It was a night of firsts. The summer wood-bat Northern League’s Elkhart (Ind.) County Miracle played its inaugural contest Wednesday, May 31 on the turf at NorthWood High School’s Field of Dreams Complex in Nappanee and earned the first victory in franchise history. Elkhart County bested the visiting Crown Point-based Lake County CornDogs 6-3 to make Wilson Valera a winner in his first game as Miracle manager. “It makes me feel very good and to play the best team in the league,” said Valera after the Miracle topped the NL champions from 2022 and gave them their first loss of the young 2023 season. “Now we know we can do it. Hopefully we can continue to play this way.” Elkhart County led 3-0. Lake County (4-1) tied it at 3-3 with three runs in the sixth inning. The Miracle responded with two in the bottom of the sixth and added one in the seventh.
On-field firsts … Starting lineup: lf Rickey Nye (1-3), 2b Cole Mason (0-3), 1b Bryce Lesher (1-5), c Javier Guevara (2-2), 3b Angel Perez (0-3), cf Jaden Miller (1-3), ss Evan Laws (2-4), dh Dylan Rost (0-3), rf Hunter Christunus (1-3), p Conor Gausselin (6 IP, 6 K’S, 3 BB). Strikeout: Gausselin fanned Lake County lead-off batter Zach Zychowski in the first inning. Hit: Lead-off man Nye’s single to center field to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Home run: Guevara’s three-run blast to left field in the first inning. Stolen base: Miller swiped second base after being hit by a pitch in the first inning. Double play: Third baseman Perez to second baseman Mason to first baseman Lesher in the fourth inning. Relievers: Right-hander Ethan Lengfelder in the seventh inning and righty Robino Vazquez Vallejo in the eighth and ninth. Umpires: Corey Stewart behind the plate and Steve Kajzer on the bases.
Off-the-field firsts … Ceremonial first pitch: William Lee (Vendor Bill’s Bar-B-Que). National anthem singer: Les Eads (member of Hideous Business, a band who entertained prior to the game). Mascot: Scooter made his gameday debut.
The homestand continues with games at 7 p.m. Thursday vs. the Indiana Panthers, Friday vs. the Southland Vikings and Saturday vs. Northwest Indiana Oilmen and 2 p.m. Sunday vs. the Indiana Panthers. Former Chicago Cubs player Ben Zobrist is slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs Saturday.
“Let’s go on a cowhide joyride!” It’s become the home run call for young baseball broadcaster Andrew Mild. Bringing his love of the game and excitement to his job, the northwest Indiana native is in his first season as the play-by-play voice of the Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Waldorf, Md.). “Every game is a big game — it’s a baseball game,” says Mild. “I’ve listened to too many boring broadcasters.” Mild, who was born in Hammond, Ind. the son of Mark and Becky Mild and the older brother of Breeann, grew up in nearby Crown Point as a Chicago Cubs fan. Mom’s favorite from the 1980’s was Rick Sutcliffe. Breeann Mild (Crown Point, Ind., High School Class of 2020) is now a pre-med student at Purdue University. Andrew bonded with his father with Len Kasper as Cubs TV play-by-play man. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo formed the radio tandem. Hall of Famer Harry Caray died before Andrew was born, but he appreciates his passion. “He brought the excitement and was kind of like the No. 1 fan,” says Mild. “I grew up a baseball fan. My baby pictures were taken in a giant glove. “I just want to bring that excitement and for people to be interested, laugh and have a great time. I want to build a connection. I don’t want to be the next Harry Caray. I want to be the first Andrew Mild.” The young broadcaster has noticed that Hughes talks slow and gets excited when necessary. “You listen to these guys over 100 times a year and you start to develop your own relationship with them,” says Mild. “Ron Santo was so invested.” As an eighth grader at Col. John Wheeler Middle School, Mild went as Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams for “Wax Museum” day. “I love hitting,” says Mild. “It’s the hardest thing to do in sports. You can fail 7 out of 10 times and still be the best hitter in the league. Ted had a passion for it and I have a passion for it.” Andrew grew up playing baseball and Wiffle@Ball with cousin Riley Clark. “He supposedly taught me how to hit left-handed,” says Mild. “I do everything righty except for golf and bat.” Mild, who turns 24 in July, learned about the gig with the Blue Crabs through TeamworkOnline.com. He sent in an application and his reel developed during his seasons with the Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts and Northern League’s Lake County CornDogs and went through a few interviews. He was offered the job and moved to Maryland in mid-February. Mild does not have a broadcast partner at Southern Maryland. There is a producer in the booth at home, but he’s on his own for road games. “You just have to be prepared,” says Mild. “The good news is that we have so many great guys on the team that I can talk to before the game. A lot of them are willing to tell good stories and I relay that. “Fans just love the stories.” Field staff for the Blue Crabs is manager Stan Cliburn, pitching coach Daryl Thompson, bench coach Ray Ortega and hitting coach Brandon Lee. Aside from play-by-play, Mild prepares game notes, distributes lineups (at home), interviews players after a win and feeds social media and the online scoreboard. FloSports.tv is the live streaming partner of the Atlantic League. The Blue Crabs use streamlabs.com software to produce their scoreboard and other video elements. Mild typically has a team and a personal lap top open with his scorebook next to the mixer. “It keeps me on my toes,” says Mild. “But I don’t know if I’d want to do anything else.” A 2018 honors diploma graduate of Crown Point High, where he played baseball through his junior year, Mild got to broadcast for a league champion in his hometown in 2022. “The CornDogs’ first season was so instrumental to the rest of the league,” says Mild. “The other cities can