-4 Sam Klein (18) is a freshman baseball player at Ball State University. Molly (13) is an eighth grader who plays volleyball, basketball and softball.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
But all the gadgets are no good if the data they provide can’t be understood by coaches and players or used is effective ways.
With that in mind, Carlton recruited smart students to be part of the Shelbyville Sabermetrics department. So far there’s juniors Christian DeRolf and Austin Perry and senior Eric Santiago.
“We wanted to squeeze as much baseball out of our players as we possibly could,” says Carlton, a graduate of Morristown Junior/High School (2010) and the University of Indianapolis (2014) who is entering his third season at Shelbyville in 2020. “I saw a couple of college Twitter accounts where they had an analytics team or sabermetrics department.
“I’ve never heard of this done at the high school level so let’s give it a shot.”
The sabermetrics team, which was formed in September, is comprised of students near the top of their class.
“They’re real interested in the game of baseball,” says Carlton. “They may not have the ability to play but they still love the sport. This gives them a chance to help out and be part of the team. They’re just as important as my players as far as I’m concerned.”
DeRolf expresses his excitement about mining the data for information that can help his schoolmates.
“There’s such an opportunity to quantify absolutely everything,” says DeRolf, who sees himself going to college for information systems/computer science and continuing to apply his knowledge to baseball. “It’s not easy to change somebody’s behavior and see that there might be somebody better than what they’re doing.
“But there’s nothing wrong with being able to tweak things. Once they see how this helps, they tend to trust you. The trust is the hardest part to build.”
Santiago was invited to join the sabermetrics team by DeRolf. Before he goes to college to pursue a finance degree, Santiago will crunch the numbers to help the baseball team.
As the Golden Bears work out this winter, they will all be figuring out the best practices.
“It’s a learning process,” says Santiago. “Nobody’s an expert. Everybody is going to learn together.
“We’ll focus on basics and fix small things so we can go onto bigger things.”
Driveline EDGE helps with pitch design. Driveline TRAQ allows for individualized practice plans for each player (who will bring iPads to practice during the off-season to focus on their specific needs). Sensors on bar bells check to see that players are strong and moving in an explosive way.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter approach,” says Carlton. “One reason we got the 4D Motion 3D motion capturing system is slow-motion video can lie. You have clothes on. It hides things. To really be able to see the kinematic sequence for the right order of each body part firing, we had to get the sensors. I didn’t want to teach my guys something I saw on video that might actually be wrong.”
Prior to the next IHSAA Limited Contact Period (which began Dec. 9), Carlton tested the system by taking cuts himself.
“My video looked good, but when I went to the sensors my chest was actually firing before my pelvis,” says Carlton. “So I worked on changing that, where my pelvis would fire before my chest. I added 5 mph on to my bat speed just within a 20-minute session.”
Carlton, who is also the head strength and conditioning coach at Shelbyville, says there is a dynamic in athletics of “feel vs. real” and technology can help with that.
“Now, we can match the real with the feel instead of just guessing,” says Carlton. “A lot of it has been guessing up to this point.
“We can really bridge that gap.”
There’s also a learning curve for coaches.
“Technology’s just blowing up in baseball. Coaches don’t understand how to interpret. They get all these numbers. But what good do the numbers do unless you actually know how to transfer it to high school kids’ minds?
“That can be a chore.”
Carlton says the Golden Bears will be filming every single hitting, pitching and fielding rep through the iPads for analyzation.
“It’s going to be kind of weird having every single player with technology,” says Carlton “It kind of hurts me inside. I’ve still got a little bit of old school in me.
“Most of the people on my coaching staff thought I was crazy,” says Carlton. “Most of the teams we played thought I was crazy. But it 100 percent worked for us. Most high school hitters kind of struggle to hit the outside pitches and we’d groove them pitch inside and they’d pull it right into our shift.
“I don’t have any flame throwers. No one who throws over 85 (mph). We had to be really crafty, do the shifts and pitch locations really worked.
“Some didn’t like it, but you’ve got to win.”
Maverick Alexander, one of Carlton’s assistant coaches, does a lot of digging in places like GameChanger and uses historical data against an opponent to put together spray charts to be employed in shifting game plans.
