Josh Clinkenbeard knows the life lessons that can be learned through athetics. He absorbed them as a baseball and football player at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School and continues to make it a focus as he has moved up from Panthers assistant to baseball head coach at his alma mater in 2022. “One of the biggest messages we are trying to share with our guys is about being a good community member,” says Snider Class of 1999’s Clinkenbeard, a former outfielder, first baseman and pitcher for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Owen (Marc Skelton and Bruce Meyer were assistants; Skelton became head coach after Owen and both Skelton and Meyer retired from baseball coaching after 2021) and tight end for Indiana Football Hall of Famer Russ Isaacs. “As individuals, we will always be a part of some collective group. “We remind ourselves to be good teammates. We also try to relate our sport to real life like dealing with adversity and working with others, for example.” Clinkenbeard recalls lessons learned from Owen and company. “One of the biggest things I remember that still rings true with me is how to handle physical mistakes versus mental mistakes as a coach,” says Clinkenbeard. “Dealing with the mental side of sports can be taught and modeled in practice.” Snider (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead). SAC teams play home-and-series in the same week against conference opponents. The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Carroll, DeKalb (host), East Noble and Northrop. Snider has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2017. Clinkenbeard was part of that coaching staff. With 31 players in 2022 for varsity and junior varsity squads, Clinkenbeard is assisted by Payton Bieker, Brandon Phelps, Chase Phelps, Tim McCrady and Jimmy Cunningham. All but Cunningham are Snider graduates. Bieker (Class of 2008) played at Purdue University, Brandon Phelps (Class of 2013) and Chase Phelps (Class of 2016) at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne. McCrady (Class of 1983) is the JV head coach. Cunningham is a first-year coach. The Panthers play on Hawley Field (a diamond four miles east of Snider named for former athletic director Michael Hawley who helped plan and build the complex). The facility has been upgraded with irrigation and improved drainage. “The long-term goal is to have lock rooms on-site with indoor batting cages,” says Clinkenbeard. Snider baseball once played at Carrington Field. When the original was torn down to make room for Memorial Stadium (home of the Fort Wayne Wizards), a new Carrington Field was establish across Coliseum Boulevard. When Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now PFW) purchsed the land, Snider went looking for a new home field. “The unique part is that we are not on-site which creates many challenges, but because we are nestled among some housing additions it gives us a feeling of being part of a community.” A 2003 graduate of Butler University with a degree in Biology with a teaching certificate, Clinkenbeard is in his 18th year as a middle school teacher. Before a rotator cuff injury ended his career, the first baseman was a walk-on at Butler for head coach Steve Farley. “Great coach who really showed me the details of the game,” says Clinkenbeard of Farley. “There are many drills we did in college that we incorporate in our team today.” Jakob Byler (University of Saint Francis) and Trevor Newman (Franklin College) are college commits. Mac Hippenhammer (Class of 2017) went to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to play baseball and football. Josh and wife Krisanne Clinkenbeard have three children — Olivia, Jase and Hayes.
Two NAIA teams got a head start on the rest of the state’s 38 college baseball programs in starting the 2022 baseball season. Huntington University and Taylor University of the Crossroads League got going in Mesa, Ariz., the Foresters going 1-3 (HU beat Benedictine at Mesa 14-10 in 10 innings Feb. 20 and lost 19-4 to Arizona Christian and 13-9 to Benedictine at Mesa Feb. 21 and 15-3 to Arizona Christian Feb. 22 ) and the Trojans 2-2 (TU beat Kansas Wesleyan 6-2 Feb. 26 and San Diego Christian 20-8 Feb. 27 and lost 7-5 to Arizona Christian Feb. 28 and 10-8 to The Master’s Feb. 29). Oakland City, Bethel, Grace, Indiana University-Kokomo, Marian Saint Francis, are scheduled to lift the lid Friday, Feb. 4 and Vincennes Saturday, Feb. 5. For many other teams, the first game of 2022 is a few weeks away. See below:
INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL Records Through Jan. 30
NCAA D-I Ball State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Bucknell at Charleston, S.C. Butler (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Murray (Ky.) State. Evansville (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at North Carolina State. Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Clemson. Indiana State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Brigham Young at Port Charlotte, Fla. Notre Dame (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Manhattan at Deland, Fla. Purdue (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. South Dakota State at Sugar Land, Texas. Purdue Fort Wayne (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Georgia State. Valparaiso (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Memphis.