see just how well it did in Crown Point. I give all credit (CornDogs majority owner) Ralph (Flores). He built a really strong team in a really strong place. “The nice thing about Legacy Fields in Crown Point is that it’s right on the border of Crown Point and Merrillville and Schererville is right there. We got a mixture of guys on that team. We had a packed house every night. I had a great time being the first voice of the team and getting my feet wet being the No. 1 (broadcaster) for a collegiate team. Winning the whole thing, that was great.” Mild was an intern at Windy City in 2021 while making a transition from being a Sport Management/Communications double major at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., — where he was an outfielder on the baseball team — to a Sports Media major with a Marketing minor at Butler University in Indianapolis. He partnered in the ThunderBolts booth with No. 1 broadcaster Connor Onion. “I always came in ready,” says Mild. “I was always asking Connor and my boss — Terry Bonadonna — what I could do better. “They were always willing to talk to me about broadcasting. That’s why I was there — to learn and get better. “They understood my passion. They knew whatever they told me wasn’t just going to be wasted air. What can I keep? What do I get rid of? Trying to slow down my talking was a big thing. “Now I tell myself if you feel like you’re talking too slow you’ve got the right pace. I’m a natural introvert and I became a broadcaster. Good for me.” Mild also got many practice reps on his friend’s MLB: The Show video game or by muting a contest on TV or online. Lecturer/head of Butler+ Media Nick White presented many on-air opportunities while Mild finished up his degree in December 2022 — about two months before landing his current position. “Life comes at you fast as Ferris Bueller once said,” says Mild. “I try to look around every once in awhile.” Another way Mild sharpened his skills was to call games for Crown Point Babe Ruth. Andrew’s grandfather — John Pearson — is president of the league and was an umpire in the first Cal Ripken World Series. Grandmother Gale Pearson is always around the park. His parents are also board members. “It was great, especially during COVID when fans couldn’t really attend the games,” says Mild of broadcasting games on Facebook Live. “They could see and hear everything. “Helping them out during a time of crisis was my way of giving back to the game and the people who love the sport.” His first partner was Alex Coil, who is a graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Arizona State University and now a play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Onion introduced Mild to Bob Carpenter’s Baseball Scorebook. “I like it because it gives you lots of space to write down notes,” says Mild. “It allows you to put the defense on top of the opposing lineup. If I forget the guys’ name I can look down and look back up and I know I have time to put together a sentence and call the play. “The good part is that you spend so much time with your guys that you can just look at them and know immediately who it is. It might take you the first game of a series to learn the other guys. But after a few games you get into a rhythm and know who that is.” Mild does not have a broadcast partner at Southern Maryland. There is a producer in the booth at home, but he’s on his own at the road. “You just have to be prepared,” says Mild “The good news is that we have so many great guys on the team that I can talk to before the game. A lot of them are willing to tell good stories and I relay that. “Fans just love the stories.” Aside from play-by-play, Mild prepares game notes, distributes lineups (at home), interviews players after a win and feeds social media and the online scoreboard. He typically has a team and a personal lap top open with his scoreboard next to the mixer. “It keeps me on my toes,” says Mild. “But I don’t know if I’d want to do anything else.” Rule experiments in the Atlantic League in 2023 include the designated pinch-runner, single disengagement limit and “Double Hook” designated hitter. Each club will list a player who is not otherwise in the starting lineup as a designated pinch-runner. That player may then be substituted at any point into the game as a baserunner. The player who is substituted for, as well as the pinch-runner, may then return to the game without penalty. South Maryland’s designated runner is switch-hitting outfielder and former collegiate track and field champion sprinter J.T. Reed. The disengagement rule relates to the pitch clock and keeps pitchers from abusing the system while also leading runners to take more daring leads. If the starting pitcher fails to make it through fifth inning, the club loses the DH for the remainder of the game and must either have its pitcher hit or use pinch-hitters when that spot comes up in the batting order. Like Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League has a pitch clock, 3-batter minimum, wider bases, banned the shift and “ghost runner” or extra-inning free runner. The broadcaster disagrees with a scoring decision that sometimes comes with the latter rule. He also understands why things like this have been implemented. “If the ghost runner scores it should not be a blown save,” says Mild. “We’re getting to the point where there are so many things you can turn to that are streaming and at your finger tips, you need something that is going to interest them and keep their attention. That is scoring more runs at a higher volume even if it means changing the rules of the game. “This pitch clock, I love it. We had a 14-2 game last night and it only went 2 1/2 hours. You could add a few seconds, but otherwise it’s a great rule. “After awhile hitters and pitchers get used to it. Hitters are not stepping out of the box and pitchers are working a little faster.” Mild is living his dream. “I’d like to thank the game of baseball and my friends for supporting me throughout the whole process,” says Mild. “They challenged me to be better.”
