Waylon Richardson, who was named this week as head baseball at West Noble High School in Ligonier, Ind., has had most of his baseball experiences as a player. Born in Goshen, Richardson grew up around Ligonier, moved near Cromwell in high school (parents Franklin Jr., and Kimberly Richardson own about 220 acres of farmland) and got acquainted with the game early at Wawaka. At West Noble, he competed four years each in baseball and basketball and two of football. As a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher he appeared in 11 games as a senior in 2015 and went 6-1 with one save, a 1.61 earned run average, 85 strikeouts and 30 walks in 56 2/3 innings. As a junior, he pitched in eight games and went 1-3 with a 2.18 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 1/3 innings. Richardson scored 445 career points on the basketball court. In his senior football season of 2014, he passed for 1,236 yards and eight touchdowns. His head coaches were Doug Brown (baseball), Jim Best (basketball) and Monte Mawhorter (football). The trio always seemed to get their older players to take leadership roles. “They were hard-nosed coaches and role models,” says Richardson. “They got the most out of their group of players each and every year. I still reach out to each of them. I couldn’t have asked for three better high school coaches.” Richardson went to Kankakee (Ill.) Community College. In 2016, he made one start and experienced a shoulder separation and sat out the rest of the season. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was the Cavaliers closer. In 27 games, he went 2-0 with nine saves and an 0.30 ERA, 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 innings. KCC went to Enid, Okla., and won the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series. Richardson was named to all-region and all-World Series teams. That summer, he hurled for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. He made 11 appearances (10 in relief) and went 2-4 with 4.91 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He also tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017. In 2018, a trainer for the Chicago Cubs visited Kankakee and advised head coach Todd Post and pitching coach Bryce Shafer to shut Richardson down after three appearances because he had come back from surgery too soon. The right-hander continued his rehabilitation and threw bullpens for professional scouts. Richardson committed to play at Saint Leo (Fla.) University for head coach Rick O’Dette (who played at coached at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.), whose pitching philosophy went hand-in-hand with Shafer. Post congratulated Richardson when he was named as West Noble head coach. “He’s like a second father to me,” says Richardson of the veteran field boss. “He got me into that mental mindset that led me to bigger and better things. It got me drafted.” Post helped Richardson understand the importance of the little things in baseball. Those add up to big things. “It was a whole new perspective on baseball (for me),” says Richardson. When the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was held Richardson was selected in the 40th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched in the minors in 2019. Various injuries limited him to three games and three innings. He was released in May 2020. The minor league season was canceled that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richardson, who was getting old for a Class-A ballplayer, opted to retire. Waylon married the former Abby Richards of Churubusco in October 2020 and started working in construction as a remodeler and house flipper and flooring sub-contractor. Abby Richardson is a speech therapist and cheerleading coach at West Noble. Waylon Richardson, 25, was a varsity assistant to brother Aaron Coy (other siblings include Brittany Richardson and former all-state, Ball State University and Grace College basketball player Haley Richardson) during the 2022 West Noble baseball season. Coy is a 2006 West Noble alum who played baseball at Goshen College. As the man in charge of the Chargers, Richardson had from nine to 17 players participate in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities. “We share to many athletes at our school,” says Richardson, who held optional open fields after football practice. “Without everyone there it’s hard to put in your philosophy.” He was able to critique the swings of newer players, getting them to use more of their lower half. He got the older players to take the younger ones under their wins and emphasized knowing where to throw the ball on defense. The winter Limited Contact Period is Dec. 5-Feb. 4. Richardson plans to have his twice-weekly sessions following basketball practice. “We want to get as many kids as possible,” says Richardson. Hitters will be asked to have an approach at the plate and not just be free swingers. A brand new outdoor batting cage was recently installed at the Chargers’ on-campus field. Richardson’s wish list includes a new scoreboard and a new or remodeled press box. “I’m excited,” says Richardson. “We lost eight seniors but return at least six everyday starters. We have a really good young freshman class. The ones showing up (at practices) are athletic and versatile.” Richardson says he sees college baseball potential in Class of 2023’s Elijah Bacon and Winston Deel. The coaching staff includes returnees Dave Shields, Mel Coyle and Jose Marmolejo. Shields was on the staff when Richardson was a player. “I respect his Baseball I.Q.,” says Richardson. “He’s like a father figure to the kids.” Coyle doubles as a junior varsity coach and