NCAA D-III Anderson (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Sewanee (Tenn.). DePauw (0-0) — Opens Feb. 19 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Carbondale, Ill. Hanover (0-0) — Opens Feb. 22 at Centre (Ky.). Manchester (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park). Earlham (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Olivet (Mich.). Franklin (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Albion (Mich.) at Chillcothe, Ohio. Trine (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 at Asbury (Ky.). Wabash (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Heidelberg (Ohio) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park). Rose-Hulman (0-0) — Opens Feb. 27 vs. Northern Vermont-Lyndon at Auburndale, Fla.
After a one-year hiatus, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League’s premier event is scheduled to return in 2022. A non-profit organization organized in 1993 with more than 200 members, including Don Mattingly, Bob Griese, Andy Benes, Jamey Carroll, Clint Barmes, Marty Amsler, Evansville area high school and college baseball and softball coaches, area businessmen and community leaders, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League provides financial assistance to youth organizations in baseball, softball, soccer, football, wrestling, basketball and youth ministry athletics. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League has distributed more than $2 million to over 100 youth organizations and a partial four-year college scholarship has been given for at least one area high school senior who has shown himself to be an outstanding athlete, student and citizen. The primary fundraiser is the “Night of Memories.” It is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at the Carson Center on the campus of the University of Evansville. Featured guests include National Baseball Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage, former big league outfielder Andruw Jones, hometown favorites Benes, Aaron Barrett and Jerad Eickhoff, Evansville Reitz graduate and New York Yankees prospect Elijah Dunham and 2021 Southridge High School graduate and Chicago White Sox draft selection Colson Montgomery.Wayne Hagin will serve as emcee. Former University of Evansville head baseball coach Jim Brownlee will receive a Legend Award. An autograph session is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time and open to all ages. Children 12-and-under are admitted free but must be accompanied by an adult with a paid admission and autograph purchase. All items to be signed require autograph ticket (not available online, only sold at the door). Pricing per autograph varies by guest and will be posted at hotstoveleague.org when available. A separate chat session and auction for guests 21-and-older is slated in the Meeks Family Fieldhouse. Doors open at 5 with welcome/introductions at 6:15, presentation of awards at 6:30, chat session at 6:45 and live auction at 7:45. Admission to the main event is $25 per person. Admission tickets purchased for the autograph session will also grant entry into the main event as long as the guest is 21 or older. A golf outing was held in September at Cambridge Golf Club in Evansville which funds the Bob Coleman-Joe Unfried Scholarship Award. Recent winners include Henry Brown (Evansville Central High School and Indiana State University) in 2021, Adam Euler (Evansville Reitz High School and University of Evansville) in 2020, Cory Bosecker (Evansville Central High School and Butler University) in 2019 and Zach Messinger (Castle High School and University of Virginia) in 2018. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League officers are president Ryan Berger, vice presidents Eric Millay, Tracy Archuleta and Cory Edwards, treasurer Steve Millay, historian Dave Johnson and secretary Steve Johnston.
Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021. The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases. Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers. “We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated. “We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.” NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter. “We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.” Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park. “This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.” The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana. Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey. “He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college. “We wanted to show up and work every single day.” Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers. Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis. As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning. Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings. Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year. “(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them. “(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.” Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons. After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy. He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020. “(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way. “He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.” Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers. “With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic. “The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.” Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022. “I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.” Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.
