Just over a month after being named head baseball coach at Indiana University Kokomo, Drew Brantley is busy laying the foundation for the Cougars system. Classes began Aug. 23. Brantley is overseeing two weeks of open field workouts before fall practice officially begins Labor Day (Sept. 6). There will be sessions six days a week for eight weeks culminating Oct. 30. Then the NAIA member Cougars move into the weight room and begin the build-up to the spring. There will be no games against outside competition this fall. There will be three scrimmages per week at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. “It’ll be heavy on individual development as a baseball player,” says Brantley. “We’ll compete in a game-like situations.” As the Cougars ready themselves for the River States Conference race, they will open the 2022 season with trips to play Louisiana State University Shreveport and Truett McConnelll University (Cleveland, Ga.). Brantley, who has been on staff the past three seasons including the last two as associate head coach, knows what he desires in an IU Kokomo player. “I want to get good people into the program,” says Brantley, who turned 29 on Aug. 22. “We want them to have the total student-athlete experience — athletically, academically and socially.” The idea is to achieve on the field and in the classroom and build friendships and contacts that will last long beyond the college years. Brantley’s staff includes Jeremy Honaker, Nick Floyd and Justin Reed. Honaker, who was volunteer assistant at the University of Indianapolis in 2020-21, will serve as a positional coach and also help with hitting and baserunning. Former Ball State University and independent professional right-hander Floyd is the Cougars’ pitching coach. Former IU Kokomo player Reed is a graduate assistant and assistant pitching coach. He will work toward his Masters of Business Administration, help in athletic communications and with the baseball team. Prior to coming to IUK to serve on head coach Matt Howard’s staff, Brantley was an assistant to head coach Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I worked with infielders and baserunners and assisted with hitters,” says Brantley. “My time at Indiana Wesleyan was awesome. The integrity of the program is held very highly there. I learned how you hold people accountable and how things are supposed to be done.” Brantley assisted at his alma mater Anderson (Ind.) University for five seasons with a stint as interim coach. Medical issues mean that he was only able to play his freshmen season for David Pressley before becoming a student assistant. “He was an awesome guy and a great role model,” says Brantley of Pressley, who followed American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon as the man in charge at AU. “A large part of my coaching philosophy comes from (Anderson).” Dustin Glant later took over a Anderson Ravens head coach and was helped by Brantley. “I was able to learn a lot under Dustin,” says Brantley. “He showed me the ropes and what its like to conduct yourself professionally. It’s not just about baseball. “A lot of the success I’ve had has been because of the things he’s showed me and the advice he’s given me.” Glant is now pitching coach at Indiana University. At 22, Brantley was named interim coach at Anderson, where he earned his Secondary Education and Teaching degree in 2015 and MBA in 2017. Says Brantley, “Everyday I was doing the best I knew how.” The same applies in his current position. “It’s pretty neat being in this seat,” says Brantley, who guides a program in the town where he was born. Brantley grew up in Russiaville, Ind., and played T-ball through age 12 at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. After that came travel ball with the Central Indiana Kings then three summers with Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6. His coach at Western High School in Russiaville was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Ty Calloway. After becoming a coach himself, Brantley came to learn how Calloway “coached ‘em up the right way.” “As a player, he held us to a really high standard,” says Brantley. “He was always on us in practice. Whatever we were doing that day we were going to give our best effort.” Brantley played three seasons for the Panthers, sitting out his junior year to recuperate from cardiac arrest. In his senior year of 2011, he was an IHSBCA Class 3A first-team all-state second baseman. “I have an incredible support system,” says Drew, who is the son of Chrysler employee Ron and dental receptionist Angie and younger brother of Alaina. Ron Brantley has been coaching baseball since he was 20 and will help out this fall at IU Kokomo. Brantley’s first experience as a baseball coach came with a Howard County travel team called the Indiana Flyers. He was with that team from the fall of 2012 through the summer of 2015. There was also a stint working for Chris Estep as a hitting and defensive instructor at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Ind. “He gave me an opportunity to work with younger kids and allowed me to fail a lot,” says Brantley. “Being at RoundTripper was awesome.”