groundskeeper. “He makes sure Charger baseball plays on a beautiful diamond,” says Richardson, who is also hoping to bring on two former college teammates. Richardson seeks pitchers who get ahead in the count. “We want to work low in the zone — inside and out,” says Richardson. “If you command two pitches, you can play around with a third and get hitters to chase.” Looking at his 2023 season opener, Richardson is considering letting pitchers go one inning each to see what they’ve got and doing the same thing in Game 2. “We want to figure out our rotation and relievers going into conference play and the end of the year,” says Richardson. West Noble (enrollment around 720) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview). The Chargers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with East Noble, Fairfield, Lakeland, NorthWood and Wawasee. West Noble has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2006. West Noble Little League (formerly Kimmel Baseball & Softball) prepares players for the high school. Greg Eash is WNLL board president for an organization which has traditionally fielded teams from T-Ball to 1/2 Pints (seventh and eighth graders). “Greg Eash great coach for our feeder system,” says Richardson. “I’ve told my coaches we need to get down there and show our face to the youth.”
Kirk Cabana’s life path has been anything but a straight one. “My journey is not orthodox,” says Cabana. At 35, Cabana is the new head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College, a National Junior College Athletic Association and Michigan Community College Athletic Association member in Donaldson, Ind. “It’s such a welcoming community,” says Cabana. “It met me right where I’m at in my growth and development.” The MCCAA has three divisions: Northern (Alpena, Cay, Delta, Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan and Muskegon), Western (Glen Oaks, Kalamazoo Valley, Kellogg, Lake Michigan, Lansing and and Marian’s Ancilla) and Eastern (Henry Ford, Jackson, Macomb, Mott, Schoolcraft and St. Clair County). Including 8-40 in 2022, the MUAC Chargers have won 67 games since 2013. It wasn’t too many years ago that West Covina (Calif.) High School graduate Cabana worked in pest control more than a decade after going to Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., where he played football but neglected his studies. “I ruined opportunities I had because I wouldn’t go to class,” says Cabana, who years later decided he wanted a change and went back to the same school, played baseball at age 30 and earned an associate in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Citrus in 2018. That was followed by a General Studies bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s degree in Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was a player then an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Carolina University in Winston-Salem, N.C. (the Bruins went to the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series in 2021 and 2022), from August 2019 until moving to Indiana for a chance to be a head coach and impact lives. “I’ve fallen in love with this process,” says Cabana. “Making the sacrifices these last five years have been fun and rewarding.” His coaching experience also includes head coach in the Puerto Rico Collegiate League, bench coach for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms and All-American Amateur Baseball Association’s Winston-Salem-based Carolina Disco Turkeys. In September 2021, Cabana founded Pursuit 4 Purpose to help athletes with their struggles of trying to become their best and has released 33 P4P podcast episodes to date related to personal development. “It’s a character-developing, goal-setting organization intended to take the principles, values and life lessons we learn from sports and take them and apply them to other areas of our lives,” says Cabana. “I want to encourage and implore students to be more than athletes so when your sport fails you and it will you’ll have something more to stand on.” Renowned physical and mental skills trainer Alan Jaeger has been a frequent guest. His first guest was Jeremy Sheetinger, former assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and College Division Liaison for the American Amateur Baseball Coaches Association who is now head coach at Georgia Gwinett College (the Grizzlies won the NAIA World Series in 2021). Making himself a sponge, Cabana is soaking up the information while sharing it with others. “I’m just doing my part to help athletes through the process,” says Cabana. Kirk, wife Katie and sons Kooper (6) and Karson (infant) have settled near MUAC in Plymouth, Ind., while he goes about building his first Chargers team with about 25 players and the help of assistants Chuck Bowen, Josh Pitts and Matt Pitney. Bowen played and has coached at Ancilla. Pitts was on the Knox (Ind,) High School staff. The 2023 season is slated to open Feb. 11 against Southeastern Illinois College. “We’re ready to attack the spring,” says Cabana. That will be done while emphasizing team. It’s the model of Mudita promoted by University of Alabama head softball coach Patrick Murphy. “It’s vicarious joy through others’ success,” says Cabana. “What I’m trying to do for my guys is know that somebody else’s success does not mean less success for you. “You have to be willing to move the team forward … There are so many roles on the team … You have to successful where you’re at.” Cabana notes that during a 55-game season there will be chances for players to prove themselves. “It’s a lot more than a baseball team,” says Cabana. “It’s a group of people learning to be their best.”