Attacking games and practices with passion. That’s what Trey Bickel expects as the new baseball head coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind. “It’s business out there,” says Bickel, 27. “In baseball you have to be 100 percent focused. “There has to be 100 percent intensity and focus or they’re wasting time.” Bickel, who came to the Chargers as an assistant in the fall of 2018, took over the three weeks ago when Chris Woodruff left to become Assistant Athletic Director/Compliance Director at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. At the moment, Bickel is a one-man show. He is seeking at least one assistant. “I have feelers out with buddies I played with,” says Bickel. “I want to make sure I get someone who fits in with our guys and gets us where we want to be.” Bickel relinquished his athletic groundskeeper duties when Marian University came into the picture and hired a company to handle that, leaving the coach free to focus on baseball. That includes recruiting. “If you’re not getting that offer from your dream school don’t shut down any other options,” says Bickel. “Junior college is the route to go for a majority of guys if you don’t have those dream schools calling.” There are currently 21 on the Marian University’s Ancilla College roster, including four pitcher-only players and a number of two-way players. Ideally, Bickel would like 25 to 30 athletes. “Next spring I hope to have 15 to 20 pitchers rostered,” says Bickel. Outside practices are now short and intense. When the team goes indoors its at the LifePlex in Plymouth. This fall, the school formally known as Ancilla College took to the diamond to play five games against outside competition with others cancelled for COVID-19 reasons. The Chargers were in 9-inning contests against Bethel University and Purdue Northwest and a doubleheader (two 7’s) against Indiana University South Bend. The spring portion of the schedule is to begin Feb. 12-13 for a four-game series at Southeastern Illinois College. The first on-campus game is slated for March 19 vs. Morton College. Marian University’s Ancilla College is a member of the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and National Junior College Athletic Association District 12. Bickel finished his playing career at IUSB in 2018. The 2012 Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate went to Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., of the fall of 2012. While he was not around the following spring then Cobras head coach Matt Kennedy (now a Butler University assistant) made an impression on him. ‘He’s a go-getter,” says Bickel of Kennedy, who he encountered again in the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “He knows how to bring out intensity in his coaching. It shows in a (NJCAA) national championship (at Parkland in 2009 with a fifth-place finish in 2010). I definitely enjoyed the intensity he had as a coach. “He attacks it. That’s what I’m looking to do.” With a gap year mixed it, Bickel played two years at Holy Cross College for Brian Blondell before that program ceased and two at IUSB for Blondell, Mike Huling and Jon Koepf. “They all brought something to the table to help me,” says Bickel, who was a right-handed pitcher. He threw a no-hitter in the Titans’ first-ever home game in 2016. At Mishawaka, Bickel had John Huemmer as a head coach and Chadd Blasko as a pitching coach. “(Huemmer) is one of the most genuine people I know,” says Bickel. “He’s a very nice guy and he’s there for his players and building relationships. “He’s very good at that.” Bickel spent a couple of seasons picking the brain of Blasko, who was selected 36th overall in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs out of Purdue University. Born in South Bend, Bickel spent parts of his elementary school years in Goshen, Elkhart and Mishawaka and was in the latter city from Grades 6-12. Trey is from a big family. He has two older brothers and one older sister plus one younger sister and one younger brother.
Knowing that he wanted to apply for a head coach position at his alma mater, Joe Salazar changed his day job. A few months ago, Salazar became project manager at Grand Design RV in Middlebury, Ind., — a position which requires less hours than his previous place of employment — and was hired to run the baseball program at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Ind., where he graduated in 1994. Salazar, who is in the process of bringing in assistants and plans to get in a few workouts during the current IHSAA Limited Contact Period which ends Oct. 16 while also serving as third-year eighth grade head football coach at Wawasee, has outlined some areas of emphasis. “We’re looking to improve in a lot of areas — our record, (Northern Lakes Conference) finish and make a good run at sectional,” says Salazar, who takes over the Warriors from Wawasee alum Brent Doty, who resigned to concentrate on his athletic director duties. “We want to get back to the basics and put the ball in play. “I looked at the stats and a lot of guys left runners on base or did not get down sacrifices.” Wawasee (enrollment around 950) is a member of the Northern Lakes Conference (with Concord, Goshen, Mishawaka, Northridge, NorthWood, Plymouth and Warsaw). In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley and West Noble. Wawasee has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2021 on their own field. The Warriors’ previous sectional championship came in 1997. The 2021 team went 18-13 overall and 8-6 in the NLC and featured seven seniors. Among those was Kameron Salazar, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District Player of the Year and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series selection now on the baseball team at Marian University in Indianapolis and a roommate of A.J. Bordenet (son of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tim Bordenet of Lafayette Central Catholic). Joe’s younger son — Kaleb — is a sophomore. When Kaleb’s classmates were 8 and 9, Joe established the Wawasee Elite travel team that played in 10U events. Joe Salazar was also an