Tag Archives: Cape Cod Baseball League

Neal drawn to competitive community surrounding Carmel Greyhounds

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

Ty Neal is the new head baseball coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School.
While transitioning his wife and three children from southwestern Ohio to central Indiana, Neal embraces the expectations that come with leading the Greyhounds and performing in a community that demands excellence.
“This is the only high school job in the country I would have moved my family for,” says Neal, a former Indiana University assistant and University of Cincinnati head coach who is married to Christine and has sons Silas (14) and Beckett (12) and daughter Paisley (9). “I owe it to myself and my family to surround us with high-level people.
“I’m excited because it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.”
Both Neal boys were born in Bloomington.
“I’ve built so many relationships in Indiana,” says Ty Neal. “This is a great opportunity for my family to get back to the great state of Indiana.”
The competitive environment and lofty standards at his new school district suit Neal.
“The reason people are so critical of Carmel they expect so much out of everyone,” says Neal, who was hired in July. “As a coach that’s all positive.
“I want be held under a microscope and perform at a high level every single day of my life.”
After serving as the Director of Pitching at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., November 2018 to October 2019, Neal led the baseball program at Loveland High School (enrollment around 525) in the Greater Cincinnati area in 2020 and 2021. The Tigers did not play any games in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carmel (enrollment around 5,225) is currently an athletic independent.
The Greyhounds were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. Those schools have combined for nine State Finals appearances — two each for Carmel (1997, 2000), Fishers (2018, 2021) and Westfield (1998, 2009) and one apiece for Hamilton Southeastern (2019), Noblesville (2014) and Zionsville (2016) with state titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019.
Carmel has earned 13 sectional championships — the last in 2016.
Neal intends to bring consistency as he builds the culture of his Greyhounds program.
“That starts at the top,” says Neal. “These are 14- to 18-year-old young men that have so many moving parts in their lives.
“I want to be consistent in my demeanor, expectations and standards for them. We show up everyday and there’s no surprises. We’re not going to get in mid-season and change the way we do things. We’re not going to panic.
“There’s a comfort level that comes with consistency where — hopefully — you can bring out the best in everyone.”
Neal, who has targeted potential assistant coaches, conducted a recent player-parent meeting to shake everyone’s hand and is planning to start IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Sept. 13.
Carmel plays its home games on Hartman Field.
“I think it’s awesome,” says Neal. “It’s a brand new turf field with lights that I can turn on and off with an app on my phone.”
To serve a community that features the Carmel Dads Club, Carmel Pups travel baseball and teams at Carmel Clay Schools’ three middle schools — Carmel, Clay and Creekside — Neal plans a five-week middle school camp.
“I want to build relationships with the middle school coaches,” says Neal. “We’ll have similar concepts so we’re not starting from scratch freshman year.”
The Greyhounds routinely send players on to college baseball. Three alums — Ryan Campbell, Conrad Gregor and Tommy Sommer — are current or recent pros.
Born in West Elkton, Ohio (Dayton area), former left-handed pitcher Neal is a 1995 graduate of Preble Shawnee Junior/Senior High School in Camden, Ohio.
He earned four letters at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) 1996-99 and was team captain in 1999 and secured a Sport Management degree. Tracy Smith was his head coach.
Neal served as Smith’s pitching coach at Miami in 2000 and 2005 and was an assistant to Dan Callahan for three seasons (2001-03) at Southern Illinois University while getting a Masters of Sport and Fitness Administration/Management. He was pitching coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League‘s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the summer of 2002.
There was one season as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004) and four as head coach (2014-17).
When Smith became head coach at Indiana, he brought Neal along and he was top assistant and recruiting coordinator for eight seasons (2006-13). He was also pitching coach for six of those campaigns and infield/third base coach for two. The Hoosiers went to the College World Series in 2013.
“He gave me an opportunity to help the team,” says Neal of the coach-player relationship with Smith (who is now head coach at the University of Michigan). “I had to grow up a lot under him.
“I learned from him to be agile and open to new things and learning. You change things when you need to.”
Neal was Smith’s Quality Control Analyst at Arizona State University in 2018.
While in Ohio, he created Serving Baseball Passion as a platform to share his knowledge with younger players.
In addition to coaching, Neal teaches Special Education at Carmel High School.

Beckett (left), Ty and Silas Neal.

Silas (left), Paisley, Christine and Beckett Neal.

