Jim Brownlee built a long, successful baseball coaching career on the principles of fundamentals and discipline. Now 76, retired and living with wife of 51 years — Candy — in Gulf Breeze in the Florida Panhandle (the couple moved there in April 2021), Brownlee can look back on a run that includes 23 seasons as head coach at the University of Evansville (1980-2002), seven seasons at Illinois State University (2003-09) and one season as University of Iowa pitching coach (2013). He was also a longtime basketball official. “I learned the game of baseball from my college baseball coach Duffy Bass,” says Brownlee of the former Illinois State University head coach and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He was about as good at fundamentals of anybody I’ve been around — whether it was catching, hitting, bunting or pitching. I kind of patterned myself after him.” A 1963 graduate of Antioch (Ill.) Community High School, Brownlee played for Bass at Illinois State from 1967-70 and was a teammate of future major league pitcher Buzz Capra. The 1969 Collegiate Division National champions went 33-5 and ran the table in the postseason. “I learned the running game at a very young age,” says Brownlee. “We were very aggressive at Evansville. One year we had 202 stolen bases. “I had lesser talent at Evansville. We didn’t have the full amount of scholarships. We had guys we thought would get better and they did. We had guys never drafted out of high school that were drafted out of college. “I think college baseball has always been that way. (Development’s) at an all-time high. But we’re still behind the 8-ball with scholarships and dates. It used to be we had 120 games between fall and spring (at the NCAA D-I level and now it’s 56 games in the spring with 11.7 scholarships for a roster of 35). “College baseball keeps growing. It’s become a money-maker.” That money is bound to go even higher if the season was moved into the warmer months. Says Brownlee, “40 years ago I proposed we play in the summer.” Brownlee was “hard-nosed” as a coach. “Discipline is important to me as a retired Marine,” says Brownlee. After his playing days ended and having served a stint with the U.S. Marines, Brownlee became an assistant baseball coach at Illinois State (1975-76) and was as head coach for the Galesburg Pioneers in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (which later merged with the Prospect League), where he encountered Bloomington Bobcats pitcher Tim Stoddard. The 6-foot-7 right-hander from East Chicago, Ind., was on his way to an MLB career and is now an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. Before UE, Brownlee coached at Princeton (Ill.) High School (1976-79). As Evansville coach, Brownlee won 701 games with four 40-win seasons and seven conference coach of the year honors. Among his players were future big leaguers Sal Fasano, Andy Benes and Jamey Carroll and Purple Aces head coach Wes Carroll. Benes and the Carroll brothers are Pocket City natives. The Purple Aces have retired Brownlee’s No. 6 and Benes’ No. 30. Brownlee has been inducted into the Illinois State University Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the Redbirds’ ’69 national champions, the University of Evansville Athletics Hall of Fame, the Lake County (Ill.) High Schools Sports Hall of Fame, the Bloomington-Normal Officials Association Wayne Meece Hall of Fame and is slated to go into the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame in Evansville in May. A founding member of the Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League, that group will honor Brownlee with its Legends Award Jan. 15. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League supports amateur athletics around the Evansville area. It started as an effort to save Bosse Field, which was established in 1915 and for years was the home to high school baseball and football, American Legion baseball and the Triple-A Evansville Triplets before affiliated pro ball left town. The stadium, which now houses the independent pro Evansville Otters and was host to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 2021, looked to be condemned and torn down back in the ‘80s. That’s when Brownlee — who had his UE teams playing home games there at the time — got together with former minor league relief pitcher and manager “Singin’ Ed” Nottle and Evansville Central High School coach Paul Gries and brought in folks like Indiana, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Rex Mundi High School graduate Bob Griese, former MLB all-star and Evansville Memorial alum Don Mattingly and former big league pitcher and Evansville Central High grad Benes to help raise funds. Since then, not only has Bosse Field been saved but local high school and college fields have been upgraded. “It’s about facilities and making it better and showing it’s an important sport,” says Brownlee. UE now plays on turf at German American Bank at Charles H. Braun Stadium. “It was a labor of love for all of us,” says Brownlee. “I’m really proud of what we’ve built with the baseball community there.” Brownlee had both his sons — Tim and Ryan — as UE players and then coached with both of them. Tim Brownlee was also on the Illinois State staff and employed his father for a decade with his Normal, Ill.-based baseball tournament company — Diamond Sports Promotions. Between Evansville and ISU, Tim assisted his father for 17 seasons. Ryan Brownlee was an assistant at Evansville (1998-99), James Madison University (2000-03) and Iowa (2004-12) and head coach at Western Illinois University (2013-19) and is now Assistant Executive Director and weekly podcast host for the Greensboro, N.C.- based ABCA. The ABCA Convention is Jan. 6-9 in Chicago. He plans to appear at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 14-16 in Indianapolis. Jamey Carroll is to go into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame Jan. 15.