assistant coach for Northern Indiana Elite during Kameron’s 12U summer. Other Wawasee returnees include the Brooks brothers — senior Grant and sophomore Ty. Their new coach be Wawasee’s top two pitchers in 2022. Grant Brooks, a Butler University commit, hit .415 (39-of-94) with five home runs, one triple, nine doubles, 37 runs batted in and 31 runs in 27 games in 2021. As a pitcher, he appeared in eight games and went 6-1 with a 1.38 earned run average, 48 strikeouts and 14 walks in 40 2/3 innings. Ty Brooks pitched in nine games and posted a 4-2 mound mark with a 1.70 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 33 innings. Senior Lucas Ringler, who hit .289 (26-of-90) five triples, three doubles, 16 RBIs and 29 runs in 27 games in ’21, and junior Colt Dolsen, who batted .338 (22-of-65) with 12 RBIs in 24 games, are also expected back. The junior varsity team wrapped last spring by winning a tournament and several of those players move up to varsity. “They’re hard workers,” says Salazar of his young squad. “We can have a pretty decent team.” Four 2020 Wawasee graduates — Logan Adkins (University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind.), Levi Brown (Anderson, Ind., University), Antonio Garcia-Sanchez (Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind.) and Carter Woody (Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich.) — were on college baseball posters in 2021. Salazar, who has been involved in community sports for many years, hopes to establish a feeder system of travel teams. “That’s what successful programs are doing,” says Salazar. “They’re playing together (and learning how its done at the high school).” Joe Salazar participated four years each of baseball and football and two each of basketball and wrestling at Wawasee. His head coaches were Neal Frantz, Randy Aalbregtse and John Blunk on the diamond, Troy Akers and Gene Mitz on the gridiron, Gary Goshert on the court and Scott DeHart on the mat. At Goshen (Ind.) College, Salazar played three seasons for Maple Leafs head coach DeVon Hoffman and one for Todd Bacon (who is Kameron’s head coach at Marian), switching from shortstop to third base as a freshman. DeVon was a stickler for details. He wanted to make sure we did things correctly all the time. The little things matter. Bacon was very young then. He kept the same things going. Salazar earned a Business degree from Goshen in 1998. Joe, who is married to Yvonne Salazar, also has two older stepchildren — Riley Weber and Ashley Weber.
Brian Wichman has helped Scottsburg (Ind.) High School to many baseball successes since taking over the Warriors program. When he came on board prior to the 2018 season, Scottsburg had not had not posted a record above .500 since 2004 and high school players were not involved in travel ball in the summer. “We had to get back to the basics and get people interested in ball,” says Wichman. “I’ve tried to really push kids toward travel ball.” Wichman’s Warriors went 15-13 in 2018, regressed to 9-19 in 2019 with a young squad (there were only two seniors and one junior), missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic then sported 19-10 mark in 2021 bolstered by the senior and sophomore classes. There were 22 players to take on varsity and junior varsity schedules. Scottsburg (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek). In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek (the 2021 host). Scottsburg has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1996. Scottsburg plays on Warrior Field, an on-campus facility that was laser-graded four years ago and has Bermuda grass. “It looks really good, especially when we get to May,” says Wichman. Feeder systems include Scott County Youth League (T-ball through 12U) and a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play schools in the MSC and Hoosier Hills Conference. Wichman, who teaches engineering and welding classes and is involved in Project Lead The Way at Scottsburg, has extensive coaching experiences at the high school and travel ball levels. His first season was as a Columbus (Ind.) East High School assistant in 1995 while he was doing his student teaching. Wichman graduated from Ball State University with an Industrial Technology degree. He played baseball for one season (1991) at Indiana University Southeast before transferring to BSU. Wichman served as an assistant at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., in 1996 and 1997 and helped at Columbus (Ind.) North High School in 2007. From 2004-14, he ran the Indiana Blazers travel organization and coached for the Indiana Prospects in 2015 and 2016. Brian and wife Cathy have four sons and all played for the Blazers and other travel teams, including the Indiana Prospects, Cincinnati Flames Evansville Razorbacks and Indiana Bulls, as well as at Columbus East. Left-handed pitcher Brian “B.T.” Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2013) was at Murray State University, Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Indianapolis. Peyton Gray, a 2014 Columbus East graduate now in the Kansas City Royals organization, was a high school and GCCC teammate. Defensive back/catcher Christian Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2014) went to Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., for football and baseball then transferred to play baseball at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.). Defensive back Noah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2016) played football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Infielder Jonah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2019) was on the baseball team at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2021 and has transferred to St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.). The past two summers, Brian Wichman has been an assistant in the College Summer League at Grand Park — in 2020 with head coach Joe Thatcher’s Park Rangers and in 2021 with head coach Kevin Christman’s Moon Shots. A 1990 graduate of Seymour (Ind.) High School, Wichman played one varsity season for Owls coach Bob Bowman.