Paul Condry was on the play-by-play call Friday, April 21 for his 20th baseball Senior Day at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind. A longtime broadcaster and founder of Regional Radio Sports Network and a member of the Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame along with wife Tonya, Condry began calling baseball home games for the school at the same time Seth Zartman came back to campus to be the Pilots head coach. “It’s one of the greatest relationships I have,” says Condry. “Seth is not only great to work with and accessible like no other, but he’s also my friend. “I can always ask him the tough questions. I can be on-point about whatever situation that’s going on that I may observe from my spot here in the press box. I’m going to get a straight answer. “He’s going to be honest with me.” Over his many decades of sports, Condry has had several coaches tell him things in confidence. “I’ve never betrayed that trust and I think (Seth) knows that,” says Condry. The press box at Richard C. Patterson Field inside Jerry Jenkins Stadium has become Zartman’s working space. “I respect his office,” says Condry. “We keep it nice and tidy for him. But it’s a great viewpoint. “The sight lines are amazing. It’s just a great place to broadcast baseball.” Being the “Voice of the Pilots” has allowed Condry to call the exploits of future major leaguer Justin Masterson and several other superb players. In the last week or so, he received from Jacob Ringenberg, a senior in 2007, who wanted to share his thoughts. “He poured out his heart about the baseball program and the ministry that is the baseball program,” says Condry. “It’s been fun to feel like I’m part of the family. “I know I’m part of the Zartman family.” Seth’s wife Anitra and kids Senica, Ty, Lyric and Evik spent much time at Bethel. Anitra helps Condry with the Indiana Football Digest. “It’s been a great 20 years,” says Zartman. “We’ve had a lot of fun together. Hopefully we’re going to do this for many more (years). “I can’t put into words what (Paul) means to my family.” Not only Zartman, but Condry has bonded with assistant coaches like the late Dick Siler and current pitching coach Kiel Boynton. One of Condry’s favorite calls came Friday, April 14 as Andrew Miranda socked a three-run walk-off home run in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Marian. The broadcaster’s words before the clout set the stage. “That was one of those calls I absolutely nailed,” says Condry, who let his audience know the count (0-2), position of the two baserunners (first and third with the double play in order) and number of outs (one) before lefty-swinging Miranda cleared the fence in right. “Like anybody who’s in this position you always want to prime yourself. This is potentially what could happen.” He cites the famed “Shot Heard Round the World” of the New York Giants beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 — “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” “That’s one of the greatest calls in all of sportscasting because you listen to the couple of minutes before the actual home run and you can hear (announcer) Russ Hodges set up the play,” says Condry. “Someone was here and so-and-so was there and this was going on and that was going on and then he he gives you that historic (home run) call.” Condry grew up in Hobart, Ind., as a fan of the Chicago Cubs and broadcaster Jack Brickhouse but was also drawn to the Baltimore Orioles because they were often on the NBC Game of the Week. He appreciated Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play man Lloyd Pettit. “I listened to everybody when it comes to baseball,” says Condry. That includes Ernie Harwell in Detroit, Jack Buck in St. Louis, Bob Uecker in Milwaukee and Vin Scully in Los Angeles. “There’s some special people who put on the headsets,” says Condry. “We all love and grew up with those guys. They painted the picture like nobody else could.” At age 4, Condry knew he wanted to paint, too, and has been able to do that most of his adult life. “God has blessed me immensely,” says Condry. “How many people in America truly get a chance to do the only thing they every really wanted to do in life?” At 66, Condry called his 191st and 192nd athletic contests of 2022-23 on Senior Day. He also broadcasts high school football and basketball as well as college basketball and college volleyball. Condry, who is also in the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and Indiana Football Coaches Association halls of fame, puts together the Indiana Football Digest, writes for the RRSN website and the Indianapolis Colts and on and on. The 17th annual Griddy’s award show is Sunday, April 23. “I feel like I’m working two full-time jobs,” says Condry. “And I’m loving every minute of it.”