Dawson Estep counts it a privilege to play baseball. So even though he considers himself a middle infielder, he’ll go wherever coaches want to use him. “I don’t write the lineup,” says Estep, a 2019 graduate of University High School in Carmel, Ind., who is preparing to return to Connors State College in Warner, Okla., in mid-August. “I’ll play anywhere as long as I’m on the field having fun. “I’m just excited to be out on the field playing.” This summer, the 21-year-old has been primarily been used at second base by Moon Shots head coach Kevin Christman in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Estep and Christman go way back. “I’ve know him known since before I was 10,” says Estep. “He’s watched me grow up. “It’s fun playing for him in the summer.” Christman, a retired San Francisco Giants scout, has helped Chris and Sue Estep at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield and the Indiana Mustangs travel organization and is very familiar with the Estep children — Tron, Dawson and Jasmine. RoundTripper/Mustangs founder Chris Estep is a master instructor and University High head coach. He played at the University of Kentucky. Sue Estep was a cheerleader at UK. Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate Tron Estep played football at Elon (N.C.) University, where he has earned underrate and masters degrees, and is about to go to U.S. Army National Guard boot camp. Competitive dancer/cheerleader Jasmine Estep is heading into her senior year at Carmel High School. “She’s probably the best athlete in the family,” says Dawson of his sister. “She can do 10 straight back flips.” Cousin Chase Estep, who played with Dawson on the Indiana Mustangs, played his second season at Kentucky in the spring and is with the Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish this summer. Dawson Estep helps out at RoundTripper when he’s not working out, honing his skills or playing in the CSL. At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Estep has added about 15 pounds of muscle since going to Connors State in January. A catalyst for University’s IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up and state championship teams in 2018 and 2019, Estep went to Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., and played for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Warriors in the spring of 2020, a season shortened to 12 games by the COVID-19. After the shutdown, Estep took online classes and worked out back in Indiana. When there was a change in the Rend Lake coaching staff and uncertainty about the 2021 season, he began looking for other opportunities. “We were at the height of COVID and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Estep. “I didn’t want to get stuck and not have a place to be.” Estep posted Twitter videos of himself on offense and defense and Connors State reached out. He visited and ended up going with the Perry Keith-coached Cowboys. “I’ve found myself as a ballplayer,” says Estep. “It’s the right spot for me. “I’m in the right environment where I can grow as a player and a person.” Keith has been at Connors State for more than three decades and amassed more than 1,600 wins. His teams have made five JUCO World Series appearances. “He’s a legend in the coaching world,” says Estep of Keith. “He’s one of those coaches that makes you go the extra mile. He gets the best of everybody. He’s honest even if you don’t want to hear it. “He’s the guy you want to go to battle for and he’ll go to battle for you.” Estep credits Keith for helping him mature and grow. Estep has embraced the “JUCO Bandit” approach to baseball. “You’re on your own but you’re not on your own,” says Estep. “You have to grow up fast. “You use the resources you have and come up with things on the fly. You have a lot of ingenuity and use what you have. When I’m back home I have a lot more things at my disposable. It makes makes me appreciate them.” Estep says junior college baseball — for those who work at it – provides a chance to play right away and find their niche in the game. In his first season Connors State, he worked out at many infield positions in a utility role. In 17 games, he hit .324 (11-of-34) with seven runs batted in, 11 runs scored and two stolen bases as the Cowboys went 37-18. In the fall, JUCO players are often at the field up to 10 hours a day. “The fall is where the boys become men,” says Estep. “It’s the grind. “Once they move on to a four-year school they’re prepared for anything.” Since he was 14 or 15, Estep has been a switch hitter. “I liked hitting left-handed when I played wiffle ball with my friends,” says Estep. “I started becoming comfortable (in baseball).” Estep explains the advantage of hitting from both sides of the plate. “I don’t have issues hitting a breaking ball,” says Estep. “Everything comes into me. I go after the fastball and stay back on the change-up. “I don’t see lefties a lot. I’ve had maybe 10 at-bats right-handed this summer. So I work even harder on the right side.” For either side, Estep does plenty of tee work and sets the pitching machine at high velocity to get ready for game speed. He does drills that concentrate on his lower half. “I sometimes get antsy with my feet and try to kill the ball,” says Estep. “I try to be a fundamentally-sound as possible.” He likes to take the same amount of cuts righty and lefty since he does not know who is coming out of the bullpen if the starter should leave. Dawson was born in Indianapolis and spent his whole life in Carmel. While he and his father probably talk about baseball everyday, there’s also conversations about school. After he gets his basic classes completed and lands at a four-year school, Dawson sees himself pursuing a degree in sports management or business. “I want to get into coaching and help younger kids,” says Dawson of his post-playing ambitions. “This game has helped me so much. “I might as well do that for the rest of my life.”
Today (June 12) four semistates will be staged at LaPorte, Kokomo, Mooresville and Jasper to determine the teams competing int he 2021 IHSAA State Finals June 21-22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Here is a capsulized look at Final Four teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A:
Team By Team Washington Township Senators — Head Coach Randy Roberts. 1A Washington Township Sectional — Kouts 7-1, Westville 4-1, Morgan Township 4-1. 1A South Bend Regional — South Central (Union Mills) 6-3, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 10-1. Sectional titles (10) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (1) — 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2019 (Randy Roberts).
Cowan Blackhawks — Head Coach Aaron Wells. 1A Liberty Christian Sectional — Wes-Del 5-1, Daleville 4-3. 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional — Union City 3-0, Riverton Parke 9-3. Sectional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2008. Semistate titles (1) — 2008. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2008 (Camden Parkhurst).
Hanover Central Wildcats — Head Coach Ryan Bridges. 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional — Kankakee Valley 9-1, Culver Academies 10-0, John Glenn 8-4. 3A Griffith Regional — South Bend St. Joseph 6-1, Northwestern 18-1. Sectional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional tittles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Semistate titles (1) — 2011. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2011 (Doug Nelson).
Norwell Knights — Head Coach Dave Goodmiller. 3A Bellmont Sectional — Marion 10-0, Mississinewa 13-2, Oak Hills 15-10. 3A Bellmont Regional — Wawasee 7-2, Leo 5-3. Sectional titles (17) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2013. Semistate titles (3) — 2006, 2007, 2013. State titles (3) — 2003 (Kelby Weybright), 2007 (Kelby Weybright), 2013 (Andy McClain).
Eastside Blazers — Head Coach Aaron Willard. 2A Eastside Sectional — Adams Central 3-1, Bluffton 16-1. 2A Whiting Regional — Wheeler 7-1, Central Noble 18-3. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Delphi Oracles — Head Coach Ryan Long. 2A Delphi Sectional — Fountain Central 14-2, Seeger 7-3. 2A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rochester 12-5, Wapahani 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (1) — 2010. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — Delphi (Pat Lowrey).
