The right-handed pitcher from Columbus, Ind., playing independent professional baseball has been dominant in his back of the bullpen role.
As the closer for the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen, Gray goes into play today (Aug. 26) with a 2-0 record, 10 saves and a 0.00 earned run average. In 24 innings, he has yet to allow a run and has struck out 41 (15.375 per nine innings) and walked 10.
“For the most part, I try to stay with myself and pitch to my strengths,” says Gray. “I’ve been able to catch some breaks.
“It’s been fun so far.”
A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Gray delivers a fastball, slider and change-up from a three-quarter overarm slot. The slider breaks in on left-handed batters and away from righties and the “Vulcan” change sinks.
But it’s his four-seam fastball that’s been his out pitch. It travels 90 to 93 mph and — he learned while working out in the off-season with Greg Vogt of PRP Baseball at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. — that it has an above-average spin rate.
The 2020 season marks Gray’s third in pro ball. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2018 out of Florida Gulf Coast University and played rookie-level and Low Class-A ball in the Rockies system in 2018 and 2019.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Association is operating with six teams — Milwaukee, Chicago Dogs, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, Saint Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes — playing a 60-game schedule. When the season began, Milwaukee was one of three hubs. Later on, Chicago and Saint Paul opened back up and began hosting games. Winnipeg has been playing mostly road games.
Milwaukee is about a five-hour trip from Columbus meaning his family has been able to see him play in-person.
“They’re huge baseball fans,” says Peyton of father Billy Gray and older brother Jordan Gray. “They get to live their baseball dream through me. They’ve traveled and supported me through all these years.
From 12 to 17, Peyton played travel baseball for the Indiana Blazers. Billy was head coach of that team in the early years and Shelbyville’s Terry Kuhn filled that role in the later ones.
Bowling is a big deal in the Gray family. Billy owns Gray’s Pro Shop in Columbus Bowling Center. Jordan is the men’s bowling coach at Marian University in Indianapolis and his fiancee — Jerracah Heibel — is an associate head bowling coach at MU. Billy Gray is a Knights assistant.
Lisa Gray, wife of Billy and mother of Jordan and Peyton, works for Bartholemew County Youth Services Center.
Peyton Gray holds a Criminal Justice degree from Florida Gulf Coast and goes on ride-alongs with police officers during the baseball off-season. He says he sees himself going into some form of law enforcement in the future.
The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.
Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.
Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.
Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.
Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).
Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.
While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.
“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp.
At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.
He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.
Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.
After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).
Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.
Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.
Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.
Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.
Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.
His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.
David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
T-Ray Fletcher, who was Oakland City head coach for 26 seasons, is still the school’s athletic director.
Since taking the job a few weeks ago, Lasher been concentrating on building up his roster.
“I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting though there are no games to watch,” says Lasher, referring to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic which has live baseball shut down at the moment. “There’s been a lot of calls and text messages.”
Lasher, who is tapping into his network of contacts, says he would like to have 35 players in the fall and 40 to 45 in the future so the Mighty Oaks can add a junior varsity program.
That takes care of half the schedule. Lasher has the opportunity to fill in the rest of the games, choosing ones that are feasible and keeps players from missing too many classes.
It’s Lasher’s intent to schedule some contests in the fall.
Lasher’s assistants are Jacob Bedwell and Austen Bullington. Washington (Ind.) High School graduate Bedwell was on the OCU team last year. Castle grad Bullington played at Wabash Valley College and the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Lasher was hired by Southern Indianalast summer and spent much of his time assisting Screaming Eagles head coach Tracy Achuleta with hitters and position players.
“I also kept track of academic progress and a lot of little things that don’t happen on the baseball field,” says Lasher. “That’s a much bigger percentage of the job than people realize.
“At the college level, it’s a lot more than the bats and balls. It’s a full-time job for a reason.
“(Archuleta) is one of my favorite people. He’s alot of fun to be around and a really good baseball mind. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
He was an assistant to Dennis Conley at Olney Central from the 2014 season until the fall of 2018.
“It was a really good experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” says Lasher, who helped the Blue Knights win 173 games in five seasons.