Braden Scott enjoyed the best outing of his young professional baseball pitching career in his most-recent start for the Evansville (Ind.) Otters. On July 24 at Gateway, the left-hander went 7 2/3 shutout innings, fanning seven, walking two and giving up three hits in 29 batters faced and was selected as independent Frontier League Pitcher of the Week. Through six starts and 34 innings, Scott is 3-2 with a 2.91 earned run average. “It’s been a really good experience,” says Scott, who finished his collegiate career in the spring at Indiana University. Scott signed with the Otters on June 21. In his first appearance June 24 at Joliet, he tossed seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and two walks. He faced 26 batters and gave up two hits. Scott, 23, moved to 2-0 as he won again on July 1 in the first game of a home doubleheader against against Florence. He fanned five and walked one while yielding six hits in the game’s first six innings. He faced 23 hitters. On July 6, Scott (2-1) took the loss in a game at historic Bosse Field against Joliet. He pitched six innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. He allowed six hits and four runs in 24 batters faced. Scott went just four innings and took the loss in the second game of a July 11 doubleheader against visiting Schaumburg. He struck out four, walked one and gave up six runs and seven hits while facing 21 batters. In a no-decision July 17 against visiting Southern Illinois, Scott hurled 3 1/3 innings with two strikeouts, five walks and gave up three hits and one run in facing 18 batters. Scott’s first pro team is guided by Andy McCauley, who recorded his 1,000th career managerial victory July 2 at Gateway. “He’s been around the game a long time and he knows what he’s doing,” says Scott of McCauley. “I like the way he treats us — like professionals. “You come in and get your stuff done.” Evansville pitching coach Max Peterson has also aided the 6-foot-3, 215-pound southpaw with approach and execution. “He’s helped me mentally on the mound and with how I have to carry myself,” says Scott. “I’ve thrown a cutter for two years, but I never threw it consistently. “Now it’s a big go-to pitch. I’m able to use it for my game now.” When thrown correctly, the cutter has more horizontal than vertical break and goes into a right-handed batter and away from a lefty. Throwing from the left side has always been an advantage for Scott. “I’ve never thrown a ball that’s been exactly straight,” says Scott. “I’ve been able to miss a lot of barrels and not give up a lot of hard hits.” Scott has five pitches — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, change-up and cutter. His four-seam sits at 88 to 90 mph. The slider is more a hybrid between a slider and curve. “In my last start I was almost solely throwing fastballs and sliders,” says Scott. “I threw maybe four cutters.” Scott employs a “circle” change. As part of the Otters’ five-man starting rotation, Scott competes every fifth or sixth day. His next start is scheduled Friday, July 30 against Southern Illinois at Bosse Field. On the day after a start, Scott does some throwing and gets in an aggressive cardio session to get the blood flow going. He is also charting that night’s pitchers. He throws a bullpen two days before his next start. A day before a start, the lefty gets in a workout with movement and stretching and some light long toss — maybe 150 feet. He then sits in the bullpen and watches how pitchers attack hitters and looks for batter tendencies. A 2016 graduate of Shakamak Junior-Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind., Scott played two seasons at Olney (Ill.) Central College (2017-18) and three at Indiana (2019-21). Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chip Sweet and Todd Gambill were his head coaches at Shakamak. Scott was on varsity for three years. “He was awesome,” says Scott of Sweet. “I grew up with his daughter (Mariah). We won (an IHSAA Class 1A) state championship in his final year of coaching (2014). “He taught me how to carry myself on and off the baseball field.” Gambill took the Lakers back to the state title game in 2015 (finishing as runner-up) — this time at the 2A level. “He did an awesome job,” says Scott of Gambill. Scott was a pinch hitter in the 2014 1A title game and started at first base in the 2015 2A final. Scott played for Blue Knights head coach Dennis Conley and assistants Andy Lasher and Bryce Labhart at Olney Central. Conley doubled as head coach and pitching coach. “Conley made a pretty big impact on my baseball career,” says Scott. “He still helps me. “He’s the reason I’ve got this position at Evansville. He’s been around the game long enough that he knows just about everybody out there.” Jeff Mercer is the Hoosiers head coach and Justin Parker was the pitching coach at IU until taking that role at the University of South Carolina in recent weeks. “(Mercer) is a phenomenal coach,” says Scott. “His main goal is player development. (Parker) is very good job of player development as well. “I wish (Mercer) all the best and hope the program keeps trending in the right direction.” Scott made 39 appearances (all in relief) for the Hoosiers, going 4-0 with one save and 3.25 earned run average. He