Munster Mustangs — Head Coach Bob Shinkan (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee). 4A Merrillville Sectional — Highland 11-2, Merrillville 9-0, Lake Central 2-1. 4A LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 6-3, South Bend Adams 9-2. Sectional titles (13) — last one before 2021 — 2016. Regional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (0). State titles (1) — 2002 (Bob Shinkan).
Fishers Tigers — Head Coach Matt Cherry. 4A Westfield Sectional — Hamilton Southeastern 7-1, Carmel 1-0, Noblesville 4-0. 4A Kokomo Regional — Homestead 8-4, Harrison (West Lafayette) 7-5. Sectional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Semistate titles (1) — 2018. State titles (1) — 2018 (Matt Cherry).
Shakamak Lakers – Head Coach Jeremy Yeryar. 1A White River Valley Sectional — White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0, Bloomfield 4-1. 1A Morristown Regional — Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1, Oldenburg Academy 13-0. Sectional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (12) — last one before 2021 — 2015. Semistate titles (7) — 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015. State titles (2) — 2008 (Matt Fougerousse), 2014 (Chip Sweet). State runner-up (5) — 2004 (Chip Sweet), 2006 (Matt Fougerousse), 2007 (Matt Fougerousse), 2012 (Chip Sweet), 2015 (Todd Gambill).
Borden Braves — Head Coach Eric Stotts. 1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional — Lanesville 18-1, Orleans 3-0. 1A Lanesville Regional — West Washington 17-2, Loogootee 5-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
University Trailblazers — Head Coach Chris Estep (1 state title). 2A Cascade Sectional — Covenant Christian 7-3, Cascade 8-2. 2A Cascade Regional — Centerville 12-5, Parke Heritage 8-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (1) — 2019 (Chris Estep). State runner-up (1) — 2018 (Chris Estep.
Providence Pioneers — Head Coach Scott Hutchins. 2A Eastern (Pekin) Sectional — Henryville 10-4, Eastern (Pekin) 11-0, Austin 10-0. 2A Evansville Mater Dei Regional — South Ripley 5-3, North Posey 8-6. Sectional titles (19) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (1) — 2016. State titles (1) — 2016 (Scott Hornung).
Brebeuf Jesuit Braves — Head Coach Jeff Scott. 3A Brebeuf Sectional — Danville 5-0, Tri-West Hendricks 15-1. 3A Danville Regional — Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0, Northview 17-2. Sectional titles (15) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2012. Semistate titles (1) — 2012. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2012 (Andy McClain).
Southridge Raiders — Head Coach Gene Mattingly. 3A Southridge Sectional — Pike Central 10-0, Washington 1-0. 3A Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 2-1, Evansville Memorial 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (2) — 2018 (Gene Mattingly), 2019 (Gene Mattingly).
Mt. Vernon Marauders — Head Coach Brad King. 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional — Muncie Central 19-0, Pendleton Heights 8-0. 4A Mt. Vernon Regional — Franklin Central 6-2, Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3. Sectional titles (8) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 1971. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Jasper Wildcats — Head Coach Terry Gobert (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee; 5 state titles). 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional — Castle 6-1, Evansville North 5-4, Evansville Central 10-0. 4A Jasper Regional — Floyd Central 2-1, Center Grove 7-4. Sectional titles (39) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (14) — 1967, 1968, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017. State titles (5) — 1996 (Terry Gobert), 1997 (Terry Gobert), 1998 (Terry Gobert), 2000 (Terry Gobert), 2006 (Terry Gobert). State runner-up (4) — 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017.
Cade Carlson quit baseball. He was persuaded to come back with the help a friend. Now Carlson is looking forward to new diamond adventures in a different place and at the NCAA Division I level. A right-handed pitcher and 2018 graduate of University High School in Carmel, Ind., where he was the starter in the Trailblazers’ first state championship game appearance as a senior, Carlson went Northwood University in Midland, Mich., on a baseball scholarship. For reasons Carlson doesn’t go into, he left the school and the game after the fall semester and enrolled at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and had every intention of transferring to IU-Bloomington as a sophomore. Lukas Barnes, a Carmel High School graduate who Cade had known most of his life, convinced his buddy to give baseball another try and they became teammates at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio. “I wasn’t that good of a pitcher, but I kept working and got one of those four starting spots,” says Carlson. “My first outing terrible (lasting less than two innings.” The righty made three starts for the National Junior College Athletic Association-member and Steve Dintaman-coached Tartan Pride and was a winner in his last one, going 1-3 for the 2020 season, which was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That summer Carlson pitched in the first season for the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., not far from his Carmel home. He was with the A-Team coached by Kevin Christman. The CSL gave Carlson the chance to see where he stacked up with good talent. Due to COVID, Sinclair made the decision to suspend athletics through 2021-22 and Carlson went to Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and outfielder Barnes landed at Danville (Ill.) Community College. In 13 mound appearances (11 starts) for head coach Kevin Bowers and pitching coach Andrew Elliott, Carlson went 6-4 with a 2.72 earned run average. In 59 2/3 innings, he struck out 62 and walked 25. “I thought I had a pretty good year,” says Carlson. “I started out shaky and got on a roll. “I figured out how to pitch as games went on. I was not pitching to my advantage but the hitters’ disadvantage. That was big for my success this year.” The NJCAA’s LTC Statesmen went 32-21. East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., was impressed by Carlson and