“He puts together a probability packet for us that we go off from batter to batter,” says Carlton, who also counts Mike Jackson, Chase McColley, Jacob Shively and Nate Stonebraker among his assistants. “I think we only got burnt twice all season by shifting and we probably shifted at least 50 percent of the time.
“(My assistants) are all smart. They see what the pro level is doing. We’re at the high school level, but there are still applications we can take. The pros wouldn’t do it if it didn’t win games for them. It’s a money game up there.”
Alexander’s day job is making maps for the State of Indiana. He uses his skills with Excel, Word and data analysis gathered in 2018 and 2019 to produce reports on Shelbyville opponents.
“We hope to be here a long time. It can be a long-term plan,” says Alexander. “If we see a player as a freshman, by the time they are juniors or seniors we’ll be able to see those trends more clearly.”
If possible, players go over Alexander’s pamphlet in practice the day before a game to learn about opponent tendencies and then can go to it during the contest.
“It’s definitely important for pitchers and catchersto know game plan for each inning,” says Alexander.
Carlton has enjoyed watching the way the athletes have taken to the approach.
“It’s neat,” says Carlton. “The players buy into it. They make it their own.”
“We do a lot of the (Driveline) command ball stuff — the oversized and undersized balls and weighted balls.”
Since Carlton arrived (he was formerly head baseball coach at Morristown and Attica), two teams — varsity and junior varsity — have been representing the school with 26 to 28 total players.
Blending the new with the old, Carlton also has plans to honor Shelbyville’s baseball past this spring when his team takes the field in throwback jerseys and limited edition hats from a time when the school’s mascot was the Camels.
“I’m trying to find some neat things to do during the spring to get some people out to enjoy the game and teach the guys a little about the history of baseball,” says Carlton, who has consulted with former Shelbyville head coach and history buff Scott Hughes, old school yearbooks and the local historical society. “Back when the game was super-pure.”
Royce Carlton is entering his third season as head baseball coach at Shelbyville (Ind.) High School in 2020.
Phil Webster is proud to call himself a professional educator. A former law education teacher at Decatur Central High School on the southwest side of Indianapolis, he left the high school classroom in 2016 after more than five decades.
His baseball coaching career continues.
Following a few seasons as an assistant, he is the man in charge once again.
“I enjoy being a head coach,” says Webster. “It allows me to be able to keep teaching the game. It was great coaching with my son. Todd gave me a great opportunity.
“Now, I get to be the guy in-charge.”
Webster ran the show at Decatur Central for 27 seasons, finishing his run in 2011. His Hawks went 558-254 with seven Marion County, 11 conference, 11 sectional, two regional and one semistate title to go with the 2008 IHSAA Class 4A state championship. Decatur bested Homestead 7-3 in that game.
Two of Webster’s former players — Jeff Scott (Brebeuf Jesuit) and Jason Combs (Decatur Central) — are now high school baseball coaches in Indiana.
Prep coaching stops have also come at Plainfield and North Salem. He’s also helped son Todd coach the Pony Express in travel ball.
Webster, who resides in Decatur Township, has been conducting fall workouts at Southport.
“We out here to get ourselves a little better,” says Webster. “I like this team. They’re learners. It’s fun when you’re a coach and educator when you’ve got players that want to learn.
“I look forward to every practice and workout.”
A new IHSAA rule allows coaches to work with an unlimited number of players for two hours two days a week. The access window will close Oct. 12 and open up again the first week of December.
“I don’t like it,” says Webster of a rule he sees as limiting. “If the coach is willing to take the time and if you want to play the game, you’re restricting their ability to grow.
“We we never tell kids to stop studying chemistry or math. But we tell them to stop studying (or practicing) baseball.
Webster points out that players who have the resources can go to the professional instructor, but are not allowed get free instruction from their high school coach during the blackout period.
“The rule is what it is and I’ll respect it,” says Webster. “But we’re holding them back.