Walther lends his experience to Pro X Athlete Development, College Summer League

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

Mark Walther helps run a business dedicated to the improvement of those who move and compete, particularly those in baseball, softball, football and golf.
He is the Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development, which is at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.
“I wear a lot of hats here,” says Walther, a former collegiate and professional pitcher. “There isn’t much that I don’t do here.”
Walther, 33, started as a lead instructor and taught velocity programs for pitchers and position players and gave pitching lessons.
As Director of Operations, he is charged with everything from scheduling cages and turf time to making sure machines are in order to the cleanliness of the facility.
He makes sure financials and daily reporting lines up with what’s coming into Pro X.
After coaching at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis, Walther worked briefly for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park and still helps with that company while also serving as the commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which had its third season in 2022.
The CSL came about out of players needing a place to compete and train (at Pro X) with many leagues being shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of athletes had spring seasons that were cut short or didn’t start at all.
“We had a lot of time on our hands,” says Walther. “Both of our businesses were shut down about the time (Indiana) opened up (from the lockdown) is when we were able to open up the league.”
Walther says he was one of six people who created the CSL and other people were brought in to make it a reality.
“To start up a league like that you want high-profile players,” says Walther. “It’s tough to get high-profile players if they’ve never heard of your league before.
“Right way we wanted to be able to compete with the Northwoods, the Prospect and the Coastal Plain. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to compete with the Cape, but we wanted to be up there.”
Walther says getting the amount of players and talent that the CSL did (in 2020) is the whole reason it still exists.
“We just want to make sure that the product we’re putting out there is good for college players as a whole,” says Walther. “It’s good for their development in games and while they’re training (at Pro X) and getting better.
“We want to meet every ask of a college coach. If they have a redshirt and they need them ready for sophomore year when they return to school then we can get them 30, 40, 50 innings. If they want them to throw 20 innings and two innings a week in relief, we’ll follow that, too.
“That’s really what’s set the College Summer League apart.”
Over the past two years, Walther’s commissioner responsibilities have included finding and getting commitments from coaches, recruiting and placing players and taking care of everything from payments to jersey sizes to host families. He coordinates gameday operations and hires sports information interns for the eight-team league.
Those positions are posted in November and December with interviews coming in January and February.
Walther grew up on a farm on the west side of Kankakee, Ill., and is a 2007 graduate of Herscher (Ill.) High School, where his head coach was Eric Regez.
His junior year, Walther was the last one to make cuts for the Tigers varsity and helped his team as a right-handed reliever. As a senior, he was a starter.
“I played the underdog throughout my entire college career,” says Walther, who worked hard to grow his knowledge base while improving his athletic skill set.
“I was a P.O. (Pitcher Only) before P.O. was even a thing. I think I had seven career varsity at-bats.
“I just kept working at it.”
Mark is the son of Eugene and Beth Walther and is about six years younger than brother Todd Walther.
Eugene Walther died of brain cancer when Mark was 18.
“Going into college that pushed me forward,” says Walther. “It always gave me something to work for: Trying to make him proud.”
Walther showed up at walk-on tryouts at Parkland.
“I wasn’t a preferred walk-on or anything,” says Walther. “I found a way to earn a spot.”
The Cobras coaching staff changed Walther’s arm slot from overhand to sidearm/submarine.
“That gave me a whole new life in college baseball,” says Walther, who was frequently used as a freshman and was on scholarship as a sophomore. The latter team won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship.
After two years at Parkland playing for Mitch Rosenthal and Matt Kennedy, Walther transferred to NCAA Division II University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He came out of the bullpen for Tracy Archuleta’s Screaming Eagles (which won an NCAA Division II national crown in 2010).
“I tried to just extend the game and get us to the next guy,” says Walther. “My job was to get us out of jams. There’s not better feeling in the world than coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out and you’re trying to get a ground ball. I lived for those moments.
“Being out there when the adrenaline’s pumping, I’ve yet to find anything to match it.”
After pitching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Todd Walther wound up on the baseball operations side with the Texas Rangers.
Mark used the connection to his advantage.
“I was able to bounce ideas off of him when thing weren’t going my way in bullpens or games,” says Walther.
He got to see video of major league pitchers like Cody Bradford, Darren O’Day and Pat Neshek and could study their mechanics, grips and release points.
Walther was on a path to become a Physical Education teacher and high school coach when a curriculum change at USI that would have taken him longer to get his degree caused him to change his major to Sport Management.
“I started learning more about facility management and running a sports business,” says Walther, who took classes on sports marketing and sports law — things that help him in his position at Pro X.
But Walther did pursue coaching out of college.
He was an assistant at Parkland for a year and helped Kennedy with outfielders, operations and recruiting.
He started what turned out to be a four-year stint at the UIndy as a volunteer learning from Greyhounds pitching coach Jordan Tiegs and serving for head coaches Gary Vaught and Al Ready.
When Tiegs left for Indiana State University, Walther took became pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
Tiegs is now Drector of Pitching Research and Development for the Rangers — Todd Walther’s former job
“I loved college baseball,” says Mark Walther. “I loved coaching it.
“I really loved the recruiting aspect of college. (Players) need to come to us because we’re going to do a better job of developing them as a player.
“I’m very appreciate of Coach Vaught and Coach Ready for everything they did for me.”
Walther then went into tech recruiting for three months and decided he wanted to get back into baseball.
Pro X has just launched into the travel world with its Phoenix softball teams.
While travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Indiana Prospects, partner with Pro X, there is currently no plans to field travel baseball teams under the Pro X banner.
“Travel baseball really wasn’t a thing when I grew up,” says Walther. “I played community baseball until I was 16 years old. Shortly after that it began to grow a little more.”
His first experience came when the Indiana Bulls and others brought teams to play fall exhibition games his first year at Parkland.
Walther notes that he was lucky enough to be on a winning team from age 10 on. But that was not the case in his early community baseball days.
“I got put on a terrible team,” says Walther. “I had to find a way to try to help the team win and to help players develop themselves and rely on our coaches to do the same.
“Depending on where your talent is you can be put on an elite team and rarely ever have to deal with failure, losing or any kind of adversity and learn to overcome that.
“Being on winning teams is also a positive because you learn what it takes to win. Whether you’re on the field or not you can find ways to help the team win.”
Walther says travel ball is all about finding the right fit for you as a player.
“You want to go where you have a chance to play or have a chance to compete for playing time,” says Walther. “You should never shy away from competing and trying to beat someone out to earn playing time.
“In the game of baseball you’re going to have guys on the bench no matter what. It’s what type of bench guys you have. Do you have guys who are going to work and push themselves and the people that are technically in front of them? Or are they going to just roll over and complain until they move on or join another team?”
Players should make sure the team will be doing what they want to do. Will it be mostly local tournaments are really hitting the road? Is the coaching staff going to help develop them as a player?
Among the things coming up at Pro X are “Hard 90” classes with about 30 minutes each of hitting, defense and speed and agility.
In September, the pitching academy and elite training academy for offense and defense cranks up.
Pro X — with its staff of instructors including Jay Lehr, trainers and medical professionals and former big leaguer Joe Thatcher as president — is also an off-season place to train for professionals, including major leaguers Tucker Barnhart, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon and minor leaguers Parker Dunshee and Collin Ledbetter.
Rodon came to Pro X while doing rehab from Tommy John surgery.
“He learned a lot about the body and how it moves and how to become efficient on the mound and use his lower half to try to stay as healthy as possible,” says Walther. “We just do whatever we can to service them whether that’s completely help them with their program or stay out of their way and let them use the weight room.”

Mark Walther, Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development and commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, both in Westfield, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

