As Ethan Bates grew up in East Central Indiana, he played some outfield and stood on the mound. But it wasn’t until he was leaving Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in 2020 and getting ready for college baseball that Bates focused on a different way of pitching. The left-hander turned himself into a sidearmer/submariner and it’s helped him through two seasons at Jimmy Brenneman coached-Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill., and earned him a spot with NCAA Division I Grambling (La.) State University in the fall. It was while playing in a 2019 fall league in Pendleton, Ind., organized by Mike Shirley that Bates began dropping down with his delivery. He liked the results and kept at it. “I’ve been learning the past two years and trying to get better,” says Bates, who developed as a Frontier CC Bobcat. In 23 games (all in relief), he went 2-0 with 24 strikeouts and 22 walks in 24 innings. “The whole JUCO experience made a big impact on me as a player and a human,” says Bates, 20. “I got to grind in the middle of nowhere. You have to work really hard to get what you get in JUCO. “I embrace what it means to be a JUCO Bandit.” Twitter highlights posted of Bates posted by Frontier CC. That got the attention of Grambling State and he was contacted by Direct Message. He went for a visit and later signed with the Tigers in the fall of 2021. Grambling State — where Davin Pierre is the head coach — in located in the north central part of the state about 65 miles from Shreveport. “There’s lots to do,” says Bates. “I wanted wanted to play Down South where it’s warm.” The past two summers, Bates has pitched in the midday heat for the Palm Beach Xtreme of the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League (there was also two games for Trenton, N.J., Thunder of the 2021 MLB Draft League). His Florida connection was Miami resident and Frontier CC outfielder Nick Pompile. In his first 17 appearances for the Xtreme in 2022, he is 3-0 with seven saves, an 0.40 earned run average, 28 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 1/3 innings. Besides a sinking fastball, Bates uses a sweeping slider that moves in on a right-handed hitter and away from a lefty. His change-up drops. Born in Anderson, Ind., Bates went to middle school in the Pendleton Heights district then transferred to Frankton for high school, where he also play basketball for four years and football for one. He played recreation ball at Riverfield in Chesterfield, Ind. His first travel ball team was the Indiana Renegades. Bates spent several summers with the Indiana Bulls, including with head coach Sean Laird at 17U. One of his Bulls teammates was 2020 Mt. Vernon (Fortville) High School alum Nolan Bowser. He has also trained with Vanderbilt University commit Max Clark (Franklin Community Class of 2023) and Indiana University recruit Andrew Wiggins (Heritage Christian Class of 2023). A broken shoulder kept Bates from playing baseball as a Frankton freshman. He was with the varsity most of his sophomore year and all of his year season. The COVID-19 pandemic took away his senior slate. Brad Douglas was and still is the head coach of the Frankton Eagles. “He’s hard-nosed and a great competitor (just like Laird),” says Bates. “I love playing for coaches who are great competitors and have my back.” With an associate degree in Sciences & Arts earned at Frontier CC, Bates plans to major in Sports Management at Grambling State. Ethan, who turns 21 in November, is the son of Ryan Bates (Cami) and Karen Siek (Dan). His siblings are Lauryn Bates, Katie Shadoan and Seth Siek. Katie is the oldest, followed by Ethan, Lauryn and Seth.