Jack Myers had only been to Georgia a couple of times. Travel baseball took him there as a teenager. Now 22, Myers is looking forward to playing at Kennesaw (Ga.) State University after four seasons (2018-21) at Butler University in his hometown of Indianapolis then entering the NCAA Transfer Portal. “It’s really good opportunity to put myself in a place to play at the next level,” says Myers. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid and I’m going to go chase it.” A 6-foot-7, 220-pound right-handed pitcher, Myers joins the KSU Owls after making 40 appearances (16 as a starter) as a Butler Bulldog, going 10-10 with three saves and a 5.05 earned run average. In 128 1/3 innings, he racked up 126 strikeouts with just 38 walks. In 2021, Myers started 11 games and went 4-5 with two complete games and a 4.39 ERA. He fanned 54 and walked 18 in 65 2/3 innings. A May 20 win at Georgetown was a seven-inning outing with eight strikeouts and no walks and earned him Big East Conference Pitcher of the Week honors. “Command is usually one of my strong suits,” says Myers. “I’m around the (strike) zone and keep the fielders in the game. “I’m very competitive and mentally tough. I like the competitive aspect of pitching, going one-one-one with the hitter.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Myers mixes four- and two-seam fastballs with a change-up, slider and curveball. His four-seamer got up to 93 mph last fall and again in the spring. His change-up grip is a modified “circle.” The action on Myers’ slider can be described as “gyro.” “It’s more vertical than horizontal,” says Myers. “It’s a lot different than the curveball.” His curve, which he like to throw as close to “12-to-6” as he can, has been measured with up to 16 inches of vertical drop. Myers played for head coach Dave Schrage and pitching coach Ben Norton at Butler. “I loved it,” says Myers of his time with Schrage and Norton. “I developed a ton and came into my body.” As a freshman, a lanky Myers tipped the scales at about 180 pounds. “They gave us the resources that we needed,” says Myers. “(Before college), I had never done any mechanical work with weighted balls. It was all foreign to me. I was put into program (with running, ab work and arm care). I you’re sore, you don’t push it. They really look out for your arm health.” Myers was attracted to NCAA D-I ASUN Conference member Kennesaw State because that’s where Matt Passeuer landed as pitch coach after serving in that role at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where he worked with fireballer Sam Bachman (the graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., selected No. 9 overall in the 2021 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels). “He had a development plan and a track record of putting velocity on guys,” says Myers of Passeuer, who is on Owls head coach Ryan Coe’s staff. Myers earned a Finance degree from Butler in May and plans to take Professional Sales classes at Kennesaw State. Myers did not play in the summer of 2018 after getting surgery for a nerve issue in his elbow. He was with the Jesse Lancaster-coached Morehead (N.C.) Marlins of the Coastal Plain League in 2019 and 2021. He was to play for that team in 2020 when the CPL shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and he competed the last month of the season with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics of then College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Born and raised on the north side of Indianapolis, Myers played T-ball for the Tigers at 3 and travel ball for the Shane Cox-coached Indiana Prospects, Tim Burns-coach Indiana Nitro, Dwayne Hutchinson-coached Indiana Outlaws, Ray Hilbert-coached Indy Stix and Ryan Bunnell-coached Indiana Bulls. Myers attended St. Pius Parish Catholic School for Grades K-8 then went to Indianapolis Cathedral High School, graduating in 2017. A shortstop as a freshman and sophomore, Myers took a growth spurt up to 6-4 and then had another one up to 6-7 his last two years of high school. He dressed with the varsity as a sophomore. Myers was a pitcher/first baseman as a junior and a pitcher/right fielder/first baseman as a senior. At Cathedral, Myers played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Rich Andriole then, for the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A state championship season, Ed Freje. “I was a 14-year-old kid when (Andriole) instilled discipline and mental toughness,” says Myers. “He had an impact on college career. I had played under pressure. “(Freje) came in our senior year and let us create the identity of the team How do you want this to be run? He held us accountable and we had a lot of success. He allowed us to play loose, but also required discipline.” Jack is the eldest of financial advisor Mike and Cathedral counselor Jenny Myers’ three children. Indianapolis North Central High School graduate Kate Myers is entering her freshman year at Indiana University-Bloomington to study business. Volleyball player Josie Myers is a Cathedral freshman.