“From Oct. 12 to Dec. 3, you can’t do anything (with players as an Indiana high school coach). Why?. What’s the rationale?. I guess the reason must be we don’t want to burn (players) out. (Rule makers) need to trust us a little more. We’re not out there to hurt kids. We’re out there to make them a little better.”
The University of Louisville commit earned an invitation to a USA Baseball event this summer in Cary, N.C., and was placed in the Trials roster.
During tryouts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in mid-November, a roster of 26 will be cut to 20 on Nov. 20 and go through a series of workouts and exhibition games before playing in the COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships Nov. 23-Dec. 2 in Panama City, Panama.
Short, an alumnus of Southport Little League, has been clocked at 92 mph with his four-seam fastball and also possesses a two-seam fastball, curveball, slider and “circle” change-up.
He is excited to have Webster leading the SHS program.
“I’m looking forward to working with him for my pitching ability and learning the game since he’s been around it so long,” says Short.
At 76, Webster has assembled a seasoned coaching staff. Mike Chapman was with him for 20 years and Steve Krizmanich (his statistician) 27 at Decatur Central.
“We’re the grey-haired guys,” says Webster. “We may be the oldest staff in the state.”
Dave Chamberlain rounds out the varsity crew. Ken Slaughter and Wendell Slaughter will run the junior varsity. Freshmen coaches have yet to be hired.
In an effort to bring the Southport baseball community together, Webster will keep communication open with coaches, players and parents at the Southport, Edgewood and Indiana Central youth leagues as well as Southport Middle School.
Knowing how important it is to have parent involvement, he is meeting with those who have players in high school and middle school.
“I’d say 90 to 95 percent of parents are very cooperative,” says Webster. “They’re helpful and supportive. The ones who are hostile are very rare.”
Webster has seen a direct correlation over the years to championship teams that have strong parent groups with happy coaches and players.
Noting that high school baseball is played during the “dog days” at the end of the school year, teams must contend with many obstacles.
“At the beginning of the year, you have no demerits and everyone is fresh. Then here comes baseball and the cold weather. It’s a battle. There’s no question about that.”
That’s why Webster appreciates backing from the administration. At Southport that includes Pete Hubert.
“I’ve never had a more cooperative and supportive athletic director,” says Webster of Hubert.
Born six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor — Dec 1, 1941 — Webster grew up in the in the borough of Forest Hills just outside Pittsburgh, Pa.
To this day, he is a diehard rooter for Steel City teams — the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.
“I bleed black and gold,” says Webster, who stayed with that color scheme when he picked up his masters degree at Purdue University.
Webster graduated from the now-defunct Wilkinsburg High School and pitched at Milligan College in Tennessee. He wound up in Indiana in the mid-1960s and has been here ever since.
Phil Webster, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer who led Decatur Central to an IHSAA Class 4A state championship in 2008, is now head baseball coach at Southport High School in Indianapolis.
Eric McGaha wants a team that will keep moving on the baseball field will act right on it and off.
“We put a lot of guys in motion,” McGaha, who has been the head coach at Mooresville High School in Morgan County every year but two since 2002. “We’ve got more than 100 stolen bases. Our steal steal percentage a little over 90 percent.”
“I want my team to be athletic and run,” says McGaha. “That’s the first thing we do.
“I can’t watch Major League Baseball now. It’s either an extra-base hit or a strikeout. It boggles my mind. What about drag bunting, push bunting or fake bunt and slash?”
McGaha will look at a player’s batting average, but he’s really concerned with things like on-base percentage and hitting the ball hard.
“We use a Quality At-Bat chart and that’s the deciding factor on how we evaluate players from an offensive standpoint,” says McGaha. “We reward a ’sting’ hit or a ‘sting’ out.”
A player with a QAB rating of 2 is average, 3 above average and 4 outstanding.
“We have several players above 4,” says McGaha. “Off the field, it’s about being the best human being and teammate you can be. We’re here to mold young men into adults. They have be able to handle failure and success with grace and dignity.
“You want to surround yourself with kids are willing to work hard and pay the price. They buy into what you’re selling 100 percent. Those are the kids you want.”
