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Daniel brings 1980 baseball season back with lively “Phinally!”

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

J. Daniel was just shy of 13 when the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series for the first time in 1980.

Even though he was in southwestern Ohio, he followed the Phils from “Mike Schmidt to Ramon Aviles.”

Growing up when he did, Daniel appreciates baseball and pop culture in the 1980’s.

He is a big fan of Dan Epstein — author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s — and his style.

So much so that the Brownsburg, Ind., resident decided to write a book about baseball and more in the decade he knows so well.

“I’m a total stat geek,” says Daniel, who recalls devouring the box scores in the Cincinnati Enquirer during his youth. “Everything’s interesting to me.”

With so much material, it became books — plural.

Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t (McFarland & Company) was published in 2019.

It was 1980 that gave us ….

The primetime TV drama “Dallas” and the cliffhanger summer question of “Who Shot J.R.?”

Movie-goers saw comedy in the “The Blue Brothers” and “Airplane!” and horror in “The Shining” and “Friday The 13th.”

In one scene from “The Shining,” Shelley Duvall wields a Carl Yastrzemski model Louisville Slugger.

Basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was cast as the co-pilot in “Airplane!” If not for filming during the baseball season, it might have been Pete Rose.

A former weatherman — David Letterman — also read for a part but did not land one.

Roberto Duran topped “Sugar Ray” Leonard in a 15-round bout in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

Free agent Nolan Ryan became the first baseball player to sign for $1 million a season, signing with the Houston Astros.

Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was about to make his clients a lot of money.

The average minimum salary at the time was $20,000.

In the spring of ’80, they went on a mini-strike that wiped out 92 spring training games.

Elias Sports Bureau introduces Game-Winning RBI as a statistic in the spring. The first one credited in a game went to the Cincinnati Reds’ George Foster in the first inning of a 9-0 Opening Day romp against Phil Niekro and the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta would get off to a 1-9 start and owner Ted Turner (who launched CNN in 1980) benched Gary Matthews and sent Bob Horner to the minors.

It was also on Opening Day, that “Kiteman” hang-glided his way onto the field at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium.

Ken Landreaux of the Minnesota Twins enjoyed a 31-game hit streak — the longest in the American League since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 in 1949. A few seasons’s prior to Landreaux’s feat, Aqua Velva gave $1,000 per game to the hitter with the streak. But that changed in 1980. Things were worked out for Landreaux to give the money to charity.

San Diego Padres shortstop Ozzie Smith wasn’t looking for charity, but extra income. He took out a newspaper ad. He had many offers, including one from Joan Kroc, wife of Padres owner Ray Kroc, to assist her gardner. He eventually got supplemental pay from a company on Los Angeles.

There were many bench-clearing brawls and knockdown pitches in 1980.

Fergie Jenkins of the Texas Rangers joined Cy Young, Jim Bunning and Gaylord Perry as pitchers with 100 wins in both leagues.

Freddie Patek of the California Angels hit five home runs on the season and 41 for his career, but he popped three in one game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Left-hander Jerry Reuss did not begin the season in the starting rotation for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but tossed a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants.

On his way to a 25-7 record and the AL Cy Young Award, Baltimore Orioles right-hander Steve Stone started the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium and worked three inning in just 24 pitches.

The game also featured the debut of the massive Diamond Vision video boards.

Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench passed Yogi Berra for the all-time lead in home runs by a catcher.

Houston fireballer J.R. Richard suffered a stroke.

The Chicago Cubs fired manager Preston Gomez and replaced him with Joey Amalfitano.

“Super Joe” Charbonneau became an icon for the Cleveland Indians.

A white-hot George Brett was hitting .401 on Aug. 17 and finished with a .390 average. The Kansas City Royals third baseman’s back side was likely warm during the end of the season and the postseason. He finally had to have surgery for hemorrhoids prior to Game 3 of the World Series.

Maverick owners Charlie Finley (Oakland Athletics) and Bill Veeck (Chicago White Sox) announced the sale of their teams.

The White Sox did the unusual when they used the left-handed Mike Squires as a catcher.

Montreal Expos right-hander Bill Gullickson set a rookie-record with 18 strikeouts against the Cubs.

Oakland’s Rick Langford tossed 28 complete games, including a modern-record 23 straight. The Athletics staff completed 94 starts.

Three of the four division races were not settled until the season’s final week. Kansas City rapped the AL West up early. The Philadelphia Phillies edged out Montreal in the NL East. Houston topped the Dodgers in the NL West. The Yankees bested Baltimore in the AL East.