he agreed to join the NCAA D-I Buccaneers in 2021-22. “(ETSU was) the first school to offer me in the fall,” says Carlson, 21. “I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a good school in a great area and the baseball is good. “It’s a win-win.” With three years of baseball eligibility remaining, Carlson plans to pursue a Sport Management degree. “I’ll go to school and continue to work hard and baseball at higher levels,” says Carlson. East Tennessee State is a member of the Southern Conference. With Joe Pennucci as head coach and Jamie Pinzino as pitching coach, the team went 24-25 in 2021. Carlson throws five pitches from a three-quarter overhand arm angle — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curveball. He credits Lincoln Trail teammate/roommate Joey Perkins (a left-hander who hails from Lebanon, Ohio, and is bound for Virginia Commonwealth University) for teaching him the change-up which can be thrown from multiple grips. Carlson’s slider (horizontal) and curve (vertical) move on different planes. After going 2-0 in three outings during a temporary contract period with the State College (Pa.) Spikes of the MLB Draft League, Carlson is back in Carmel with father Tyce, mother Christine, brother Tyler and grandmother Carol Pinkley and plans to spend the summer training at RoundTripper Academy in Westfield to get ready for ETSU. “I have not taken a break from throwing in about a year now,” says Carlson. “The first month of summer won’t be about throwing. I’ll be lifting to getting stronger and putting good weight on.” Carlson wants to put about 20 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Born in Speedway, Carlson grew up in Carmel played rec baseball for the Carmel Dads Club. He played travel ball with the Indiana Mustangs for about a decade. One of Cade’s teammates was Dawson Estep (University Class of 2019), son of Mustangs and RoundTripper founder Chris Estep. After two years at Carmel High School, Carlson transferred to University and played for Estep. “What can I say about Chris?,” says Carlson. “I’ve known Chris forever. Chris puts the spirit of baseball into his players. “If you don’t love baseball you wouldn’t play for Chris.” Tyler Carlson also played baseball for Estep at University, graduating in 2014.
“We want to play hard and fast,” says Cushenberrry. “It’s cool to see kids come out and want to be part of something special.”
The Knights are in an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethesda Christian (the 2021 host site), Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Prep, Providence Cristo Rey and Tindley. Traders Point’s first year in the state tournament series was 2019.
Home baseball games this spring will be at Roundtripper Sports Academy or Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Cushenberry says a new turf field on the TPCS campus is expected by the end of this year.
“It’s going to be a very special time,” says Cushenberry. “The good Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be part of something special.”
Traders Point added a high school program in 2008 and had its first graduating class in 2012. A junior high building was opened in 2020.
As a feeder for high school baseball, Grades 5-8 play on “A” and “B” junior high teams.
Jayden Cushenberry played recreational baseball at Warren Township Little League then travel ball from 10 to 13 with the Oaklandon Bombers and 14 to 17 with the Tom Caster-coached Irvington Rattlers.
“I coach exactly how I played,” says Cushenberry. “We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be gritty.
“We’re going to go after you every single inning.”
It’s all about hard work and dedication and reaping what you sew.
Cushenberry knows he’s one of the younger coaches on the scene. But he sees that as an advantage.
“I’ve always been called wise beyond my years,” says Cushenberry. “We’re in a time now where the young coaches do a better job of relating to their players.
“Everybody wants to know why. I can let them know why and still coach them hard. I believe they respond better to hard-nosed coaching. We’re preparing them for life and creating a family atmosphere.”
Jaylen comes from a large extended family. His mother, Donnice Cushenberry, is a former cheer and dance coach who instilled competitiveness and the willingness to understand people in her oldest son.
“I truly want to thank my family for engraving some core values that I live by,” says Cushenberrry, who is a brother to Jordan Cushenberry and stepson to Michael Howe.
When he’s not working at Zionsville or coaching at Traders Point, Cushenberry gives lessons at Roundtripper. He is heading into his fourth summer as a coach for the Indiana Mustangs. He leads a 17U squad.
“I want to thank (Roundtripper and Mustangs founder) Chris Estep,” says Cushenberry. “He believed in me when other people wouldn’t.
“He’s treated me like a son.”
Reid Andrews is Director of Baseball Operations at Roundtripper and coaches with the Mustangs and University.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” says Cushenberry of Andrews. “He’s a good source of information.
“I’m thankful to be colleagues with Reid.”
Cushenberrry was an assistant to Estep for two seasons at University, helping the Trailblazers win an IHSAA Class 1A state crown in 2019.
At 62 and in a year where he lost his wife, Tyner has a different perspective.
“I’m pretty intense as a competitor,” says Tyner. “As you age you don’t lose your intensity, it becomes a different kind of focus. I’m a little more cerebral. Yelling and screaming might have worked in the ‘90s. That doesn’t work now. You have to think about who you’re talking to.
“Hopefully I’ve calmed down. As you mature, you go from thinking it’s your team to how can I serve the kid? Or how can I share the information I’ve learned in my 40 years in the game?”
It’s a horizontal relationship. Tyner lets his assistants take their strengths and run with them.
“I’m not ego-driven anymore,” says Tyner. “We can all learn something from each other and coaches and kids benefit.”
Coaching friends — like Tony Vittorio — are quick to point out when Tyner might lose sight of what his job is.
“I’m a father first and a coach second,” says Tyner. “I don’t have just one son, I have 38 his year. I’m older than all my coaches, so I have more even more sons.”
