Tag Archives: Bremen

Washington Township community has been good to Roberts

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

Washington Township won the IHSAA Class 1A state baseball title in 2021 without hitting a single home run during the season.
The Randy Roberts-coached Senators went 27-7 without leaving the yard one time.
Randy’s father, Norman Roberts, who died in April, used to pester his son about all the bunting.
“I just wished we didn’t have to,” says Randy Roberts. “But you’ve got to put the ball in play (with a bunt or a swing) and make (the defense) make the plays.
“More often than not those routine plays are what costs the game.”
Roberts, who has been head coach at Washington Township since the 1996 season, says hitting is hard and “bunting is just desire” and catching the ball with the bat.
“Striking out has to be a fate worse than death.”
Washington Township (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Hebron, Kouts, Morgan Township, South Central of Union Mills, Tri-Township and Westville).
The PCC crowns round robin and tournament champions. The Senators won the round robin in 1999 (tie), 2001, 2006 and 2014 (tie) and tournament in 1999, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2021.
The Senators are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bowman Leadership Academy, DeMotte Christian, Hammond Science & Technology, Kouts and Morgan Township.
Washington Township has won 10 sectional titles — all since 1999 and the last in 2021. The Senators were 1A state champions in 2021 and state runners-up in 2019.
That’s all on Roberts’ watch.
Typically, Roberts has about 18 players to fill varsity and junior varsity rosters.
Over the years, the coach has had young men come out that were not very good players but they came back year after year.
“Those kids are the ones that go on and are successful adults,” says Roberts. “The fact is that they’ve committed to something and the easiest thing to do is quit.
“That’s what most kids do.”
The 2022-23 Senators did not participate in IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall and had some optional workouts this week.
Assistant coaches for 2023 are Christian Lembke (Washington Township Class of 2010) and Nick Sutton.
“He’s a good baseball man,” says Roberts of Sutton. “He loves the game.”
Lembke, who played for Roberts, is a fourth grade teacher at Washington Township Elementary School.
James Kirk (Class of 2023) was the Senators’ top hitter for a 5-16 squad in 2022 at .423 with four homers and 23 runs batted in. Nathan Winchip (Class of 2024) led the team in pitching wins with three and innings with 32 1/3.
A 1978 graduate of Warsaw (Ind.) Community High School, Roberts earned an Education degree from Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
The Lancers were then coached by Tom Roy.
“He’s a very spiritual man,” says Roberts. “He’s just the kind of guy you’d want to be.
“Coach Roy is the man to follow in his relationship with Christ.”
When Roberts was in school Grace went to Puerto Rico on one of its spring trips.
“I loved it down there,” says Roberts.
A year after he graduated a director from Puerto Rico’s Wesleyan Academy was visiting Roy and Roberts, who was substitute teaching and working for the Warsaw parks department, learned of an opening for an elementary reading teacher and baseball coach.
Roberts went to work for the school in Guaynabo for two years. The first year the baseball team lost in the first round of the playoffs. The next year brought the island’s private school championship.
Private schools were separated into two divisions — A and B. Citizens interested in an education or having wealth sent their children to private schools to learn English. Public schools taught in Spanish.
Division A schools offered scholarships and would often take the best ballplayers from Division B.
“It was not very common for a Division B school to beat a Division A school,” says Roberts.
After a regular season of about 20 games, it took three wins to earn the championship. The last two for Roberts’ team came against Division A schools, including Robinson School in San Juan featuring future big leaguer Eduardo Perez (son of Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Perez).
“Puerto Rico was the job of my life — never to be duplicated,” says Roberts.
After coming back to Indiana, Roberts worked and helped coach baseball at Wawasee. Then came the opportunity to teach young adults in the Middle East. He spent two years in Saudi Arabia and one in Dubai and made some money. There was no baseball, but he did play softball.