Games 2-5 in the National League Championship Series went extra innings before the Phillies prevailed over the Astros.

New Jersey’s Army staff sergeant Craig Burns took a three-day pass and flew from Germany to see his Phils play the Royals in the first game of the World Series. With Schmidt and Tug McGraw among the heroes, Philly won its first title.

Daniel is shopping his next volume about the 1982 season. The working title is Suds Series: The Brewers, the Cardinals and the year the ’80s became the ‘80s. He is grateful to author and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis journalism professor Chris Lamb for his help and encouragement.

That era is also kept alive on social media by Daniel with his website (80sbaseball.com), Facebook (Facebook.com/80sbaseball) and Twitter (@80sbaseball) pages.

Daniel, a graduate of Talawanda High School in Oxford, Ohio, and Ohio University, is now employed in communication for IUPUI parking services. More than 20 years of his working life was spent in sports television, including four years as the producer/director of “Rays Magazine” on Fox Sports Florida.

J. and wife Sue were engaged at Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, a place where he spent two seasons at official scorer for the Clearwater Phillies. The couple has two seasons — Brady (19) and Michael (16). Brady played travel baseball with the Indiana Outlaws and Indiana Hurricanes. Michael played at Brownsburg Little League.

Daniel is an assistant coach this summer for the 17U Indiana Expos with Kevin Barnhart (father of Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart) as head coach and Tim Hampton as another assistant.

JDANIEL

J. Daniel, a Brownsburg, Ind., resident, has written Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t and has other books planned about the 1980s.

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Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t by J. Daniel chronicles not only what happened on the diamond pop culture. The author resides in Brownsburg, Ind. (McFarland & Sons Image)

 

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The BASE Indy hosts first Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They were at the start of something.

Playing on the same field in Frederick Douglass Park where Hank Aaron — then with the Negro Leagues’ Indianapolis Clowns — once launched a home run over 25th Street, young athletes participated in The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic for the very first time.

Teens came from Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh to share fellowship and the game they love with young men from Indianapolis, where a chapter of The BASE Indy was launched in the spring and will be headquartered in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.

“This is just an extraordinary moment in time for us,” said The BASE Indy executive director Rob Barber as he honored family members of Indiana native Harmon, the first African-American to play for the Cincinnati Reds.

The Indianapolis clubhouse scheduled to open in the fall will be located in the former Safeway grocery at 25th and Sherman near Douglass Park which features Edna Martin Christian Center.

A picnic in the park brought supporters and neighbors together and they witnessed a “first pitch” ceremony.

Participants went to an Indianapolis Indians game, toured NCAA headquarters, attended a college fair, played more baseball at the University of Indianapolis and Bishop Chatard High School and took part in a scout showcase and career roundtable at Victory Field during the four-day event.

“The BASE is more than just a facility,” said Barber. “A lot of people think you’re going to come into a community and get the kids of color, put your hands in and say, ‘let’s play some baseball, hit the books and stay out of trouble, let’s break on three!’

“That is not at all what The BASE is. It’s about a methodology that expects excellence. We look at the young people in the community as assets and treasures that the world doesn’t know about. But we know about them and there’s talent all across this city.

“What they don’t have like some of the other communities across the country and other parts of the city are the same opportunities. The BASE comes in to change mindsets. We want to come in and find out the barriers they have and knock those down.”

Baseball is used to start a conversation and to provide mentoring and a direction for young people.

“We play hard and we compete,” said Barber. “But we ask that they work as hard in the classroom. We ask that, in their personal lives that with the choices they make and the respect they give as a citizen, they contribute back to the community.”

Robert Lewis Jr., who founded The BASE in Boston in 2013, was in Indianapolis to forge relationships and grow the organization.

Lewis shared hugs and encouraging words.

When he asked players how they were and the response was, “good,” Lewis let them know that “good is not good enough.”

“You are exceptional young men,” Lewis told them. “We are going to treat you like you’re exceptional.”

Mike Farrell, a former professional player and current pro scout, was among the coaches in The BASE Indy dugout, sharing his knowledge of baseball and life.

Three of the young men playing for The BASE Indy are Robert Snow, Travis Stumpf and Will Weingartner.

Snow, 17, lives on the east side of Indianapolis and is entering his junior year at Warren Central High School. He plays middle infield, outfield and pitcher.

“What I like most about baseball is that it gets me away from home and away from the outside distractions,” said Snow. “I do what I love to do and play with the people I love to play with.

“The BASE is going to help me get where I need to go college-wise.”

Advice from Barber and Lewis sticks with Snow.