About 4,000 teams are expected to play in Bullpen Tournaments events across the spring, summer and fall seasons at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and other diamonds. His part of that will keep Chris Gorman hopping. As Bullpen’s Director of High School Tournaments, he handles registration, scheduling and operations and also helps with staffing of interns and hourly workers and assists with youth tournaments when needed. Most of the 15U to 18U tourneys held in June and July and coordinated by Gorman are staged at Grand Park and Championship Park in Kokomo. Other local, high-quality off-site fields like Kokomo Municipal Stadium are also used. The majority of teams are from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, but there are those from outside. Gorman counts Director of Operations Cam Eveland and Vice President of Operations Michael Tucker as his direct supervisors. Born in Fort Wayne and raised in Auburn in Indiana, Gorman is a graduate of DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind. (2015) — where he played basketball — and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. (2019) — where he was Sport Administration major and Marketing minor. Gorman has also served Bullpen Tournaments as an hourly Quad Manager, making sure games ran smoothly and on schedule. “This role helped me understand the operations and the standard that was needed to be met for all our events,” says Gorman. From there he was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo., a Prep Baseball Report facility just outside of Kansas City. The job allowed him to implement to apply the same standards set by Bullpen at Grand Park. “This role required me to have my hands in many different areas of our business and helped me understand the entire company as a whole rather than just from an operations standpoint,” says Gorman. Why did he choose this as a profession? “I knew I always wanted to have some sort of career in the sports world,” says Gorman. “I was always curious about how things worked behind the scenes, so when I started out as an hourly worker for Bullpen, I was able to get hands on experience of the behind-the-scenes work involved in running high quality events. “I learned to love the jobs I was asked to do so pursuing a sport operations role was something that interested me very strongly.” Gorman’s resume also includes Security Assistant for the Chicago Cubs, Tournament Director for PBR, Tournament Site Director for World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne and Ticket Sales Representative for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
It wasn’t that long ago that Brad Stoltzfus was leading off and playing on the right side of the infield for the Goshen (Ind.) College baseball program. The righty swinger from Souderton, Pa. (northwest of Philadelphia), appeared in 199 games for the Maple Leafs from 2015-18. After getting his broadcasting degree, Stoltzfus took a job in town (he’s a shift leader at Goshen Brewing Company) and became a volunteer assistant on head coach Alex Childers’ staff. Justin Grubbs is Goshen’s pitching coach. Michael Walker is the other assistant. As the Maple Leafs get ready for 2023, Stoltzfus is now in a paid position and is guiding hitters and infielders. Stoltzfus wants his hitters to know their strengths and weaknesses. “Know where you can get beat and know the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish at the plate,” says Stoltzfus. “We want you to be good at situational hitting.” It always pays to be selective and not swing at every pitch that comes a hitter’s way. “We have good pitchers in (the NAIA Crossroads League) but we also have pitchers that’ll walk you if you let them,” says Stoltzfus. “We want some guys to be a bit more aggressive because they can hit it in the gap. “Clinton Stroble was one of the best hitters to go through this program I played with him for three years. He and I had very different approaches because he could put one 400 feet away and I couldn’t.” Stoltzfus worked to get on-base so Strobel could knock him in. A student of big league players, Stoltzfus likes the way Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman plays the game. As a hitting coach, Stoltzfus talks about recognizing pitch shapes. “(Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander) Clayton Kershaw is a good example,” says Stoltzfus. “You see a fastball out of his hand and it’s slightly down. Whereas, his curveball is slightly up. If you can see it out of the hand forget the spin. “If you can recognize (shape) right away you know what pitch is coming now and it’s all timing. Timing is a big thing. It’s getting your load and timing down and reacting to the pitch. Put a good swing on the pitch you want.” As a GC player, Stoltzfus was a second baseman as a freshman and sophomore and a first baseman as a junior and senior. As an infield coach, he stresses the ready position and knowing what to do with the baseball when it is hit to them. “I’d like to think I had a very good Baseball I.Q. and was a very good defensive player,” says Stoltzfus. “I would always figure out ways to gain an advantage on my opponent on the mental side of things.” From a teacher at Souderton Area High School. Stoltzfus learned how to visualize success and avoid negative self talk in favor of positive. If you see yourself striking out with the bases loaded or making a crucial error that can lead to it happening. Replace that with getting the key hit or making the right play. The Maple Leafs open the 2023 season Feb. 4-5 with doubleheaders at Union College in Barbourville, Ky. Goshen opens Crossroads League play March 2 at Marian. The first home date is March 4 against Marian. While getting ready, Friday practices will be dedicated to individual player skill development. Sometimes technology like HitTrax or Rapsodo is used to mark progress. “We break down what we think they can do better,” says Stoltzfus. “I try to put myself in their shoes because I know I was in their spot once before. “We’re just trying to go out and get better each day and progress as coaches and players.” Stoltzfus, who graduated in 2018, is grateful for his Goshen education and his experiences at the campus radio station — 91.1 The Globe (WGCS-FM). “Uncle” Duane Stoltzfus is a Professor of Communication. “My parents (Barry and Ingrid) gave