Lefty Lohman competes way to Dodgers organization

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

Competition.
It’s one of the things Carter Lohman likes most about baseball.
As a left-handed pitcher, the 2018 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate enjoys the challenge of facing hitters.
In four seasons at the University of Louisville (2019-22), he appeared in 38 games (30 in relief) and went 3-4 with a 5.59 earned run average, 62 strikeouts and 52 walks in 58 innings.
The Cardinals went 134-65-1 during Lohman’s time with the program, including 51-18 and a College World Series appearance in 2019.
Each season was preceded by the Omaha Challenge — a series of competitions to get the team ready for the season and focused on the goal of ending the season at the CWS.
For a week or two, the red and black teams took part in swimming, tire flips, 100-meter dashes, lifting and running and more. There was a truck push around the Kentucky State Fairgrounds.
Lohman was in the individual top 10 and on the winning team a couple of times.
In high school, he played four varsity seasons (all but his junior year as a pitcher-only) for then-HSE head coach Scott Henson and the Royals did the Victory Challenge (the IHSAA State Finals are at Victory Field) early in the spring semester.
“It helped make us mentally and physically tougher,” says Lohman. “(Coach Henson) pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves on the field. Our practices were scheduled nicely. There was no lollygagging. That was our time to get better.
“At the same time he knew that baseball is fun so let it be fun.”
He struck out 125 batters during his prep career and was ranked as Indiana’s top left-handed pitcher by Perfect Game. He also earned two football letters at HSE.
Lohman has also enjoyed development at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., working with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and others and going against other players on Fridays.
“It’s a good atmosphere for competing and getting better,” says Lohman.
Dan McDonnell is Louisville’s head coach. Lohman worked closely with associate head coach/pitching coach Roger Williams.
“He did not take a cookie-cutter approach (to each pitcher),” says Lohman of Williams, who has been at the U of L for 16 seasons. “The emphasis was on learning the game and becoming a better player.”
Lohman learned about things like bunting scenarios and first-and-third situations.
“I could go for days talking about pitch sequencing,” says Lohman. “You can use your pitches in different ways to get the batters out.”
Lohman’s been good enough at it to get paid for it.
The 22-year-old southpaw was signed Aug. 1 as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers is now at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., throwing regular bullpen sessions and expecting to make his pro debut soon in the Arizona Complex League.
Lohman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, throws from a high three-quarter arm slot.
His four-seam fastball has gotten up to 96 mph. His two-seamer has similar velocity with more horizontal movement to the arm side as opposed to the glove side for the four-seamer.
To get more feel for the pitch, Lohman positions his index finger to throw a “spike” curve ball.
Thrown harder than his curve, his slider has more horizontal break.
His uses a “circle” grip for his change-up.
Born in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 1999, Carter is the oldest of Northwestern High School graduates Brian and Andrea Lohman’s four children.
Brian Lohman, a sales engineer, played baseball and football in high school and lettered as a defensive back at Purdue University (1992-95).
Andrea Lohman, an actuary, was a high school cheerleader.
Griffin Lohman, 21, is a right-handed pitcher at Purdue. Ava and Sydney have played volleyball at HSE.
The Lohman brothers were teammates briefly during Carter’s senior year of high school and with the Tropics of the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
What was it like growing up with a ball-playing brother?
“The biggest thing was playing catch,” says Carter. “We eventually passed up our dad so we had no one else to throw with.”
Carter played recreation ball in Fishers until 8 then travel ball for the Fisher Cats, Indiana Bulls and Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest) at 16U and 17U.
He met Jared Poland around 10 while both were on the Bulls. Right-hander Poland went on to pitch at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins.
“We definitely talk about (pitching),” says Lohman of some of his conversations with Poland.
Lohman played briefly with the Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 before joining other freshmen on the Louisville campus. He had a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds in 2019 and was with the CSL’s Snapping Turtles in 2020.
In May, Lohman earned a degree in Exercise Science.
“I’ve always been interested in how the body moves,” says Lohman. “It can help me on the field.”
Away from baseball, the knowledge gives Lohman many options including athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist.
But now it’s about competing on the pitcher’s mound.

Carter Lohman at the University of Louisville. (Bryan Green Photo)
Brothers Carter and Griffin Lohman with Tropics of 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park.
Carter Lohman signs pro baseball contract. (Los Angeles Dodgers Photo)

Former switch hitter Allbry switches gears, reflects on diamond experiences

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

Baseball took Allbry Major all over America.
The Indianapolis native played in many places as a travel baller and then had college baseball adventures at three schools and with numerous summer collegiate teams.
His playing career over, the 23-year-old reflects on his experiences as he finishes Week 1 on his first full-time job.
What did he get out of baseball?
“It taught me how to compete,” says Major. “That was something very important to me. Anything can be competition.
“There’s also the relationships I made with people. It’s really a small world once you get to summer ball.”
Major is now a manager trainee at a Enterprise Rent-A-Car store near San Francisco. He settled there with girlfriend and former Arizona State University softball player Mailey McLemore. Both finished their degrees this spring — Major in General Studies with a focus in Applied Sciences at Louisiana State University Shreveport and McLemore in Sports Business at ASU.
Born in Indianapolis as the only child of Kendrick and Marcy Major (a trackster who competed for Indiana State University and a multi-sport prep athlete), Allbry was in Pike Township until attending North Central High School, where he graduated in 2017.
In 2016, he named all-Marion County and helped the Phil McIntyre-coached Panthers to the county championship. He was academic all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference his last three years.
Major made the basketball squad as a senior. He had classes with members of the team and would participate in pick-up games so he decided to go out for head coach Doug Mitchell’s squad. Mitchell went into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.
People always assumed that at 6-foot-6 he was a basketball player.
“That’s everybody’s first guess,” says Major. But his first love was for the diamond.
His baseball journey got rolling around age 7 at Westlane-Delaware Little League. There were travel ball stops with the Pony Express, Smithville Gators, Indiana Bandits, Indiana Outlaws, New Level Baseball Tornadoes (Illinois) and then — during his junior high and high school years — the Cincinnati Spikes, including his 17U summer.
“I didn’t like (being an only child),” says Major. “I always wanted siblings. I wasn’t a big fan of the spotlight.”
Major enjoyed getting to know so many coaches and teammates. He also learned from travel ball trips that sometimes had four players to a room that there were stages to the summer in the early years.
“I started out the season super excited to play again with my travel team,” says Major. “In the middle of the year, they got on my nerves. The last week or two I was irritated and mad at them. I grew out out that once I got to college. Everybody was more independent. You handle your business and get out.”
The summer before going to Xavier University in Cincinnati, the 6-6, 215-pound switch-hitting outfielder was with the Elmira (N.Y.) Pioneers of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Major played at Xavier in 2018 and 2019, but not during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
He was named Big East Conference Freshman of the Year in 2018 after hitting .291 (46-of-158) with two home runs, nine doubles, 21 runs batted in and 16 runs scored in 47 games (46 starts). As 16 games as a pitcher (eight starts), the right-hander went 3-5 with one save, a 4.96 earned run average, 54 strikeouts and 24 walks in 61 2/3 innings. He had just a handful of pitching outings after that.
In 2019, Major played in 51 games (all starts) and hit .281 (57-of-203) with seven homers, 15 doubles, 34 RBIs and 32 runs.
The Musketeers head coach was Billy O’Conner.
Major was at Arizona State University in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.
With the Tracy Smith-coached Sun Devils, he was in 27 games and hit .196 with two homers and 10 RBIs.
“I trying to go D-I again (after Arizona State), but there was the road block of being academically eligible,” says Major, noting how credits transferred from one school to the next.
A Finance major when he started at Xavier, he switched to Communications because it was easier with his full load of baseball activities. He was going to continue down that path at ASU, but not all credits transferred and he went with General Studies/Applied Sciences (including Business, Communications and Sociology).
Along the way, Major discovered his learning style to be hands-on (aka Kinesthetic). On the VARK scale there is Visual, Auditory, Reading and writing and Kinesthetic.
“I identify more with that,” says Major. “The better coaches made me understand why I was doing what I was doing. Once I understood I just kind of bought in more.
“Not everybody’s the same.”
Joining close friend Zyon Avery (Ben Davis Class of 2018) at LSUS gave Major the opportunity to play in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2022. The Brad Neffendorf-coached Pilots went 53-8 in their second straight World Series season with two losses coming in Idaho.
In 51 games with LSUS, Major hit .333 (49-of-147) with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 38 runs.
Major encountered many wood bat summer league situations in college. He played briefly for both the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Brewster Whitecaps and New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Valley Blue Sox (Holyoke, Mass.) in the summer of 2018.
He went back to the Cape in 2019 with the Cotuit Kettleers (his head coach was American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Roberts). He had no summer team in 2020.
In 2021, Major suited up for the Prospect League’s Chris Willsey-managed Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators.
In 99 collegiate summer league games, he hit .302 with six homers and 49 RBIs.
Major was hoping to be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but knew time was not on his side.
“After Arizona State, that was my last real chance because of my age,” says Major. “I know how big of a factor that plays in the draft.”
He had a chance to play independent pro ball, but decided to go with Mailey (daughter of former all-pro defensive back and San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XIX-champion Dana McLemore and a former softball standout at Carlmont High School in Belmont, Calif.) and begin working.
“It’s the first time I’ve had a job because I’ve been playing summer ball,” says Major. “I’m trying to adjust to that.
“It’s the most expensive part of the country.”
Major doesn’t see himself leaving baseball behind entirely. Coaching might be his next avenue.
“I’m still going to be involved as much as a I can,” says Major. “I’ll have to see what my schedule is like now that I’m working.”