“They told me, ‘always keep my head up and play hard, you never know who’s watching.

“(The Urban Classic) is a pretty fun event. You get to meet new people. You get to have fun with baseball.”

Stumpf, 18, resides on Indy’s west side and the Broad Ripple High School graduate recently completed his freshman year at the University of Louisville. He is majoring in accounting and considering a minor in finance. This coming school year, he plans to participate with College Mentors for Kids. He was a catcher in high school and plays all over the diamond in the summer.

“(Baseball) is a place for me to go when I’m stressed or feeling down,” said Stumpf. “(The BASE) wants to make the environment better for us to live in.

Weingartner, 17, lives in Irvington and is heading into his junior year at Scecina Memorial High School.

“Baseball has always been something I’ve loved to do,” said Weingartner. “It helps me pass time and keep my mind off stuff.

“The BASE means a lot to me. So far, it’s given me the opportunity to play in Chicago. I like my coaches and the opportunities they give me.”

Weingartner attended the Urban Classic college fair and is interested in studying law.

THEBASEWAY

The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. Indiana native Harmon was the first African-American to play for the Cincinnati Reds. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. A college fair was held during the event at the Edna Martin Christian Center at Frederick Douglass Park in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. (Steve Krah Photo)

THEBASEROBERTLEWISJRPITTSBURGHHUG

The BASE founder Robert Lewis Jr. (left) shares a hug with a Pittsburgh player at The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE Chicago players warm up at the University of Indianapolis during The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Bishop Chatard High School’s Dave Alexander Field was a venue for The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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A “first pitch” ceremony at Frederick Douglass Park was part of The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. This same field in Frederick Doulgass Park is where Hank Aaron hit a home run over 25th Street while playing for the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE founder Robert Lewis Jr. (left) talks with The BASE Indy team at the The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The BASE Indy executive director Rob Barber shares in the fellowship at a community picnic during the The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

THEBASECHUCKHARMONCLASSOC

The BASE Indy Chuck Harmon Urban Baseball Classic was staged July 7-10, 2019 in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)

Veteran broadcaster Ferber enjoys painting pictures for radio audience

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana broadcaster Walt Ferber calls about 250 live sporting events a year.

He enjoys them all, but he especially appreciates baseball on the radio.

“It lets you use creativity,” says Ferber. “With football and basketball, you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. You get to paint a picture (with baseball).

“It’s my favorite sport because of that. You get a chance to tell a story.”

Ferber, program and sports director, on-air personality and account executive at WITZ AM/FM in Dubois County (the studio is located between Jasper and Huntingburg), is scheduled to do a little more painting as a statewide play-by-play voice at the State Finals for the third straight year on the IHSAA Champions Radio Network.

There are 29 affiliated stations across Indiana that will carry all or some of the four games (two each on Monday and Tuesday, June 17-18, beginning at 5:30 p.m.).

Ferber will be paired with analyst Bob Lovell for the first game (teams to be determined) on June 17 from Victory Field in Indianapolis. Ferber worked alongside Brian Jennings in 2018 and Rob Blackman in 2017.

“Victory Field at the State Finals is one of my favorite place to be,” says Ferber, who has made the trip to Indy often as the Jasper High School Wildcats have made nine appearances in the championship game with five state titles.

“I’ve been spoiled,” says Ferber. “Coach (Terry) Gobert does things the right way. He works very, very hard to get the best out of each of his players. He’s kind of an old school coach.

“(Players) take ownership of what they do. It’s something you learn from the time you’re born into the feeder system.”

That tradition has been reinforced on the air with his Ferber’s partner, Ray Howard. The former Jasper head coach who recently turned 80 will throw batting practice and then make his way to the press box.

“Ray brings a depth of information to the broadcast,” says Ferber. “The last nine year we’ve done this, I’ve learned a tremendous amount of baseball from him.”

This year, Ferber will work 37 high school games, 30 collegiate contests (between the University of Evansville on ESPN3 and the Dubois County Bombers with partner Roger Stuckey on WITZ) plus the Bluegrass World Series and 10 to 15 softball games.

The Bombers play in League Stadium, where the grandstand was built in 1894 and the park became famous when “A League Of Their Own” was filmed there.

“They put on a pretty good show,” says Ferber of the Bombers players and staff.

Ferber (facebook.com/wferber, twitter.com/WaltFerber) calls Jasper football, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball and softball plus some Southridge, Northeast Dubois and Forest Park competition. He also describes Indiana State University women’s basketball.

There will be double duty at the 2019 State Finals for Ferber if Southridge beats South Vermillion to win the Jasper Semistate. He will be on the call for WITZ Saturday, June 8.