Tyner was a standout in Decatur, Ill., playing for Ray DeMoulin (a bird dog scout for the Cincinnati Reds who allowed Tyner to try out at 15) at MacAthur High School and Lee Handley (who played in the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers systems) as American Legion manager.
The coin came up heads. Tyner went to Florida, made the Hurricanes roster and played on College World Series teams in 1978, 1979 and 1980, earning Baskin Robbins Player of the Year honors in that final season.
At Miami, Tyner was around coaching legends Ron Fraser and Skip Bertman. The young outfielder marveled at how the two baseball minds could anticipate what was going to happen in a game.
“How did they do that?” says Tyner. who refers to Bertman as a walking baseball encyclopedia. “I hovered closed to him. His sixth sense was incredible.”
Fraser called them the “Miami Greyhounds.”
“I felt I was on a track team,” says Tyner. “That’s how much we ran. We were in shape.”
Before the current 56-game spring limit in NCAA Division I, Miami typically played more than 100 games counting fall and spring.
In 1981, he enjoyed his best offensive and worst defensive season. The parent Orioles had decided to move Cal Ripken Jr. from third base to shortstop and decided to make Tyner into a third sacker. But the hot corner proved pretty hot for him and he made 20 errors in 51 games at third for the Hagerstown Suns.
Fans down both baselines let him know about it with a group of ladies on the third base side pointing out the places where the ball struck the “human dartboard.” Hagerstown spectators donned hard hats on the first base side in case of errant Tyner throws.
His roommate on the road was pitcher Julian Gonzalez. During a game in Salem, Va., after Tyner committed his third error, Hagerstown manager Grady Little came to the mound. Gonzalez told the skipper that his roomie had to go.
There was a bus accident the first weekend of season. The vehicle landed on its side.
“I felt something pop in my back way down low,” says Tyner. “24 hours later I couldn’t move. I missed over 30 games that summer.
At the plate, Tyner was locked in, hitting .301 with 31 home runs and 113 runs batted for the Suns in 1981.
After that, Tyner went back to the outfield where he vied with Drungo Hazewood for the unofficial title of best arm in the Orioles organization.
He would go on to belt 79 home runs in 365 games, playing for Hagerstown in 1981 and 1983 and the Charlotte O’s in 1982 and 1983. Multiple surgeries for bone chips in his right elbow put and end to Tyner’s pro career.
“I put my arm through a little bit of abuse,” says Tyner. “I was a quarterback and pitched in high school. Who knows what I did? It didn’t fail me for five more years. At Miami, I had a really good arm.”
“I’m not sure it gets much better than that,” says Tyner.
It was while coming to Indianapolis to finish his degree at Concordia University that Tyner connected with Butler head coach Steve Farley and began coaching for the Bulldogs. The first go-round, he was on Farley’s staff from 1993-97.
A relationship with the Bulls led to the press box and stands that are there to this day.
At the time, Dave Taylor was president of the organization and Craig Moore was head coach of the 17U team. Tyner started out with the 15U squad.
After coaching four years at Butler making $325 per semester, Tyner decided it was time to make money for his family — wife Laura, daughter Lindsay and son Matthew and got into communication sales and real estate.
Lindsay Dempsey, who is worked as a Registered Nurse, is now 36, married with two children and living Switzerland. Matthew Tyner, 33, is married and a finance and operations manager in Indianapolis.
When Matthew became a teenager, the Bulls approached his father about coaching a new 13U team with Jeremy Guler. The next year, Matt Tyner and Jeff Jamerson coached their sons Matthew and Jason on the 14U Bulls.
“We had top-shelf athletes way ahead of their time,” says Tyner of a team that featured future pros Lance Lynn (Brownsburg), Tommy Hunter (Cathedral) and J.B. Paxson (Center Grove). “It was fun to watch them play.”
“He imparted so much baseball knowledge on these kids,” says Tyner of Alexander, who was integral current baseball fields at Purdue University as well as Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School, where Matthew Tyner played for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon and graduated in 2005. “What a treat that was.”
A few years later, Matt Tyner got the itch to coach baseball again. This time Farley could pay him a living wage and he went back to work at Butler in August 2007. Pendleton Heights graduate Jason Jamerson was a Bulldog senior in 2009.
“They made me feel like a king and there was one great speaker after the next for 2 1/2 days,” says Tyner. “As a coach you can’t be everything to everybody. But I’m going to use this nugget and I’m going to use that nugget.
“That’s money well-spent.”
In the summer of 2010, Tyner was offered the head coaching position at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Knights athletic director Scott Wiegandt had been a Triple-A Louisville teammate of Tracy Woodson, a former big league third baseman, Fort Wayne Wizards manager who was then Valparaiso University head coach.
Farley, Woodson and University of Indianapolis head coach Gary Vaught gave Tyner their endorsement.
“We made some serious strides in that program,” says Tyner, who coached then-NCAA Division II Bellarmine to 26-26 and 27-23 marks in 2011 and 2012 with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an appearance in the regional tournament championship game against the Grand Valley State University the second year.
Brandon Tormoehlen, now head coach at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School, was on Tyner’s coaching staff.
Woodson became head coach at the University of Richmond (Va.) and called Tyner to be his recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. It was a post he held for four seasons.
“We had some pretty strong offensive teams,” says Tyner of his time with the Spiders.