South Bend, Ind., native Dylan Brammer has pitched his forkball on multiple continents. For most of the past decade, the right-hander has played professional baseball in independent U.S. leagues and abroad. At 32, he’s still got his eye on his next pitch while sharing his knowledge with youngsters coming up in the game. The 2008 graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School who played at Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.), Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Northwestern Ohio started his pro career with the independent Frontier League’s Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks in 2012. Rich Austin was the manager. Rockford was giving Brammer — who was a two-way player in high school and college — a shot at shortstop. “I was always a good hitter, but not a great hitter,” says Brammer. The RiverHawks discovered how hard he threw and sent him to the bullpen to see if he could harness his speed. By the time Brammer was released last day of transactions, he saw his future on the mound. “I know I can compete at that level as a pitcher, but I couldn’t throw strikes,” says Brammer. “I told myself I’m going to concentrate the next eight, nine, 10 years on my craft — pitching.” Brammer, who has Marketing degree from UNOH, worked a genetic software sales job in 2013. But he heard and headed the call of baseball and went back to the diamond. He played with he Pittsburg (Calif.) club for three seasons in the independent Pacific Association. Wayne Franklin managed the Pittsburg Mettle in 2014 while Aaron Miles was in charge of the Pittsburg Diamonds in 2015 and 2016. Brammer started 33 games for Pittsburg and went 16-9 with 206 strikeouts and 102 walks in 217 innings. In the latter part of 2016, Brammer landed with the Steve Brook-managed River City Rascals, a Frontier League team in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Mo. In four games (two starts), he went 2-1 with 13 K’s and eight walks in 17 2/3 innings. An opportunity to play overseas came in 2017 and Brammer was off to the Czech Republic to play for 3n2 International Stars at Prague Baseball Week and for Czech Baseball League’s Skokani Olomouc. A month break between the end of the regular season and the playoffs gave Brammer the opportunity to travel all over eastern Europe. In what is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer south of the equator, Brammer played in Australia in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The first two seasons he was with the Port Adelaide Magpies in the South Australia State League and won two Capps Medal awards as MVP. Port Adelaide went to back-to-back championship series. Brammer had games of 23, 21 and 19 strikeouts. He managed in both Port Adelaide and Perth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he did not go back to club ball in Australia. The 5-foot-10 righty was with the New Jersey Jackals for parts of four seasons, winning 16 games, saving 18 and whiffing 184 while walking 90 in 218 2/3 innings. Brooks Carey managed the team in 2018 and 2019 in the Canadian-American Association. The COVID-19 season of 2020 saw the Jackals in the All-American Baseball Challenge. Carey guided New Jersey in the Frontier League in 2021. When the Jackals were not going to the playoffs, Brammer finished the season with the Atlantic League’s Stan Cliburn-managed Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. In nine games (all in relief) with Southern Maryland in 2021, Brammer went 1-0 with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 14 innings. A testing ground for Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League pushed the mound back to 61 feet, 6 inches, restricted infield shits and had Trackman call balls and strikes during the 2021 season. “It didn’t take that much time to adjust (to 61-6),” says Brammer. “My off-speed was up in the zone at 60-6. It broke a little more and stayed lower in the zone (at 61-6). They did me a favor.” Throwing straight over the top, Brammer uses four pitches — four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and forkball. “I have a heavy fastball that goes from 90 to 92 mph,” says Brammer. “I hide the ball really well and have fast arm speed.” Brammer’s family moved to Florida after his high school days and he has been there in the off-seasons since 19. He received an invitation to pitch in the Mexican League in 2022. With his girlfriend due to have a boy in December, Dylan opted to stay in Delray Beach, Fla., and teach baseball lessons while coaching the 12U East Boynton Blaze. He’s also staying sharp for his next playing opportunity. “I take pride in how