Allbry Major (LSU Shreveport Photo)
Allbry Major (LSU Shreveport Photo)
Allbry Major (Arizona State University Photo)

Allbry Major (LSU Shreveport Photo)
Allbry Major (LSU Shreveport Photo)
Allbry Major (LSU Shreveport Photo)
Allbry Major (Arizona State University Photo)

Allbry Major (Xavier University Photo)

Lebanon alum Harker hurling for Harwich in Cape Cod Baseball League

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

A year ago at this time, 2021 Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate Garrett Harker suited up for the North in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
In the summer of 2022, the right-handed pitcher is in the high-profile Cape Cod Baseball League with the Harwich Mariners, managed since 2003 by Steve Englert.
In his first two outings covering 3 2/3 relief innings, Harker has allowed no runs and two hits while striking out seven and walking none.
“It’s the best league you can play in,” says Harker, 19. “I’m blessed to be here and have this experience. I’m probably one of the youngest guys.
“I’m just trying to get some innings and throw in front of as many people as I can.”
During his freshmen season at the University of Cincinnati this spring, 6-foot, 200-pound Harker appeared in 16 games (six starts) and went 4-3 with one save and one save and a 7.08 earned run average. He produced 38 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 1/3 innings.
The UC Bearcats head coach is Scott Googins. Harker works closely with pitching coach JD Heilmann.
It’s been competitiveness that Heilmann has emphasized with Harker.
“Go at the hitter and be the competitor you’ve been,” says Harker. “I’m not the biggest, fastest, strongest guy out there. I’m going to give you 100 percent no matter what I do.”
Born in Indianapolis, Harker grew up in Lebanon. He played at Lebanon Little League until about 9 then played for various travel ball teams, including the Lebanon Thunder, Indiana Baseball Club, Indiana Elite, Indiana Outlaws, Indiana Bulls and Team Indiana (fall ball).
With the 2020 prep season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harker played three seasons at Lebanon High School for Rick Cosgray.
“He’s a players’ coach for sure,” says Harker of Cosgray. “He’ll go to battle for you as long as you give 100 percent.”
In 81 high school games, Harker hit .431 (113-of-262) with 13 home runs, 56 runs batted in and 89 runs scored. As a pitcher, he went 19-7 with two saves and a 1.44 ERA. He whiffed 264 and walked 42 in 156 innings. As a senior in 2021, he was 8-0 with one save, a 0.67 ERA, 111 K’s and eight walks in 52 1/3 innings.
He was the IHSBCA District K Player of the Year and was the on the Prep Baseball Report Indiana All-State Team and All-USA Central Indiana Postseason Super Team.
Harker, who turns 20 on July 23, says it was during his junior year of high school that he really learned how to pitch.
The righty throws from a high three-quarter arm angle.
“I figured I needed to get on top of the ball and get more spin rate and spin efficiency — all that stuff,” says Harker.
He mixes a four-seam fastball that has been clocked as high as 95 mph, a sinking two-seam fastball, “circle” change-up (usually delivered around 80 mph), a traditional slider (with horizontal movement and vertical depth).
Harker’s 2020 summer was spent with the 17U Indiana Bulls. In 2021, he got in a few outings with the PRP Baseball Mambas and had workouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Besides baseball, Harker played four years of football (three years as starting quarterback) and one year of basketball at Lebanon. During his gridiron days, he passed for 4,399 yards and 43 touchdowns, including 2,028 and 21 as a junior in 2019.
Garrett is the youngest of Larry and Teri Harker’s four children — all former Lebanon athletes. Former Tigers basketball and softball player Kalyn Harker (Class of 2011) is the oldest, followed by former football, basketball and baseball player Isaac Harker (Class of 2014), former volleyball, basketball and softball player Tori Harker (2018) and Garrett Harker.
Kalyn played softball at Southern Illinois University. Isaac played quarterback at Indiana State University and Colorado School of Mines and been in the Canadian Football League. Tori played volleyball at Indiana University East.
Larry Harker works for Cincinnati Bell Technology Services. Teri Harker is a stay-at-home mom.

Garrett Harker (University of Cincinnati Photo)
Garrett Harker (University of Cincinnati Photo)