Then Towson reached out and hit Tyner was an offer to be the Tigers head coach.
“The first two years at Towson was a challenge for all of us,” says Tyner, who saw his teams go 13-42 in 2018 and 14-39 in 2019. “We are process-driven and not results-driven. Took awhile for those entrenched in a different system to get it.
“Last year was their chance to shine.”
Indianapolis native Laura Anne Tyner passed away Feb. 10 in her hometown and Matt took a leave of absence at Towson. Matt and Laura were wed in 1983. She taught children with special needs and spent 20 years in real estate management.
With former Butler and Purdue University assistant Miller running the team, the 2020 Towson Tigers went 7-8 before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Tyner went down to see the team play in the opener of a weekend series in Miami. It turned out to be a pitchers’ dual. The Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 Feb. 28 victory. Freshman catcher Burke Camper just barely missed a home run in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a game for the ages,” says Tyner. “It was unbelievable for me to watch and be a part of.”
A few days later, it was decided between Tyner and Towson athletic director Tim Leonard that the coach would come back to the program in mid-March.
“I needed baseball more than baseball needed me,” says Tyner, who got back in time to see the season prematurely halted with the campus being closed and all classes going online. He came back to Indianapolis.
When things opened back up, players were placed in summer leagues. This fall, the Tigers worked out with social distancing and other COVID precautions.
“It was the most competitive for all of us since I’ve been here,” says Tyner. “We have a chance to be pretty good (2021).”
Towson is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tigers are not fully-funded. There are 6.2 scholarships available and the NCAA Division I limit is 11.7.
“God love the AD and president of this university (Tim Leonard and Dr. Kim Schaztel),” says Tyner. “They’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping us afloat.
“I’m a very hard-working individual,” says Crail, 22. “I’m very confident. My confidence allows me to go on the field and not to think about things that happened in the past.
“I move on to the next play.”
The lefty-swinging outfielder started in all 21 of Saint Leo’s games in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder hit a team-best .320 (24-of-75) with four home runs, three triples, three doubles, six stolen bases, 19 runs batted in and 17 runs scored.
Crail likes that O’Dette allows him the freedom to do his own way while offering advice to help him improve his game.
“He really gives all the players the flexibility to do whatever they want in technique and approach,” says Crail. “It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and adding guidance along the way.”
Along with playing baseball, Crail is on target to earn a degree in Sports Business next spring.
Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate Amir Wright was at Saint Joseph’s when the school closed and he transferred to Saint Leo. After landing in Florida, Crail became fast friends with Wright.
“We connected right off the bat being Indiana guys,” says Crail of Wright. “He’s very good teammate to play for.
“He’s showed me the ropes.”
Matt Kennedy, who coached with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s, was the hitting coach at Saint Leo before coming back to Indiana to join the Butler University staff.
Kennedy was the head coach of the Snapping Turtles in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and Crail was on the team, hitting .297 (19-of-64) with two triples, four doubles, 12 RBIs and 13 runs.
Before the pandemic, Crail was supposed to play in the Valley League for the Covington (Va.) Lumberjacks.
When the Valley League canceled its season, Crail played in the circuit based about 15 minutes from home.
At Danville, Crail hit .368 (42-of-114) with seven homers, three triples, seven doubles, six stolen bases, 39 RBIs and 22 runs in 29 games.
Between the shutdown and the 2020 summer season, Crail joined friends — many former Indiana teammates — in working out and having live at-bat sessions at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield.
Crail has trained at RoundTripper since 10 and he began playing travel ball for the Indiana Mustangs.
“I have a good relationship with (owner) Chris Estep and all the guys at RoundTripper,” says Crail.
Born in Carmel and raised in Sheridan, Crail played baseball in the local recreation system before beginning travel ball at 9U with the Indiana Prospects. He went on to represent the Indiana Mustangs (10U to 12U and 17U), Indiana Outlaws (13U) and Indiana Stix (14U to 16U). Head coaches were Shane Cox with the Prospects, Nathan Habegger and Ken Niles with the Mustangs, Dwayne Hutchinson with the Outlaws and Ray Hilbert with the Stix.
Crail played four seasons at Sheridan High — three for Matt Britt and one for Larry Lipker.
“(Britt) was a really fun guy to be around everyday,” says Crail. “He was a players’ coach. He was one of our friends.
“(Lipker) was the same way. He was one of our buddies. He taught me a lot of life lessons. He gave me some insight as to what baseball would like like at the next level. They were both very knowledgeable about the game.”
Sam is the oldest of Westfield firefighter Ray Crail and house cleaner/health supplement salesperson Christie Crail’s three children.
Katy Crail (18) is a Sheridan senior who plays basketball and softball. Her softball travel team is the Indiana Shockwaves. Jack Crail (14) is a Sheridan freshman. His travel baseball team is the Indiana Eagles.
Haddad has been in the organization since 2013. He was signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent and was a catcher is the system until 2016, when he served as a player-coach at Staten Island in preparation for a minor league coaching assignment.
But an opportunity came with the major league club and Haddad has been on the Bronx Bombers staff since 2017. He can use his knowledge to help Blake and Swanson with their transition.
Radley and wife Arielle, a Franklin, Ind., native who he met at Butler, moved from Manhattan to New Jersey in January. It’s a 20-minute drive to Yankee Stadium.
Being close year-round has made it easy for Haddad to get to know the ins and outs of the team’s analytics department.