“I got on a really good team that was like the Yankees of the Middle East,” says Roberts. “It was during the first Gulf War and there were a lot of military teams in the league.
“It was pretty competitive.”
Roberts came back to Indiana and worked at a pickle factory and substitute taught at John Glenn, Bremen and Plymouth.
Then came the opportunity to teach and be an assistant track coach at Washington Township in the spring of 1995. At that time, grades K-12 met in the same building.
In 1995-96, Roberts started a long run as a sixth grade teacher and transitioned to fifth grade.
In 26 baseball seasons, he’s posted a mark of 472-261.
What has made Roberts’ time leading the Senators worthwhile is the relationships.
“The parents here in the community have just been phenomenal,” says Roberts. “They stood behind me.
“If mower needs fixed, I call a parent. When we built the batting cages in the gym it was always with parental help.”
When Roberts and an administrator did not see eye-to-eye it was the parents who were there to back the coach and educator.
“They had a Facebook page and all these people are writing posts in support of me,” says Roberts. “It was kind of like my living funeral.”
Roberts had offers to go to a bigger school over the years, but decided to stay put.
“It’s been a good place,” says Roberts. “I’ve had principals that I’ve just been blessed and grateful to have worked under them the whole way.
“They say everything happens for a reason.”
Then there’s Roberts’ pride and joy — the Washington Township baseball field aka Senator Park.
Located on the campus that sits along S.R. 2 on the east edge of Valparaiso, the diamond with a rustic feel features wood purchased from a smaller Menard’s store that was closing to make way for a bigger one.
The first few quoted prices for the wood — $20,000 and $10,000 — were too high for the school’s budget.
“Eventually they called me and said we’ll give it to you for $4,000 and we’ll not take a cent less,” says Roberts, who placed a $1,000 down payment on the wood and players, coaches and parents loaded three semi trailers. The next spring it spent five weekends and many hours after practice putting up fences and dugouts that have now been there more than two decades.
“That’s our field,” says Roberts. “It’s just a great place for a ballgame. Down the right field line it’s elevated and you’ve got the trees. There aren’t too many infields where the grass is any nicer.
“Is it a perfect ball field? No. The outfield slopes down terribly low. On the infield, the first base side is a little bit higher.”
With Lake Michigan less than 20 miles to the north, a howling wind seems to be a constant at the high school and the adjacent Washington Township Little League.
One of the program’s biggest benefactors was rental company owner and baseball parent who died in an automobile accident on July 10.
“Whatever I need for 15 years — a sod-cutter, Bobcat, you name it, he was delivering it at 5 o’clock,” says Roberts. “Everybody ought to have a friend like Jimmie Lawson.”
Eric Lawson — oldest son of Jimmie and wife Karen — was an eighth graders when came in the summer donning striped soccer socks.
“I liked the looks of them so we went to stirrups the very next year,” says Roberts, who also coached Eric’s brothers Stephen and Alex.
Eric graduated from Washington Township and went on the earn a Purple Heart while serving in the U.S. Army.
“Those stirrups mean something,” says Roberts. “We wear those now in tribute to the entire family.”
Middle school baseball is played in the ball at Washington Township where they don’t have football.
“It’s like a seven-week baseball camp (beginning in early August),” says Roberts. “They’re taught everything. We don’t teach anything different than we do the high school kids.”
Roberts has three children — Max, Sophia and William.
Max Roberts is a 2016 Valparaiso High School graduate who was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel, Ill.) by the Seattle Mariners. The 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher was selected in the minor league phase of the 2022 Rule 5 Draft by the Houston Astros and could start the 2023 season at Triple-A Sugar Land.
William Roberts, a 6-foot-5 right-hander graduated from Washington Township in 2019 and pitched at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., in 2021 and 2022 and is now at Purdue Northwest.