produced 81 strikeouts and 21 walks in 55 1/3 innings. In 2021, he got into 15 games and was 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA. He whiffed 28 and walked eight in 17 2/3 innings. He also earned his Sports Marketing & Management degree. A starter at Olney Central, Scott was used mostly in relief during his last years of summer ball. Scott played for the M.I.N.K. Collegiate Baseball League’s Ozark Generals (Springfield, Mo.) and the Prospect League’s Tyler Wampler-coached Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer of 2017. He was with the Northwoods League’s Willmar (Minn.) Stingers then the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association National Team that placed second at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., in 2018. Scott played for the Coastal Plain League’s Morehead City (N.C.) Marlins in 2019 and CPL’s Macon (Ga.) Bacon in 2020. Among his Bacon teammates were fellow IU pitchers Connor Manous, Ty Bothwell, Matt Litwicki and Brayden Tucker. Before landing with the Otters, Scott pitched for the 2021 Rex, coached by A.J. Reed. Braden is the son of Jimmie Scott and Andee Mullins. Younger siblings include Bailey Scott (21) and Kaleb Gadberry (18). Both parents were athletes at Sullivan (Ind.) High School. Bailey Scott was involved in volleyball, cheerleading and track at Shakamak and is now a nursing student at Ivy Tech in Terre Haute. Caleb Gadberry played golf at Shakamak, where he graduated in 2021.
Evansville Central outfielder Blake Hermann was chosen as MVP and the South beat the North 7-5 in Game 3 of the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series Sunday, June 27 at historic Bosse Field. The win gave the South a 3-0 sweep of ’21 games. The North now leads 68-66 in the all-time series. The righty-swinging Hermann smacked a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning and also singled in the eighth Sunday. The sixth is when the South scored three runs and turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead. The University of Evansville commit went 2-of-2 with a pair of doubles and an RBI in Game 1 Saturday and collected a single, walk and scored a runs in Game 2. Saturday’s contests were held at the UE with the South prevailing 5-3 and 7-6. “I came out here and I just had some fun,” said Hermann. “I was playing with the best players in Indiana and got to know them a little.” Hitters in Sunday’s game wore their high school uniforms and wielded wood bats. “I’m used to it,” said Hermann. “It’s one of my favorite bats to swing.” While Hermann will the turf at the University of Evansville home, he was plenty familiar with the confidences of Bosse Field. “I played here all throughout high school so it feels like home,” said Hermann, who will be playing travel ball this summer with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks. Columbus East’s Parker Harrison belted a two-run home run to left in the South third inning. Crown Point’s Cal Curiel lashed a two-run single for the North in the second inning. Zionsville’s Nate Dohm pitched three hitless innings — fourth, fifth and sixth — with seven strikeouts as the winning pitcher. Indianapolis Cathedral sidearmer Chris Gallagher pitched the last three innings and earned the save. Westfield’s Logan Nickel took the loss. Evansville was the all-star series host for the first time since 2009. The 2022 IHSBCA Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be played at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion.
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES (At Evansville) Game 3 (Wood Bat) SOUTH 7, NORTH 5 North 031 000 100 — 5 8 0 South 002 103 10x — 7 7 0 WP — Dohm. LP — Nickel. Save — Gallagher. Pitchers: North — Bryce Schaum (Munster; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 hits, 2 runs), Logan Nickel (Westfield; 3 innings, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, 4 runs), Kyle Tupper (South Bend St. Joseph; 2 innings, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). South — Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North; 3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 5 hits, 4 runs), Nate Dohm (Zionsville; 3 innings, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 hits, 0 runs), Chris Gallagher (Cathedral; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). North: Hits — Rocco Hanes (Norwell), Sergio Lira Ayala (NorthWood), Jacob Loftus (Peru), Cal Curiel (Crown Point), Carter Mathison (Homestead), Kameron Salazar (Wawasee), A.J., Bordenet (Lafayette Central Catholic), Garrett Harker (Lebanon). 3B — Mathison. RBI — Curiel 2. Runs — Lira Ayala, Loftus, Mathison, Salazar, Matthew Dobuck (Plymouth). LOB — 3. South: Hits — Blake Hermann (Evansville Central) 2, Parker Harrison (Columbus East), Ty Rumsey (Evansville North), Nick Sutherlin (Greencastle), Pierson Barnes (Riverton Parke), Eli Watson (Providence). HR — Harrison. 3B — Watson. 2B — Sutherlin, Rumsey. RBI — Harrison 2, Hermann 2, Sutherlin, Andrew Oesterling (Oldenburg Academy). Runs — Oesterling, Harrison, Sutherlin, Watson, Herman, Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), Henry Brown (Evansville Central). SB — Barnes. LOB — 6. T — 2:20. MVP: Blake Hermann (Evansville Central).