me the option to explore and go wherever,” says Brad, got a diploma at GC following his father (business), mother (nursing) and older brother Drew (music) while sister Leah was Brad’s biggest fan. “Ultimately I landed here. I really appreciate the degree I got here because there’s so many things take from what I did in a radio setting and apply that to everyday life and my job (including customer service). “(Assistant Professor of Communication and The Globe advisor) Jason Samuel was an awesome mentor.” Both from the Philly area, Stoltzfus and Samuel have had many discussions about City of Brotherly Love sports teams. Barry Stoltzfus, who went to South Bend (Ind.) Riley High School, was at Wrigley Field in Chicago the day that Mike Schmidt belted four home runs (April 17, 1976) in an 18-16 win for the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cubs. Brad grew up wearing No. 11 on the diamond. When he was making the transition to the bigger field he landed on a team with a player already donning that digit. Consulting with his dad, he decided on No. 20 (Schmidt’s number) and wore that through high school. Stoltzfus sported No. 44 as a Goshen player. On May 25, 2011, Brad and three friends were in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play the Cincinnati Reds. The game went 19 innings and the foursome stayed for the whole thing, even gathering three baseball including a home run ball by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce.
Jeff Samardzija grew up in a hard-nosed atmosphere. Father Sam’s favorite coach was Indiana University’s Bob Knight. His favorite team was the 1985 Chicago Bears. Dad played semi-pro hockey in the Windy City. “My upbringing was pretty intense with my dad,” said Samardzija Friday, Jan. 13, the day he was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “Luckily I was the second son. He worked the kinks out with my older brother and I kind of loosened up a little bit on me. “I ended up having a good run there out of Valpo.” Sam Samardzija Jr., was an all-state football player who became an agent for Wasserman Baseball representing his brother. He is the first-born son of Sam and Debora Samardzija. She died in 2001 at 46. Jeff Samardzija, who turns 38 on Jan. 23, played wide receiver and helped Valparaiso (Ind.) High School to an IHSAA Class 5A state runner-up finish as a junior. The 2003 graduate was runner-up as Indiana Mr. Football and Indiana Mr. Baseball as a senior. McCutcheon’s Clayton Richard won both awards. “He is the standard,” said Samardzija of Richard, who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now head coach at Lafayette Jeff. “Quarterbacks — they get all the love.” Samardzija, who is of Serbian decent, went to Notre Dame on a football scholarship and was also allowed to played baseball for the Fighting Irish. “My first two years in football at Notre Dame I wasn’t very good and didn’t put up very good numbers,” said Samardzija, who caught 24 passes for 327 yards and no touchdowns in 2003 and 2004 for the Tyrone Willingham-coached Irish. “I had a lot of success in baseball my freshman and sophomore year.” It was as a frosh football player that Samardzija received his nickname of “Shark.” “When you start freshman year you get hazed by the older guys,” said Samardzija. “I didn’t have beautiful, thick facial hair like I do now.” One day an ND veteran tagged him as “Shark Face” after an animated character. “I had a good football season and somebody on ABC — (Bob) Griese or sometime said, ‘The Shark is running through the middle of the defense,’” said Samardzija, who caught 77 passes for 1,249 yards and 15 TDs in 2005 and 78 for 1,017 and 13 in 2006 with ND coached by Charlie Weis. “From then on people started calling me Shark.” Samardzija did not pitch that much in high school. “When I got to Notre Dame they made me pitch because football didn’t want me to play the outfield,” said Samardzija, who went 5-3, posted a 2.95 earned run average and was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine in 2004 then followed that up with 8-1 and 8-2 marks in 2005 and 2006 for head coach Paul Mainieri. “It was a great scenario. You don’t have to do off-season conditioning in football. You don’t have to do fall ball in baseball. You get to pick-and-choose where you want to go. “Being on a full scholarship for football, the baseball coaches loved me. I was free. They didn’t ride me too hard. They just wanted me to show up on Saturdays and pitch. I threw a bullpen on Wednesdays. Everything else was football.” After Samardzija did well as a collegiate pitcher and then excelled in football as a junior he now had to decide if his path going forward would be on the gridiron or the diamond. “I had a dilemma on my hands,” said Samardzija. “I had given so much to football my whole life. It was never travel baseball. It was always travel football. “Baseball was always my release. It was never work and it was never a chore to be out there on the baseball field. “I had to fight for all my respect in baseball because I was labeled as a football guy.” With the National Football League showing interest, two-time baseball and football All-American Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He made his MLB debut in 2008. He was with the Cubs 2008 into the 2014 season when he went to Oakland Athletics. That was the same year he was chosen for the All-Star Game though he did not play. Samardzija played for the Chicago White Sox in 2015 and San Francisco Giants 2016-2020. He won 12 games in 2016 and 11 in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander with a four-seam fastball that got up to 99 mph appeared in 364 games (241 starts) and went 80-106 with one save and a 4.15 earned run average. “It’s tough when you have to choose a path,” said Samardzija. “I made the right decision.” A gift from the family and more than 40 donors, Samardzija Field at Tower Park is a youth diamond in Valparaiso. Mostly off the grid in retirement, Samardzija is an avid fisherman and has spent plenty of time in recent years on the water. Sometimes “Shark” encounters sharks. “When I’m in Tampa we’ll get out there,” said Samardzija. “You don’t want to catch them, but sometimes they show up. “I’ve enjoyed kind of just pulling back. It was a go-go-go life there for a long time.” Samardzija and partner Andrea have two children.