Randy Roberts.
Randy Roberts celebrates an IHSAA Class 1A state championship in 2021.
Randy Roberts teaches fifth grade at Washington Township Elementary School.
The 2021 state champions. (Photo by Steve Krah)

Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)

Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)

Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)
Washington Township’s Senator Park. (Photo by Steve Krah)

Reinebold, South Bend Clay Colonials celebrate 1,000 wins

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

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School got to celebrate its baseball past and present when the Colonials reached a milestone May 14 at Jim Reinebold Field.
The Colonials swept a doubleheader from visiting Bowman Leadership Academy. The first-game win marked the 1,000th since Clay joined South Bend Community School Corporation in 1964.
Jim Reinebold led the program to its first 503 victories from 1964-88. He helped found the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and was a member of its initial Hall of Fame induction class in 1979. He established the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993 and it the developmental camp is still an autumn tradition.
“He was the GOAT,” says Joel Reinebold, one of Jim’s sons and the head coach at Clay since the 2014 season.
There have been many family connections at Clay over the decades. That continues with Denny Grounds, who played for Jim Reinebold in 1964, and his grandson, Colin Monsma, who is on Joel Reinebold’s 2022 team.
“We’re very, very young and very, very inexperienced,” says Reinebold, who at times has had four freshmen and two first-time high school players in his starting lineup. “But they know about the tradition of program and what is expected of them. They got a big kick of getting 1,000 wins on their watch.
“We stress pride in the program, taking care of what we have and appreciating what you have.”
All this during a time when there is talk of school closures in South Bend, including Clay.
“We don’t know anything,” says Reinebold of the rumors. “We just take it day by day.
“It would be a crime to shut it down. It’s a great school.”
When Jim Reinebold started at Clay, the team played on a diamond located on the site of the current field.
Joel Reinebold remembers watching “No. 4” and his teams from the monkey bars.
The Colonials then played at Bendix (Kennedy) Park and then at Clay Park before landing at what is now Jim Reinebold Field (so named following J.R.’s death in 2017) while Chip O’Neil, who is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer, was head coach.
Since coming back to Clay, Joel estimates that the program and its supporters have raised more than $50,000 for upgrades to the facility.
How many hours has Joel spent working on it?
“I wouldn’t even begin to guess,” says Reinebold. “I wish I had a dollar for every hour.”
Clay will host a Class 3A sectional (with Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington) May 25, 26 and 30 and a 1A regional (with regional winners from the South Central of Union Mills, Caston, Fremont and Westville sectionals) June 4.
“I want a semistate (in the future),” says Reinebold. “It’s more work for us, but I’m glad we host the sectional and regional and can show off the field a little bit.”
Reinebold, who was the original groundskeeper at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend (now called Four Winds Field), cares for a field which sports athletic bluegrass with a Washington Ball Mix for the infield.
“I like the coloring and texture,” says Reinebold. “It drains very well.”
Reinebold is always partial to Pro’s Choice infield conditioner.
“It helps the playability of the field and its prevents it from getting too hard or too soft,” says Reinebold. “It’s the same stuff I used at the stadium.”
After graduating from Clay and playing at Mississippi College, Reinebold was an assistant to his father then Dan Kasper at Clay.
He then helped Brian Buckley at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, served as an assistant at Penn High School (the Kingsmen won their first state championship in 1994) followed by a head coaching stint at South Bend Adams (1995-2000), another assistant stretch at Penn (2001-2012) and finally leading the program at Clay.
His current coaching staff includes pitching coach Kasper and former Adams player Nate Meadimber.
The Colonials have won 12 sectional titles, including in the first two years of the IHSAA state tournament (1967 and 1968).
Since 1967, only South Bend Riley boys swimming (29) has earned more sectional champions among SBCSC schools.
Clay reigned as state baseball champions in 1970. Jay Parker and Bob Schell were captains on that team and are part of a group of Colonials who were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft out of high school or college.
Besides Parker (Chicago White Sox 1970) and Schell (Chicago Cubs 1970), there’s Roger Benko (Chicago White Sox 1967), Gary King (Cleveland Indians 1970), Kent Juday (Cleveland Indians 1972), Andy Replogle (St. Louis Cardinals 1975), Bret Mitchell (Kansas City Royals 1977), Tim Hudnall (Montreal Expos 2002), Mike Wolff (Baltimore Orioels 1994) and Aaron Bond (San Francisco Giants 2017). Replogle pitched in the majors.
Joel Reinebold helps youth players in Indiana and Jamaica through his efforts with Rounding Third, a a non-profit organization he helped start with former South Bend White Sox/Silver Hawks front office man John Baxter and others.