The South swept a pair of nine-inning games from the North Saturday, June 25 in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches North/South All-Star Series. With 5-3 and 7-6 wins at the University of Evansville, the South now trails 68-65 in the all-time series. South scored three runs in the second inning and one each in the third and seventh frames. Castle’s Blake Hermann rapped two doubles and five different players crossed the plate in support of winning pitcher Edgewood’s Luke Hayden (7 strikeouts). Seeger’s Khal Stephen took loss. In Game 2, Providence’s Eli Watson’s double drove in the go-ahead run after Bedford North Lawrence’s Evan Waggoner singled to plate the tying run in the seventh. Waggoner finished with two hits as did Wawasee’s Kameron Salazar for the North. Winning pitcher Holden Groher (Silver Creek) fanned four. Seton Catholic’s Luke Leverton pitched three innings of hitless relief with five strikeouts for the save. Leo’s Coley Stevens took the loss. The final game of the series is slated for 11 a.m. CST Sunday, July 27 at Bosse Field. It will be a wood-bat game with players wearing their high school uniforms.
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES (At Evansville) Game 1 SOUTH 5, NORTH 3 North 000 100 002 — 3 3 2 South 031 000 10x — 5 8 1 WP — Hayden. LP — Stephen. Pitchers: North — Khal Stephen (Seeger; 2 innings, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, 3 runs), Rex Stills (Wheeler; 3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Aric Ehmke (DeKalb; 2 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Coley Stevens (Leo; 1 inning, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 hits, 0 runs). South — Luke Hayden (3 innings, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 hits, 0 runs), Coleman (3 innings, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Young (3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 2 runs). North: Hits — Jacob Loftus (Peru), Jared Comia (Hanover Central), Carter Mathison (Homestead). RBI — Karson Kennedy (Lafayette Harrison), Comia. Runs — Gavin Noble (Wapahani), Jaden Deel (Hobart), Kameron Salazar (Wawasee). SB — Comia 2, Loftus, Salazar, Deel, Drew Loy (McCutcheon). LOB — 8. South: Hits — Blake Hermann 2, Nick Sutherlin, C.J. Richmond, Evan Waggoner, Camden Gasser, Andrew Oesterling, Ty Rumsey. 2B — Hermann 2. RBI — Waggoner, Evan Goforth. Runs — Sutherlin, Richmond, Waggoner, Gasser, Rumsey. SB — Gasser. LOB — 7. T — 2:42.
