Tag Archives: Brian Smith

Chicago-born lefty Djuraskovic takes circuitous baseball route

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

Cal Djuraskovic has had short daily commutes.
And one very long one.
Born in Chicago and raised on the city’s southeast side, Cal attended nearby Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind. — the alma mater of his mother.
Before he could drive, Cal got to school by boarding the South Shore Line at the Hegewisch station. The train trip took a little over 30 minutes each way.
A few years later, Djuraskovic (pronounced Jur-Oss-Coe-Vich) found himself studying and playing baseball at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Not wishing to sign a long-term lease during the uncertainty of COVID-19 pandemic, Cal drove back and forth to school everyday. That’s a roundtrip of about 330 miles or five hours of windshield time.
“I did not want to get stuck,” says Djuraskovic. “I gave pitching lessons after practice to make up the money for gas.”
And that’s when gas could be had for about $2 a gallon.
A left-handed pitcher, Djuraskovic took a circuitous route to Davenport and wound up close to home as a professional ballplayer.
After a stint with the independent American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, he finished the 2021 season with the Windy City ThunderBolts and is back with that indy Frontier League club in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood, Ill., in 2022.
“My whole life I wanted to be a pro ball player,” says Djuraskovic, 26. “By college I knew I can make it happen.”
Cal played outfield and had a little mound time at Bishop Noll before to his senior season, but it was that spring of 2014 that he blossomed as a pitcher. He threw a perfect game, a no-hitter and was named first-team all-Greater South Shore Conference.
His head coach for his first three seasons with the BNI Warriors was Paul Wirtz.
“He didn’t mess around,” says Djuraskovic of Wirtz. “It was a good thing. If you want to get better you have to take this game seriously.
“If you want to be a Warrior, you’ve got to act like one.”
He played travel ball with the Michigan Jets and competed against teams like Michigan Jets like the Indiana Bulls and Top Tier.
The southpaw of Serbian descent’s first college experience was at NCAA Division II Tiffin (Ohio) University. Deciding that wasn’t the right fit for him, he transferred to D-I Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. Going from the D-II to a D-I, he was required to sit out a season as a “grayshirt” for 2016 and retained all his eligibility.
It was at CMU while building strength in the weight room that he broke knee cartilage that led to micro-fracture surgery. Then his scholarship was cut.
Cal landed on his feet with the D-II DU Panthers.
“By the grace of God I had Davenport,” says Djuraskovic, who played four years for head coach Kevin Tidey (Eric Lawrence was the pitching coach at the end of his DU days) and earned his degree in Sport Management with a minor in Business.
Used primarily out of the bullpen, Cal went 6-4 with a 4.04 earned run average at Davenport. It was in 2021 that he enjoyed his best season. He made 25 mound appearances and produced a 2.62 ERA with eight saves. In 44 2/3 innings, he struck out 61 and walked 16 and was named first-team all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
He spent three summers in the Northwoods League — two stints in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and one in Traverse City, Mich.
Along the way, Cal picked up a pitching mentor. It was during his time in the National Team Identification Series at USA Baseball headquarters in Cary, N.C., that he met Jim Hall.
Djuraskovic later went to his Hall’s house in Lockport, Ill., and he still occasionally gets pointers from him. Hall stays in-touch with Cal’s family.
“This man has definitely changed my life for the better,” says Djuraskovic of Hall, who is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association halls of fame.
Cal’s mother is Allison Saberniak. Her father is Albert Saberniak, who turned Cal into a South Side baseball rooter.
“I’m a diehard White Sox fan,” says Djuraskovic. “I get that from my grandfather. We went to a couple of playoff games in ’05 (the year the White Sox won the World Series). We watch Cubs games to see them lose.
“But don’t get me wrong. If the Cubs gave me a contract I’d sign it in a heartbeat.”
Cal pitched in three games with Gary (one as a starter) and five with Windy City (all in relief) in 2021, going a combined 0-2 with two saves, a 1.59 ERA, 11 strikeouts and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings.
As a middle to late reliever for the ’22 ThunderBolts, Djuraskovic has no decisions and a 1.80 ERA in five games. He has eight strikeouts and three walks in five innings.
At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds — he has trimmed down from 240 — Djuraskovic uses a three-quarter arm slot to deliver a four-seam fastball, slider, splitter and two-seam fastball.
His four-seamer has been clocked at 97 mph and sits at 92 to 94 mph.
Cal’s slider breaks “a little late and sharp.”
In his second full season of throwing it consistently, Djuraskovic learned his splitter from teammates and began doing as former splitter-throwing White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras by using a softball to stretch out the distance between his index and middle fingers.
“It has a mind of its own,” says Djuraskovic of the pitch that serves as a change-up. “Sometimes it gets a little knuckeballish. Sometimes it dives. The best I can do is try to spot it up.”
Lefty Cal’s two-seamer runs in on left-handed hitters.
Windy City, which is managed by Brian Smith, plays at Ozinga Field.
Djuraskovic has also enjoyed some Frontier League trips. He especially liked visits to the Florence (Ky.) Y’alls and Evansville (Ind.) Otters.
“I like the (Florence) area and they have a really nice ballpark,” says Djuraskovic. (Evansville’s Bosse Field) is so historic. You can feel the presence of greatness.”