Among the Pioneers’ 2018 non-conference opponents are Avon, Beech Grove, Bloomington North, Cascade, Covenant Christian, Eastern Hancock, Edinburgh, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis North Central, Lebanon, Monrovia, Mount Vernon (Fortville), Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Tri-West Hendricks. Mooresville beat Eastern Hancock and lost to North Central Saturday, May 12 in Pioneers’ own John B. Howden Memorial Tournament.
“There’s no break in our schedule,” says McGaha. “All the teams we play are really respectable.
“We try to play as many quality teams as we can and try to prepare for the sectional.”
Pioneers senior shortstop Tanner Haston has committed to Purdue University.
McGaha’s coaching staff features Kyle Davis (who played for McGaha), Joe Coughlan and David Rose (brother of Pete Rose) with the varsity, Toby Hennessy with the junior varsity and Dylan Johnson with the freshmen.
“It starts with good people,” says McGaha. “You surround yourself with good people that are pointed in the same direction. Those coaches are the voices of you. Make sure they’re following your philosophy.”
The program is fed by various travel programs plus the Mooresville Junior Baseball League, which serviced more than 500 kids in 2017.
With multiple teams and no room to expand, the school board voted to turf the entire baseball and softball fields at Mooresville. This spring marks the second season.
“I’d been asking for about a half dozen years,” says McGaha of his request to the school board. “They were very gracious.
“We are blessed and fortunate to have such a nice facility and we don’t every take it for granted.”
In addition, metal spikes, sunflower seeds and chewing gum are all forbidden.
McGaha says the most expense in a turf field comes not from the turf but the drainage system.
“When it rains at our place, within 10 minutes it’s dry and you’re ready to go,” says McGaha.
The coach wants all his players ready to go and that includes seniors.
McGaha says only people who have coached a high school sport in the spring — like baseball — knows the challenges that accompany it.
Besides the diamond, players heads are filled with thoughts of spring break, prom, graduation, open houses and summer jobs. Many times, sectional games are played with players who are already out of the school building.
“Are they with you or have they mentally already checked out?,” says McGaha. “Unless you’ve experienced that you have no idea what it’s like. There are all these balls in the air and it’s a distraction.
“We try to play our best baseball at the end of the year. There have been years we haven’t done that. How committed are your seniors? We always say we have to have guys with two feet in. When a baseball player has senioritis it can kill the chemistry of a ball club.”
McGaha played one season at Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, Ind., then transferred to Purdue University North Central (now Purdue Northwest) in Westville, Ind.
“I knew I wanted to coach,” says McGaha, who was a relief pitcher who got a chance to lead and be a role model for coach Larry Blake. He earned his degree and began teaching and coaching in Mooresville around 2000.
Eric and Jan McGaha have been married close to 21 years and have three children — Brenna (13), Hanna (11) and Brody (9).
When Brody was very young, Jan went through a bout with cancer. She had her thyroid removed and went through radiation treatment.
“Thank the good Lord,” says Eric. “She’s been cancer free — knock on wood — for quite awhile.”
Eric McGaha and wife Jan gather with their children (from left) Brenna, Brody and Hanna. Eric is the head baseball coach at Mooresville High School.
Fougerousse, a 1991 Shakamak High School graduate, played three seasons for Herschel Allen and one for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chip Sweet and gathered coaching wisdom from both men.
“They taught me a lot about how to run a program the right way,” says Fougerousse. “You keep things as simple as possible. You’re dealing with high school kids.
“We like laughing a little bit. We’re not not trying to be serious all the time. We tell them to go out there and have fun like you did in Little League.
“You try to make it as fun as you can for them and put the best schedule together you can.”
Linton, located in Greene County, has won nine sectional titles. Five of those have come with Fougerousse in charge — 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The Miners, which went 22-9 in 2017 helped by all-state honorable mention selection Logan Hollingsworth (now a pitcher at Vincennes University), have not yet reigned at the regional level.
“Some point to winning 20 games. I’d like to win the (Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference), but I’m not concerned with rankings or records,” says Fougerousse. “We play the schedule that will help us in the state tournament. I look at the regular season like spring training.
“It’s paid big dividends at Linton.”