Hadded earned a Finance degree at Butler. His familiarity with regressions, progressions and algorithms allows him to work with weight averages and other analytic concepts.
“You need to have some experience in some upper level math,” says Haddad. “You don’t have to be a genius. It’s math and it’s computers and being able to write codes.
“(Players) are very open to what we’re trying to do. Kids coming from college programs are more up with technology and buzzwords and they understand the value. We’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. Sometimes you just have to use different verbiage.”
Haddad notes that 29-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole, who signed as a free agent in December 2019 and likely would have been tabbed by manager Aaron Boone as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter had the 2020 season started on time, has embraced analytics during his career.
“He’s really smart guy and cares about his career,” says Haddad. “He applied what they gave him in Houston. He used the information presented to him.
“We’re trying to parlay off of that and make him just a tick better.”
With Haddad being close by, he’s also been able to catch area residents Coleand righty reliever Adam Ottavino during the current COVID-19-related shutdown. Some of those sessions happened in back yards. The Stadium was just recently made available.
Players and staff are literally spread across the globe and have stayed in-touch through group texts and Zoom calls. Sharing of Google Docs has allowed coaches and other pitchers to keep up with their progress.
Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey makes sure they have what they need, including a catcher, so they can stay on track and be ready.
Haddad likes the way Gerrit puts it: “I will keep the pilot light on so I can fire it up.”
Haddad moved with his family to Carmel, Ind., at 10. He played travel baseball with the Carmel Pups. They were in need of a catcher so Radley put on the gear and fell in love with the position.
“I loved everything about it,” says Haddad, who was primarily a catcher at Brebeuf, two seasons at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. (2009 and 2010), and two at Butler (2012 and 2013). “I liked the mental side, being involved in every pitching and calling games. I liked working with all the pitchers and seeing how guys can manipulate the ball.”
John Zangrilli was a frequent spectator at Carmel Pups games and is now Greyhounds pitching coach on a staff led by Matt Buczkowski.
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf when Haddad was there and had a major impact.
“He was the most beneficial person in my baseball career,” says Haddad of Zangrilli. “He taught me about being a real baseball player and taking care of business.
“That meant doing things the right way, paying attention to details.”
It was also the way you treat people. It was more than baseball, it was life skills.
Zangrilli was at Radley and Arielle’s wedding in 2018.
Haddad earned honorable mention all-state honors at Brebeuf. He helped the Braves to an IHSAA Class 3A No. 1 ranking and a Brebeuf Sectional title while hitting .494 with 38 runs scored as a senior.
Playing time at Western Carolina was limited and Haddad decided to go to Butler, where he started 89 games in his two seasons.
NCAA rules at the time required players transferring between Division I school to sit out a transfer season. That’s what Haddad did when he went to Butler, where Steve Farley was Bulldogs head coach.
“Steve was a great guy,” says Haddad. “He welcomed me. He didn’t have any stigma about who I was and why I was leaving a school. He knew I wanted to get on a field.
“He’s a good man who taught people how to live the right way.”
Though he doesn’t get back to Indiana often, Haddad stays connected to central Indiana baseball men Zangrilli, Farley, Chris Estep, Jay Lehr and Greg Vogt.
“We played together or against each other our whole lives,” says Haddad of Vogt. “He’s done a great job of building a program he believes in.”
Bob Haddad Jr., Radley’s father, is Chief Operating Officer at Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus. Radley’s mother, Lauren Schuh, is remarried.
Radley (30) has two younger brothers — Griffin Haddad (28) and Ian Schuh (20).
Grffin is an assistant athletic trainer for the Green Bay Packers. He went to Brebeuf for four years, earned his undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University and his master’s at the University of Michigan.
Ian spent one year at Brebeuf and finished high school at Carmel. He is at South Dakota State University with his sights on being a conservation officer.
Christman went to Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., and was a 6-foot-3 catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies and Giants systems before beginning his scouting career on the West Coast with the Milwaukee Brewers and joined the Giants player evaluation staff in 2006.
Along the way, the Midwest became his territory and he and wife Linda moved their family to central Indiana.
Christman has watched technology grow and become a big part of player development.
“It’s changed strength level opportunities,” says Christman. “We understand nutrition and what’s out there to use.
“There’s still a lot of unproven aspects of the technology. The game’s the game. But you don’t leave any stone unturned. You use all resources.”
Chistman uses technology, but he has long employed his evaluation and personal skills to find prospects and to see what makes them tick.
“My job was to always bet on a heartbeat,” says Christman. “With what we were spending on players, that’s just as important. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Christman studies players. Once they pass the eye test, he goes in-depth.
“What has he learned? What has he not learned?,” says Christman. “I could almost be like an FBI agent.”
Like other scouts, Christman would project a player’s potential to get to the majors.
“It’s all conjecture,” says Christman. “I think he can do this.
“It’s like a lump a clay you can mold.”
Only a small percentage of players who enter the system will ever have a cup of coffee in the big leagues.
“It’s a very difficult process,” says Christman. “Eventually, physical talents become similar.”
Things like make-up often make the difference between those who break into the majors and those that don’t.
That’s why scouts like Christman will work hard to find and sign the best players.
“I’m a winner,” says Christman. “It’s a competitive business.”
The proving grounds in baseball is at the high school and college levels.
Christman says many big leaguers were signed out of high school. But the latest trend is to sign college players.
“(Colleges can) develop them three years longer,” says Christman. “(Professional teams tend to) go with a proven track record. History will prevail. That’s what’s driving the sport now. There will be another adjustment later.”