At 62, Ferber says he knows he will probably cut back his schedule as some point.

“I don’t see myself retiring altogether,” says Ferber. “I’m pretty lucky to do what I do.

“I’ve wanted to do it ever since I was 5 years old. I did whatever I could to make it happen.”

Ferber did his first work in radio at 14 and had his first play-by-play gig at 15.

He worked at WNAS and WREY in New Albany, becoming perhaps the youngest sports director in the state at the latter station in 1973. He graduated from New Albany High School in 1974 and earned a double major in Telecommunications and Marketing at Indiana University, graduating in 1978.

Ferber was at WTTS in Bloomington from 1974-79 and at WWWY in Columbus in 1979 before landing at WITZ in 1980.

Today, there are three entities and four frequencies — WITZ 104.7 FM, WQKZ 98.5 FM and Juan 99.1 FM and 990 AM (Spanish language station).

Ferber has been a Cincinnati Reds fan since boyhood.

“My favorite player when I was a kid was Pete Rose,” says Ferber. “For obvious reasons, I’m a big fan of Scott Rolen. I got a chance to broadcast all of his games at Jasper High School.”

WQKZ became a St. Louis Cardinals station when Rolen was with that team and has remained a Cards affiliate ever since. Ferber is scheduled to throw out a first pitch when the Chicago Cubs visit Busch Stadium July 31.

Ferber has been married to the former Melanie Padgett since 1980.

“On those nights I’m home, I usually watch what she wants to watch,” says Ferber, who has two sons (Nathan and Jonathon) and two grandchildren.

Awards have come Ferber’s way aplenty, including Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2010, New Albany High School Hall of Fame in 2011 plus Associated Press Play by Play awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997, ISSA Marv Bates Indiana Sportscaster of the Year in 1996, Indiana Interscholastic Administrators Athletic Association Distinguished Service Award in 1997, Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Virgil Sweet Distinguished Service Award in 2005, Network Indiana Play by Play awards in 2007 and 2008, NI Sportscaster of the Year in 2008 and IHSAA Distinguished Service Media Award in 2011.

IHSAA STATE FINALS

Victory Field, Indianapolis

Indiana Champions Network

Monday, June 17

Radio: Game 1 (5:30 p.m.) — Walt Ferber (play-by-play); Bob Lovell (analyst). Game 2 (following) — Greg Rakestraw (play-by-play); Chris Walker (analyst).

TV: Games 1 & 2 — Mark Jaynes (play-by-play); Brian Jennings (analyst).

Tuesday, June 18

Radio: Game 3 (5:30 p.m.) — Scott McCauley (play-by-play); John Herrick (analyst). Game 4 (following) — Brian Jennings (play-by-play); Justin Keever (analyst).

TV: Games 3 & 4 — Greg Rakestraw (play-by-play); Rob Blackman (analyst).

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Roger Stuckey (left) and Walt Ferber broadcast games for the Dubois County Bombers of the summer collegiate Ohio Valley Baseball League on WITZ 104.7 FM.

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Walt Ferber (left) and Ray Howard are the broadcast team on Jasper (Ind.) High School baseball games on WITZ 104.7 FM. Ferber is scheduled to call the first game of the 2019 IHSAA State Finals for the IHSAA Champions Radio Network.

 

 

 

 

Wisemans, South Central Rebels enjoying the ride

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’re making baseball memories at a tiny school in southern Indiana.

Led by father and son co-coaches Brad and Alex Wiseman, the South Central (Elizabeth) Rebels have won the IHSAA Class 1A Shawe Memorial Sectional and are getting ready for the two-hour trek to the Loogootee Regional (South Central plays No. 9-ranked Tecumseh at 11 a.m., followed by Trinity Lutheran vs. No. 6 Barr-Reeve with the championship at 7:30 p.m.).

South Central spotted Borden four runs in the first two innings and trailed 6-2 after four frames in the sectional championship before winning 10-8 and earning a ride on the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Department’s truck when they got back from Madison to Harrison County.

“It’s a good memory for the boys — something they’ll never forget,” says Alex Wiseman, who played for the Rebels and graduated from South Central in 2012 before pitching for Hanover (Ind.) College. “South Central baseball is a tradition around here. Everybody knows about it.”

The team mugged for the championship photo wearing the green “Hank Strong” T-shirts that they donned in a benefit game for Hank Sutherland, a young boy in the community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.

Kim Wiseman enjoys being at the park about as much as husband Brad and son Alex.