Fougerousse says the up side of rankings is the recognition it brings to his players and that it ups the level of the competition day in and day out, trying to beat his squad.
“But there are only two rankings that really matter,” says Fougerousse. “A north team and a south team will be clashing for the state championship.
“Everyone’s goal every year is to end at Victory Field (in Indianapolis) with a state championship.”
Linton-Stockton belongs to the SWIAC along with 2A’s Eastern Greene and 1A’s Bloomfield, Clay City, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley.
“I like to play as many teams as I can, maybe 20 different teams — quality teams with different pitchers,” says Fougerousse, who works with Miners athletic director Charles Karazsia.
In besting visiting North Central 12-0 in five innings Wednesday, April 11, Linton spread the offensive wealth among junior Tucker Hayes (home run, double, single, four runs batted in), senior Noah Woodward (two singles, two RBI), senior Dreyden Ward (double, single, RBI), junior Dane Witty (double, single), sophomore Kip Fougerousse (two singles, RBI) and freshman Josh Pyne (single). Pyne also pitched a no-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Fougerousse and Pyne have already verbally committed to play baseball at Indiana University.
SWIAC teams play one another once during the season. When possible, Fougerousse tries to schedule those games early.
This year, Linton is in a sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, South Knox and Southridge.
Led by Fougerousse and assistants Travis Hayes, Darren Woodward and Jared Pyne, there are currently 21 players in the Miners program, playing varsity and junior varsity schedules.
There is also a junior high program that is not directly affiliated with the school system but does use Linton facilities. That serves as a feeder system to the high school as does Linton Boys Baseball League, American Legion programs in Greene and Sullivan counties and various travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls.
Fougerousse went to the University of Southern Indiana and began coaching at the Babe Ruth level in the summer. He changed his major at USI from accounting to education for the opportunity to become a high school coach.
After graduating college in 1996, Fougerouse went to work at Shakamak where he teaches elementary physical education as well as junior high and high school health. He served 10 years on Sweet’s Shakamak coaching staff then succeeded Sweet when he stepped away from leadership of the program.
He left Shakamak to coach son Kip’s travel team (Sandlot) and then was coaxed back to the high school dugout at Linton, beginning with the 2011 season.
“I wasn’t looking to get back into head coaching at the time,” says Fougerousse. “But the previous coach — Bart Berns — had the program going in the right direction.
“I wanted to see that continue.”
Berns won a sectional in his final season and drummed up the community support to build a training facility next to Roy Herndon Field that the Miners can use year-round.
The Fougerousse family — Matt, Jill, Libbi and Kip — live in Linton. Jill Fougerousse was in the first graduating class at White River Valley. Libbi Fougerousse is a sophomore at Indiana State University.
Outside the high school season, Kip Fougerousse is in his fourth year with the Indiana Prospects organization.
“I like travel baseball,” says Matt Fougerousse. “You get to see different competition and make lifelong friends.”
Herndon played minor league baseball in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was the property of the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves and Washington Senators. He later helped start Little League baseball in Linton in 1956 and was a big part of local Babe Ruth, high school and American Legion baseball.
Oliphant, great grandfather to Kip Fougerousse, coached Linton to three basketball sectional and the school’s first baseball sectional crown in 1967.
Fields helped revive the community’s Babe Ruth and American Legion programs.
Wall was instrumental in improvements to Roy Herndon Field.
The ’67 Miners went 13-3 and topped Worthington, Shakamak and Bloomfield on the way to sectional hardware.
One of the many lessons a son has learned from his father is that of lifelong learning.
With more than 40 years as a business teacher at Edgewood High School in the Monroe County town of Ellettsville and upwards of 30 as head baseball coach, Bob Jones can draw on a deep well of knowledge.
Jones, who recently turned 66, has plenty of know-how. But the former student at Central Catholic High School in Vincennes (now Vincennes Rivet), Vincennes University and Indiana State University is not content with that wisdom alone.
He employs the same approach as an educator. To prepare for his personal finance and introduction to business classes, Bob takes his text book home every night and reads it over so he will know the subject when addressing students the next day.