Andy McManama has learned there is power in precision when it comes to life and baseball and has demonstrated this as an an instructor/mentor at World Baseball Academy and assistant coach at Carroll High School — both in Fort Wayne, Ind. His father — Terry McManama — was a longtime assistant coach to Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of FamerMark Grove and a Business teacher at Churubusco (Ind.) High School that passed along the importance of structure to he and wife Marla’s only child. “It’s being on-time and being detailed,” says Andy McManama. “There’s work to be done. If we practice hard we can have fun and play games, but we have to make sure our work is getting done first.” His grandfather owned a horse farm and was involved in harness racing. Andy was a 9-year Whitley County 4-H Horse & Pony Club member and worked his way through the offices of secretary, treasurer, vice president and president. The fairgrounds are in Columbia City. “Growing up whether it was the baseball side or having a horse side it’s we’ve got some work to do to take care of things,” says McManama. “That’s always been a family thing — working hard for what you have.” McManama grew up attending many World Baseball Academy programs, played catcher at Carroll for head coach and NEIBA Hall of Famer Dave Ginder and graduated in 2009 — the same year he became a World Baseball Academy intern with the RBI program (now On Deck Initiative for underserved and at-risk boys and girls). Andy has applied his guiding principles as an instructor as well as Ginder’s bullpen coach. He has been on the staff since 2016. “I’ve enjoyed being in that program and just how much attention to detail there is,” says McManama. “It’s how my brain functions and is wired. “We dot our i’s and cross our t’s. Our kids play hard. That hasn’t changed since before (Ginder started leading the Carroll program).” The IHSAA adopted a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) that went into effect during the 2017 season and rule now includes all levels. “I think it works well,” says McManama. “It all comes down to player safety. With 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, their bodies are still developing. It’s really good from not overusing (their arms). “The IHSAA has done a good job. It’s regulated now. It’s not just a free-for-all or everybody can do whatever they want.” McManama notes that all pitch counts are not the same. “A 100-pitch seven-inning outing is completely different to a 100-pitch three-inning outing,” says McManama. “You could have three high-stress innings and that makes a big difference. “If a kid has 60 to 80 pitches through three he probably isn’t going to make it to his 100 or 120 unless you have to. Those are high-stress innings that don’t help the kids arm or body for sure.” Coach Mac has served in several capacities at the ASH Centre, including tournament director and director of operations. This year, he took a full-time job with Allen Business Machines but still provides group and one-on-one lessons at World Baseball Academy two times a week as well as helping at Carroll. “I enjoy working with catchers and pitchers quite a bit,” says McManama. “Lesson-wise we’ll do it all.” With World Baseball Academy, McManama traveled to Bulgaria and worked with the Bulgarian Baseball Federation in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 made a visit to Kenya in 2013. A group from Bulgaria came to Fort Wayne in 2014. “Those trips are eye-opening,” says McManama. “You see how other kids live and interact on the other side of the world. “It’s a humbling experience on how many things we have here that we take for granted sometimes. It makes you appreciate a lot more. “Being able to work with kids and see them grow — not just from an athletic perspective but as a young adult — is pretty gratifying to me.” Locally, the WBA partners with schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne through its On Deck Initiative. There are more than 1,000 kids involved in the program. McManama was raised as a Chicago Cubs fan and attended his first game at Wrigley Field while in elementary school. At the horse farm, the radio was often tuned to the Cubs broadcast with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the spring or summer and Purdue football or basketball in the fall or winter. “I actually prefer the radio broadcast for the Cubs rather than TV sometimes,” says McManama. “(Hughes and Santo) kept it interesting.” Santo went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012. Hughes is the Hall of Fame’s 2023 Ford C. Frick Award winner. McManama was in Cincinnati when Sammy Sosa slugged his 500th career home run April 4, 2003. The clout came on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Scott Sullivan and the opposite-field blast sailed over the wall in right. More proof of his Cubs leanings: Andy has two female dogs named Ivy (8-year-old Australian Shepherd) and Wrigley (14-year-old Beagle/Lab mix). Andy resides in Fort Wayne and is engaged to Tabitha Marrs.