“She’s the epitome of a baseball mom,” says Brad Wiseman. “Alex is 25 and baseball has been a part of our lives for 22 years.

“(Kim) is just as excited to see a Cincinnati Reds game or a T-ball game.”

Alex and wife Leslie have a son — Maverick (1).

Will the boy be a ballplayer?

While sitting for her grandson, Kim got a fat lip when a baseball was thrown harder than she anticipated.

The younger Wiseman has watched the South Central team develop a “grind-it-out mentality.”

The turning point in the season came May 7 at South Central’s Donald L. Dones Field. That’s when the Rebels rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge Austin 10-9. The Eagles scored all nine runs in the first two innings.

“That opened the eyes of the boys,” says Alex Wiseman of the comeback against a team that will compete in Saturday’s 2A Southridge Regional. “It shows they can accomplish a lot.”

South Central (enrollment around 215) part of the South Harrison Community School Corporation, which also includes Corydon Central High School (3A).

The Rebels belong to the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, Lanesville and New Washington).

The top three finishers in the 2019 SAC pennant race were Henryville (5-0), Lanesville (4-1) and South Central (3-2).

The Rebels are part of a sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, New Washington and Shawe Memorial.

Brad Wiseman, who was a South Central junior varsity coach from 2014-17 before being joined by Alex to lead the Rebels beginning with the 2018 season, saw the team take an 11-16 regular-season into the postseason before beating Christian Academy and Borden for the program’s seventh sectional title (all since 2005).

“We were very aggressive (about playing all scheduled contests),” says Brad Wiseman. “We knew we needed as much game experience as we could get to get us ready for this part of the season.”

The Rebels took on 3A teams like Providence and Silver Creek (ranked No. 10 and the 2018 2A state runners-up) and 2A’s Lanesville.

“We really see the difference, especially in the sophomores,” says Alex Wiseman of the strong competition. “The game is coming a lot easier to them.”

Says Brad Wiseman, “We get overlooked because of our record. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Various factors, including injuries, left South Central’s sophomore-heavy roster with 16 players and many junior varsity games were canceled.

The Rebels’ top pitchers are junior Zach Needler, sophomore Frank Goodman and seniors Wyatt Crosier, Bryce Lewis and Will Weber. All but Weber are right-handers.

Crosier, junior Austin Tyree and sophomores Wes Wilson and Stephen Sawicki are offensive leaders.

The Wisemans are assisted by Jeff Riley and Jeff Skaggs.

Dones Field has seen upgrades in the past decade and more are on the way. New dugouts and backstop fencing was added around 2010. Since then, the Rebels have gained an indoor hitting facility, turf was placed around home plate and new bullpens and more fencing is coming in the near future.

South Harrison Athletic Corporation (SHAC) is a feeder system, training players from age 4 through eighth grade in the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken system.

The Wisemans maintain a relationship with junior high coaches to make sure those players are prepared for high school baseball. The younger boys are invited to serve as managers for the older ones and experience the culture.

Brad Wiseman is a 1986 graduate of Castle High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Rabe.

“He was very insistent on the fine details,” says Brad Wiseman of Rabe. “You knew where you needed to be on the field at all times.”

Alex Wiseman’s coach at South Central was Nick Tremain (now head coach at Lawrenceburg).

“He was very much about the mental approach to the game,” says Alex Wiseman. “We played with a swagger. We expected to win. If you take that attitude, not a lot of teams are going to beat you.

“These are values we’ve tried to instill in the boys. Believe you can do it and you will get there if you put in the work.”

Work away from baseball happens in nearby Kentucky for both father and son. Brad Wiseman is a manager at Equian, a pre-bill medical recovery company. Alex Wiseman is a revenue analyst with Louisville Physicians Group.

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Father and son co-coaches Brad (right) and Alex Wiseman celebrate an IHSAA sectional baseball championship for South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School.

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With co-coach Brad Wiseman toward the front, the South Central Rebels got to ride an Elizabeth (Ind.) Volunteer Fire Department truck after winning the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title.

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The South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School Rebels won the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title. The team is wearing its “Hank Strong” T-shirts in support of Hank Sutherland, a boy in their community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.

Setting the bar high, The BASE launches in Indianapolis

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

With the objective of serving under-appreciated youth, The BASE was officially launched Wednesday, April 24 in Indianapolis.

At a gathering of leaders and supporters at the downtown Strada Education Network, the game plan was presented for The BASE Indy.

Founded in 2013 by Robert Lewis Jr., The BASE was started in Boston as a outgrowth of that city’s Astros youth baseball program.