Cal Djuraskovic (Windy City ThunderBolts Photo)
Cal Djuraskovic (Davenport University Photo)
Cal Djuraskovic (Windy City ThunderBolts Photo)

Cal Djuraskovic (left) embraces with catcher Manny Garcia after Djuraskovic “shut the door” June 15 to close out the game for the victorious Windy City ThunderBolts. (Windy City ThunderBolts Photo)

Greiwe takes over top spot on South Ripley Raiders staff

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

South Ripley High School in Versailles, Ind., has had its share of baseball success.
From 2016-19, the Raiders averaged nearly 16 wins per season.
The team had plenty of veterans in 2020, but that season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, South Ripley won its eighth sectional title — the first since 2008. That team featured Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selection Brady Linkel (now at Ohio University).
Jeff Greiwe, a Raiders assistant to Steve Franklin the past several years whose middle son Aaron was a senior ballplayer in 2020, has been named South Ripley head coach as the team prepares for 2022.
As head coach, Greiwe plans to assert the importance of fundamentals and attention to detail.
“If you want the big things to happen, you’ve got to do the little things right,” says Greiwe. “Bunting, base running, throwing strikes — those things will definitely be emphasized.
“We’re going to be extremely young. We’re going to start several freshmen.”
Among those is catcher Trent Smith.
Keeping everyone involved is also a Greiwe strength.
“I make it a point to use everybody during the game,” says Greiwe.
South Ripley (enrollment around 370) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Rising Sun, Shawe Memorial, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County).
ORVC teams play each other twice during the season.
In 2021, the Raiders were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County.
South Ripley plays its home games on-campus at Forest G. Waters Field. A few years ago, the mound was re-done and new bullpen mounds and dugouts were installed.
“We’ve got a strong tradition in baseball and one of the better fields in southeastern Indiana,” says Greiwe. “It’s up to me to keep the field to a very high standard.”
Greiwe (pronounced (Gry-vee), who teaches high school Geometry, keep things going in the summer and fall for whomever was going to be the head coach and that turned out to be him. He was approved by the school board this month.
Greiwe coached the 14U Redlegs Baseball Club in the summer and fall of 2021.
As has been the case for years, local players took part in high school and junior team fall leagues at the CERA Sports Park and Camp Ground in Columbus, Ind.
After helping get the junior high baseball program off the ground, Greiwe moved up the South Ripley coaching ranks.
Brian Smith, who has coached at the junior high level the past few years, is part of the South Ripley high school staff. Greiwe is talking to other possible 2022 assistants.
A 1998 graduate of Greensburg (Ind.) Community High School when the Pirates were coached by Roger Cash, Greiwe earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Ball State University.
Greiwe has been head coach at Milan in two different stints, helped former high school classmate Doug Behlmer at Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy and was head coach at North Decatur.
Prior to teaching at South Ripley, Greiwe was an elementary then middle school math teacher at Milan.
Jeff, who is married to South Ripley Elementary teacher and former head volleyball coach Robyn Greiwe, has also coached sons Shayne, Aaron Griewe and Peyton during their travel ball years.
Shayne Griewe (Class of 2018) served in the U.S. Navy and is now working in Florida. Aaron Griewe is in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk, Va. Peyton Owens (Class of 2020) is studying music at Dark Horse Institute in Franklin, Tenn.

Forest G. Waters Field is the home of South Ripley Raiders baseball.
South Ripley’s Aaron Greiwe (left) with father Jeff Greiwe at Shawe Memorial in Madison, Ind.
South Ripley’s Brady Linkel lets a pitch fly against Southwestern (Hanover) during the 2021 South Ripley Sectional championship game.
South Ripley’s Brady Linkel (left) and coach Jeff Greiwe at the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Evansville.
South Ripley’s Brady Linkel (20) hits a sectional championship game home run against Southwestern (Hanover) with Bryce Franklin on first base.
South Ripley’s Brayden Dilk swings the bat in the 2021 Evansville Mater Dei Regional against eventual IHSAA Class 2A state champion Providence.
South Ripley first baseman Logan Eggleston and umpire Ron Jobst away a throw in 2021.
South Ripley’s Cody Samples (left) is greeted by coach Jeff Greiwe.
South Ripley’s Aaron Greiwe toes the mound against Rising Sun.
Redlegs Baseball Club celebrates a fall league championship at CERA Sports Park and Camp Ground in Columbus, Ind.