Chris Geeser is entering his eighth season as a baseball coach at North Putnam High School in Roachdale, Ind. The 2023 season will mark his fourth in charge of the Cougars program. It’s is Geeser’s desire to put a “well-organized, hard-nose competitive team” on the field. “We’re going to play the game hard,” says Geeser. “We’ll run out ground balls and give it our best effort.” Geeser, 31, promotes sportsmanship and sees no room for showboating and bat flipping in baseball. “I’d rather see the passion than the flashiness,” says Geeser. A true-blue Chicago Cubs fan, Geeser counts former North Side pitcher Carlos Zambrano among his favorites. “He was so passionate,” says Geeser of a player who won 125 games and socked 24 home runs in 11 seasons with the Cubs. Geeser was born in Rockford, Ill., and moved to Martinsville, Ind., as a fourth grader. He played four years of baseball for the Martinsville High School. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow led the Artesians in Geeser’s freshman year. Luke Moscrip was head coach the next season and Mike Swartzentruber (now a Lake Central) in 2009 and 2010. “I was a big fan,” says Geeser of Swartzentruber. “We had a lot of talent my junior and senior year. He was very detailed and very intense.” Geeser graduated from Indiana State University in 2015 and was hired to teach Business at North Putnam about a week before school began in 2015-16. North Putnam (enrollment around 445) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Class 2A Brown County, 2A Cloverdale, 3A Edgewood, 2A Greencastle, 3A Indian Creek, 3A Northview, 3A Owen Valley, 2A South Putnam, 2A Sullivan and 3A West Vigo). Each WIC team meets one time during the season. The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Cloverdale, Greencastle, Parke Heritage, South Putnam and Southmont. North Putnam has won four sectional titles — the last in 2007. With many North Putnam athletes involved in football, soccer or cross country, Geeser held IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices once a week in the fall. Those attending got a chance to throw and work on defensive basics and take plenty of batting practice. “The skill that falls off faster than anything is hitting,” says Geeser. Since the winter Limited Contact Period began the Cougars are spending one day on bullpens and defensive drills and the other on hitting (in the cage or at stations around the gym). “There’s not a whole lot of standing around at my practices,” says Geeser. “We’d like to get 100-150 swings.” Sharing facilities with winter sports means coming in before school or going later in the evening. North Putnam offers basketball, wrestling and swimming in the winter. Winter workouts have had as many as 20 attendees, but the average is around 12. Since Geeser became head coach the Cougars have fielded varsity and junior varsity teams and he expects the same in 2023. He guesses there might be 24 or 25 players in the program in the spring. While there are no recent graduates in college baseball, Geeser sees that potential for junior right-handed pitcher Jaylen Windmiller, who struck out 27 and walked five in 22 2/3 innings for a 2022 team that went 13-13. Geeser’s assistant coaches include returnees Cameron Brothers and Jackson Kendall and newcomer Anthony Rossock. Brothers and Kendall are North Putnam graduates and Rossock, who played at Anderson University, is a Greencastle alum. All three are North Putnam teachers. North Putnam Middle School fields a team in the spring made up of seventh and eighth graders (and sometimes sixth graders). North Putnam Youth Baseball League sponsors teams from T-ball to 12U. Geeser is actively involved with the organization. A number of renovations to the school’s on-field diamond last summer, including rolling and re-building the infield, mound and home plate areas. “I think our field’s pretty nice,” says Geeser. “We have really good lights.” A Musco Lighting system can be controlled by a phone app. Chris andy Lacey Geeser celebrated four years of marriage in the summer of 2022.