Since Landon Weins has arrived on the Purdue University campus no one has pitched more innings out of the bullpen than the 6-foot-2 right-hander. Going into the the April 14-16 series at Penn State (the April 12 game against Purdue has been postponed), Weins (rhymes with Wines) has taken the bump for the Boilermakers 28 times totaling 54 innings. This spring, the senior is 3-2 with a 2.48 earned run average, 27 strikeouts and nine walks for a squad that is 21-7. The 2018 graduate of Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School embraces the relief role because he see it as the best way he can contribute to the team. “A lot of times I’m coming in behind a guy like Jackson Smeltz who is pretty dominant and he can get us ahead as well,” says Weins, who pitched for head coach Rob Fournier at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., in 2019 and 2020. “I really enjoy (coming out of the bullpen). It gives me time to see the hitters and what they prefer and what they’re struggling with that day.” Between in-game observation, video and scouting reports, Purdue pitchers have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an opposing offense. Weins uses a three-pitch mix — fastball, slider and change-up. “I made a really big adjustment in the off-season and my slider has become probably my best pitch this year,” says Weins. “Mine has like a gyro spin. It’ll come in straight and then go down and away from a right-handed hitter. “It’s like a curveball, but it’s flat and usually harder.” The slider can be thrown in any count. “I feel pretty comfortable with all three of my pitches,” says Weins. “Anytime I’m out there I want to compete as hard as I can.” Weins has been used in long relief with stints of 5 1/3 innings against Ohio State, 4 1/3 against South Dakota State and 4 against Bellarmine. Five other appearances have been for 2 to 2 2/3 frames. Playing for Boilers head coach Greg Goff and pitching coach Chris Marx, words of advice have carried with Weins and kept him steady. “They say remain the same,” says Weins. “Out on the mound, obviously there’s going to be days where you don’t have your best stuff. You’re going to be hit a little. You always keep your composure. If you’re going to carry around a swagger when you’re doing good, you always carry around that swagger when you’re not doing as good. “It’s such a quick game that can humble you very fast. But just because you have one bad day doesn’t mean it needs to lead to more.” There’s a rule after an outing — good or bad — that keeps players moving forward and not looking back. “We says flush it at midnight,” says Weins. The son of Scott and Angela Weins watched older brother Logan Weins (a 2014 Frankton graduate who pitched mostly in relief at Western Kentucky University 2015-17) on the diamond before him. “He’s probably one of my biggest impacts in his game,” says Landon of Logan. “Growing up he was always someone I could look up to. He just did things the right way. He’s definitely been my No. 1 supporter. He pushed me the hardest and gave me the hardest criticism that I needed to hear. (My parents) have always been a huge support system for me in no matter what I do or choose.” Landon played in the Frankton Town & Country Baseball before moving into travel ball at 10. He was with the Indiana Bandits followed by Indiana Magic and Indiana Nitro. He spent his 17U summer with the Indiana Bulls. Brad Douglas was — and still is — the head baseball coach at Frankton. “He’s a great guy and always been one to have my back if I ever needed anything,” says Weins of Douglas. “I loved playing for him. “He had a fire to him that I definitely didn’t like, especially when he was getting on me. “I appreciated him a lot more when I got into college than I did in high school because I was able to look back and see he wanted what was best for me and our team. He just pushed us to be our best.” As a Selling and Sales Management major at Purdue, Weins needs at least one more semester to get his bachelor’s degree. He chose that field of study in part because it fits his personality. “I definitely enjoy being a social person and talking,” says Weins. “I’ve met a lot of different people throughout the game of baseball. I’ve made many connections.”
Many programs are planning to play a few games once restrictions are lifted July 1.
Teams will be using this opportunity to recognize the Class of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the entire IHSAA spring sports season, including baseball.
Regional tournaments would have been played Saturday (June 6).
Following is a sampling of some the salutes across Indiana.
Hornets head coach Roger Roddy says current plans call for Monday and Thursday practices and Friday intrasquad games the last two weeks in July with senior recognition July 30.
A family picnic is in the mix. Like many programs, Angola has been giving social media shout-outs via Twitter.
Greyhounds head coach Matt Buczkowski traveled to the homes of his seniors to present a commemorative bat.
Warriors coach Pat O’Neil made video wrap-ups after every games of a faux season. The Hall of Famer “saw” his team win a virtual state title.
Once the quarantine began but before the season was canceled, O’Neil asked his players to send him a 20-second video of them working on offensive and defensive skills. There was an award for the most dedicated player.
There was a parade of cars at the baseball field.
“One coach gave a letter certificate, one coach gave letters or chevrons, one coach gave new jerseys,” says O’Neil. “They took individual photos in center field with new jerseys.
“It was good to see them be enthusiastic.”
When July arrives, O’Neil is planning to have practices for junior varsity and varsity players, including seniors.
A scrimmage with a senior recognition that includes souvenir bats and a cookout is slated for July 6.
A youth camp is also planned at the end of July.
In the last year of the program before the merger of Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central, Crimson Chargers head coach Scott Rost conducted a Twitter tournament and voters selected their favorite jersey.
Rost was also hired to be head coach of the Elkhart High School Lions in 2020-21.
Tigers head coach Matt Cherry hopes his team will be able to play doubleheaders July 13-14 with seniors being saluted.