All the hats that Sherard Clinkscales has donned thus far — many of the baseball variety — have helped him to his current role as athletic director at Indiana State University. The former baseball and basketball player at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and Purdue University went on to play and scout in professional baseball and coach in the college ranks before going into athletic administration. He was hired by then-ISU president Dr. Daniel Bradley to lead the Sycamores in February 2016 and now serves for current president Deborah J. Curtis. Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State fields baseball, basketball, cross country, football and track and field teams for men plus basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, track and field and volleyball teams for women. Two weeks ago Clinkscales, 51, was named to the NCAA Baseball Committee. As the 2022 Division I season gets closer to the postseason, the committee will meet to discuss the teams that are trending up or down and then determine the top seeds. Committee members will become regional and super regional directors and serve as team administrators at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. “We’ll make sure their experience is top notch,” says Clinkscales. In 2021, Indiana State went 31-21 and played in the Nashville Regional. It was the eighth season for ISU alum Mitch Hannahs as Sycamores head coach. While they never competed against one another, Clinkscale’s relationship with Hannahs goes way back. “I know Mitch well,” says Clinkscales. “He’s a good man that I respect immensely. He’s one of the best coaches in the country.” Clinkscales says Hannahs’ success stems from his understanding of players and an intuitiveness as a tactician. “He has a knack for getting the best out of players and knows when to push them and when not to,” says Clinkscales. “He’s an excellent recruiter and finds guys that fit his system. “He genuinely cares about his young men. He’s authentic. You always know where you stand with Mitch.” While Indiana State is a northern school and — in football terms — is not in a power five conference, Sycamores baseball has long been competitive on a national level. “That starts with Coach (Bob) Warn,” says Clinkscales of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer whose name is on the ISU baseball field. “I grew up in the ‘80s and Indiana State was the best program in the state of Indiana. “Mitch was a part of that and he has taken that even further. Indiana State is just a wonderful institution. We get kids that love the game of baseball, love to play it and love to learn it.” Clinkscales says generations of parents have come to understand the toughness that it takes to play in Terre Haute. “They’re more than happy to send their kids to play for a man like Mitch,” says Clinkscales. “They know what they’re getting.” A standout basketball player for Mike Miller, Clinkscales began getting noticed at the college level for his baseball skills with Brebeuf’s summer team. “I was always a good athlete,” says Clinkscales, a 1989 Brebeuf graduate. “I played baseball because it was fun.” The baseball Braves were coached by Kevin Stephenson. “Coach was outstanding,” says Clinkscales of Stephenson. “He was a really good guy who stuck with me.” At Purdue, Clinkscales played one season (1989-90) as a walk-on guard for Boilermakers head basketball coach Gene Keady and three springs for head baseball coach Dave Alexander (1990-92). “(Keady and Alexander) stuck by me when I struggled,” says Clinkscales. “I owe everything to where I am today to Dave Alexander. Dave took a chance on me. “He was tough, authentic and honest. Coach definitely cared about me and got the most out of me.” The relationship continued a few years after his playing days when Clinkscales and Alexander were scouts in the same Midwest territories. Right-handed pitcher Clinkscales was a “sandwich” round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (31st overall selection) and played for the 1992 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, 1993 and 1994 Rockford (Ill.) Royals and 1994 Gulf Coast (Fla.) Royals. What did Clinkscales appreciate most about being a player? “The camaraderie and going to the ball park to spend time with buddies,” says Clinkscales. “Baseball is such a team sport. You’re getting to know guys (from diverse backgrounds).” After being released by the Royals, Clinkscales went to extended spring training with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 then decided to pursue scouting and other ventures. Clinkscales was an area scouting supervisor of the Atlanta Braves 1997-99, assistant director of scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays 1999-2001 then a professional and amateur scout for the Braves 2001-06. He was also founder and president of Indianapolis-based AfterSport Group, a consulting firm for high school, college and professional athletic communities. “I absolutely loved it,” says Clinkscales of scouting. “It was one of the thrills of my life.” He relished identifying potential big leaguers through