An outfielder, Lasher played two seasons at Olney (2010 and 2011) for Conley and two at Evansville (2012 and 2013) for Wes Carroll.
Going to Castle, Lasher had heard all about alums Wes and brother Jamey Carroll (who played in the big leagues).
“(Wes Carroll) was a real good player’s coach,” says Lasher. “We had some good teams.”
The Purple Aces won 56 games in Lasher’s two seasons at UE. He played with five players — left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies), lefty-swinging outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski (New York Mets), righty-batting Eric Stamets (Rockies), righty pitcher Kyle Lloyd (San Diego Padres) and lefty hurler Phillip Diehl (Rockies) — who eventually made it to the majors.
For five summers, Lasher was with the Bombers — 2014 as an assistant coach and 2015-18 as manager.
Lefty-hitting outfielder Johnson is now on the Cleveland Indians’ 40-man roster.
Brown is a catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Lasher calls shortstop Gonzales, who was the 2019 NCAA Division I batting champion, the best player he’s ever coached and expects him to be taken about the top picks in the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The atmosphere created by Dubois County ownership and fans at League Stadium made Lasher’s time with the Bombers very enjoyable.
“It’s a great place to watch a game,” says Lasher. “It’s a shame they’re not getting to do it this summer (due to COVID-19 causing cancelation of the Ohio Valley League season).”
Lasher graduated in 2009 from Castle, where he played for Curt Welch.
“He was very intense,” says Lasher of Welch, who has also been an assistant wrestling coach for the Knights. “We were probably in better shape physically as any team in the country.”
There was plenty of running and ab workouts.
“It was worth it,” says Welch. “No doubt about it. It got guys ready for the college stuff. You have to be mentally tough and physically in shape in college or you just aren’t going to make it.”
Besides head baseball coach, Lasher is also in charge of maintaining Oakland City athletic fields and is gameday coordinator for any on-campus sporting events. The Mighty Oaks sponsor teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis for men and women and softball and volleyball for women.
Lasher and girlfriend, former Orleans (Ind.) High School, Olney Central and Brescia University basketball player Shelbi Samsil, recently moved to the north side of Indianapolis to be closer to Oakland City.
Andy Lasher is the new head baseball coach at Oakland City (Ind.) University. He is a graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., and played at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the University of Evansville. He has coached at Olney, Eastern Illinois University, the University of Southern Indiana and with the summer collegiate Dubois County Bombers. (Oakland City University Photo)
While you’ll only see Adam Piotrowicz donning one cap — usually a brown one with a gold “W” — he essentially wears three.
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Piotrowicz as associate head coach. He also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon.
“I help out more with scheduling, budget and things of that nature,” says Piotrowicz. “I have more administrative responsibility.”
Piotrowicz guides the Broncos’ offense. In 2019, WMU hit the most home runs (32) since the BBCOR Bat era in 2010 and posted the second highest batting average (.287) since 2012. The team also scored the most runs per game (6.0) since 2008 and racked up the most stolen bases (50) since 2013.
When the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought Western Michigan’s 2020 season to a close after 15 games, the Broncos had belted seven homers with a .261 average, 8.6 runs per contest and 35 stolen bases.
“I’m a big believer in having a great two-strike approach and competing in the box,” says Piotrowicz. “It’s about our daily routine — whatever it is.
“Each guy’s different.”
Some hitters are focused on power and others are looking to get the most out of their speed.
It’s the routine that keeps hitters sane.
“This game will drive guy’s crazy,” says Piotrowicz. “Just focus on the day-to-day process. It gets you over the 0-of-10 slumps and keeps you grounded during the 10-for-10.”
It’s helpful to Piotorowicz to know the style of learning that suits hitters best — Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic — in order to best communicate and assist them with their approach, mechanics etc., while competing at all times.
“We want to be a tough out,” says Piotrowicz. “We want to make other team earn all 27 outs.”
Piotrowicz is also aware that all players do not respond to the same coaching techniques based on their personality. Calling a player out in front of his teammates may not be appropriate for one while another will respond well.
“Our center fielder (Blake Dunn), I can yell at him,” says Piotrowicz of a junior from Saugatuck, Mich., who he expects to go high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “He was a multi-sport athlete and football player. He needs that. He wants that hard coaching.”