“He’s definitely not going to settle for complacency,” says Sam Jones, a 2006 Edgewood baseball alum and himself a seven grade social studies teacher at Cloverdale. “And he’s always evolving with the game (of baseball).”
Bob Jones and his staff, which also includes Tom Anderson (pitching coach), Eli Mathers (strength coach), Mac Kido, Austin Chapman, John Cage, Kyle May (junior varsity), John Justis (junior varsity) view their baseball program as what Sam Jones calls “a living and breathing thing” that changes with the times.
When he saw the benefits, Bob Jones started having his players lift weights daily — even game days.
“We live and die by the weight room,” says Sam Jones.
When Jaeger Sports bands came along with J-Bands for arm care, Edgewood began using them.
With all the private lessons and travel organizations now available, the Edgewood staff knows today’s players are pretty smart.
“They can feel and understand what their body is telling them and make some adjustments,” says Sam Jones. “The last eight or 10 years, dad has also had a lot of success reaching to to (students at nearby Indiana University) who want to stay connected to the game.”
Those IU students come and work with the Mustangs on the diamond and influence them beyond it. Many have gone on to become business professionals.
“They give vision for these kids,” says Sam Jones. “They know what’s possible if they apply themselves.”
Bob Jones has led Edgewood to sectional baseball championships nine times (1987, 1991, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and regional titles twice (2007 and 2011), all the while giving plenty of responsibility to his assistants.
“He empowers them to make decisions,” says Sam Jones. “We believe in building a tribe.”
Two years ago, Bob Jones was struck on the leg by a foul ball and a hematoma caused him to miss three weeks of baseball.
His assistants rallied in his absence and the Mustangs did not miss a beat.
Edgewood, an IHSAA Class 3A school with around 800 students, typically fields three teams. Last spring, there was a varsity and two JV teams.
Sam Jones says that is likely to be the case again in 2018.
“The new pitch count has forced us to spread out our games a little more,” says Sam Jones, who lays out the JV schedules, making sure to get a balance of 4A schools like Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo in with 1A and 2A competition. “We’re giving our freshman to compete against bigger and better competition right off the bat. We also do not wanted them to overwhelmed with teams that are above and beyond their skill set.”
The pitch count at levels below varsity is tighter than in is for varsity (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). There was discussion at the IHSBCA State Clinic of making one standard for all since many schools will use pitchers for varsity and JV games — sometimes in the same week.
Edgewood is a member of the Western Indiana Conference and is part of the East Division along with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Indian Creek and Owen Valley. The West features Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo.
Each team plays home-and-home division series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with only the first game counting in the WIC standings. There are crossover games at the end of the season — East No. 1 plays West No. 1 and so on.
Bob Jones wants to see all sectional opponents during the regular season so Edgewood has Brown County, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo on its schedule.
The Mustangs plays home games on Ermil Clark Field, which is located between the high school and junior high buildings.
Celebrating an occasion together (from left): Sam Jones, Bob Jones, Jade Jones and Cris Jones. Bob is a longtime teacher and head baseball coach at Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind. Sam, a 2006 Edgewood graduate, is one of his assistants.
It’s be said that people are the sum of their added experiences and influences.
Phil Kluesner picked up some things from his high school coach and others from his college coach and others along the way and it has brought him to where he is — heading into his 10th season as head baseball coach at his alma mater, Bloomington High School South.
Listing the qualities instilled by Goedde, Kluesner lists intensity, work ethic and competitive drive.
“We had a lot of talent on that team,” says Kluesner, who was with the baseball team for two years. He would earn a mass communications degree from USI and a secondary education degree from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Kluesner’s first coaching go-round came in Babe Ruth League baseball in Bloomington.
“I really liked it,” says Kluesner. “Rex Grossman was on my team. He was a phenomenal baseball player. He was just a better football player.”
Grossman would later be Indiana’s Mr. Football and quarterback at the University of Florida and in the National Football League.
After Kluesner’s stint as a South assistant, he served two seasons as a Shelbyville High School assistant to Mike Hobbs and Scott Hughes and then was head coach at Columbus North High School 2003-08 before coming back to wear the purple and white.