serious I take baseball,” says Brammer. “I work at it daily.” Born in South Bend to Michael and Lisa Brammer, Dylan is the second oldest of 10 (seven girls and three boys). Brammer played at South Bend Southeast Little League and helped his team to the state tournament at age 12. When he got older, one of his summer teams was Mishawaka American Legion Post 161 coached by Jeff Moore. He played for Tim Prister at Marian High. “He was tough on us,” says Brammer of Prister. “I loved that about him. He expected a lot out of our class. “We took practices and games serious.” Marian was IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up in 2008, losing 5-1 to Crawfordsville in the championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Brammer played shortstop and batted third that day, getting one of three hits off Athenians left-hander Cameron Hobson. Brammer drew interest from some NCAA D-I schools, including Butler and Michigan State. He says he did not have the grades to get into Butler and went the junior college route. Playing for Ancilla Chargers head coach Joe Yonto, Brammer hit .420 with 13 extra base hits in 44 games in 2009. At Vincennes U. in 2010, Brammer hit .372 with 18 extra base hits and a .428 on-base percentage for the Chris Barney-coached Trailblazers. VU went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Baseball World Series in Enid, Okla. At Northwestern Ohio in 2011 and 2012, Brammer hit a combined .292 and posted a 1.21 earned run average on the mound with 61 strikeouts in 49 innings. The Racers head coach was Kory Hartman.
Sebastian Kuhns is growing as a baseball catcher and the northeast Indiana native is doing it in northeast Texas. The 2020 graduate of Carroll High School in Fort Wayne is a “COVID” freshman at Paris (Texas) Junior College, which is about 100 miles from Dallas. Through the Dragons’ first 17 games of 2022, Kuhns was hitting .400 (10-of-25) with five doubles and nine runs batted in over eight games while splitting playing time with freshman Zach Munton. Kuhns, who missed his senior season at Carroll because of the pandemic, Kuhns split his time in the summer of 2020 between the Chad Hines-coached Indiana Prospects travel team (he played for the Prospects in 2019, too) and the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. He ended up with the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers. Kuhns was at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., for the 2021 season and hit .268 (11-of-41) with one home run and 13 RBIs in 18 games. He did not play in the summer of 2021, but trained at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind. He did overall and throwing with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and Justin Hancock, hitting with Quentin Brown and Noah Niswonger and strength workouts with Michael Hammerstand, Christian Sullivan and Bram Wood. Kuhns is considering another summer of training at PRP Baseball while possibly playing in the CSL. When Kuhns made it known that he would be transferring from Lincoln Trail, a couple of schools reached out. Among them was Paris, which had three catchers moving on. “I shot Coach (Clay) Cox a message,” says Kuhns. “He responded and now I’m here. I really enjoyed my phone call with him. I could tell everything he said was genuine. “I can’t not say enough about Coach Cox. He’s one of the top motivational coaches I’ve had. He knows what to say to get us fired up. He made it clear what the expectations are. Last year (Paris) had like 3.8 team GPA. They do things right here.” Kuhns signed at Paris — a National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Region 14 member — in mid-June. He he arrived Paris in the fall he was given No. 47. Any significance to to those digits? “Not really. Most of our class had already signed,” says Kuhns. “Maybe my arm’s like an AK-47?” Kuhns is on pace to earn an Associate Degree in Business Management while he hones his skills behind the plate. “There’s so many games within the game that I love,” says Kuhns, who moved from first base to catcher around age 12. “I take pride in picking up mannerisms of all my pitchers. It’s different for every guy.” Kuhns appreciates the engagement of the position. “You’re part of every pitch,” says Kuhns. “My arm is one of the tools that helped me getting into college. I was good at blocking, but my receiving wasn’t great. “(Receiving) is one of the biggest adjustments for me moving from high school to college, where there is a smaller strike zone. You try to steal strikes for your pitcher and keeps strikes as strikes. I’m working on that art. The strike zone in Texas is even smaller.” Kuhns