The analogy that Piotrowicz favors is the mail. A package, whether sent first class air mail or standard third class will carry the same message and expectations regardless of delivery method.
Piotrowicz says Western’s recruiting territory is reflective of the 2020 WMU roster which features 19 players with hometowns in Michigan, nine from the Chicago area and three from Indiana high schools — junior Ryan Missal (Lowell), sophomore Bobby Dearing (Lafayette Harrison) and freshman Hayden Berg (Penn). The Broncos have received a commitment from Ryan Watt (Mishawaka).
Piotrowicz says the school has helped by making out-of-state tuition only $2,000 to $3,000 more than for in-state students.
Working with Gernon, Piotrowicz absorbs knowledge someone who has plenty of coaching experience. He was an assistant at Indiana University, helped Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) transition to NCAA Division I as assistant then head coach then was a Michigan State University assistant before his first season in charge in Kalamazoo in 2011.
In 2016, WMU won its first Mid-American Conference tournament. Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School graduate Gernon has 210 victories as Broncos skipper, including 104 in the MAC.
“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss,” says Piotrowicz of Gernon. “He’s given me a lot of freedom and responsibility.
“(Woodson) gave me a ton of freedom and a lot of trust,” says Piotrowicz, who go to work with hitters, infielders, catchers and outfielders while splitting strength and conditioning with Schmack.
In 2012, Valpo was regular season and tournament champions in the Horizon League and competed in the NCAA Gary Regional, losing to Purdue and Kentucky.
In 2013, the Crusaders won the HL tournament and took part in the Indiana Regional, losing to Indiana and Austin Peay but not before knocking out Florida.
Piotrowicz got his college coaching start with two seasons at NCAA Division III Heidelberg University (2009-10) in Tiffin, Ohio, where they won Ohio Athletic Conference Conference and regular-season titles both seasons. The 2010 team won the Mideast Regional and competed in the D-III World Series in Grand Chute, Wis., beating Johns Hopkins and Wisconsin-Stevens Points and losing to eventual champion Illinois Wesleyan and Linfield.
Though he was a graduate assistant, he worked like a full-time coach and had his perceptions of what a coach is shaped while developing head coach Matt Palm’s Student Princes. He aided hitters and catchers and shared in recruiting.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Matt Palm,” says Piotrowicz.
After a season at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. (now Bethel University), Piotorowicz finished his playing days at Manchester.
“(Zartman) was a good guy,” says Piotrowicz. “He was very big on team culture.
“(Siler) was amazing. He was very, very knowledgable guy and a down-to-earth person. He worked with catchers and made sure I was in shape.
“(Jimenez) also brought a ton of knowledge.”
Rick Espeset was and still in head baseball coach and athletic director at Manchester. Given his workload and Espeset’s young family, Piotrowicz and his teammates marveled at how organized he was.
“Practices were always detailed,” says Piotrowicz. “He did a good job of teaching guys how to the win the game.”
Points of emphasis included baserunning, defense and playing the game hard and fast.
“You do that and winning will take care of itself,” says Piotrowicz. “We called (Espeset) the ‘Silent Assassin.’ He was a psychology major with a very dry sense of humor. The mental side of the game, that’s where he was the strongest.”
Adam and Heather Piotrowicz, a former Manchester basketball player, have two sons — Hunter (4) and Elliot (1).
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Adam Piotrowicz as associate head coach. The graduate of John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon. (Western Michigan University Photo)
“We go over time period and see how baseball is interwoven,” says Scott. “Some students may have a general knowledge, but don’t know history.
“We see what baseball has brought to the history of the United States.”
Using the Ken Burns’ “Baseball” series — now streaming free online by PBS during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has schools doing eLearning rather than in-person classes — Scott leads a semester-long project-based elective course.
Right now, his students are on “Inning 4 — A National Heirloom (1920-1930).”
Using MySimpleShow, pupils will create short videos about one of the World Series during the period when the “U.S. was coming out of World War I and getting back on its feet.”
“I’m bummed,” says Scott. “Not being able to play this year kind of breaks my heart.”