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School celebrates the 1,000th win since Clay joined South Bend Community Schools in 1964. The milestone came May 14, 2022. (South Bend Clay Photo)

Alum Carpenter takes lead role with Bremen Lions baseball

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

Ryan Carpenter wants to win games as the new head baseball coach at his alma mater — Bremen (Ind.) High School. But there’s more to it than that.
“I’m a competitive guy,” says Carpenter, a 2010 BHS graduate. “But I also want to make kids better people through baseball. High school athletics is a great way to do that.”
Using accountability and taking a genuine interest in players, Carpenter wants to help build today’s students into citizens, husbands and fathers of the future.
“When kids know you care about them on that level they are willing to listen and learn,” says Carpenter, who returns to the Lions coaching staff after two years away. He was head junior varsity coach in 2014 and 2015 and a varsity assistant 2016-19 before spending more time with his growing family.
Ryan and Andrea Carpenter went to high school together and have been a couple for 14 years — the last seven as husband and wife. Their children are Hailee (who turns 3 next week) and Colton (8 months).
One of the first things Carpenter did when he was hired was meet with the board of Bremen Youth Baseball, which starts at T-ball and goes through a 14U travel team. He wants to connect the youth and high school programs and establish the expectations at the upper level. He plans to invite the youngsters to workouts have Little League Days where those players get to share the field with high schoolers.
“They idolize these guys,” says Carpenter.
Carpenter played baseball for four years at Bremen — three on varsity. His head coach was Bo Hundt.
“Bo had very high expectations,” says Carpenter. “His baseball knowledge is about as good as it gets.”
Hundt (Class of 1993) was a three-sport start for the Lions and was selected in the 1995 Major League First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill. A switch-hitting outfielder and corner infielder, he played in the minors until 1998 and now runs Pirates Elite Travel Baseball.
Carpenter began his coaching career on Hundt’s staff.
“Coaching with him you appreciate some of his toughness,” says Carpenter, “You start to understand the why.
“Bo has been very gracious in offering his assistance. He’s a good mentor for me going forward.”
In Hundt’s last two seasons in charge (2015 and 2016), Bremen won back-to-back IHSAA Class 2A sectional titles.
Carpenter also coached Lions boys basketball for four years (2016-19) — one as head freshmen coach and three as varsity assistant.
His baseball coaching staff features Taylor Coquillard and Danny Hostetler with the varsity. Aaron Perch returns as JV coach.
Home contests are played on a diamond a few blocks from the school. During the off-season, it has gotten new bullpens on the home and visitor sides. The game mound has been resurfaced and realigned. Infield lips have been fixed. In the works is a new batting cage near the first base (visitors) dugout.
Bremen (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Northern Indiana Conference (with Elkhart, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington).
All NIC baseball teams see each other once during the regular season. Overall and division champions are crowned.
In 2021, the Lions were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights and Westview. Bremen has earned 11 sectional crowns.
Reece Willis, a 2020 Bremen graduate, played at Goshen College. A few current players — senior shortstop Micah Burkholder and junior pitcher Evan Lopez — have attracted interest from colleges.
Carpenter earned a Sport Administration degree from Ball State University in 2014 and is now head of purchasing at Forest River Diesel in Elkhart.

Ryan Carpenter.
Ryan and Andrea Carpenter with daughter Hailee and son Colton.