Kluesner coached a travel team made up mostly of South players known as the Bloomington Wizards and is considering bringing it back just to keep his players together.
“We’ve got some pretty good young talent coming through,” says Kluesner. “Travel teams are like mushrooms when you get too much rain. So many of them pop up. It’s almost overwhelming.
“The big thing I’ve noticed chemistry is difficult with them playing all over the place. They don’t know each other. It makes it difficult with our high school team. Chemistry is the thing teams are lacking. It’s become highly individualistic. It’s a team sport.”
With control of his own high school players, Kluesner will have a say in development.
“In the summer, it’s about showcasing yourself,” says Kluesner. “You get your hacks and sit down. I’m not going to discourage all kids from doing that. Some need (higher-profile travel baseball). But we could offer that with our Wizards and do it for less money. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just my opinion.”
Kluesner has produced Class 4A sectional championship teams in 2010, 2015 and 2016 and sent a number of players on to NCAA Division I college baseball.
Alex Franklin (Class of 2018) made a verbal commit to Indiana as a sophomore and signed in early November.
Franklin has been a shortstop and a center fielder. With his BHSS head coach valuing versatility, he’s also in the pitching mix.
“The more pitchers the better,” says Kluesner. “I don’t have a lot of pitcher-onlys.”
While on the subject of pitching, what about the 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?
“I’m a pitching guy and I think it’s too lenient,” says Kluesner. “The pitch count should be a little more stringent. I’ve never pitched a guy 120 pitches in my life. We try to set our schedules week to week basis. My big arm will only throw once a week.”
It’s all about a lack of effectiveness.
“We need to teach kids to be efficient and not be so erratic,” says Kluesner, who has had hurlers throw complete games in 70 or fewer tosses. That’s the reason they pitch so many pitches.
“Kids are out of control. They’re over throwing. There’s so much emphasis on velocity nowadays. Kids can be effective if they’re competitive.”
Catchers are expected to rely on their own knowledge to help guide the pitcher.
“I’m big on teaching kids to call their own game behind the plate,” says Kluesner. “You know they get it when they cut you off and say, “I know, Coach. I know what to call.’
“Catchers are better ballplayers if they learn.”
Besides letting the players take ownership of the game, there’s a third dimension by being behind the dish that coaches don’t see clearly from the dugout. Catchers know if the pitch is in or out, up or down and can adjust the pitch selection accordingly.
Another teaching point for all players is not to argue with or complain to the umpire.
“It’s their job to adapt to the umpire,” says Kluesner. “They’re all different.”
Kluesner’s assistants for 2018 are Trevor McConnell (varsity), Eric Dodds (varsity), Mike Vaughn (junior varsity), A.J. Hartman (JV and freshmen) and Kevin Gross (freshmen).
South typically keeps 45 to 50 players for its three teams.
“We always seem to have some large freshmen classes,” says Kluesner. “The year we went to semistate (2015), we had 11 seniors. On average, we have six or seven.
“It’s hard to keep all those kids anymore,” says Kluesner. “The mentality has changed. It’s hard to teach them roles. Everyone wants to be the star.”
Kluesner says the ideal number of players for a single week-night game is around 14 or 15. That way he can get his bench players into the game as courtesy/pinch runners, defensive replacements, pinch-hitters or relief pitchers.
The varsity roster might swell near 20 for the weekend doubleheader as Kluesner and his assistants bring JV players to reward them for their performance.
The Panthers belong to Conference Indiana (along with Bloomington North, Columbus North, Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
Panthers home games are played at Groh Memorial Field, which dates back to 1965.
“It’s the original field,” says Kluesner, referring to the split of Bloomington High School into South and North for the 1972-73 school year. “It’s hollowed ground to us.
“When you think you’re playing the same place as thousands of other players, it gives you goosebumps. I make sure the players know that and respect that.”
Kluesner is expecting a major overhaul of the facility soon and South could welcome lights for the 2018 season.
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 wear my emotions on my sleeve,” says Kraemer, a 1986 graduate who is in his 23rd season as Braves head coach. “I learned at a very young age (from a youth coach named Mike Kennedy): ‘When I tell you something, don’t take it personally.’ When I stop talking to you, I don’t care about you and when I don’t care about you, you’re not at a very good place in the program.