With three seniors and nine juniors back from a 2019 team that went 2019, the Gophers were looking to “do some damage” in 2020.
Curtis grew up in Wyoming, but rooted for the New York Yankees since his grandfather — Edwin Curtis — had been offered a chance to play in their system as well as that of the St. Louis Cardinals back in the 1930’s. When the expansion Colorado Rockies came along, Robert Curtis — Shawn’s father — purchased season tickets.
“I’m a huge baseball fan,” says Curtis. “(Baseball) is really the history of America.
“Baseball is the constant theme of things. I will find ways to tie baseball in.”
Curtis, who also used the Ken Burns documentary to frame some of his teaching, says that as cities grew, people needed recreation and baseball parks offered an escape.
“We see how baseball plays into World War II,” says Curtis. “We see how baseball plays into the Spanish Flu (1918 Pandemic).”
Over the years, Curtis has taken students to Anderson, Ind., to meet Carl Erskine, a Brooklyn Dodgers teammate of Jackie Robinson and a baseball ambassador.
Independent of his teaching, Curtis has been working with the Negro League Baseball Museum — where Bob Kendrick is the president — and highlighting the history of black baseball in Indianapolis.
The best ballplayer of all-time?
“It’s definitely (Negro Leaguer) Josh Gibson,” says Curtis, who notes that old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis was site of a Negro League World Series game featuring Baseball Hall of Famer Gibson and the Homestead Grays in 1943.
This summer, the Curtis family is planning a visit to Fenway Park in Boston.
The Curtis family has also spent vacations going to historic baseball sites, including League Park in Cleveland, the former site of the Polo Grounds in New York and the boyhood home of Mickey Mantle in Oklahoma (Mantle is the favorite player of Robert Curtis) and many graves.
The 2020 contest was the 13th for the TIBAC, run by the Tulane Sports Law Society as a simulated salary arbitration competition modeled closely on the procedures used by MLB.
According to the Tulane Law School website, “Like most law school moot court competitions, TIBAC’s main goal is to provide participants with the opportunity to sharpen their oral and written advocacy skills.
“However, the competition is unique in that it allows law students to sharpen these skills within the specialized context of MLB’s salary arbitration proceedings.
“The competition is held annually in the early part of the spring academic semester at Tulane University Law School.
“Additionally, at the conclusion of the arbitration competition, Tulane’s Sports Law Society hosts a panel of experts to discuss legal issues related to baseball.”
The popular event usually has a waitlist.
About a decade ago, Edmonds got Notre Dame involved in the TIBAC. For the past five years, there has been an internal contest at Notre Dame.
“We tend have about 12 to 15 students per class that have a very, very strong interest in sports law,” says Edmonds, advisor to Notre Dame Law School’s Sports Communication & Entertainment Law Forum — the student organization that sponsors the internal competition and those that attend the TIBAC. “About three quarters of them were a college athlete or work experience in the sports area. (The internal competition and application) is a much more objective way of picking our team members.”
During the internal arbitration competition, Edmonds advises two-person teams to develop a theme and follow it throughout the whole argument.
Edmonds says he hopes that the Notre Dame Law School, Mendoza College of Business and athletic department will be able to work closer in the future.
Representing Notre Dame at Tulane this time around were team members Kevin Francese, Sebastian Bellm and Ryne Quinlan and coach Elizabeth Lombard.
Francese and Lombard are in their third year of law school (3L). Bellm and Quinlan are in their first year (1L).
Bellm and Quinlan teamed up to win Notre Dame’s internal competition, which centered around former Fighting Irish player and current Baltimore Orioles right fielder Trey Mancini and required the player side argue a penny above the mid-point and the club side a penny below the mid-point to win the argument, besting Francese and Paige Carey in the finals. Francese, Bellm and Quinlan applied and were chosen by Lombard to go to Tulane.
With three rounds, the field was trimmed from 31 to eight on the first day and those eight advanced to the second day. Fordham University won its second straight title. Notre Dame was runner-up in 2019 (team members John Casey, Dominique Fry and Reid Fulkerson were coached by Stephen Scheffel).