Gerard hired as head coach for 4A Northridge Raiders

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

Attracted by a talent pool and first-class place to play and train, Chad Gerard went after the head baseball coaching job at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and was hired this fall. His first official day was Oct. 2.
“It’s (an IHSAA Class) 4A school,” says Gerard. “4A jobs don’t open up very often. Facilities available there are state-of-the-art.
“Who wouldn’t want to have that (artificial turf) to play on everyday?”
The 2021 season was the Raiders’ first on the D-Bat Elkhart Field at Jane Allen Athletic Complex rug. Northridge went 17-7 overall and 10-4 in the Northern Lakes Conference.
The Raiders hosted a baseball sectional for the first time. Concord, Goshen, Elkhart, Penn and Warsaw completed the 4A tournament field.
Northridge (enrollment around 1,500) is in the NLC with Concord, Goshen, 4A Mishawaka, 3A NorthWood, 4A Plymouth, Warsaw and 3A Wawasee.
The Raiders have won seven sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Gerard was the head coach at 2A Bremen 2017-21. The Lions are in the Northern Indiana Conference with Elkhart, 3A Mishawaka Marian, 3A New Prairie, Penn, 4A South Bend Adams and 3A South Bend Saint Joseph in one division and Bremen, 3A Glenn, 3A Jimtown, 3A South Bend Clay, 4A South Bend Riley and 3A South Bend Washington in the other.
The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period ended Oct. 16. Gerard a chance to have one introductory workout and another batting practice on the field.
“Then I said, ‘See you in December’ (for the next Limited Contact Period),” says Gerard, who has had 32 players — not including freshmen — indicate interest in going out for 2022. “I’m hoping to be in the mid-40’s range (for three teams in the spring). We’ll be hitting hard in January through mid-March and start of the season.”
Gerard has hired three of six assistant coaches – Mark Bell (pitching coach/first base), Jim Morris (hitting/bench) and Andy Ross (head junior varsity). Vacancies to be filled are JV assistant and both head and assistant C-team. Bell was with Gerard on the Mishawaka High School staff.
Gerard, a former catcher and 1998 Mishawaka High School graduate who played for Gregg Minegar at MHS and Glenn Johnson at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., spent 10 years as an assistant to Cavemen head coach John Huemmer.
With shipping delays in mind, Gerard has started ordering equipment like hats, catcher’s gear, batting helmets and other practice items.
He’s also began planning a fundraiser that Northridge baseball and softball share.
Gerard has also set up communication channels with players and parents, using an app called Remind and started indoor practice plans. The Raiders have a large a fieldhouse.
Like his other coaching stops, Gerard will put an emphasis on servant leadership.
“These players will be husbands, fathers, employees and citizens of the community,” says Gerard. “We’re teaching these kids how to deal with tough situations, how to be on a team and how to deal with losing. That’s our focus.
“God put leaders on this earth to better others — not themselves. The side effect is better baseball players.”
This fall, Gerard was an instructor in the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp.
Away from coaching, Gerard provides on-site Information Technology service for Acruity in Goshen, Ind.
Chad and wife of 13 years, Amanda, reside in Oceola, Ind., with daughter Kaitlyn (10), a fifth grader at Bittersweet Elementary School in the Penn-Harris-Madison system.

Chad Gerard.

Boys of Summer Baseball League underway for 2021

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A youth circuit with ties to various northern Indiana school communities has began its 2021 diamond season.

Boys of Summer Baseball League fields teams for 10U and 12U all-star recreation and junior high school squads. Teams play by modified IHSAA rules. 

The BSBL also sanctions a 54/80 junior high state tournament. Younger squads also participate in the Town & Country Baseball state tournament in July.

The following school districts are represented in 2021: Bethany Christian (junior high), Bremen (10U, 12U, junior high), Concord (12U, junior high), Fairfield (10U, 12U, 2 junior high teams), Goshen (junior high), Jimtown (J-Shock junior high), Northridge (10U), NorthWood (12U, junior high), Plymouth (2 10U teams, 2 12U teams), Rochester (12U), Tippecanoe Valley (10U, 12U) and Westview (12U). The latter team is coached by former big league pitcher Eric Stults.

Going into the Week of May 24, Fairfield (6-1) leads the 10U division, Plymouth Red (10-1) the 12U group and Fairfield White (5-1) the junior high league.

The BSBL was started by Tracy Farmwald then ran by Zach Benko. Kent Kauffman took over just before the 2020 season.

As commissioner, Kauffman has organized the loop and set up a website for the non-profit organization.

“It makes it easier for parents to see what’s going on,” says Kauffman. “(BSBL) is more of a developmental league. They get used to playing together and used to a system.”

Cost to enter the league is $225 per team. Host teams are responsible for baseballs and paying for umpires.

“We’re providing an economical option for good baseball,” says Kauffman. “We get some kids that have never played and they fall in love with baseball.”

Since the league has teams as part apart as LaGrange County and Rochester, Kauffman tries to accommodate distance when making out the schedule.

In the past, Wawasee and Whitko have fielded BSBL teams.

“My goal is that we are able to expand,” says Kauffman. “We will go to divisions if necessary.”

The BSBL was able to complete a 2020 schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting after July 4.

“We worked together to make sure it was safe for players and fans,” says Kauffman.

With high school head coaches Darin Kauffman (Fairfield), Jim Kraft (Bethany Christian), A.J. Risedorph (NorthWood) and J.J. DuBois (Goshen) leading the way, a junior high division was added.