Lewis began coaching the Astros in Boston’s Villa Victoria public housing develop in the 1970s and the president was in Indiana’s capitol to talk about the organization that has now expanded to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

Rob Barber, president of The BASE Indy, spoke about the need and the vision of the group.

Tysha Sellers, executive director of the Edna Martin Christian Center, explained a community partnership.

Milt Thompson, attorney and a familiar voice on Indianapolis TV and radio, told the folks how they can lend financial support.

Indiana native Chuck Harmon, the first black man to play for the Cincinnati Reds and a long-time leader in the sports world who died March 19 at 94, was remembered and honored.

Videos were shown that showed how The BASE operates in Boston and how Pete Rose is on board as a supporter.

Another featuring players from Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis pointed out the need.

Lewis rallied the troops Wednesday.

“We’re going to be where our young folks need us most,” said Lewis. “We have to be here.

“Is it about the money? Yes. But engagement is what it’s all about. We are who we’ve been waiting for. Superman and Superwoman are not walking through that door.

“We’re not going to take a day off. We’re not going to take an hour off. We’re going to be right in the grind.”

Lewis talked about empowering the community and that parks and playgrounds that build communities.

“Folks, we have an opportunity to do something special,” said Lewis. “We can change and uplift communities. We have to stand for something bigger than ourselves. Indy, let’s do this.”

From those parks and playgrounds, those young people can be educated and enter the workforce, be productive citizens and provide for their families.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s about the jobs,” said Lewis.

Chuck Harmon’s daughter and caregiver, Cheryl, traveled from Cincinnati to receive a mementos, including a proclamation from Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett declaring Chuck Harmon Day in the city. Harmon was a native of Washington, Ind.

“It’s Cheryl’s cousins that I grew up with and had a tremendous impact on our family,” said Barber, who grew up in southern Indiana and played baseball at Indiana University. “It’s probably a big reason why I’m here today.”

Barber talked about walking about from his former long-time occupation and that The BASE is where he’s supposed to be.

Last summer and fall, Barber visited kids around the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.

“There is a movement happening on the near northeast side of Indianapolis,” said Sellers. “There’s 12,000 people within Martindale-Brightwood. There are a number of people within this community that believe there is a vision to be a thriving community.

“We can come together and make things happen with partnerships. (Young people) are only looking for opportunities to succeed. And they sometimes need people to help connect the dots. We don’t do it alone.”

Sellers, who was born and raised in Martindale-Brightwood, said the Edna Martin Christian Center focuses on education, financial stability for families and community health.

“We want them to move on to college and career and be successful so that they can come back and invest in a community at a higher level in order for us to break the poverty cycle,” said Sellers. “This is about us empowering this community. This is about us working with the community.

“They’re not only going to rebuild this community, but others as well. They’ll come back to wherever they came from to give back to that area.”

There are many other partners, including Play Ball Indiana (part of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and universities around Indianapolis.

Barber, who coached Jeff Mercer (the current Indiana University head coach) when he was younger, took some players from The BASE Indy to their first collegiate baseball game in Bloomington in March.

“I cannot believe how well those young men handled themselves and how polite they were,” said Barber.

One of those youngsters — a player at Arsenal Tech coached by Bob Haney named Josh Morrow — has dreams of being an astrophysicist. Some of the debate at the ball game was about gravity on MIrars.

Barber believes that such high aspirations can be obtained through The BASE Indy and its partners.

He spoke about most people being born on second base with their children coming into the world on third base.

Many of those who The BASE Indy will serve have not even gotten up to the plate.

“One of the things that The BASE is extraordinary at doing is equipping and strengthening the legs of the kids so as they get to first base, they have the resources they need in life to begin to be successful and knock down some of those barriers,” said Barber.

Relating a conversation that he had with Irvington Preparatory Academy coach Davon Hardy, Barber heard about the struggles some of the players have to go through just to get to school and the baseball diamond.

One has no electricity at home.

Another is without food.

A third has a father who is incarcerated.

“What priority would baseball be in there life?,” said Barber, echoing Hardy. “At The BASE — before we can get to the part of teaching the baseball skills (former big leaguer Justin Masterson and scout Mike Farrell are among those who will lend their expertise while Indianapolis Indians president and general manager Randy Lewandowski is also involved) — it’s about giving them an incentive to do something.

“There are some walls we’re going to have to run through to create some opportunities and I’m OK with that. I’m a baseball person. But I’m also passionate about doing the right thing.”

Barber said the The BASE has a proven methodology. But it’s a four-letter word that drives it.

“The thing that drives it is love,” said Barber. “It’s that simple.”