The three players featured at the 2020 IBAC were New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, Colorado Rockies right-handed starting pitcher Jon Gray and Milwaukee Brewers lefty closer Josh Hader.
Notre Dame was assigned to argue on the player side for Judge, the club side for Hader and had to be prepared on both sides of the argument for Gray.
TIBAC teams were required to produce exhibit slides and share them with competing teams.
Going before a judge and head-to-head with another team, they argued using a mid-point salary figure for each player.
First came the player argument then the team argument followed by the player rebuttal and team rebuttal. Two people had to talk during each argument. Points were assigned in each round.
Areas considered in the arguments included career contributions, injuries, past compensation, club attendance, team appeal and comparable players aka “comps.”
Lombard, a Chicago Cubs fan from the Chicago suburb of Western Springs, Ill., has been involved in baseball arbitration competition in all three years of law school. As a 1L, she was a team member. As a 2L, she ran the on-campus tournament and was an assistant coach. As a 3L, she ran the tournament, selected the team and went to Tulane as coach.
“This is unique for law school,” says Lombard. “It’s a non-confrontational way of arguing.”
There were several practice sessions with interruptions just like during the competition. Even law school students not involved were asked for their input.
While she could not get too involved, Lombard was able to help team members craft their arguments and edit their 10-page briefs. There were mock trial sessions at Notre Dame.
After the mental exhaustion of law school finals, much of the preparation happened during Christmas break.
TIBAC prizes were on the line for written presentations due in late December and oral presentations given in January.
“It was a really great experience,” says Lombard, who has a position in the general practice group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York waiting on her after law school. “You don’t have to work in baseball for it to be an asset to you.
“You get to learn about another area of the law. You’re exploring salary arbitration and get to hone general negotiation skills.”
Guests at Tulane have included people like past TIBAC finalist Greg Dreyfuss (Director of Analytics and Baseball Operations for the MLBPA) and former Notre Dame baseball player Matt Nussbaum (Deputy General Counsel for the MLBPA and son of Midwest League president Dick Nussbaum).
“It’s super cool to be able to talk to people in the industry who are interested in our success,” says Lombard.
She nows looks at the game in a different way.
“My love for baseball has totally transformed,” says Lombard. “Now I feel I can talk with the best of them. It’s not only back of the baseball card, but advanced statistics.”
Lombard notes that the baseball player market has blown up and its sometimes difficult to value them.
“You get once or twice in a lifetime players,” says Lombard. “(Players rank) somewhere between (new Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder) Mookie Betts and someone else.”
Francese came to ND from Chappaqua, N.Y., which is 30 miles north of New York City. This was his first time in baseball arbitration competition. He pulls for the New York Yankees.
“We were assigned the player side of Aaron Judge, which is great because I’m a Yankee fan,” says Francese. “I had to talk up Aaron Judge, not talk him down. I don’t know how we didn’t win our Aaron Judge argument.
“I do play fantasy baseball. I don’t take (Boston) Red Sox as a policy.”
Bellm, another Cubs fan who moved with his family to Mishawaka, Ind., in 2008 and graduated from Marian High School in 2011. He graduated from St. Bonaventure (N.Y.) University with an accounting and finance degree in 2016. He lived in Chicago for three years before law school.
“This is different than anything I’ve done before,” says Bellm. “I’ve always been a baseball fan. But I had to dig into a deeper level.
“It was also nice change of pace from regular law school.”
Competitors get no extra credit and do the work on their own time.
Bellm notes that baseball salary arbitration is a niche area of the law and there might be 50 lawyers in the country who specialize in it and 20 or so of them attend the TIABC as guest judges.
“Jobs (for lawyers in baseball arbitration) are few and far between,” says Francese. “It’s not a wide spread thing. Certain people in big law firms do it.
“I hope to get back into sports law at some point in my career.”
He says he hopes to stay involved with the competitions throughout his time in law school.
Bellm notes that studying for Mancini’s case was helped by his position.
“With more outfielders, there’s more comps,” says Bellm.
It’s easier to compare corner outfielders than a second baseman to a shortstop.
While competitors had to be versed in the player and club sides, Bellm says the argument was stronger on the player side for Mancini, who was coming off a strong platform year (the season before arbitration). It’s their most-recent performance.