Jamey Carroll stopped by his hometown to offer some advice to some of the state’s best young baseball players. “Go out and make some memories,” said Carroll, who was in Evansville Friday, June 25 at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series banquet. There are two games at noon CST Saturday, June 26 at the University of Evansville and one at 11 a.m. CST Sunday, June 27 at Bosse Field. Carroll talked to these young athletes about making an impression and being a good teammate. “Who are you in this game?,” says Carroll, who was an IHSBCA South All-Star representing Castle High School in 1992. “That’s ultimately the legacy you’re going leave. “There’s more than just getting in the box and grinding. There’s being a good teammate and hustling.” Carroll, who played seven years in the minors and 12 in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals after his days at Castle and the UE is now a roving defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Carroll named three of his favorite teammates: Todd Helton and Matt Holliday on the Rockies and Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers. Helton was a superstar hitter and first baseman. But he didn’t take his talent for granted. “He worked his tail off,” says Carroll. “He showed me what it was like to continue to work hard.” Carroll, who started 510 games at second base, 202 at shortstop and 185 at third base during his career, was struck how Helton had the infielders going full bore from the beginning of spring training. Carroll, who spoke at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Nashville on “Guiding Gen-Z to Greatness,” says a good teammate holds others accountable. Teammates can makes sure their buddies are making the grades, appreciating practice, hustling and avoiding late nights and wasted time on social media. “Are they doing what they need to do?,” says Carroll. “Are you holding them accountable for that?” When Carroll’s mother passed away suddenly, Holliday would always ask, “How are you doing?” The slugger understood the importance of mom and was empathetic. “That is an awesome teammate,” says Carroll. “If anybody has their mom here, hug them.” Jamey and Kim Carroll have 13-year-old twins — Cole and Mackenzie. “Clayton Kershaw in an unbelievable pitcher, right?,” says Carroll. “He’s an even better teammate. He sent me a text asking me when my son’s playing. The last time he saw my son was when he was 2 and now he’s 13. “He cared about me and my family. I don’t care that he can only throw an 89 mph fastball now. He’s an unbelievable human.” This summer, Carroll’s twins are learning what it means to be a good roommate. “In four years, you’re going to be one,” says Carroll. “We’re going to give you a life skill and that means being a good roommate.” That translates to being a good teammate. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Carroll is not imposing physically. “I’m the little guy that had to scrap and fight and find ways to win,” says Carroll, who got noticed by an Expos scout for his hustle. Carroll was playing for Evansville — where brother Wes Carroll is now Purple Aces head coach — and hit a groundball to the pitcher and a groundball to the shortstop. The scout later shared that Carroll ran the exact same time to first base. “I thought I’m gonna remember that, because a guy gave me my opportunity to live my dream by simply running hard,” says Carroll. “And we’ve heard it all the time — control the opportunity.” As an infield coordinator, count Carroll as one who does not care for the current trend of shifting. He says it takes away the instincts of the fielder when he can look at a card that tells him to play in a certain spot on the field. “I guess third basemen should be taking grounders at shortstop,” says Carroll of a shift to the right. Sometimes that third baseman even ends up in short right field.
Catrter Mathison made a lot of noise with his bat during the 2021 baseball season for Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. The lefty-swinging outfielder who is already enrolled at Indiana University hit .515 (51-of-99) with 16 home runs, six triples, 12 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 64 runs scored, 25 walks and 18 stolen bases in 18 attempts. His OPS was .1.863 (.621 on-base percentage plus 1.242 slugging average). The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder struck out just 15 times in 132 plate appearances for the 26-7 Nick Byall-coached Spartans. All that thunder earned Mathison the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year Award in a vote of members. “It’s been a big goal of mine this year,” says Mathison, who was presented with the honor at a banquet Friday, June 25 in Evansville and will wear the No. 1 jersey while playing for the North in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in two games Saturday, June 26 at the University of Evansville and one wood bat game Sunday, June 27 at Bosse Field. “I’m very blessed to receive this award.” Even though he swings a loud bat, Mathison talks about his quiet approach at the plate. “Just stay as calm as possible and be confident in yourself whenever you know you’re going to beat the pitcher,” says Mathison, one of 16 IHSBCA District Players of the Year. “My dad told me ever since I was young is always knowing you beat this pitcher. He tells me that all the time.” Sharing Carter’s moment this weekend are parents Craig and Mindy and younger sisters Abigail and Lilly. Byall, who is on the North coaching staff along with Homestead assistant Shawn Harkness, has advice that sticks with Mathison. “Just trust my instincts,” says Mathison. “And it’s paid off.” Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Mathison played 9U travel ball for the Summit City Spartans and then the River City Thunder. When he got older he was with the Indiana Mustangs and Indiana Bulls (2019 and 2020). Mathison, who was also named the Dick Crumback/Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Player of the Year, has been taking two summer courses at IU in Bloomington. He has not yet declared his major, but is leaning toward something related to business. A left-handed thrower, Mathison played first base when he was younger. With his speed, he was moved to the outfield and usually patrols center field.
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
“He took care of his players,” says Dillman of Sparrow, who died in 2014. “He taught us a lot of life lessons.”
A 2008 North graduate who played for Sparrow, Dillman began coaching right after high school with one year as Huskies freshmen coach before moving up to junior varsity coach/varsity assistant. He was on the staff of Sparrow and then current North head coach Jeremy Jones.
“With Coach Jones, it’s about being on time, being a good teammate and always hustling,” says Dillman. “He’s a player’s coach.
“There’s never a time he doesn’t think about baseball. The attention to detail he puts into his practice plans like no other.”
Dillman, who works for Lamar Advertising in Evansville, has also coached for the former Ironmen (now part of the Louisville Legends) and Indiana Spikes travel organizations.