That love in Indy is going to headquartered in Martindale-Brightwood.

“We want to raise their expectations,” said Barber. “I was the first person in my family to go to college.”

A passionate advocate of the baseball community, Thompson also talked about raising the bar.

“Expectations are set so low sometimes we don’t know how low we set them,” said Thompson. “How can we achieve anything unless we’re lifted up?”

Thompson, who has represented several professional athletes, recalled a conversation he had with Indiana basketball legend Oscar Robertson.

He asked the Big O, what he would do against Magic Johnson.

“Milt, what would Magic Johnson do against me?,” said Thompson of Robertson’s reply. “It’s mentality. It’s how you think. You set your expectations higher.”

Thompson talked about how one of his school counselors told him that he was best-suited to work with his hands.

“I didn’t get bitter. I got better,” said Thompson. “That was the best advice I ever heard. My first 10 jury trials, during closing arguments, I was using my hands.

“You set the bar higher, you can go get it.”

Thompson said it is necessary to be honest with yourself in all adversity.

“It’s not always easy,” said Thompson. “You’ve got to take a chance.

“We’re going to fill in the gap. We’re going to do unnecessary things because they are necessary.”

Thompson said the dialogue is being changed in inner cities.

“We don’t have underprivileged kids anymore we have under-appreciated kids,” said Thompson. “That’s the people we’re talking about. They have every have every possibility of greatness. They’re going to use their hands when they talk.

“Want to play the game? Want to pitch in? There are several things we can do.”

Among those things are hosting a fundraiser for the Urban Classic (which will be staged in Indianapolis for the first time in July), sponsor a college tour or career day, serve on an advisory board (education, baseball/softball or life skills/career), connect your personal contacts to The BASE Indy and make a donation to the cause.

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Byall, Homestead Spartans value preparation

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Keith Potter and Steve Sotir emphasized the fundamental parts of baseball — making the routine play on defense, pounding the strike zone from the mound and following an approach from the batter’s box — as head baseball coaches at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Nick Byall, who played for Potter and coached with Potter and Sotir, is carrying on the tradition while adding his own spin as the man in charge of the Spartans.

“We want to be polished and prepared each day,” says Byall. “When you’re doing (the fundamentals) well it makes the game even more fun.

“At the high school level, we can be really successful doing that.”

Byall, a 2000 Homestead graduate, spent 10 years as an assistant coach at his alma mater (two on Potter’s staff and eight with Sotir) and is in his fourth season as head coach in 2019.

Being competitive is also important to Byall.

“We’re always looking to compete — in a drill or a game,” says Byall, who heads up a program with around 50 players for varsity, junior varsity (JV Blue) and freshmen (JV Gold) schedules.

“We have a smaller senior class and kept a larger freshmen class,” says Byall. “We have 18 on the varsity roster most of the time. Some guys will swing between varsity and JV.”

The coaching staff features Shawn Harkness plus volunteers Josh Brock, Maurie Byall (Nick’s father) and Greg Wehling with the varsity, Austin Plasterer and Kyle Plasterer with JV Blue and Brian Landigran and Dominic Schroeder with JV Gold.

Harkness is pitching coach for the Spartan. He was a JV coach when Byall was a Homestead player.

Brock played and coached at Manchester University.

It’s more than the game that keeps Byall around baseball.

“I want to be a decent role model for (the players),” says Byall. “That’s why we do it.

“I enjoy the kids and the coaches I work with. If not, I wouldn’t do it.”

Homestead plays its varsity games on its campus with the JV teams playing on that diamond or at a field near Summit Middle School.

Marching band is a big deal at the school and the band has its own turf practice surface near the baseball field. The baseball team sometimes uses it when it’s facility is too wet.

There is no middle school baseball at Homestead, but many players participate in travel ball.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who enjoy baseball,” says Byall. “They’re pretty fundamentally sound.”

Senior Kade Kolpien has committed to Taylor University. Senior Will Ferguson has garnered some college baseball interest. Junior Eli MacDonald and sophomore Kaleb Kolpien and Carter Mathison are among younger Spartans getting college looks.

Recent Homestead graduates now with college programs include Justin Miller at Purdue Fort Wayne, Isaac Bair at the University of Indianapolis and Nick Davit and D.J. Moore at Huntington University.

Catcher Rob Bowen was selected in the second round of the 1999 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins and made his big league debut with the Twins in 2003. He also played for the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics.

Infielder Andre Jernigan went from Homestead to the Xavier University to the Twins organization.