talks about the junior college baseball life. “People throw around JUCO like an adjective,” says Kuhns. “Guys really embrace that. We’re just some gritty guys working hard. That’s one aspect I really like. It really is good baseball. Down here (in Texas) it really is no joke.” Kuhns played at Carroll for head coach Dave Ginder, who stressed all the situational things like first-and-third and bunt coverages. “I didn’t fully appreciate everything he did until I got into college,” says Kuhns. “He knows the game really well and he’s really good at passing it on to his players.” “I see similarities with Coach Cox and Coach Ginder. (Cox) let’s us do our thing. He’s not going to fix it if it ain’t broke.” As a Chargers sophomore, Kuhns was a third-stringer on a catching corps led by Hayden Jones (who is now in the Cincinnati Reds organization). “I can’t say enough about Hayden and what he helped me with in high school,” says Kuhns. “He helped me grow up and mature and with baseball in general. “He comes from a great family. I worked with his dad for a long time.” Kuhns went to Ken Jones (now assistant at Purdue Fort Wayne) at World Baseball Academy for catching and hitting lessons. The player was also at Wallen Baseball Softball and with the Fort Wayne Cubs/Fort Wayne Diamondbacks. Born in Auburn, Ind., Kuhns grew up in the Fort Wayne/Huntertown area. His parents are Brian Kuhns (stepmother Sherri Foster) and Kimberly Kuhns. His siblings are Josh Kuhns, Olivia Kuhns, Kesley Foster, Eric Foster, Chris Kiger, Cassandra Kiger and Kyle Kiger.
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.
Three years after graduating from Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Hayden Jones is bigger and stronger and more mature. Jones, who signed last week as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds out of Illinois State University, says his biggest growth since his prep days has come on the mental side. That’s why he wanted to go to college first instead of pursuing his pro career right away. “I put the dollar amount so high no one was going to sign me (out of high school),” says Jones, who turned 21 on April 27. “I’ve learned to accept failure when it comes, knowing its not going to be the end of the world.” Hayden, whose father Ken Jones was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and is now a Purdue Fort Wayne assistant coach and grandfather Bill Jones (who died in November 2015) was a founding member and longtime executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and selected as an IHSBCA Hall of Famer in 1982, played for Dave Ginder at Carroll. The lefty swinger and earned four letters while garnering IHSBCA all-state honors three times and being selected as MVP of the 2018 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. Hayden’s uncle, Brad Jones, lettered in baseball at Ball State University. His son, Tyler Jones, played at the University of Dayton in 2021. Cousin Chris Menzie was a baseball letterwinner at Huntington (Ind.) University. Jennifer Jones is Hayden’s mother. Hayden Jones spent his freshmen season at Mississippi State University in 2019, appearing in 27 games (14 starts) and hitting .224 (11-of-49) with one home run, four doubles, five runs batted in, five runs scored and a .636 OPS (.269 on-base percentage plus .367 slugging average). His fielding percentage with the Chris Lemonis-coached Bulldogs was .971 with 64 putouts, three assists and two errors. Because of NCAA Division I transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2020 season. In 2021 at Illinois State, he played in 38 games (31 starts) and hit .230 (28-of-122) with five homers, two triples, six doubles, 28 RBIs and 15 runs. His OPS was .730 (.296/.434). He also fielded at a .990 clip with 182 putouts, 21 assists and two errors. “I loved Mississippi State,” says Jones. “My girlfriend (Savannah Shinn) still lives down there. It just wasn’t a fit (baseball-wise).” At ISU, Jones worked with Redbirds head coach and former big league catcher Steve Holm. Jones’ mechanics were changed back to where he had been while working with his father in high school. “It all clicked from there,” says Jones. “I was growing and maturing and understanding the game at a faster pace.” To Jones, blocking, receiving and controlling the opponents’ running game are important. But overall baseball knowledge is a major key to catching. “My dad and grandpa gave me that big piece,” says Jones. “You need that support staff. Now they can let go and let the Reds do the magic. I text my dad every single night. He’s learning from me now.” Playing 18 games this summer in the new MLB Draft League