“There are kids you can get on and they can take it. There are kids you can get on and they can’t take it, but they learn quickly by watching how others act and respond to what’s going on.”
Kraemer played at South for Ken Martin, learned more about the game while at Purdue University from head coach and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Alexander and pitching coach Steve Green (Kraemer was a Boilermaker team captain and bashed a team-high 10 home runs in 1990), served one season as an assistant at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, returned to Terre Haute as a volunteer assistant to Martin (1993 and 1994) and took over as head coach for the 1995 season.
As a football coach, Kraemer was on the Braves staff from 2007-15. Former South baseball player Mark Raetz was head gridiron coach 2007-12.
The Kraemer-led baseball Braves have won nine sectional titles and four regional crowns — the last of each coming in 2011.
Since his second season as head coach, Kraemer has been assisted by 1981 South graduate and U.S. Marines veteran Brian Pickens.
Kraemer and Pickens share hitting coach duties.
A.J. Reed, who made his Major League Baseball debut with the Houston Astros in 2016 and is currently at Triple-A Fresno, socked 41 homers and drove in 150 runs during his South career, which concluded in 2011. The next year, the bats were changed and it made it harder for teams to score runs with extra-base hits.
“He was a quiet kid,” says Kraemer, who also saw Reed go 26-10 with 390 strikeouts in 260 innings and a 1.88 earned run average on the mound for the Braves (he once threw 143 pitches in a 10-inning semistate outing). “He had the most natural ability I’ve ever seen.”
Another of Kraemer’s top products is Matt Samuels, who pitched at the University of Tennesee and Indiana State University and briefly in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Kyle’s son, Koby, played for him and at ISU and in the Toronto Blue Jays system.
With less-explosive bats a few years ago, Kraemer and Pickens began to change the way they teach hitting.
“Small ball became more important,” says Kraemer. “The bats we use are just dead.”
To generate more power in the hips — not necessarily via home runs — hitters are loading up by raising their knee and creating some momentum in the lower half of the swing and uncoiling to drive the baseball.
All but one of seven 2017 Braves coaches are South graduates. Besides Kraemer and Pickens, there’s Chad Chrisman (23rd year and charged with infield positioning) and three who played for Kraemer — Daniel Tanoos, Scott Flack and T.C. Clary. Pitching coach Adam Lindsay is a graduate of West Vigo High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Steve DeGroote.
Todd Miles is a former longtime South coach. After returning from the Indiana State Police, Miles (who played on ISU’s College World Series team in 1986) took a job at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute that does not allow him the time to coach with the Braves.
The new pitch count rules adopted by the IHSAA (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) “forced us to cut back on one (JV) team because we’ve had to limit pitches and we’re short on pitchers.”
“Personally, I don’t think (the pitch count rule) was needed,” says Kraemer. “Most (coaches) did it right.”
As of May 18, none of Kraemer’s moundsmen had thrown more than 103 pitches in a game.
Conference Indiana, which South joined in 2013 after holding membership in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, tends to play league doubleheaders on Saturdays (against Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North, Franklin Central, Perry Meridian and Southport). Braves starters generally work once a week.
“If you use common sense, you’re OK,” says Kraemer. “It will be interesting to get feedback from smaller schools, where can walk and chew gum, they’re going to be a pitcher until they prove they’re not.”
Baseball players learn the game in Cal Ripken Leagues at Riley and Terre Town, Little Leagues at Terre Haute North and West Terre Haute and through various travel baseball organization, including Junior Rex, Indiana Havoc, Redbirds, Junior Sycamores and Mad Dogs plus senior and junior American Legion teams for Wayne Newton Post 346. That program was ran by John Hayes for years and is now headed by his brother Tim.
“Travel ball has really taken off,” says Kraemer. “You might as well embrace it. It’s here to stay. (Post 346) now has more of a travel feel (playing in tournaments with travel ball teams).”
Kyle Kraemer is in his 23rd season as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Terre Haute South Vigo High School. (TH South Photo)