Mancini had a solid rookie year, a sophomore slump then had a uptick in his platform year. Those arguing for the player would emphasize his improvement. On the club side, they would point out a lack of consistency.
“It’s one of the most important factors considered in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (between the 30 MLB clubs and the MLBPA),” says Bellm of the platform year.
To make the competition more realistic, only real arbitration-eligible players are used. If a player’s real case is settled prior to the competition, that information can’t be used.
Edmonds says in most years 150 to 170 MLB players are arbitration-eligible, but few of those go to hearings.
Quinlan is from the Chicago suburb of Algonquin, Ill. He received a undergraduate and master’s accounting degrees from Notre Dame in 2016 and 2017. He serves in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Repesenting Notre Dame Law School at the 2020 Tulane International Baseball Arbitration Competition (from left): team members Kevin Fracense, Sebastian Bellm and Ryne Quinlan and coach Elizabeth Lombard.
Barnes, a 1997 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, played two seasons at Olney (Ill.) Central College and one at Indiana State University. A shortstop, he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made is big league debut in 2003. He played with the Rockies, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres and retired after the 2016 season in the Kansas City Royals organization.
His 13-year career included 1,186 games, a .245 batting average, 89 home runs, 208 doubles, 43 stolen bases and 415 runs batted in.
Since retiring, Barmes has jumped into youth coaching. He is part-time assistant baseball coach at Berthoud (Colo.) High School. Much of his time is spent coaching his own children.
Clint and Summer Barmes’ son Wyatt (12) and daughter Whitney (9) are involved in sports and are coached by one or both parents — Wyatt in baseball, basketball and soccer, Whitney in softball, basketball and soccer.
“Our weeks are pretty full,” says Barmes, who was going to go to Los Angeles from Indianapolis for Wyatt’s all-star travel tournament.
“We didn’t want to burn him out,” says Barmes. “He still wants to work and do that kind of stuff in the wintertime. I don’t want to hold him back either.
“I wanted to give him a chance to see what other talent’s out there at his age level and keep him going in sports.”
When Clint Barmes was 12 he was playing about 25 Bambino League baseball games a year in Vincennes. He played at Lincoln High for Phil Halsema and Chris Rhodes.
“I was a Cardinal fan growing up and I wanted to play in the big leagues,” says Barmes of his boyhood aspirations. “That didn’t change until around my senior year in high school. I didn’t know if it was going to happen for me. I was open to play college ball. Just past high school.
“At Olney Central, I got a little bigger and a little stronger. The work I was putting in compared to the high school level was night and day. Putting all that extra work into it, I really started to take off.”
“(Conley) taught the game and it was more than just seeing the ball, hitting the ball, catching it and throwing it,” says Barmes. “It was breaking down the simplicities of the game and trying to follow and think ahead.
“That’s when all that stuff really started to come to me. It started with him. He’s a brilliant man. He’s really passionate and knowledgable about the game.”
Barmes is grateful what Conley did for him when he was a player there and also for the chance to come back during the winters as a professional and train since Olney is only about 30 miles from Vincennes.
At ISU, Barmes played for Bob Warn. He credits the IHSBCA Hall of Famer for giving him freedom while also adding to his game.
“(Barmes) allowed me to play and be the type of player that I was at that time,” says Barmes. “He could have broken me down. There was so many things that I was doing that weren’t the right ways to do it.
“Once I got into pro ball I had to completely change my swing. But, thankfully, I had success like I did (Barmes hit 375 with 93 hits, 18 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs to go along with 63 runs scored, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases as a Sycamore). He let me play.
“I remember learning to play the game the right way once I got to college. It was anticipating — especially at shortstop. I was learning how to pay attention to hitters and pitchers on the mound and what they’re trying to do. It was following the game and whatever is being called. Before, I was waiting for the ball to be hit my direction as simple as that sounds.”
“You look at the sweet spot on a metal bat compared to a wooden bat — not to mention the weight is a little heaver with wood,” says Barmes. “I learned to use my hands and work down and through the ball to create backspin. (With a metal bat), I would get a little long, drop my back side and try to lift. I was thinking that was how you were supposed to drive the ball.