with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Jones hit .237 (9-of-38) with one homer, one double, seven RBIs, six runs and .725 OPS (.383/.342). He learned from manager Coco Crisp and coach Ron Mahay — both former big leaguers. While he still has years of eligibility left, Jones decided now was the time to move forward as a baseball player. “I was ready,” says Jones, who was draft eligible three years out of high school. “I wanted to get my career going and get my foot in the door.” Jones’ name was not called during the 20-round 2021 MLB Draft. The phone did ring five minutes after its conclusion with his agent telling him that Reds senior director of player personnel Jeff Graupe wanted the catcher. In short order, he was traveling to Goodyear, Ariz., to take a physical and sign his contract with scouting supervisor Andy Stack. “It was not the money I was expecting, but you don’t make your money until you get to the big leagues,” says Jones, who has began training. He and other free agents and draftees will see if the Reds assign them to the Arizona League, send them out to an affiliate (Low Class-A Daytona, Fla., Tortugas, High Class-A Dayton, Ohio, Dragons, Double-A Chattanooga, Tenn., Lookouts, Triple-A Louisville, Ky., Bats) or just keep working at camp. “Nobody knows what to expect,” says Jones. “It’s where they need help in the organization.” Jones spent the summer of 2020 with the Brent McNeil-coached Turf Monsters in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Among those running the CSL were Phil Wade and Blake Hibler, who coached Jones on Team Indiana in the Fall of 2016 and 2017. Outside the all-star series, Jones was at Mississippi State in the summer of 2018. He was the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport (R.I.) Gulls in 2019. Jones was pursuing a Recreation and Park Administration at Illinois State. He says he could complete it in another year.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
Jeff Mault affirms that the body’s lower half is the foundation of baseball.
When instructing pitchers or hitters at Extra Mile Baseball in a pole barn next to his rural home near Kimmel, Ind., the former college and professional player talks a lot about the important part played by biggest muscle groups.
“I’m a mechanics guy,” says Mault, who had close to 20 lessons on his schedule this week and counts third baseman/second baseman and Wright State University commit Jake Shirk (Fort Wayne Carroll High School Class of 2020) and left-handed pitcher/first baseman and University of Kentucky commit Carter Gilbert (Northridge Class of 2022). “Hips is where it’s at with pitchers. I don’t care about the arm slot. If you can do what I want you to do, your arm will not hurt. Period.
“I had one of the very first ones,” says Mault. “It’s awesome.
“I wish I had it when I was playing.”
A right-handed pitcher and right fielder in high school then pitcher-only after that, Mault played for Tim Schemerhorn at West Noble (the Chargers won the IHSAA Class 3A Lakeland Sectional in 1998 then lost 7-5 to Northridge in the first round of the Wawasee Sectional with smoke-throwing Mault and Doug McDonald as the top two pitchers).
Mault got the ball up to 92 mph in high school.
“I didn’t have anything else,” says Mault. “I had a curve that curved when it wanted to. I couldn’t throw a change-up.
“My theory was throw hard in case they missed it. That’s how I pitched.”
“It seemed like home,” says Mault. “It’s out in the middle of nowhere with cornfields.”
Mault grew up on a farm and still tends to chores at his in-law’s place in Wawaka, Ind., besides a full work week as parts/service advisor at Burnworth & Zollars Auto Group in Ligonier and having a half dozen lawns to mow.
Mault was a medical redshirt his freshmen year at Olney Central after a hairline tear was found in his ulnar collateral ligament, which is similar to the injury that leads to Tommy John surgery.
“(Surgery) was not even suggested,” says Mault. “Tommy John doesn’t make you throw harder. It’s the rehab (which for Mault took about nine months).
“The next year was a mental block. I just didn’t feel comfortable throwing hard.”
In his third year at OCC, Mault was back to normal and the Blue Knights won 39 games.
Olney played in a fall tournament at Austin Peay State. Governors head coach Gary McClure was looking for a closer so Conley used starter Mault to finish two games.
Once at Austin Peay State, Mault set the single-season school record with 10 saves in 2003. In his senior year (2004), he alternated closing and starting until he accumulated the three saves he needed for what made him at the time the Governors’ career saves leader.