Hired at Harrison in October after the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period window, Dillman went about meeting his players and establishing his coaching staff.
Keith Ayers and Shane Holmes are varsity assistants. Harrison graduate and former University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana player LaWan Rollins is junior varsity coach.
When the Limited Contact Period window re-opened in January, the Warriors worked on building their arms and conditioning while the new head coach got to know his athletes even better.
“They’re all new to me,” says Dillman. “It’s a fresh start. There’s a new guy and a new system.
While SIAC teams may play each other more than once during the regular season, only one designated game counts during the conference standings.
The Warriors are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. Harrison has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2016. The Andy Rice-coached Warriors were 4A state runners-up in 2000.
Rice poured much into the Harrison program, including the Warriors’ home field that is located two miles west of the school near the National Guard Armory, Roberts Park (former site of Roberts Stadium) and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.
In the spirit of taking responsibility, Dillman encourages players with a driver’s license to get players who don’t to practices and games at the field.
Besides Rollins, a recent Harrison graduate in college baseball is Aaron Beck who went to Olney (Ill.) Central College then committed to Indiana State University. Andrew Cope played for USI’s 2014 NCAA Division II national champions.
Getting attention at the collegiate level are junior catcher Zak York and senior middle infielder/pitcher Alex Griffin. Both have been varsity regulars since their respective freshmen years.
Evansville is scheduled to be the site of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game June 23 at USI and IHSBCA North/South Series June 26-27 to the University of Evansville — and perhaps — historic Bosse Field. That’s the week after the 2021 IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis.
“It’s not about the hitter or the umpire,” says Gaura, heads into his third season in 2020-21. “It’s competing against ourselves.
“We’ve got to be competitive with two to three pitches and try not to over-think it.”
The Aces are beginning their fourth week of team practice after four weeks focused on individuals that missed much of their spring season (Evansville played just 16 games when play was halted in March) and summer to COVID-19.
“We’re getting them into a competitive environment as much as possible,” says Gaura. “Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’re treating like a weekend series.”
That means starters are going four or five innings and relievers two our three. The goal is to have each arm get 18 to 20 innings by the end of fall ball.
After team practice, the plan is to go back to a week or two of individual training before Thanksgiving break.
As a COVID-19 measure, students will turn to online classes and testing and not come back to practice until the beginning of 2021. Baseball players will re-assemble in the middle of January — about a month before the start of the season.
“It’s going to be a big challenge this year,” says Gaura. “We’ll rely on guys to get in work on their own.”
Gaura (pronounced Gore-uh) is also UE’s recruiting coordinator. Because of the virus, there have not been many opportunities to see players perform in-person or have face-to-face meetings.
“It’s definitely a strange time,” says Gaura. “We work the phones to build relationships.”
That’s when coaches can get a sense of a potential recruit’s character.
Evansville’s campus is currently open to visitors who must go through a sign-in process. Academic tours are available.
Gaura is on an Aces coaching staff headed by Wes Carroll.
“Wes is an awesome guy to work for,” says Gaura, 28. “He brings energy every single day.
“He gives his assistants a lot of autonomy. He focuses on the culture of the program and allows us to coach the skill aspects of baseball. It’s a great work environment.”
From 2016-18, Gaura was at Mississippi State University, where he served as graduate assistant video coordinator, coordinator of player development and volunteer assistant/camp coordinator and headed up on-campus recruiting was responsible for the organization of all on-campus recruiting, the scholarship and recruiting database and video needs for both player development and advanced scouting.
During Gaura’s stay in Starkville, Gary Henderson was an MSU assistant then head coach. Henderson began his college coaching career in the late 1980’s.
Gaura gleaned much from the veteran coach about the intricacies of running a pitching staff and program on a day-to-day basis.
“He took me under his wing and taught me the dynamics of working with the coaches and players,” says Gaura. “With his experience, there’s so much that can be learned from him.”
Given the frosty temperatures in northeast Wisconsin, Gaura learned how to get better on the diamond from April to August and what it means to train indoors. His first travel ball came in the summer before his senior year at Bay Port. Before that, he played American Legion Baseball.
“It was a very pure baseball experience,” says Gaura, who has five players from Wisconsin and two from Canada on the Evansville roster. “What I know we’re getting there is blue collar kids from good families.
“Their best days are ahead of them. They find ways to eliminate the excuse of not being able to go outside for long toss. It’s about being creative. If you are really committed to getting better, there’s a million ways you can get your work in.”
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.