“There was nothing for that age group between sixth grade and high school,” says Kauffman. “The coaches wanted to keep the boys together playing as a team and to have more oversight.”

Game locations include Sunnyside Park in Bremen, Concord Little League in Goshen, Hoover Field in New Paris, Cook Station Park in Millersburg, Jimtown Park in Elkhart, Middlebury Little League, Stauffer Park in Nappanee, Ed Hess Park in Plymouth, City Park in Rochester, Mentone Little League, Akron Little League and NISCO Field in Topeka.

The end-of-season junior high tournament is slated for June 22-25 with the 12U tourney June 24-26 and 10U event June 25-26.

Cass enjoying success with South Bend John Adams Eagles

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

John Adams High School in South Bend, Ind., is enjoying quite a baseball season so far in 2021.

Under the direction of seventh-year head coach Mike Cass, the Eagles go into a Thursday, May 20 contest at Penn at 15-3 overall and 6-3 in Northern Indiana Conference games.

“It’s the best season we’ve had in years,” says Cass, who has witnessed steady pitching and defense and has shuffled his lineup to produce some offense. Of the three losses, two came down to the seventh inning.

“We’ve gotten lucky,” says Eagles pitching coach Taylor Neville. “We’ve got pretty good depth at the pitching spot. 

“We always try to develop (the young arms) and give them time at the JV level or in a intrasquad game or a doubleheader where we’re trying to get guys playing time. We see how they perform and what we can fix. We come up with a plan for them. 

“We’ve really had a lot of guys develop. It know it just doesn’t happen here but in summer ball.”

Neville cites Adams senior Bryce Martens as someone who has gotten better as his prep career has progressed.

“In his freshman came up with us (to varsity),” says Neville. “His first game pitching was against Jimtown and he was really struggling with the curve ball. We worked on that and got a very nice curve ball out of it.

“He’s just continued to develop.”

Neville is a graduate of Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln High School.

C.J. Schwartz, another Adams assistant, graduate from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School and played baseball at Grace College in Winona, Lake, Ind.

What does Cass stress with his Adams players?

“Leadership, sportsmanship and fundamentals,” says Cass. “We want to do the little things in baseball like bunt coverage and being where you’re supposed to be (at your position) and those sorts of things.”

Prior to taking over the Adams program, Cass was an assistant to former South Bend St. Joseph head coach John Gumpf and before that an assistant to Scott Sherry at John Adams. 

He credits Gumpf for much about what he knows about coaching the game.

Cass coached at South Bend East Side Little League before his first stint at Adams.

Cass came to Indiana from Pennsbury Township, Pa. — west of Philadelphia where he rooted for the Philadelphia Phillies and his favorite player, Mike Schmidt.

Further educated at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind., and Indiana University South Bend, Cass has been a bookkeeper in the South Bend Community School Corporation for the past 20 years — mostly at John Adams.

Adams (enrollment around 1,950) is a member of the NIC (with Bremen, Elkhart, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington).

“We’ve got some good coaches in this conference,” says Cass. “You can tell they’re good coaches because they’re always there building a program.”

The Eagles are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth (the 2021 host) and Riley. Adams has won six sectional titles — the last in 2009.

Adams plays its home games at School Field, which is located about a mile off-campus next to the football field of the same name and Jefferson Traditional School.

Mike Cass (South Bend John Adams High School Photo)

Whitehead promotes lifelong lessons with Park Tudor Panthers

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

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

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

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

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

As far as the baseball part of the equation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Making better men’ means most to Bethany Christian coach Kraft

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jim Kraft would like his baseball players at Bethany Christian High School to take the right approach at the plate, hit the cut-off man and throw strikes from the mound.

But’s that not the most-important thing to the man who has led the Bruins program since the 2018 season.

“No. 1 it’s about making better men,” says Kraft. “It starts with being a good teammate, work ethic and things like that.

“The baseball stuff kind of takes care of itself after that.”

Bethany, a school of about 140 in the top four grades with its campus in Waterford Mills, Ind. (south side of Goshen), has 13 players in 2021 and is playing a varsity-only schedule and got off to a 4-0 start through April 22. 

“In a weird way (the COVID-19) pandemic probably benefited us a little bit with being small and not having a JV team,” says Kraft. “We only graduated a senior and junior from the team of two years ago.