“It’s the craziest spring I’ve ever been a part of,” says Eagles head coach Brad Douglas. “I’ve tried to reach out to the boys the best we can following all the social distancing protocol.”
Gift baskets with sunflower seeds, Gatorade, bubble gum and a baseball painted by Brian Borumn was taken to the seniors.
Tributes were placed on Twitter and new jerseys were made available for photos.
“At least once, we want to put them on and get a team picture,” says Douglas. “I don’t want these boys to be forgotten just because we didn’t get to play this year.”
Panthers head coach Brian Jennings turned on the lights at his field at 9:20 p.m. as a tribute to the Class of 2020.
Trojans head coach John Bogner, who counted son Justin among his seniors, has done his best to acknowledge the Class of 2020.
Social media has been part of that.
Without games to play on what would have been Senior Day for the Vikings, head coach Mark Fluekiger spent 12 hours working on Viking Field.
As the sun was setting, he took photos and recorded a video tribute to seniors.
The Jimmies are looking forward to a unique doubleheader on July 11.
Early in the day comes delayed commencement. At 7:30 p.m., Jimtown plays Bristol Americn Legion Post 143 in a game at Booster Field.
Jimmies coach Cory Stoner says he expects that all 11 of his seniors will be able to play catch with their fathers prior to playing in the contest.
Stoner, who is also the JHS head football coach, also plans to have baseball practices in July.
Drive Main Street in Lanesville, Ind., and you’ll see banners on light poles for senior sports athletes — that includes 11 baseball seniors.
“They’ve meant a lot to our program,” says Swingin’ Eagles head coach Zach Payne. “They’e good kids and good leaders.”
Payne says there may be a joint event with Lanesville softball. There has also been talk about games in late July featuring Corydon Central, North Harrison, South Central (Elizabeth) and Crawford County.
Slicers head coach Scott Upp had Schreiber Field lit up at 8:20 p.m. as a nod to his seniors.
May 20 was supposed to be Senior Night for Mishawaka.
Cavemen head coach John Huemmer went to Freddie Fitzsimmons Field, hung nine senior jerseys on the backstop and turned on the lights.
A Senior Night dinner was being planned. An engraved gift bat will include the bats of seniors.
Huemmer is hopeful that there will be a few practices and games in July.
Bear Tolman Field had the numbers of New Prairie’s eight seniors painted on it and there’s drone photos to prove it.
Cougars head coach Mark Schellinger says its not likely that high school teams will practice or play this summer though his players have connected with their various travel organizations.
“We’re hoping to get together as a team to recognize team and seniors,” says Schellinger, who was the head coach for the North at the 2019 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Madison (the 2020 series in Evansville was canceled). “(Seniors) made very big contributions to our program — on and off the field. They added to the culture and raised the expectations. They set examples for younger players.
“We still spent a lot of time together as a team and a group (in the preseason) — even though games didn’t start.”
Raiders head coach Andrew Brabender says his team gathered at a player’s house for a senior dinner.
Nothing is set in stone, but Brabender says he’d like to put together an alumni game in late July or early August to be staged at the new turfed athletic complex.
“It’s a little closure for seniors,” says Brabender. “They weren’t going to get to play on that field anyway.”
Knights coach Craig Trout has gotten banners and jerseys to his players for photo opportunities.
Senior numerals have been painted on the field.
Northview is hoping to have a wiffle ball game after July 4.
“It’s hard right now for (the players),” says Trout. “It’s hard for their parents.”
Panthers head coach A.J. Risedorph has filled his time not only with online teaching and helping with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Zoom meetings, he’s been dressing his diamond.
Senior numbers have been emblazoned on the field.
SOUTH BEND CLAY
Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold saw that uniforms were distributed for photos.
Twitter appreciation was spread on Twitter.
Yard signs were made as was a video to the tune of “Centerfield” by John Fogerty.
Clay assistant coach Tony Cruz, who recently was released from the hospital following COVID-19 treatment, has invited players to join his South Bend American Legion Post 151 team this summer.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody at all levels,” says Warriors head coach Jason Rahn. “First and foremost, everyone’s health and safety is the top priority.”
Westview lost several top players to graduation in 2019, but there was excitement for 2020.
“We thought we did a good job of re-loading,” says Rahn.
Seniors have been spotlighted on Twitter with vintage-looking baseball cards.