With increased strength, Sharp develops as a pitcher

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

Reese Sharp has thrown a baseball 97 mph.
The right-handed hurler regularly tops 92.
It was with added muscle that he increased his velocity and raised his profile in the game.
“Strength has always been one of main qualities,” says Sharp, who plays for Indiana University and is with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer. “Being strong and explosive has helped me develop as a pitcher.”
Born and raised in Hamilton County, Ind., Sharp began school in the Hamilton Heights system before moving to Noblesville early in his elementary years.
He played baseball for three seasons at Noblesville High School and finished up his prep career at University High in nearby Carmel, Ind., where he helped the Chris Estep-coached Trailblazers to the 2019 IHSAA Class 1A state championship with 17 strikeouts in the title game against Washington Township.
A rec ball player when his family lived in Cicero, Sharp began taking lessons from Estep at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield at 9 and played for the travel organization led by Estep — the Indiana Mustangs — from 9U through the end of high school.
It was at Noblesville that Sharp was introduced to serious strength and conditioning training by former Butler University pitcher Brian Clarke.
Sharp credits Clarke not only for teaching him about weightlifting but the mental side, too.
The Millers head S&C coordinator taught his athletes about E + R = O (Event plus Response equals Outcome).
“Outcome doesn’t determine how you perform,” says Sharp. “It’s something I have taken with me throughout my career. It’s really helped.
“The process is what’s most important. You can’t control the outcome.”
Sharp has learned to pitch with a short memory and keep his composure even in the tightest jams. He doesn’t let it bother him when opponents and fans are chirping and he’s given up a big hit or multiple runs.
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” says Sharp. “You’ve got to go and execute the next pitch.”
Sharp, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, redshirted as an IU freshman in 2020. In his two seasons with the Jeff Mercer-coached Hoosiers, he is 3-8 with a 5.86 earned run average in 34 appearances (33 as a reliever). In 66 innings, he has 90 strikeouts and 34 walks. All four of his saves came in 2022.
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm angle, Sharp uses a four-seam fastball, “spike” curveball, slider and “circle” change-up.
“My four-seamer — on a good day — is sitting about 92 to 94 and touching 95,” says Sharp. “I got it up to 97.
“My curveball is 12-to-6. My slider has horizontal movement and is completely different than my curveball. It breaks away from righties and and into lefties. My change-up has a little big of tail, drop and depth to it.
“Developing four-pitch mix, the goal in my mind is to be a starter. But whatever the team needs me to do to win I’m going to do that.”
While in Bloomington, Sharp has worked with two pitching coaches — Justin Parker and Dustin Glant.
“(Parker) is a really good mental coach,” says Sharp of the coach now at the University of South Carolina. “He’s very good at getting you prepared to compete and teaches pitchers how to be explosive off the mound. He’s one of the reasons I got a velocity jump in college (coming throwing 89 to 92 mph and touching 93 in the first couple bullpens).
“(Current Indiana pitching coach Glant) is kind of like a pitching guru. He knows his stuff and is a really smart guy. He was with the Yankees and learned a lot of analytical stuff. He has brought that to IU. He helped me develop my slider. It’s become on of my main swing-and-miss pitches.”
The CCBL season is in his second week. Sharp has pitched four innings.
“There’s a really cool atmosphere here,” says Sharp. “We have one ‘off’ day a week. We use those to relax. Baseball can take a toll on your body.”
While there has been no youth camps yet, Sharp says he enjoys sharing his baseball knowledge with youngsters and sees coaching in his future.
Sharp did not play baseball in the summer of 2019. He went to IU, took summer classes and became familiar with the campus and the weight room there.
He played with and competed against friends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield in 2020.
Last summer, Sharp was with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Winnipesaukee Muskrats.
A Sports Marketing and Management major, Sharp has two more semesters to complete his degree.
Adam and Sophia Sharp have two children — Meme (25) and Reese (21). Adam Sharp is a long-time firefighter in Carmel. Sophia Sharp is a nurse. Meme Sharp-Machado is a Noblesville graduate who was a diver at the University of Pittsburgh.

Reese Sharp (Indiana University)
Reese Sharp (Indiana University)
Reese Sharp (Indiana University)
Reese Sharp (Indiana University)

Broadcaster Monaco to make first MLB call for ESPN

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

Mike Monaco, who began his professional baseball broadcast career with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in 2015, is scheduled to be the play-by-plan man for his first ESPN-produced Major League Baseball broadcast.
Monaco, a 2015 University of Notre Dame graduate in Film, Television and Theatre with concentration in TV, is to pair up with Doug Glanville and Tim Kurkjian on the San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks game at 9:40 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 1.
It will be Monaco’s first game working with veterans Glanville and Kurkjian.
“With those guys as accomplished as they are, it will be my job to feed off them,” says Monaco. “They’re the real stars of the show.
“I think the world of them as baseball minds and broadcasters.”
Working remotely from his Chicago home studio, Monaco will tell the audience what is happening for Giants-Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
“It’s very different. That’s for sure,” says Monaco of not being on-site. “It’s a credit to ESPN that they’ve built this model. It’s amazing to see how they’re able to pull this off on such a large scale.”
Monaco and his partners will have access to multiple camera angles and a statistician and work with a production crew.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Monaco had experience calling baseball remotely from the Big Ten Network offices in Chicago.
“It’s not as much of a culture shock for me,” says Monaco, who has trained himself to watch various monitors to convey the action.
The example he likes to cite is a ball hit into the right-center gap with a runner at second base.
“The camera might be showing you the ball landing in the outfield,” says Monaco. “You train our eyes to find another camera that might be showing you the runner.”
There’s also the judging fly balls off the bat, which is a skill even for in-person broadcasters.
“It’s the more reps you do the more familiarized your mind and your eyes get,” says Monaco.
While calling baseball or other sports, Monaco reminds himself that he is part of a team of commentators, graphics people etc., and that fans can see what’s happening on their sets and devices.
“It’s on us to accentuate, inform and entertain,” says Monaco. “In radio, you have to describe every pitch and every swing. You paint a picture.
“In baseball, you have time to break down swings and pitch sequences and tell stories. We make you care about a guy you’ve never heard of before, the stakes of a live competition and why the participants care so much and why the fans at home care so much.”
Hired by ESPN in November 2019, Monaco has called college basketball and college baseball the most for the network with some lacrosse, volleyball and football.
At the end of 2019, he filled in on New England Sports Network (NESN) for Boston Red Sox TV broadcasts, working with Jerry Remy and Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. He is scheduled to be pair with Ellis Burks for road series July 2-4 against the Oakland Athletics and July 5-7 against the Los Angeles Angels.
“Growing up a Red Sox fan it’s been special to be a small part of that operation,” says Monaco, who once dressed up for Halloween as Nomar Garciaparra, counts Jason Varitek as his first autograph and graduated from Cohasset (Mass.) High School in 2011. “It’s an honor to fill the chair of (lead play-by-play man) Dave O’Brien.”
Having watched and listened to Remy and Eckersley, Monaco came to appreciate their blending of hitting and pitching knowledge. He even knows the language of Eck.
“Cheese” is an excellent fastball.
“Educated cheese” is a well-located fastball.
“Hair” is a fastball with late movement.
“Moss” is what grows on a person’s head.
“Salad” is stuff thrown by a finesse pitcher.
“Going Bridge” is a home run.
“Johnson” is an important home run.
“I laugh as hard as anyone,” says Monaco of Eckisms.
Monaco called Cape Cod Baseball League games in the summer of 2013 and 2014.
He is grateful for the opportunity he had with the 2015 South Bend Cubs, where he worked with Chris Hagstrom-Jones.
In 2016, he was on the air for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps where his regular partner was Mike Maahs and counts Broadcasting & Media Relations Manager John Nolan, Team President Mike Nutter and Vice President of Marketing & Promotions Michael Limmer among friends in baseball.
Monaco did play-by play for Western Michigan University men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16.
His first BTN games came in the winter of 2017-18 and he moved to Chicago more than three years ago. He broadcast for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox for three seasons.
Monaco’s resume also includes productions for the ACC Network and FOX Sports.