Right-handed pitcher Taylor Kinzer played at Taylor then in the Los Angeles Angels organization.

Second baseman Ryan Wright played at he University of Louisville and in the Cincinnati Reds system from 2011-15.

Catcher Matt Singleton played at Ball State University and in the Athletics chain.

Outfielder Bobby Glover was a Parkland College, the University of Dayton and with the independent Windy City Thunderbolts (2012).

Left-hander Kyle Leiendecker went to Indiana University.

It’s IU and the allure of Hoosiers basketball that brought Byall to Bloomington.

He was a basketball manager for four years and got to see in the inner workings of big-time college sports and went to the 2002 NCAA tournament championship game with head coach Mike Davis. Byall’s first week on campus was Bob Knight’s last.

Byall earned an education degree from Indiana in 2005 and a masters in business administration from Taylor in 2010. He teaches Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics and U.S. Government at HHS.

Homestead (enrollment around 2,430) has charted a schedule that features Bellmont, DeKalb, Evansville Central, Fishers, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side, Hamilton Southeastern, Indianapolis Cathedral, Mississinewa, Norwell, Wapahani and Warsaw.

For several years, Homestead has made a southern trip during spring break.

“It’s a chance to get away and bond a little bit,” says Byall.

The destination the past few seasons has been Vincennes, Ind. Treks have also been made to Terre Haute, Evansville, Cincinnati and Knoxville, Tenn.

The Spartans are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne and Huntington North. Homestead has won 14 sectionals — the last in 2016. A 4A state runner-up finish was earned in 2008.

Byall is single and lives in the Homestead district.

“I’m real close with my family,” says Byall, the son of Maurie and Rosi Byall and younger brother of Troy Byall. His father owns Byall Homes, Inc., and has been building houses for 40 years. His mother is the Homestead treasurer and also the statistician for her son’s baseball team.

With three children, chiropractor Dr. Troy and wife Erica Byall have made Nick a proud uncle.

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Homestead High School baseball coach Nick Byall (left) slaps hands with Kade Kolpien. Byall is in his 14th season as a Spartans coach — fourth as head coach — while Kolpien is in his senior season in 2019.

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Nick Byall is head baseball coach at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. He is a 2000 graduate of the school. (Homestead High School Photo)

 

 

Mental toughness key for Cubs minor league hurler Thompson

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Intellectual resolve helped Riley Thompson excel at high school and college baseball levels and he is hoping it will propel him as a professional.

Thompson, 21, is a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher who played at Christian Academy of Louisville and the University of Louisville before being selected in the 11th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs.

He is now with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs of the Low Class-A Midwest League.

Thompson was picked in two previous MLB drafts (2015 in the 37th round by the Cincinnati Reds and 2017 in the 25th by the New York Yankees), but opted to stay in school.

After redshirting in 2016, Thompson appeared in 25 games for Louisville in 2017 and 2018. He started seven of 11 games in 2018.

His head coach for the Cardinals was Dan McDonnell.

“Coach Mac really harps on mental toughness and all the qualities that go along with that,” says Thompson. “It really helped me develop as a man and be ready for pro ball.

“He’s a great motivator. He knows what to say.”

Thompson got into nine games (eight as a starter) and went 0-2 with an 2.84 earned run average for the rookie-level Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds in 2018. He struck out 25 and walked nine in 25 innings.

In his short time in the organization, he has come to appreciate the way the Cubs handle their players from the nutrition and strength staffs to the facilities and accommodations they find for them.

“They really do treat us well,” says Thompson. “For that, I’m really grateful.”

There’s also the mental skills training.

“They do a good job of training our minds and getting us ready for the season,” says Thompson. “For me, it’s the ability to slow down the game.”

Thompson has learned to take a deep breath and realize that he may be just one pitch from an out. The training helps simplify things when chaos could be the rule.

Born in Evansville, Ind., in 1996, Thompson moved to Louisville around age 5.

He was a two-time all-state selection in high school and also played first base when not pitching.

At the end of the his high school career, Thompson played two summers of the travel ball with the Ironmen Baseball Club.

He was named to the all-tournament team at the 2014 Perfect Game WWBA 17U National Championship and was the top-ranked player in Kentucky by Perfect Game in 2015.

Outside of the mental toughness, what are his best qualities as an athlete?

“I feel I’m a pretty athletic pitcher,” says Thompson. “I have a good fastball and a good feel for my off-speed.”

The South Bend Cubs were to play a seven-inning exhibition against Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 and open the season at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, April 4 against West Michigan. Both games are at Four Winds Field.

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Riley Thompson (South Bend Cubs Photo)