BY STEVE KRAH
Baseball brought them together as boys.
It’s keeping a trio from northwest Indiana connected as young men even though they are scattered across the country.
Creators of the brand new The Yipps Podcast Aaron Furman, Matt Brunke and Brett Marovich were in grade school when they began playing Saint John Youth Baseball together.
Brunke and Marovich grew up as next-door neighbors and have known each other since before they went to elementary school.
Furman and Brunke played baseball through high school. Marovich played until about 16.
Furman played third base for coach Doug Nelson at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake and Brunke second base for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur at Andrean High in Merrillville and graduated in 2014. Brunke helped the 59ers to a IHSAA Class 3A state championship dogpile as a senior.
A year younger than the other two, Marovich did not play baseball at Lake Central High School in St. John, but enjoyed lively conversations with Furman and Brunke about sports.
Like it had for years, this would often go on for hours.
Furman and Brunke were roommates during their freshmen year at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.
All earned their bachelor’s degrees.
Furman stayed at USI, got even more immersed in baseball, including positions with the Screaming Eagles team, and earned a Sport Management degree. In February, he started with Sports Info Solutions as a Major League Baseball video scout based in Coplay, Pa., near Allentown.
Brunke transferred to Purdue University Northwest (which has campuses in Hammond and Westville, Ind.) and earned a Business degree before moving to Phoenix where he is a Hertz branch manager.
Marovich picked up a diploma for Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and is now employed as a quality/mechanical engineer by Regal Beloit Corp., in Valparaiso, Ind.
During all those spirited boyhood conversations at one another’s houses, a parent would sometimes say they should their own show.
Now they do.
This week marked the debut of The Yipps Podcast (@theyippspod on Twitter), a weekly baseball conversation featuring Furman in Pennsylvania, Brunke in Arizona, Marovich in Indiana and a guest from their location.
An introductory episode dropped May 24, followed by an interview with Nick Podkul May 27. Brunke was a teammate of both Podkul brothers — Frank Jr. and Nick — at Andrean. Nick played at Notre Dame and is now in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
The plan is to feature players and coaches in professional and college baseball and show their “normal side” and put out one episode a week — usually on Wednesday nights.
“Our goal is to get their story and take the professional athlete out of them to show that they’re just normal guys who love baseball,” says Furman.
The Nick Podkul episode tells about how he lost his father while in high school and used that to motivate him.
“It’s the stories you never hear,” says Furman.
Brunke says the idea is to give the listener a deeper connection with the guest.
“They still have a life off the field,” says Brunke. “We want to be the avenue to personalize these guys for fans.
“We want to make (the podcast) a platform for all levels of baseball to share stories about normal people rather than have them seen just as athletes.”
Marovich explains his role in the project, which came to fruition over the past few weeks.
“Baseball is the first sport that we played,” says Marovich. “We’ve always had a passion for it. Why not try to explore this avenue of the Podcast space?
“I have friends who wanted to start this journey and I compelled to help them start it.”
Marovich has no previous audio editing/mixing skills.
“But I’m a quick learner,” says Marovich. “I’m a quick learner.
“If it’s something I’m passionate about, I can grind on it heavily.”
Marovich dove into YouTube videos and is teaching himself about it through trial and error.
Right now, podcasts are recorded by taking the audio from a Zoom conference call. He expects to find a method for a higher sound quality in the future.
In baseball, the “yips” usually manifest themselves in the sudden inability to throw the ball accurately. Three famous examples — Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblauch, Rick Ankiel.
So podcast rookies Furman, Brunke and Marovich chose The Yipps as their handle.
“We’re probably going to have mistakes, especially in the beginning,” says Marovich, the executive producer. “You have to learn. It’s all part of the experience.
“The best is yet to come.”
Furman got started with USI baseball when he learned that he needed 20 internship hours for one of his Sports Management classes. He approached assistant coach Jeremy Kuester and wound up being team manager for his first two years of college.
“At that time I really wanted to get into coaching,” says Furman.
Then came a conversation between Furman and Screaming Eagles head coach Tracy Archuleta just before Christmas break in the fall of 2016.
There were thoughts of purchasing some video scouting equipment for the program.
“I had two weeks to learn the system and then we’re off to Tampa to play our first series,” says Furman. “That’s where my career changed for baseball.”
Furman’s last two seasons at USI were dedicated to working with video, analytics and scouting as it related to player development.
“It was not so much about spin rates and launch angles,” says Furman.
Instead, he was gathering information about the hot and cold zones for opponents and Southern Indiana hitters as well as spray charts and defensive shift reports.
Since then, the baseball world has become more analytics-driven.
“We were the first Division II team in the country to implement one of these systems,” says Furman of USI. “It’s become a big recruiting tool for players.”
Before and after graduation, Furman worked at the Kevin Brown Baseball & Softball School, soaking up knowledge from the former big league catcher and current USI volunteer assistant.
“Kevin taught me a lot about the mechanical side of baseball,” says Furman, who learned how to recognize things like hand grip and weight shift. “In 2018, I was helping college hitters at a higher level.”
Furman then worked with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network, which had many MLB organizations as clients. He worked from a list of players near Evansville and evaluated many NCAA Division I and II as well as some high school players.
“It was a really cool experience,” says Furman.
There were several interviews in the baseball industry before the chance came to join Sports Information Solutions.
“I knew this was a great opportunity to take and I didn’t want to pass it up,” says Furman.
During COVID-19 quarantine time, he has been working on small projects.
When spring training was happening, he was at home or in the office watching feeds of games and charting every pitch, running times, ball off bat speed, velocity, defensive shifts, catcher positions and more.
“It takes awhile to get used to,” says Furman. “It’s basically the same thing I did at USI, but probably with 10 times more data.”
As an SIS video scout, Furman can rewind and zoom to get different camera angles. He usually employs three screens per game.
“Once you get into the groove of things, it’s really fun,” says Furman. “Once the season starts I’ll be doing the same thing.”
Scouts work either the morning or night shift. In the mornings, they go over games that have already been charted and make sure the data is inputted and correct. At night, it’s usually about live games.
With this experience, Furman is not the same kind of baseball fan he was growing up, though he still roots for his Chicago White Sox.
“My viewpoint on baseball is completely different,” says Furman. “I can sit and watch a game and I know what pitch they’re going to throw before they throw it based on things like swing patterns.
“I look at baseball differently than I ever thought I would.”
Brunke counts himself fortunate to have been part of Andrean baseball, led by the Hall of Famer.
“(Pishkur) knows how to get the most out of you as a player,” says Brunke. “There was a sense of pride in wearing (Andrean) across your chest. There was competition within the program. Practice was not easy.
“If you’re going to play in the program, you’re going to have to play your tail off and really buy in or it’s not going to work. It was a super-advanced program.”
Brunke recalls tracking things like launch angle and pitch locations and using them to the 59ers’ advantage.
Next up on The Yipps Podcast (available on Spotify): Atlanta Braves prospect Logan Brown.
The Yipps Podcast is presented by (from left): Aaron Furman, Matt Brunke and Brett Marovich. The trio played baseball together as boys in northwest Indiana and now they talk about it. The podcast was launched May 24, 2020.