Mike Monaco

Riggs shares prep, college, pro experiences with next generation

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Like many Indiana boys, Eric Riggs’ athletic focus growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., was basketball.

His father, David Riggs, was on the 1962 Evansville Bosse state championship team and earned a letter on the hardwood at the University of Evansville in 1966-67. The Purple Aces were NCAA Division II national champions in 1963-64 and 1964-65.

David’s father Walter Riggs and uncle Clarence Riggs are both in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Both graduated from Evansville Central High School and Evansville College.

Walter Riggs, grandfather of Eric, coached Evansville Central to an IHSAA state runner-up finish to Lafayette Jeff in 1948.

Eric Riggs, who is 6-foot-2 and played on Steve Brunes-coached Brownsburg High School teams that went 20-5 and 24-3 in his junior (1993-94) and senior seasons (1994-95), accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of Central Florida.

Playing Knights head coach Kirk Speraw, Riggs started in 22 of 30 games and averaged 11.4 points and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman in 1995-96. UMass and Marcus Camby knocked UCF out of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

Then Riggs turned his attention back to the diamond.

In his 16U, 17U and 18U summers, Riggs played travel baseball for the Indiana Bulls — the first two years with Jeff Mercer Sr. as head coach and the last with Bret Shambaugh.

The switch-hitting infielder had played baseball at Brownsburg for head coach Wayne Johnson and assistants Craig Moore and Mick Thornton. Big league pitcher Jeff Fassero came in to help the Bulldogs during the off-season.

“(Johnson) was a players’ coach,” says Riggs. “We were pretty stacked in our senior class. We had a lot of guys play at the next level (including Brian Stayte, Mark Voll and Joel Martin).”

Junior Quinn Moore, youngest son of Craig, was the mound ace in 1995 and went on to play at the University of South Alabama.

During a basketball recruiting trip to the school near Orlando in the spring of 1995, Riggs met with UCF baseball coach Jay Bergman near the end of the program’s 29-game win streak.

“He was very positive,” says Riggs of Bergman. “Coach Moore had been in Coach Bergman’s ear to let me walk on.

“(Craig Moore) was very instrumental in my baseball career. I just kind of played it. Basketball was my first sport.”

“I had never played year-round baseball. I wanted to find out what that was like. I ended up getting a partial baseball scholarship.”

Before he knew it, Riggs was batting ninth and starting at second base at the NCAA D-I level.

From 1996-98, Riggs amassed a career average of .362 with 49 doubles and a .573 slugging percentage. As an all-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team shortstop in 1998, he hit .394 with 26 doubles, 154 total bases and 64 runs scored.

Selected in the fourth round of the 1998 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Riggs was one of 10 UCF players picked from a 41-21 team. Two of those — pitcher Mike Maroth (Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals) and outfielder Esix Snead (New York Mets) — reached the majors.

In the winter of 2000-01, Riggs played a few months in Queensland, Australia, before returning to the U.S. and the Dodgers. He was with that organization for eight years (1998-2004, 2006), getting as far as Triple-A in 2003, 2004 and 2006.

In three seasons, his roommate was David Ross (who went on to be a 14-year big league catcher and is now manager of the Chicago Cubs).

“He’s a natural leader,” says Riggs of Ross. “Being a catcher that was his state of mind. He managed the pitching staff well.

“He was just a solid baseball player. Once he got his chance (in the majors), he showed them what he could do as a catcher and hit a little bit.”

Riggs also played Double-A ball for the Houston Astros in 2005 and was briefly with the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers at the beginning of 2007 before finishing up his pro career that year in Double-A with the Miami Marlins.

In 10 seasons at all levels, Riggs played in 1,050 games (with 500 appearances at shortstop, 235 at second base and 216 at third base) and hit .264 with 78 homers, 217 doubles, 459 RBIs and slugging percentage of .406.

Steve Farley, then the Butler University head coach, brought Riggs on as a part-time volunteer coach in the spring of 2008.

“Steve gave me a chance to see what coaching at that level was like,” says Riggs. “He was a very, very smart baseball man. He was great to learn from and watch work.

“I had a blast.”

Riggs also had the opportunity to pick the baseball brain of Butler assistant Matt Tyner, who had played the University of Miami (Fla.) for Ron Fraser and in the Baltimore Orioles system. After Butler, Tyner was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., a University of Richmond (Va.) assistant and head coach at Towson (Md.) State University.

With a change in his full-time job in 2009, Riggs changed his focus to coaching his sons. Eric and wife Trisha have four sons. Bryce (16) is a sophomore at Noblesville (Ind.) High School. Twins Blake (13) and Brooks (13) are seventh graders at Noblesville West Middle School. Beckett (8) is a third grader at Noble Crossing Elementary School. 

The three oldest Riggs boys have had their father as a coach with the Indiana Bulls. Eric was an assistant with Bulls teams Bryce played on from age 8 to eighth grade and he is now head coach of the 13U White team as well as a board of directors member. The 12-player roster (pitcher-only players become a thing in the high school years) includes Blake and Brooks. 

The team played in two fall tournaments and plans to ramp up preparation for the 2021 season of 11 tournaments with 50 or more games in January. His assistants include Brandon Inge, J.J. Beard and Kyle Smith. Former MLB third baseman/catcher Inge (Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates) go back to their Cape Cod Baseball League days in college with 1997 Bourne Braves.

Kevin O’Sullivan (who went on to coach the 2017 national championship team at the University of Florida) was the Bourne head coach. The ace of the pitching staff was left-hander Mark Mulder, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft and went on to win 103 games in nine Major League Baseball seasons with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

When he can, Eric also helps coach the Noblesville Millers travel team that includes Beckett.

“I’m using what I’ve learned from players and coaches I’ve been around,” says Riggs. “I want to pass that to kids to make them better people and baseball players.”

Riggs, 44, is also a sales pro for BSN Sports with college and high school clients. He says uniform trends at the high school level tend to revolve around what catches a coach’s eye on the college scene. If they like the Vanderbilt look, they may wish to replicate in their school colors.

The Riggs family (clockwise from top left): Eric, Bryce, Trisha, Brooks, Beckett and Blake. Eric Riggs, a 1995 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, played pro baseball for 10 years and now helps coach his boys with the Indiana Bulls and Noblesville Millers travel organizations. 