observation. Baseball was not so analytics and stats-driven at that time. “I was able to get to know the player,” says Clinkscales. “Make-up is everything. You have to be a tough son of a gun to play Major League Baseball. Only the strong survive. “It comes down to toughness, luck, consistency and being in the right place at the right time.” Then came the opportunity be pitching coach for head coach Dave Schrage at the University of Notre Dame for three seasons (2007-09). “I’m grateful for the chance he took on a guy who’d never coached before,” says Clinkscales of Schrage, now head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. “He saw the positive things. He knows the game inside and out.” Clinkscales learned how difficult coaching can be. “It’s hard,” says Clinkscales. “You have to really love coaching. It all starts with leadership. You have to work together as a team and assistants have to do their jobs well. “It takes a special person to be a coach.” Clinkscales equates coach with teacher. “To get the most out of a young man that doesn’t know how much he has is a gift,” says Clinkscales, who has gotten to interview and hire many coaches in his AD role. Clinkscales was Assistant Director of Championships for the NCAA in Indianapolis 2009-11 and Senior Associate Athletic Director at North Carolina State University 2011-16 — serving on the staff of Wolfpack AD Debbie Yow. A holder of a History degree from Purdue in 1994, Clinkscales completed a masters in Sports Management from North Carolina State in 2016. The fall semester at ISU begins Aug. 18 and young people are now back on the campus. “I enjoy the student-athletes,” says Clinkscales. “It’s the purity that I really enjoy. They are students first and achieving in the classroom and on the field. “You build relationships with students and coaches. They get kids to execute and learn how to deal with the losses. I’m working with a staff that loves doing what I’m doing. They work hard and pick each other up. “I thank God I have the opportunity to be an athletic director.” Clinkscales has two children — North Carolina Wesleyan University graduate Alex Clinkscales and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tara Clinkscales. Sherard and second wife Monica reside in Terre Haute.
Ray Dix III is using baseball and education to help youngsters in northwest Indiana. A 2001 Merrillville High School graduate and former East Chicago American Legion Post 369 player, Dix guides to diamond programs for the Region Legion Expos (E.C. Post 369/Lake Station Post 100) and Calumet New Tech High School in Gary. “Post 369 is near and dear to my heart,” says Dix. “Bob Castillo, (father) Alonzo Olvera and (son) Juan Olvera kept it going for a long time.” Dix expresses his gratitude to the late Joe Kusiak. “My organization does not exist without Joe,” says Dix of the man who died in 2019. “He made it his personal mission to make sure some inner city kids got the same opportunities as suburban kids.” The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost. “We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.” Dix notes that there was an Chamber of Commerce event with Gary native and former big leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins. Initiatives by the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Home Field Advantage and MLB’s Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) were gaining traction before the pandemic. The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost. “We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.” The 2021 season marks the fifth for the Region Legion Expos and there are senior (19U) and junior (17U) squads. While recent rains have taken games away, both teams scheduled around 20 regular-season games. Most senior games have been played at the Kenny Lofton Baseball Complex in East Chicago with junior games at the former Lake Station Little League. In the future, Dix expects that the Region Legion Expos will play home games at Calumet New Tech (the field was built on the campus just a few years ago) and renovated E.J. Block Stadium in East Chicago. Tim Stoddard played for Post 369 and East Chicago Washington High School (later consolidated into East Chicago Central) at Block on his way to the majors. RLE are in the Michiana League along with Bristol Post 143, Highland Post 80, South Bend Post 151 and Valparaiso Post 94 in Indiana, Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204 in Michigan and Palos Park Post 1993 in Illinois. “We hope to grow the league,” says Dix, who is assisted by East Chicago Central High School head coach Jimmy Flores. “We stay away from days that Babe Ruth games are scheduled to give kids more chances to play baseball.” The plan is for league coaches to meet this fall to map out an even larger schedule for next season. “We hope to get more Legion teams,” says Dix. “We’re growing every year. We have more junior teams. “When I played 20 years ago almost everybody had a Legion team. It’s great competition. We don’t see a bad team all summer. Nobody’s bad. That’s what I love about it.” The 2021 