People are most important thing about baseball to Charlestown’s Romans

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ricky Romans likes to win and clutch trophies as much as the next guy.

But as he has grown older, the head baseball coach at Charlestown High School has discovered that the people in the game mean the most to him.

“I’m a competitive person,” says Romans, who has guided the Pirates since the 2004 season, playing in three sectional title games (winning 3A hardware at Silver Creek in 2009) and taking top honors in the Mid-Southern Conference in 2015, the senior year of son Drew Reich (a pitcher and third baseman who played one season at Owens Community College in Ohio and is now at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill.). “We haven’t won the number of championships I would have preferred, but we’ve done a lot of good things.

“It’s about the relationships — the players, the people involved, the administration. It’s been a successful venture. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.”

Romans really enjoyed having his father around the diamond.

Rick Romans Sr. was a left-handed pitcher drafted out of Jeffersonville High School by the Kansas City Royals in the 20th round of the 1971 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (KC picked Roy Branch and George Brett 1-2 that year).

After two seasons, a teenage Romans returned to southern Indiana, where he worked and passed on a love of baseball to young boys like Rick Romans II.

Eventually, the elder Romans became pitching coach at Indiana University Southeast and young Ricky was always hanging around the IUS program.

He played four years at Jeffersonville High for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Rabe at second base or in the outfield, graduating in 1994.

A transition to IU Southeast seemed like a natural and he did head for the New Albany campus. But his college playing career ended almost as quickly as it began.

“I quit playing baseball after fall session of my freshman year,” says Romans. “It was very challenging decision at the time. I had to work (to buy a car). Looking back, I wish I was never done. I talk to kids today about sticking with things. I tell them they have your whole life to work.”

Still clinging to his love of the game, the younger Romans was offered the chance to join Rabe’s staff at Jeffersonville for the 2003 season.

“He helped me with understanding the game of baseball a little bit better,” says Romans of Rabe, who also helped him get involved in IHSBCA leadership (Romans is the association’s president in 2017-18).

When Charlestown job came open, Romans got the chance to head up his own high school program.

“It was just a golden opportunity,” says Romans. “They had struggled in years prior. I had the chance to go in and build something over the years.”

His father, who had been a volunteer at Jeffersonville, was his son’s pitching coach those first three seasons.

After that, dad still faithfully attended games and practices. He was a familiar face around the field — whether that was on-campus or at Charlestown Little League (where the Pirates played 2009-12 while a new school and athletic facilities were being constructed in Clark County).

In 2017, the man who taught his son to love baseball was not around.

“This past spring it was really weird for me,” says Romans. “He wasn’t there.”

Rick Romans Sr., died in September 2016. Dale Lewis, Ricky’s stepfather, passed in March 2017 (11 years after the death of Toni Lewis, Ricky’s mother).

Romans heads toward the 2018 season with a coaching staff featuring Brian Smith, Chuck Latham, Chris Nickles, Matt Siler and little brother Josh Romans (who played at Charlestown for Ricky and coached Floyds Knobs American Legion Post 42 with him in the summer of 2016).

This summer was the first since 2008 that Post 42 did not field a team with Romans as manager. Post 42, which finished second in the state tournament to perennial powerhouse Rockport Post 254 in 2015, is hoping to bounce back in 2018.

Romans, who is married to 14 years to Jennifer and also has daughters Kinley (11) and Kaylee (6), has been director of sports and athletics for the City of Jeffersonville since January 2008.

He gravitated toward the IHSBCA because it allows him to be even closer to the sport and the people in it. That started with long-time executive director Bill Jones (who died in 2015) and moved onto executive director Brian Abbott and assistant to the executive director Phil McIntyre.

This summer, Romans helped stage the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Muncie. The 2018 series is slated for South Bend with the 2019 festivities in Madison.

“It boils down to nothing more than wanting to be involved,” says Romans. “I love listening to the speakers (at the annual state clinic). I love talking baseball. Baseball is my passion. I was born into it.”

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RICKYROMANSROYTHURMAN

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association president Ricky Romans (left) poses with 2017 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series MVP Roy Thurman. Romans, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, has been head coach at Charlestown High School since 2004. (Steve Krah Photo)