Rebound season cut short for USC lefty Gursky

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brian Gursky’s bounce-back baseball season was getting rave reviews when the curtain came down much sooner than expected.

A left-handed pitcher at the University of Southern California, the Indiana native started against visiting Xavier University on Wednesday, March 11.

Gursky recalls the unusual atmosphere when he took the mound at Dedeaux Field.

“Only essential personnel were allowed in the stands,” says Gursky. “It was like a travel ball game. Only parents were there.”

Gursky tossed the first two innings, facing eight batters with three strikeouts and yielding one hit as the first of seven USC pitchers.

“The next day I wake up and my phone is blowing up,” says Gursky of what turned out to be a COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. 

Thinking the situation would blow over, he spent about a week at his uncle’s house in Orange County then came home to Granger, Ind.

“I had not been in Indiana in March in years,” says Gursky. “We were having a great start to the year then comes the sad news. We worked so hard in the fall.”

The Trojans were 10-5 when the 2020 slate was halted. Southpaw Gursky was 1-1 in four appearances (three starts) with a 0.00 earned run average. He fanned 12 and walked three in 12 innings. Opponents hit .105 against him. On March 3, he pitched the first six innings against UC Irvine and held the Anteaters hitless with seven strikeouts.

USC coaches talked about placing Gursky in the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer. But that league canceled its season and with all the uncertainty, Gursky opted to take 15 weeks away from throwing and reported to USC this fall fully-refreshed. 

An online accounting class taken this summer will help Gursky on his path to graduating with a Business Administration degree next spring.

Gursky played three seasons for head coach John Gumpf at South Bend St. Joseph High School (2014-16).

“That was a fun time,” says Gursky of his days with the Indians. “I have a lot of great teammates.”

Some of Gursky’s pals were Danny Torres, Tony Carmola, J.R. Haley and Carlos Matovina.

In his senior year (2017), Gursky played for former major leaguer Chris Sabo at a IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Gursky enjoyed a solid inaugral campaign at USC in 2018, but struggled in 2019.

“I had a good freshmen year and a disaster of a sophomore year,” says Gursky. “I was in a bad place.”

Playing for then-Trojans head coach Dan Hubbs, Gursky made 22 appearances (two starts) as a freshman, going 3-1 with a 4.93 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.

His second college appearance was at Cal State Long Beach’s Blair Field, where played for the Brewers in the 2015 underclass Area Code Games and was named to the upperclass game in 2016 but did not play because of a forearm injury.

As a sophomore, Gursky got into 12 games (five starts) and was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA. He struck out 18 in 22 innings.

“I thank (Hubbs) so much for getting to come to the school of my choice,” says Gursky.

In the summer of 2019, the lefty played for the Newport (R.I.) Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where Kevin Winterrowd was the manager and pitching coach.

“I was kind of inconsistent,” says Gursky. “I working on stuff at the same time I was competing and trying to win games.

“But that was a the beginning of the turnaround. It set up a good fall and spring.”

Back in Los Angeles, Gursky had a new head coach (Jason Gill) and pitching coach (Ted Silva) in the fall of 2019.

“(Gill) has continuous energy,” says Gursky. “We all love playing for him. We feed off that energy.

“(Silva) helped me out. He saw something in me. He’s straight forward like Sabo.”

Gursky appreciates the approach of Sabo, the former Cincinnati Reds third baseman and current University of Akron head coach.

“He never sugar coated anything,” says Gursky. “He was a great guy to talk with in general.”

Another ex-big leaguer — Steve Frey — was the IMG Academy pitching coach.

“He was great communicator,” says Gursky of Frey. “We connected very well. 

“We’re both lefties  so we felt the same way.”

Back in northern Indiana, Gursky has gotten pitching pointers from Curt Hasler, who pitched for the 1988 South Bend White Sox and is now the bullpen coach for the Chicago White Sox. Son Drew Hasler has pitched in the White Sox system.

“He’s great with the mental game,” says Gursky of Curt Hasler. “I like that he’s been around guys who’ve pitched at the highest level possible.”

A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who played basketball through his freshmen year at St. Joseph describes his aggressive athletic mindset.

“I’m an attacker,” says Gursky. “Either I’m attacking the basket or attacking the strike zone.”

Delivering the baseball with a three quarter-plus arm slot, Gursky throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball.

His four-seamer has a high spin rate and occasionally touched 94 mph in the spring.

His two-seamer sinks and run and was usually 88 to 91 mph.

“My change-up is very slow,” says Gursky of a pitch clocked at 76 to 78 mph. “It’s been my main strikeout pitch the last two years. 

“I grip it petty deep and pretty hard. It’s not in my palm.”

His sweeping curve comes in 79 to 82 mph and breaks left to right — away from left-handed batters and into righties.

Born in Bloomington, Ind., Gursky moved to Granger at 5 and attended Saint Pius X Catholic School. His first baseball experience came at 10 or 11 at Harris Township Cal Ripken.

He played for Rob Coffel with the Michiana Scrappers at 12U and for Ray Torres (father of Danny) with the South Bend Rays at 13U.

After that, Gursky was with a number of travel teams around the country.  Locally, he did a couple stints with the South Bend Cubs and manager Mark Haley (father of J.R.). 

“He knows the bigger picture,” says Gursky of Mark Haley, who played at the University of Nebraska, coached at the University of Tennessee and was a manager in professional baseball for 12 years, including 10 with the South Bend Silver Hawks (2005-14) before becoming general manager of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and executive director of the South Bend Cubs Foundation. “He’s big on development.”

Gursky’s grandfather, Will Perry, was a pitcher at the University of Michigan. A broken leg suffered in a car accident kept him from a starting role with the 1953 national champions. He was later sports information director and assistant athletic director for the Wolverines.

Uncle Steve Perry played baseball at Michigan and was selected in the first round of the 1979 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 6-foot-5 right-hander advanced to Triple-A in 1983 and 1984.

“He taught things when I was younger,” says Gursky. “Now I get what he was saying.

“When you have a growth mentality, you take what other people are saying and apply it to yourself.”

Perry was one of three first-round draft picks for Michigan in 1979. Outfielder/first baseman Rick Leach and left-handed pitcher Steve Howe both went on to play in the majors. 

University of Notre Dame employees Matt and Susan Gursky have three children — Elena (24), Brian (22) and Natalie (18). Westland, Mich., native Matt Gursky is a mathematics professor. Ann Arbor, Mich., native Susan Gursky is a pre-medicine advisor. Elena Gursky played softball at St. Joe. Natalie Gursky is an equestrian.