Springfield/Ozark Ducks manager Greg Tagert offered Mault a chance to play with that independent professional team. He instead went for what turned out to be a very brief stint with the Gateway Grizzlies.
“I pitched in one game and they let me go,” says Mault. “When there’s money involved, it’s cut-throat.
“But if not for that, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. Everything works out.”
Mault was released the following year in spring training.
“I worked out with Triple-A,” says Mault. “I was on the field for two hours and got called back in and they let me go. That was rough.
“But I was still going to play.”
He came back to Noble County and worked on the farm then finished college in fall of 2004.
In 2006, Tagert was in his second season as manager of the Gary SouthShore RailCats and brought Mault aboard. The righty went 0-2 in eight games (six in relief) with five strikeouts and five walks in 18 1/3 innings with a 4.91 ERA.
Mault was reunited with former Olney Central assistant Andy Haines in 2007. At that point he was manager of the Windy City ThunderBolts in Crestwood, Ill., and is now hitting coach with the Milwaukee Brewers. The pitcher went 3-0 in 11 contests (eight in relief) with 21 K’s and 17 walks in 24 1/3 innings and a 3.70 ERA before his pro career came to a close at 26.
Jeff and Abbey Mault have two children — daughter Cora (9) and son Casyn (6). Abbey is an Arts teacher at Central Noble Junior/Senior High School in Albion, Ind.
Jeff Mault, who pitched at West Noble High School in Ligonier, Ind., Olney (Ill.) Central College and Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn., was signed by the Seattle Mariners and pitched in Everett, Wash., in 2005. (Everett AquaSox Photo)
Jeff Mault, a former college and professional pitcher, offers instruction at Extra Mile Baseball in Kimmel, Ind.
Because of concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, most of the college baseball seasons in Indiana came to a premature end.
COVID-19 has caused campuses to shut down with many schools going to remote learning and social distancing practiced across the country. The NCAA, NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association all decided to cancel their tournaments and baseball schedules have been wiped out.
“It’s been a learning curve for everybody,” says 17th-year Bethel University coach Seth Zartman. “Everything just happened so fast. It almost seems surreal.”
On Monday, March 13, the Mishawaka-based Pilots were 45 minutes from an intra-squad session when the NAIA made its announcement.
That’s when Zartman and his assistants had to inform players that the season was over.
“It’s one of the most not-fun meetings I’ve ever had to do with the team,” says Zartman, who saw his team conclude 2019-20 at 19-7, including 11-0 in the fall. “We helped them get prepared for online classes. On Tuesday, we had equipment check-in. That’s where we’re sitting at this point.
“We’ll savor what we were able to get done and accomplish and move on.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Justin Rasmussen went 6-1 with a 2.59 earned run average and 37 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.
For a few years, Bethel has taken advantage of an NAIA rule which allows baseball and softball teams to scheduled counter games in the fall.
“It’s something we’ve come to appreciate,” says Zartman. “It brings a better focus to our fall season. It helps us come closer to the 55-game limit and there’s nicer weather to do it in (in the fall).”
The NCAA (D-I) and NAIA granted every current spring sport athlete an extra year of eligibility if they want to use it.
“That’s another process we’re going to have to navigate,” says Zartman. “I’m not sure how many will come back or take advantage of that at this point.”
The NCAA is expected to announce its decision on other levels by March 20.
The Bethel campus is still open, but many students including players, have decided to go home and continue course work via computer. For that reason, Zartman expects that any exit interviews he does will likely be done by phone.
Zartman, with his office away from many of the other BU employees, has been diving into paperwork he probably would not have tackled until May or June. Wife Antira is a teacher in the Jimtown system and goes in three days a week. The four Zartman children are staying home like the rest of their schoolmates.
“We’re hanging onto a new normal right now,” says Zartman.
Of the 38 college baseball programs in Indiana, 13 are in the NAIA. Besides Bethel, they include Calumet of Saint Joseph, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Saint Francis and Taylor.
When the season came to a halt, No. 12-ranked IU Southeast was 18-1. The New Albany-based Grenadiers’ last game was an 11-7 win against Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky., on March 11. The only loss (6-5 in eight innings) came March 4 in the first game of a doubleheader at then-No. 25 Campbellsville (Ky.).