junior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Post 100 Region Riptide, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is scheduled for July 8-11 at Hobart. The senior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Highland Post 80, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is slated for July 15-18 at Highland. While the COVID-19 pandemic took away what was going to be Dix’s first season at Calumet in the spring of 2020, the Legion team had an abbreviated season without a state tournament last summer. “We were wiping down everything,” says Dix. “We had no (COVID) cases.” The ’21 Calumet New Tech Warriors had 15 players on the roster. Dix was assisted by former Gary Roosevelt and Bowman Academy head coach Kevin Bradley (who had Dix as an assistant at Bowman) plus Daniel Wendrickx and scorekeeper Steve Heck. This week after the Region Legion Expos played Palos Heights the two sides went through an actual handshake line — something not allowed during the high school season in the spring though teams tipped their caps at the end of games. “I didn’t know how much I missed the handshake line,” says Dix. “We show each other respect for what you just went through. “Even at the MLB level, guys shake hands with (their teammates).” The Region Legion Expos have sent Gary West graduates Antonio Reed (Clark Atlanta University) and Zamare Vincent (Calumet College of Saint Joseph), Merrillville alums Thomas Butler (Ancilla College and University of Indianapolis), Darius Kendall (Purdue University Northwest) and Thomas Smith (Bethel University) and Portage grads Shayne Devine (Trine University) and Kody McGuire (Goshen College) on to college baseball while Christian Ayala (Hammond Bishop Noll) and Dylan Coty (Merrillville baseball and basketball) have received offers. “I’ve been very fortunate to have some talented players,” says Dix, who has watched others stay out of trouble, go on to trade schools and become productive citizens. Dix, son of former Gary and current Fort Wayne minister Ray Dix Jr., and retired secretary Jewel Cody and grandson of former steelworker and court bailiff Ray Dix Sr., makes sure players are making their grades and get SAT preparation assistance. He is three semesters from his education degree, which he will likely complete at Purdue University Northwest. “If I get to teach high school and coach baseball I will not work for the rest of my life,” says Dix. “I will be walking in my purpose and be forever grateful.” Dix says area youth coaches and organizers at all levels try to stick to together for the good of the kids. “The goal to always have a safe space,” says Dix. “We all see the writing on the wall. “We don’t want to see it die.” It’s people like Bentley Ellis at Glenn Park Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken in Gary and Tracy Brough, president of Calumet Region Little League, which in 2021 included Duneland Park, Lake Station and Roosevelt Park and had about 150 players at all ages. Bradley, Ellis and Brough are on the CRLL board. “We’re a feeder group for American Legion ball,” says Brough. “Players age out of Little League (4 to 16) and can keep playing.” During the offseason, a group called the Gary United Baseball Collaborative was formed to meet in the offseason and discuss options for area youth. “We see how can we increase the opportunities for kids with their skill levels, training and experiences,” says Brough. “We cross-post (on social media) and communicate in the offseason so (players and their families) know what’s going on.” At Merrillville High, Dix played two seasons for Fenton Macke and two for Zac Wells. “Other than with Coach Castillo, I have not learned more on the mental side of baseball than I did in the few conversations I had with Coach Macke,” says Dix. “He had an amazing way of getting young people to think the game. This is how you stay in the lineup. “That is what you want once you get to the high school level and beyond. You find your niche and work it and that trickles to life. That stuck with me as a 14-year-old kid.” Dix admires Macke and current Washington Township head baseball coach Randy Roberts — men who know what its like to each at the middle school level and coach high schoolers. “If you have them from sixth grade on, they already know what you want (in high school),” says Dix, who plans add a middle school baseball at Calumet in the fall. “They know the style. “Everything is about relationship-building.” Wells, who also coached Ray’s little brother Rahdric Dix (Merrillville Class of 2007 who went on to play at Butler University and the University of Southern Indiana), was a three-sport start for the Pirates who had the ability to break down the intricacies of an athletic task. “Absolute tactician,” says Dix of Wells. “He had that Innate ability to show you the technical part of the game. “I use his hitting methods to this day.” Rahdric was Ray III’s first trainee and he’s had many since. Dix indicates that he would like to eventually be able to direct a program that includes players as young as 8. “It’s about being able to create uniformity and consistency,” says Dix.