“We really only had one player playing travel baseball (last summer). But other schools played less last year.

“We’re really looking forward to growing this year.”

Kraft is assisted this spring by former Fairfield High School players Jason Smith and Jared Christophel  and former Bethany athlete Jared Schlabach.

The Bruins are members of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with Argos, Career Academy of South Bend, Elkhart Christian Academy, Lakeland Christian Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Argos and ECA are the other baseball-playing schools this spring.

Bethany is part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont (the 2021 host site) and Lakewood Park Christian. The Bruins won their lone sectional title in 1987.

Others on the BC schedule are Bremen, Concord, Fairfield, Goshen, Harlan Christian, Jimtown, Lakeland, LaVille, NorthWood, Oregon-Davis, Prairie Heights, Triton, Wawasee, Westview and White Pigeon (Mich.).

Bethany plays home games at the Dan Bodiker Athletic Fields, located across the railroad tracks behind the school. Kraft says a capitol campaign is expected to bring upgrades to soccer, track and field, softball and baseball.

There are currently no Bethany graduates playing college baseball. Kraft says three of his seniors could play if they want to pursue that route.

The 2021 Boys of Summer Baseball League is expected to include a Bethany junior high team.

Kraft grew up on a dairy farm near Trufant, Mich., and was active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He is a1984 graduate of Lakeview (Mich.) High School and earned an engineering degree at Michigan State University. 

He is employed at Brock Grain Systems in Milford, Ind., as a product director.

Jim and wife Tammy have a son, Logan, and live in New Paris, Ind. Logan played baseball at Fairfield and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020.

Logan Kraft played for his father on Boys of Summer Baseball League 10U and 12U teams and Jim coached the New Paris Dukes to a 10U Town & Country Baseball state title in 2016.

Jim Kraft (head baseball coach at Bethany Christian High School)

Elkhart Lions — a combination of Central and Memorial — about to take the diamond

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bringing the “City with A Heart” together, Elkhart (Ind.) High School has melded two high school baseball programs into one.

The Elkhart Lions are scheduled to open their inaugural season since consolidating athletic departments on Wednesday, March 31 against Concord at Elkhart West (formerly known as Elkhart Memorial’s Charger Field), where all baseball contests and practices are slated to take place this spring.

“We’re a one-school community now,” says Elkhart head baseball coach Scott Rost. “Everyone’s Elkhart.

“People have really bought into that.”

Elkhart (enrollment around 3,450) is a member of the Northern Indiana Conference (with Bremen, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington). 

In 2021, Washington will not field a team. Clay will play a junior varsity schedule.

The Lions are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Concord, Goshen, Northridge (the 2021 host), Penn and Warsaw. Elkhart Central won 12 sectional titles plus the 4A state crown in 2013. Elkhart Memorial was a six-time sectional champion.

Besides conference and sectional opponents, Elkhart is slated to meet Andrean, Angola, Chesterton, Edwardsburg (Mich.), Fairfield, Michigan City, Munster, NorthWood, Valparaiso and Westview.

With 36 players in the program, the Lions are planning to take on complete varsity and junior varsity schedules with some C-team games.

One set of Elkhart uniforms will feature blue pinstripes topped with a blue cap adorned by a gold “E.”

Former Memorial head coach Rost guides a staff featuring Brian Blondell, Bruce Baer, Jay Bashore, Steve Asbury, Matt Kloss and Cody Quier.

After the staff was assembled, a few players not in fall sports were able to get together after Labor Day.

When the fall season concluded and weight training and open gyms began Lions baseball really began to take shape.

“It went really smooth,” says Rost. “The seniors have done a really good job. They seem to all get along and work well together. They’ve set the tone for the younger guys in the process.”

Elkhart sports 10 seniors.

“We have some talented young men,” says Rost. “We’re really upbeat and high on that group.

“We have guys with varsity experience. But they have not played high school baseball for two years (because of the COVID-19 pandemic taking out the 2020 season) and our sophomores have not played high school baseball.”

Dylan Rost (Wisconsin-Whitewater). Collin Baer (Anderson University) and Bryce Blondell (Purdue Northwest) — all coach’s son — have committed to play college baseball. Vinny Ambrose and Graham Elli are both planning to play football at the University of Indianapolis.