Brian Gursky pitches for the University of Southern California.
Brian Gursky, an Indiana native who played high school baseball at South Bend (Ind.) St. Joseph High School and IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., has pitched for three seasons at the University of Southern California. (USC Photo)

Even without minor league season, Roncalli, Louisville grad McAvene keeps on pitching

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Michael McAvene is doing his best to keep the momentum rolling in his baseball career.

The right-handed pitcher had to push the pause button during his high school and college days because of injury and now he’s at a standstill period as a professional because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down Minor League Baseball in 2020.

McAvene is a 2016 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, playing for three head coaches. He made a few varsity appearances as a freshman for Keith Hatfield in 2013, even more as a sophomore for Daron Spink in 2014, missed his junior season with the Rebels with elbow issues in 2015 and was part of an IHSAA Class 4A state championship team as a senior for Aaron Kroll in 2016.

As a University of Louisville freshman in the spring of 2017, McAvene was hurt in an April relief stint and soon found himself on the operating table. His next pitch in a collegiate game came April 2018.

After getting into seven games (five as a starter) and going 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 17 1/3 innings as a U of L freshman, McAvene went to the bullpen when he came back from his surgery.

The righty made 34 appearances out of the bullpen his last two collegiate seasons, going 2-1 with nine saves, a 3.32 earned run average, 65 strikeouts and 18 walks in 43 1/3 innings. He was named second team all-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2019.

The Cardinals qualified for the NCAA Tournament 2017-19 and went to the College World Series in 2017 and 2019

U of L was ranked No. 1 in the nation during part of that stretch and McAvene was labeled as the team’s closer during the end of that run.

“I loved it,” says McAvene. “You have to have a certain mentality for (that role).

“It came easy for me to get the last out of the game, which in my opinion is the last out to get.”

It was while going for that last out that McAvene received an automative four-game suspension following his ejection for disputing an umpire’s decision in NCAA regional victory over Indiana University.

He counts it as part of his experience. 

“I definitely didn’t want to talk about it (immediately after the game),” says McAvene. “But you’ve got to be professional and not let emotions get in the way.”

McAvene cherished the atmosphere created at Louisville by head coach Dan McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams.

“(McDonnell) gets you to the point where you’d run through a wall for him and your teammates,” says McAvene. “That’s the culture.

“It’s a testament to the players and the type of people he brings in.”

Williams pushed his pitchers.

“He taught me what it takes to be successful at this level,” says McAvene of Williams. “He’s a very challenging guy. He expects us to be on top of our games at all times. He won’t accept less. He made us accountable.

“When it’s your time, you’re all that’s out there. You have to execute and do all you can to get your team to win.”

McAvene says Williams is one of the best game callers in the country and his scouting reports are second to none.

“(McDonnell and Williams are) two of the most legendary coaches in the history of college baseball and they’re just starting,” says McAvene, who was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs

Appearing in six games with the 2019 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, he went 0-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 20 strikeouts and four walks in 12 2/3 innings. Of 199 pitches, 126 were thrown for strikes.

The way the organization is currently formed, the next step on the ladder would be with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs.

McAvene faced some hitters before spring training and he’s since had some competitive bullpen sessions while following the program laid out by the Cubs. He just hasn’t delivered a pitch in a game since Aug. 31, 2019.

“I have a pretty good player plan sent out by the Cubs,” says McAvene. “I just can’t replicate in-game reps.”

While some of his former Louisville teammates have been involved in the four-team Battle of the Bourbon Trail independent league in Florence and Lexington, McAvene has stayed in central Indiana to train.

The McAvenes family — Rob, Jennifer, Michael and Bradley — lived for years near Camby, near Mooresville, and now reside in Danville.

It’s about a 10-minute trip to Plainfield to work out at the home of his former Ben Davis Little League and Indiana Outlaws travel coach, Jay Hundley, along with pros Jacson McGowan (who played at Brownsburg High School and Purdue University and is now in the Tampa Bay Rays system) and Nick Schnell (who was Indiana Mr. Baseball at Roncalli in 2018 and is also with the Rays), Indiana University left-hander Zach Behrmann (Indianapolis North Central graduate) and others. 

McAvene was able to retire most high school hitters with a fastball and a breaking ball. 

While starting at Louisville, he began to get a feel for a change-up. When he went to the back of the Cards’ pen, he used a fastball, slider and curveball and, essentially, shelved the change-up on the shelf.

Given a chance to return to starting with the Cubs, McAvene again began working to get comfortable with throwing a “circle” change — a grip taught to him by a friend while he was with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2018.

“I knew my curveball and my slider were only going to get me so far,” says McAvene. “The change-up sets apart good players from great players.”

Throwing from a low three-quarter arm angle, McAvene throws more two-seam fastballs than four-seamers.

“It has a sinker action,” says McAvene of the two-seamer that registers as a sinker on Cubs’ analytic equipment like Rapsodo and TrackMan. “My arm slot allows for a lot of downward action on it.

“I wanted to make sure I’ve got some lateral movement on it. The sink is an added bonus.”

McAvene’s curve has morphed. He used to throw the pitch in the traditional manner with a sweeping motion. 

“I switched the grip to a knuckle curve to get more depth,” says McAvene. “It pairs well with my fastball and slider.”

As for the slider, McAvene was throwing it at Eugene at 86 to 90 mph.

“It has a very hard and tight break,” says McAvene of the slider. “The movement is late and right at the very end.”

After the 2019 season, McAvene finished his Sports Administration degree, graduating magna cum laude in December.

McAvene, who turned 23 on Aug. 24, says he was hopeful that there might be fall instructional league with the Cubs this year. But since it’s already September and Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are still figuring out the terms of their agreement, that looks improbable.

Born in the same Indianapolis hospital where his mother has spent 30 years as an ICU nurse (IU Health University), McAvene grew up in the Mooresville area. He was an Mooresville Little League all-star from 9 to 11 — the last two with his father as coach (Rob McAvene is now an independent distributor for Pepperidge Farms) — before his one year at Ben Davis Little League. 

Before attending Roncalli, Michael spent Grades K-6 at North Madison Elementary in Camby and middle school at Saint Mark Catholic School on the south side of Indianapolis.

Bradley McAvene (18) is a 2020 graduate of Indiana Connections Academy.

Michael McAvene pitched for the University of Louisville. (Prospects Live Video)
Michael McAvene is a 2016 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, where he helped the Rebels win an IHSAA Class 4A state championship as a senior.
Michael McAvene pitched at the University of Louisville 2017-19. He was the Cardinals closer at the end of that stretch. Louisville went to the College World Series in 2017 and 2019. (University of Louisville Photo)
Michael McAvene, a graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis and the University of Louisville, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and pitched for the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds in 2019. (Photo by Aussiedi Photography)