Of course, not all big leaguers are known on the national level by the time they’re 16 and performing in showcases.
“One of the joys of scouting is finding that one guy who’s not in the mainstream,” says Christman.
That’s the story of Adam Duvall, a graduate of Butler Traditional High School in Louisville who played at Western Kentucky University and the University of Louisville, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Giants and played with the Cincinnati Reds 2015-18 and the Atlanta Braves in 2018-19. He was a corner infielder in college and has been mostly a left fielder in the bigs.
“His signing was not analytically-driven,” says Christman of Duvall. “He made the game look easy. He had better than average makeup.
“He’s a worker. It’s the grass roots story of a champion.”
MLB has been talking about shrinking the minor leagues, possibly a contraction of 25 percent of teams. If that happens, what would it look like?
With rookie leagues decreased or eliminated, Christman says its likely that players with the least amount of experience would remain in an extended spring training setting before going to Class A ball.
“They will keep players in the complex longer and there will be a higher revolving door at the top,” says Christman. “Either they’re big league players or they’re not.
“It’ll be a little more hands-on at a younger level.”
Noting “it’s all about spots,” Christman says it will harder to enter into baseball at the lower level.
As it stands now, minor leaguers train and play with their organizations from March to September and then are essentially on their own until the next spring.
Christman says a streamlined affiliated baseball could see teams conducting mini-camps throughout the year kind of like OTA’s in football.
Kevin Christman poses with the World Series trophy. The Noblesville, Ind., resident won three World Series rings as a scout with the San Francisco Giants.
Kevin Christman earned three World Series rings as a scout for the San Francisco Giants. The Noblesville, Ind., resident has been in pro baseball for more than half his life.
His father, Ed Meyer, led the football and baseball program at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for nearly four decades. The DePauw graduate’s baseball teams won 522 games. Ed and wife MaryAnn (who taught at Cloverdale High Schoolfor 30 years) both died in 2015.
“At my age, I look back at all the things that he taught me that I didn’t realize he was teaching me,” says Tony Meyer. “It was the way he dealt with players and parents. He could take a player and make him feel like a million bucks or take him down. He never had to raise his voice.”
The elder Meyer also stressed the importance of education.
“He was a very calming influence in the dugout, on the field and in recruiting,” says Tony Meyer. “If I could be half of what he was as a coach, I’d be pretty good.”
Brother Pat Meyer was a good baseball player, he went into sales and now lives in the Chicago suburbs. Sister Anne was a strong all-around athlete and is now in banking in Florida.
Two other brothers — Mike Meyer and Pete Meyer — went into coaching.
Mike Meyer is in his second stint as head football coach at Greencastle High School. He has also been the defensive coordinator at Northview High School in Brazil and served as a football assistant at Ohio Northern University and Case Western University and football head coach at Hiram College.
Pete Meyer was head baseball coach and athletic director at Florida Southern College before moving back to Greencastle.
Tony Meyer graduated from Greencastle in 1988 and Wabash College in 1993. He played baseball for the Little Giants and head coach Scott Boone for four seasons (1989-92) and football for head coach Greg Carlson for two (1990 and 1991).
After graduation, Meyer went to Hanover College to coach football and baseball. He was on the baseball staff of American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dick Naylor.
Meyer remembers Naylor for his persistence in finding players.
“He put me on the road to recruit,” says Meyer. “He showed me what to look for.”
Meyer spent 1994 conducting USA Baseball camps in Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma and was head scout for the U.S. team for the Pan-American Games.
He then went to DePauw and coached on the diamond with his father.
Terry Gobert, the long-time Jasper High School head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer, is a Greencastle graduate and was a graduate assistant to Ed Meyer in 1984 and 1985 along with basketball coach Mike Steele. He was a teammate of Mike Meyer and coached Pete and Pat in Babe Ruth baseball.
After his stint with the Tigers, Meyer coached various teams, including the Waukegan (Ill.) Waves and a summer collegiate team in Indianapolis.
When Meyer began a family, he went into sales but still volunteered in Babe Ruth and youth league baseball and gave lessons.
Then a unique opportunity happened at Cloverdale. The Clovers had an opening for a head football coach and head baseball coach and athletic director J.J. Wade hired Meyer to take both posts which he held in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He had volunteered with the baseball program during the 2014 season.
“It was a learning experience,” says Meyer of his time at Cloverdale, where he got guidance from former Clovers head football coach Mike Parks. “He showed me how he deals with kids, their lives and education.”
When IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rich Andriole resigned as head coach at Guerin Catholic, Meyer was encouraged to apply. He was hired by Ryan Davis, the Golden Eagles athletic director and a former assistant to Andriole at Indianapolis Cathedral High School.
“It’s been great so far,” says Meyer, who has been getting about 25 players at IHSAA Limited Contact sessions and expects up to 36 when the 2020 season rolls around. “This is one of the top baseball jobs in the state. There’s a whole lot to offer up there.
“I’ve got some good players. I think we’re going to be very competitive for 3A. Hopefully we can continue the upward trend Rich (Andriole) started two years ago.”
Meyer has named Jalen Cushenberry and John Magers, Eric Wott and Kevin Paulin as Guerin assistants and has two openings yet to fill.
What about the daily drive between Greencastle and Noblesville?
“It’s only a 53-minute commute,” says Meyer. “In sales, I drove to Carmel every day for five years.”