Weybright is a graduate of North White High School. Following graduation, he attended and played baseball for three years at Blackburn College before earning his bachelor degree from Indiana University. Following one season as an assistant at North White, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 seasons as the head coach at Norwell High School where he compiled a record of 243-93 with two NHC, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles with an IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2006 and 3A state championships in 2003 and 2007 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. The 2007 team went 35-0 and finished ranked 10th nationally (Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports). The 2006 and 2007 squads went a combined 64-2. Weybright coached 22 players that played collegiately with six IHSBCA North All-Stars and four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections. Two NHC Coach of the Year honors (2006 and 2007) came Weybright’s way as well as two IHSBCA Coach of the Year awards (2003 and 2007). He was recognized as a National High School Baseball Coaches Association District and National Coach of the Year in 2007. Weybright is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball program during its summer development period and occasionally during the season as time permits.
Storen is a 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School. As a freshman, he was the No. 2 pitcher (3-0, 1.17 earned run average) behind Lance Lynn on the eventual 2004 state runner-up. As a sophomore, right-hander Storen went 9-0 with 86 strikeouts in 57 innings and helped the Bulldogs to go 35-0 and win the 2005 state championship while earning a No. 2 ranking in the country from Baseball America. The Indianapolis Star called that team, “The greatest high school team in Indiana history.” For his career, Storen finished 28-2 with 270 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.61. At the plate, he hit .400 with 16 home runs. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, but attended Stanford University. In two seasons with the Cardinal, he was named to three Freshman All-American teams and was twice chosen first team All-Pac 12. He got the win in Game 1 of the 2008 College World Series. Storen led Stanford as a sophomore in saves, wins and appearances and was named team MVP for 2009. He finished his collegiate career with a 12-4 record, 26 saves, 59 appearances and a 3.84 ERA. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was taken by the Washington Nationals as the 10th overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft. In eight seasons with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he went 29-18 with 99 saves, a 3.45 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He made six postseason appearances for Washington in 2012 and 2014 with one win and one save. Drew and his wife Brittani currently reside in Carmel and have two boys — Jace (6) and Pierce (2).
Samardzija is a 2003 Valparaiso High School graduate is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana history. By his senior year, he was recognized as one of the state’s best football players and was the runner-up for the Indiana Mr. Football award. Samardzija was a three-time all-state player and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. In baseball, he was a runner-up for the Mr. Baseball award as a senior, a three-year varsity letterman and an All-State honoree as a center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior and .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs as a senior. As one of the nation’s top football recruits, he chose Notre Dame where he was also invited to pitch for the baseball team. Samardzija was a two-time All American wide receiver, a two-time All-American pitcher and a two-time runner up for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s best receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick in the National Football League, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. The right-hander was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in July 2008 and went on to pitch 13 full seasons. In addition to the Cubs, Samardzija pitched for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-2020). He was named an All-Star in 2014. Jeff and older brother Sam represent a rare achievement in VHS history with each being selected as All-State performers in both football and baseball.
Johnston graduated from Western Michigan University and was a minor league outfielder from 1952-67. He played for the Indianapolis Indians from 1960-1966 and played in the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators organizations. He was a career .286 hitter and had 525 stolen bases. He led his league in stolen bases six straight years (1953-58). He paced the International League in 1956 with 182. Johnston was a minor league manager for nine years and was the with the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., in an administrative role. In 2020, he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame. Johnston served as a scout, scouting supervisor, cross-checker and minor league coordinator roles before retiring in 2019. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.
Wayne Johnson spent 12 years as a varsity assistant to Greg Silver at Mooresville before spending two stints as the head coach at Brownsburg High School. At the helm of the Bulldog program, he compiled 278 wins over 15 years. During his first stint from (1987-2000), Johnson-led teams took home sectional championships in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996. The Bulldogs were also regional champions in 1996. Then on short notice, Johnson was asked to return to coach Brownsburg in 2011 and won another sectional title. While Johnson’s victories and championships are impressive, his contributions to Brownsburg baseball far exceed his won/loss record. The 1990 Central Suburban Athletic Conference Coach of the Year was instrumental in the construction of Brownsburg’s home baseball field — Mary Beth Rose Park. Johnson partnered with countless members of the community to design and build the stadium and it has served to host over a 1,000 games since the spring of 1988. Rose Park is still considered a premier location to play baseball in Indiana. Johnson was a big supporter of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and it fundraising efforts. He also owned a business, Johnson Sports Collectibles in addition to teaching for 39 years at Mooresville and Brownsburg High Schools. Johnson impacted many lives through the game of baseball and his presence is sorely missed. He is being inducted posthumously as he passed away on Dec. 19, 2018.
Inductees will be honored during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing. The clinic is Jan. 12-14. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from McKeon on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey. Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games. “It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way. “As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.” While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter. “When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.” Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South. A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college. “It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college. “My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.” Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball. “I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games. “I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.” The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base. Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities. “I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.” Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind. Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12. Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder. “Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U. Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla. Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract. Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree. Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A. Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance. Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021. Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996. Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother. “We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).” Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.