Baseball has been kind to a young man from Salem, Ind. It’s given him moments of joy and relationships and helped him earn a college degree. Xavier Haendiges (pronounced X-avier Hen-dig-us) says he will keep the game in his life even though his playing days are behind him. “It’s been fun,” says Haendiges, a 2019 Salem High School graduate who redshirted one year, played three seasons at Ohio University and earned a Business Analytics and Marketing degree with a sales certificate this spring. “I met a lot of people I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. “Being able to play the game of baseball and compete everyday has been awesome.” Haendiges has one year of eligibility left, but has opted to move on. “I don’t think my arm could handle playing another season,” says Haendiges, who has also dealt with an ailing back. A righty-swinging middle infielder, he started in 30 of the 31 games he appeared in for the 2022 OU Bobcats. The 6-foot, 170-pounder hit .299 (26-of-81) with one triple, five doubles, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored. In three years, he played in 47 games and hit .252 (31-of-123). Haendiges, who turned 22 on June 15, plans to move to Cincinnati in a few weeks and begin a job as a remote account executive with InSight — an IT solutions company. “Being in marketing and sales keeps me in that competitive mindset,” says Haendiges. “I have to compete for customers and against other salesmen. “I want to be able to challenge myself everyday.” He’s recently taken to golf to help scratch his competitive itch. Growing up in Salem, Haendiges played in the local youth league then began travel ball around 11 with the Indiana Bulls. “It’s a great organization,” says Haendiges. “I’ve had so many opportunities. “It’s led me through so many doors.” With the Salem High Lions, Haendiges played for head coach Brett Miller. “To be a coach you have to have a good personality and love the game,” says Haendiges. “He was a great mentor and a great coach.” Haendiges also played point guard for the Salem basketball team. Xavier is the youngest of Ron and Pam Haendiges’ two sons. Trey Haendiges is 10 years older than Xavier and runs Haendiges Insurance Solutions in Salem and recently made his brother into an uncle and his parents into grandparents. Trey’s affection for the Boston Red Sox has rubbed off on his little brother. “I follow the Red Sox heavily,” says Haendiges. “I’ve been watching the College Word Series. When I move to Cincinnati, I plan to catch some Reds games as well.” Ron Haendiges works at State Farm Insurance in Salem. Pam Haendiges is a former first grade teacher at Bradie Shrum Elementary — the same school that Xavier attended.
Grant Jablonski had assumed that his baseball playing career was coming to an end with his couple of innings on the mound in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series in Madison, Ind. The Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate had not gotten any college baseball honors and had already enrolled as a student-only at Purdue University. “I had given up on baseball,” says Jablonski, who exited Mishawaka in 2019 as the school record holder in career pitching wins (20) and career stolen bases (63) and was part of three sectional championship teams on the diamond (2016, 2018, 2019). “I wanted to play at a bigger school, but I had nowhere to go after I graduated.” It turns out that two former Valparaiso (Ind.) University assistant coaches were going to help Jablonski turn things around. Nic Mishler, who was then on the staff at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College, was scouting at a sectional game and reached out to Jablonski. “I owe him a lot,” says Jablonski of Westview High School graduate Mishler who is now head coach at DACC. Ben Wolgamot, a Western Kentucky University who had also been at Valpo, pulled some strings. It also helped Jablonski that VU head coach Brian Schmack was at the all-star series since his son, Kyle Schmack, was participating — and on his way to MVP. After a postgame conversation, Jablonski went to visit Coach Schmack on the Valpo campus and soon was starting his NCAA Division I baseball experience. “It’s crazy,” says Jablonski, who was 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds when he stepped on the campus. “I owe Coach Schmack a lot for giving me a chance. “I’m still trying to put weight on,” says right-hander Jablonski who is now up to 5-10 and 175. In two seasons (2020-21), he has appeared in six games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with a 6.24 earned run average with six strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. In his second season in the College Summer League at Grand Park, Jablonski has been working a morning jobs and commuting to Westfield, Ind., on the days he starts. On July 20, the Moon Shots right-hander pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings with one walk. The reason he came out of the game is that the team only had two pitchers available for a nine-inning game and Michael Brewer needed some mound time. Jablonski played for the A-Team when the CSL cropped up in 2020 as other summer collegiate leagues were shutting down during COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a really good league,” says Jablonski, noting that University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Miami University fireballer and Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Sam Bachman (No. 9 overall to the Los Angeles Angels) played at Grand Park in 2020. Former San Francisco Giants scout Kevin Christman has been Jablonski’s head coach in both his CSL seasons. “He’s a super good coach to have,” says Jablonski of Christman. “He’s a good source of baseball knowledge.” Throwing from the three-quarter overhand arm slot, Jablonski employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer sits about 86 to 89 mph. His curve moves end-over-end in a 12-to-6 fashion. His “circle” change has a low spin rate and drops. His slider — with more horizontal break — is somewhere between the fastball and change-up with its spin. “The fastball and change-up compliment each other well when its coming from the same (release point).” Jablonski says his fastball has spun at around 2300 rpm with the curve as high as about 2500. There are flat screens at Grand Park that prominently display spin rates and velocity. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Jablonski. “You don’t need to fire 95, 96, 97 to be a good college pitcher. “You need to threw multiple pitches in multiple counts for strikes and have command.” Jablonski saw Schmack employ an opener (right-hander Easton Rhodehouse) and followed him with a starter (righty Ryan Mintz) in Valpo’s weekend series and both were able to spot pitches well and pitch to weak contact. Left-hander Geremy Guerrero had a standout season for Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State University. “He is by no means overpowering,” says Jablonski of Guerrero. “But he throws all pitches for command in all counts.” One thing Jablonski appreciates about Schmack is the he makes small tweaks and does not overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics if it’s not necessary. “He doesn’t try to change you too much,” says Jablonski. “It’s smaller changes. “He knows what he’s talking about for sure.” Born and raised in Mishawaka, Grant played for the Landsharks and later the Mishawaka Mayhem (2011-13), coached by father Jason Jablonski and Mike Fisher. That was followed by the Mike Lee-coached Indiana Shredders (2014-17), Mike Logan-coached Michiana Scrappers (2017-18) and Jim Shively-coached Indiana Chargers (2018-19). Jablonski earned nine varsity letters at Mishawaka — four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football. His head coaches were John Huemmer in baseball, Ryan Watson and Ron Heclinski in basketball and Bart Curtis and Keith Kinder in football. “He’s a great coach,” says Jablonski of Huemmer. “We had such a senior-led team (in 2019). He let us work on our own.” The pitcher/middle infielder earned IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 and was all-Northern Indiana Conference second team in 2017 and 2019. Jablonski, who turns 21 on Sept. 1, is a Business Analytics major and Supply Chain and Logistics Management minor at Valpo U. Grant’s parents are Jason and Kelley Jablonski. His siblings — both older — are Sydney Jablonski and Ryan Lewis. Jason Jablonski is administrative director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Kelley Jablonski works at Beacon Health & Fitness. Sydney Jablosnki is heading into pharmacy school at Purdue. Ryan Lewis, who played baseball at Mishawaka High and Ancilla College, is employed by the City of Mishawaka.