“The (metal) bats we used were pretty loaded when I played in high school and even college. You could get jammed and still hit home runs. The ball off our bats was pretty hot.”
While Barmes was used at other positions (he logged 351 MLB appearances as a second baseman), he identified himself as a shortstop.
“That’s where I loved to play,” says Barmes. “Shortstop was always my love. That was always my favorite position.”
Barmes came to understand what it meant to shift and that if the pitcher hit his spot, it was likely the hitter would send the ball to a certain spot on the infield and he would be ready for it.
“You try not to give it up too early,” says Barmes. “But you start cheating (in that direction) in certain ways.”
There came a point where Barmes might be asked to play in the hole for a right-handed pull hitter or told to play right of the bag with a hitter who projects to hit it that way.
“(Shifting) never happened to me until I was in the big leagues,” says Barmes. “Nowadays, I’ve seen it in Little League.”
“Don was a great coach all-around,” says Barmes. “He was very knowledgable about the game and more on the mental side.
“At the big league level, that’s very important. If you can’t hit by the time you get to the big leagues, it’s going to be a struggle. Now you have to work with your mental and approach.”
Barmes says it helps to clear the mind so the hitter can focus on seeing the ball or what they’re going to do in a particular (ball-strike) count.
“(Baylor) talked about throwing your hands in the slot,” says Barmes. “I picked that up from Don (as well as Cockrell, White and Todd).
“That was the old-school way of teaching hitting and it worked for me. My hands started my swing and my body would kind of do what it does. If I started thinking lower half or anything but my hands, a lot of times it slowed me down.”
Clint was not the first Barmes to play in the majors. A relative on his grandfather’s side of the family — Vincennes-born Bruce “Squeaky” Barmes — got a September call-up with the 1953 Washington Senators. He played 11 full seasons (1950-60) in the minors and hit .318 and made all-star teams in the Florida State League and Tri-State League. A 5-foot-8 left-handed hitter, he was known for his speed.
“I didn’t meet Bruce until I was in A-ball,” says Barmes. “I was playing for Asheville (N.C.) and we were in Hickory (N.C.).
“This older gentleman is yelling at me from the concourse, ‘Hey Barmes!’ and at that point nobody ever pronounced it right (it’s Bar-Muss). This guy must know me because he’s saying my name right. He starts talking about Vincennes and throws out all these names of people I’m related to.”
After that, Clint got to know Bruce and his family and would see them on trips to the East Coast.
During his speech at the IHSBCA Hall of Fame dinner, Barmes thanked all his coaches from youth leagues on up.
“Now that I’ve been coaching, I understand what it means for these kids to get good coaching,” says Barmes. “The role they are playing is very important. The impact that they have on these young players may be more than they realize.
“I’m one of them.”
Clint Barmes, a Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln High School graduate who played at Olney (Ill.) Central College, Indiana State University and 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Jan. 17, 2020, in Indianapolis — a week after he went into the Indiana State Athletics Hall of Fame. (Steve Krah Photo)
Born and raised in Evansville, Ind., Carroll took to the diamond at Castle High School and the University of Evansville and was in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.
Logging almost 2,000 games at second base, third base and shortstop, Carroll gained the knowledge that has landed him a job as coordinator of infielders for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jamey and Kim Carroll have 11-year fraternal twins — Cole and Mackenzie.
As a coach of son Cole’s team, the Space Coast Thunder 12U travel ball team in Melbourne, Fla., Carroll also knows about youth baseball.
Carroll, 45, says the reason we play sports is for a sense of belonging and connection.
“It’s about belong to a group and being connected to people for a cause,” says Carroll.
It’s the memories made with teammates, coaches and more.
“That belonging and connection that I missed, that I couldn’t wait to be a part of again, is what I’m trying to create for my group,” says Carroll of the Space Coast Thunder 12U squad. “With the Pirates, one thing that can really motivate us is the belong and connection. To be motivated, do you feel like you belong and do you feel like you’re connected to who you are?”
In the audience were many of Carroll’s former teammates, including ABCA assistant executive director Ryan Brownlee, and his younger brother, UE head coach Wes Carroll.