Rost says Dominic Russo and Cameron Wiltfong are among those that could go on to collegiate diamonds if they make that choice.

While some have had to get used to the way Rost does things, the coach notes that the athletes have not gotten caught up in the Central vs. Memorial or East vs. West mentality.

Academically, students in Grades 9-12 attend Elkhart East or Elkhart West in 2020-21. For athletics and extracurricular activites, there is one entity: The Lions. In 2021-22, freshmen will be housed at East campus with Grades 10-12 at the West campus.

Bryce Blondell

Smolinski now running the show for Saint Joe baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coach Smo is raring to go.

John Smolinski, who first wore a baseball uniform for Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind., as a player in 2004 and was an Indians assistant coach for the past eight seasons is now Saint Joe’s head coach.

Smolinski is anxious to continue the legacy started by John Gumpf, who led the program from 2007-20 with seven sectionals, two regionals, one semistate and a Class 3A state championship in 2017

The last pitch that Brady Gumpf, now at Notre Dame, saw for Saint Joe was thumped for a home run against eventual state champion Andrean in the 2019 Griffith Regional championship game.

“I was fortunate to play for him and coach with him,” says Smolinski of Brady Gumpf’s father, John. “I got to understand his thoughts and how he thinks about the game.

“My goal is to make him proud and build upon the foundation he has started for Saint Joe.

“I’m very loyal to this school. I have big shoes to fill. It’s emotional. It’s high expectations. I’m embracing it.”

Smolinski’s senior year at Saint Joseph (2007) was Gumpf’s first as head coach. The Indians won Plymouth Sectional and one-game regional crowns and lost to future major league pitcher Jarrod Parker and eventual state champion Norwell in the Plymouth Semistate. Norwell finished the 2007 season at 35-0.

“We had a great team and a lot of seniors,” says Smolinski of Saint Joe. “There was a program chance when Coach Gumpf came in there.”

In Gumpf, Smolinski saw a competitor who respected the opposition and demanded the best out of his players and plans to emulate those qualities.

As interim coach, Smolinski led the Indians through Limited Contacted Period practice two days a week with about two dozen players. 

“We did not have any positive COVID cases,” says Smolinski. “Our (practice) structure has changed. We take this very serious.”

Attendance was taken before each workout to make sure every student was able to participate. They were put into smaller groups — each player having a group number — and socially-distanced. 

Coaches and players were always masked-up. He expects to have 13 seniors and 16 freshmen among 50 players for varsity, JV and freshman squads in the spring.

“It went really well,” says Smolinski. “Everybody bought into it.

“Not having the (spring) season hurt everyone (though most everyone played travel ball in the summer). 

“We got after it. I got great feedback from the players. I was happy with the senior leadership. It was great to have some normalcy.”

At the end of the fall, Smolinski applied for the vacant head coaching position and went through the interview process. 

Smolinski, who played four years at Manchester University for Rick Espeset before joining the Saint Joe coaching staff, was named head coach this week. Tom Washburn is expected be a varsity assistant and Dan Mentock the junior varsity head coach. There are other assistants, including a freshmen head coach, to hire.

“The last 24 hours have been kind of crazy,” says Smolinski, speaking on Nov. 4. “A lot of people have reached out to me. 

“At Saint Joe, we’re a family. You can tell. People are willing to help out.”

Smolinski says players will likely get to help design an alternate jersey for the Indians. Recently, that look has featured black though the school colors are Columbia Blue and White. Coach Smo says Saint Joe will continuing to don a black cap.

Away from his coaching job, Smolinski is a self-employed social media manager that amplifies athletic accounts on Twitter including WhistleSports and FanSided.

Saint Joseph (with an enrollment around 850) is a member of the Northern Indiana Conference (with Bremen, Elkhart, Jimtown, John Glenn, Marian, Mishawaka, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley and South Bend Washington).

The Indians are in a Class 3A sectional grouping with Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay and South Bend Washington.

John Smolinski, a 2007 graduate of Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind., is now head baseball coach at his alma mater.
John Smolinski has been named head baseball coach at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind. The 2007 Saint Joe graduate was a varsity assistant for eight years on the staff of John Gumpf.