The Class of 2020 has been invited for a July 16 home game against Bristol American Legion Post 143. Westview looks to play at Lakeland July 20 and host another Northeast Corner Conference foe July 22.
While the local recreation season has been canceled with local parks just now opening, travel ball (8U to 14U) is on.
“We feel like we’re making the best of it,” says Rahn, who indicates a camp is being planned for rec ball players.
“You play the kids who are up for the challenge,” says Douglas. “If you can play, I don’t care if you’re a sophomore or a freshman.”
Frankton is a small town in Madison County and the school has around 480 students.
Douglas tells his players that they are making lifetime of memories during their school days.
“I’m a firm believer in the kids being good citizens and good students,” says Douglas. “I want them to be extremely involved with the community, have school spirit and support everyone. They should appreciate the four years and make the best of it.”
This high-knit community lost a baseball coach and teacher the day after Christmas 2017 when Chris Hatzell died unexpectedly at 44. The 1992 Frankton graduate was an eighth grade social studies teacher and tended the first base box for the Eagles.
“He was a great guy and a great dad,” says Douglas, who was a a high school teammate of Hatzell’s for two years. “You learn a lot about people after they’re gone. Students were very touched by the loss of Coach Hatzell.”
Douglas works as a union representative for Rolls Royce in Indianapolis and Hatzell was his “eyes and ears” at the school and did many things behind the scenes. On the diamond, he would throw batting practice or swing the fungo bat for hours.
“We reflected each other well,” says Douglas, who recalls Hatzell coaching a 12-year-old Frankton team to a Town & Country Baseball state championship.
To honor Hatzell, there will be a patch on Frankton jerseys this spring. There are also plans for a memorial marker near the dugout on the Eagles’ home field.
That field, located on the Frankton Elementary School grounds, has an infield that’s been re-graded and re-sodded with an irrigation system installed. The mound and home plate areas have been re-built. There is also new on-field storage in the home dugout, new concrete and safety hand rails in each dugout and concrete tee stations in the batting cage.
Since Douglas took over the program, he has gotten the Eagles schedule back up to the 28-game regular-season limit and includes plenty of quality.
“When you have Shenandoah, Wapahani, Tipton and Yorktown in addition to our CIC schedule (each team meets the other once on Tuesdays and Thursdays), you’re in for some good baseball,” says Douglas.
The Eagles are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Shenandoah and Wapahani.
“We play in one of the toughest sectionals in the state,” says Douglas. “It’s competitive regardless of the names of the players. You’ve got coaches like Brian Dudley at Wapahani, Matt Campbell at Lapel, Bruce Stanley at Shenandoah and Keith Nunley at Monroe Central.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. But it’s a good challenge that we embrace.”
The Eagles’ last two sectional titles came in 2003 and 2016. They were also regional champions in ’03.
Returnees for Frankton in 2018 include to college baseball-committed seniors in right-handed pitcher/shortstop Landon Weins (Morehead State University) and right-hander/infielder Evan Doan (Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo.) plus others from the Class of ’18 in right-hander/center fielder Travis McGuire, outfielder Will Harris, utility Brock Threet and Noah Van Slyke.
“We have nine seniors returning,” says Douglas. “That’s unheard of for a small school.”
There’s also junior right-hander/third baseman J.J. Hatzell and sophomore left-hander/outfielder Ethan Bates.
Frankton’s 2018 assistant coaches are Rick Dellinger, Tim Friend and Mark Caldwell.
Prior to taking over the program at his alma mater, Douglas was coaching in youth and travel baseball. He continues to coach son Bradyn Douglas (a seventh grader) with Tony Cookerly and the 13U White Indiana Bulls.
“I’m a huge proponent of travel baseball,” says Douglas, who has had Frankton players also play for the Indiana Prospects, Indiana Mustangs, USAtheltic and others. “I use a lot of things that (executive director) Dan Held preaches throughout the Bulls organization.”
Frankton’s high school program is also fed by Red and White seventh and eighth grade club teams.
Brad and Tricia Douglas also have a daughter. Sydney Douglas is a Frankton junior.
Frankton baseball coach Brad Douglas (left) celebrates with Jake Richwine in 2017. The 2018 season will make the fifth as Eagles head baseball coach for 1994 Frankton graduate Douglas.