Junior left-hander Hunter Kloke posted a 2.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
Ben Reel, who has been IU Southeast’s head coach since 2009, is choosing to see the positives in the situation.
“I learned a lot during this time,” says Reel. “You think you’ve seen it all and done it all and you’re dead wrong.”
Reel recalls his high school psychology class and the five stages of grief and loss — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In talking with his network of fellow coaches, including former Grenadiers assistant Andrew Dickson (now at Yale, where the Ivy League was among the first to shut down for 2020), Reel found a recurring theme.
“We weren’t really prepared to be the middle men between our universities and our players,” says Reel. “They’re confused. They’re upset.
“You’re the point person to make sense of everything.”
Reel’s focus throughout his coaching career is to recruit people he wants to be around everyday.
“That’s what hurts the most,” says Reel. “We’re prevented from being around the people we love and that’s our players.”
Another message that Reel has bought into and that’s to use this time without daily baseball for personal growth.
“I’m going to get better at something,” says Reel. “You have time to do whatever you want do and whatever you need to do.”
Sophomore Noah Miller hit .389 (14-of-36) and stole seven bases. Sophomore right-hander Zach Verta slugged two homers and drove in 11 runs while also going 2-1 as a pitcher. Junior Jake Everaert (Hebron) had a 6.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Junior right-hander Noah Huseman, senior right-hander Justin Pettit (Jennings County) and senior right-hander Tucker Waddups (Pioneer) are went 2-0 on the mound. Huseman produced a 3.00 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Freshman left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. Junior right-hander Kyle Nicolas (0-1, 2.74) struck out 37 in 23 innings. Senior right-hander John Baker (1-2, 2.42) fanned 27 in 22 1/3 innings.
Sophomore right-hander Shane Gray (1-1, 3.57) struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings. Senior left-hander Nathan Croner (1-1, 3.26) whiffed 18 in 19 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander David Ellis (Princeton Community) went 2-1 to lead the staff in victories.
Freshman right-hander Jett Jackson (1-0, 1.89) with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings and wins leader and sophomore right-hander Cory Brooks (2-2, 5.12) with 16 K’s in 19 1/3 innings were among the pitching leaders.
Senior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) went 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA and struck out 21 in 23 innings. Sophomore left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead) went 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA and fanned 20 in 16 2/3 innings.
Senior and Center Grove product Will Smithey (8-of-20) and sophomore Ty Williams (10-of-25) both hit .400. Smithey has four homers, 16 RBIs and three stolen bases.
Senior left-hander Myc Witty (Lawrence North) and senior right-hander Reid Werner (Greenwood Community) were both 3-0 on the mound. Witty has a 1.59 ERA. Senior left-hander Corey Bates (1-1) has fanned 30 batters in 18 1/3 innings.
Junior Joe Moran (Anderson High School) hit .563 (18-of-32) with one homer and six stolen bases. As a right-handed pitcher, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings. He is slated to be the Heartland College Athletic Conference’s first player in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.
Junior Joe Henschel (Fort Wayne Carroll) hit .409 (9-of-22) with two homers and eight RBIs.
Senior right-hander Nick Rush (Terre Haute North Vigo) went 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and had nine strikeouts in nine innings. Sophomore right-hander Zach White (Logansport) went 1-0, 1.13) and fanned eight in eight innings.
Junior left-hander Kyle Robinson (2-0, 0.00), sophomore right-hander Bryce Bloode (2-0, 2.93) and junior right-hander Drew Cebulak (1-0, 1.50) with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings were among the mound leaders. Robinson prepped at Crown Point and Bloode at New Prairie.
Clay Woeste makes a throw for the 2020 Indiana Univesity Southeast baseball team. The New Albany-based Grenadiers were 18-1 when the season came to a sudden halt because of concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Indiana University Southeast Photo)
Bethel University (Mishawaka, Ind.) celebrates one of its 2020 baseball victories. The Pilots went 19-7 in 2019-20. The season was shortened when the NAIA shut down because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Bethel University Photo)