“I guarantee you this weekend we’re going to talk about about something because we belong and are connected to something bigger than ourselves,” says Carroll.
“The first instinct as a parent is to get up and go help them,” says Carroll. “The teacher goes, ‘Nope. Stay right there.’
“But he may fall. The first instinct as a parent: Go save and protect. The teacher goes over and says, “Hey, Bub. When your body’s ready you’ll go over” and turned around and walked away.”
A few days later, Cole went all the way across those monkey bars.
“When he came down he didn’t look at mom and dad and said ‘did you see what I did?’ I honestly can tell you I saw the sense of satisfaction … I just did that.
“He had his own sense of self pride.”
Who is Generation Z?
Give or take three years, it’s people born between 1996-2010. That’s about 72 million people in the world today.
Carroll says we live in a “SCENE” society. We want Speed (slow is bad), Convenience (hard is bad), Entertainment (boring is bad), Nurturing (risk is bad) and Entitlement (labor is bad).
“They’re willing to work hard but they want a reward,” says Carroll. “My son’s guilty of it. ‘Dad, if we go to this tournament do we get a trophy? Are we getting a medal?’ I don’t know, man. Maybe.
“We finished third place in a tournament. Parents want (a group photo). I don’t want to be part of a third-place picture. Get me away from it. What are we doing?
“Anything worth fighting for takes time. When it’s hard, that’s when we grow and learn.”
Risks and taken and those involved leave their comfort zone.
“We have this unique opportunity to bridge this (generation) gap,” says Carroll. “Do we know who’s in front of me? We want to do the drills. We can’t understand why they’re not getting things accomplished. Do we know their skill sets? Do we know their personality? Do we know their parents? Do we know the other coaches?
“Who’s in front of you is more than just a kid. It’s a person. We get to play baseball. It’s what we do. It’s not who they are. Get to know them. Belonging and connection.”
To motivate young players, coaches should get to know them and show that they care.
To get these youngsters to grow and learn, an environment is created where they will learn and will want to come back and play hard.
“Who is this about?,” says Carroll. “Is this about you as a coach or it about those kids?”
At a recent tournament, Carroll saw a kid swing at a pitch in the dirt then witnessed a father bang his fist against a concrete wall.
“Man, who stole your trophies as a kid?, says Carroll. “Why are you so mad at a team in ‘The Middle of Nowhere, Fla.,’ on a Saturday afternoon that means nothing?
“If you don’t win a game, you’re not a good coach. If you’re not a good coach, nobody’s going to respect you and you can’t walk around town.
“Get over the ego. This is not about you. We all had our chance. It’s not about us. It’s about them.”
Carroll says young players can be labeled for a position too early.
“I speak from experience,” says Carroll. “I was an outfielder on all of all-star teams until I was 13. I wasn’t fast enough when we went to the big field to play center field anymore so I moved to shortstop. I got to play shortstop until I was 40 years old.
“We don’t have a right to tell a kid he’s only an outfielder, he’s only a pitcher until we get to a certain point where they’re mature enough to show us who they are. We don’t know. Who are we to decide?”
Carroll says coaches should consider whether their feedback is positive or negative the message they are sending with their body language and tone of voice.
“We talk all the time about how these guys have to risk and create and be able to handle failure and yet when they steal a base we’re the first ones to jump up and ask, ‘What are we doing? Why’d you do that?’
“The thing that gets under my skin is when you’re sitting there and hear ‘Throw strike!’ Wow. No kidding? ‘You’ve got to make that play.’ ‘Why’d you swing at that pitch?’”
Instead of being Coach Obvious, Carroll suggests that they show the player something that will help them throw a strike or swing at the right pitches.
“This game is already hard enough,” says Carroll. “We don’t need to add more to it.
“Did you create that play in practice that he can make it?”
Carroll says the coach should figure out ways to get the player to understand.
“Can we do that?,” says Carroll. “No. It’s their fault.”
Carroll wants to know if coaches are building perfectionists.
“If what we say doesn’t match our actions now it’s causing fear and anxiety inside of a player who doesn’t even want to mess up,” says Carroll. “We had a 9-year-old (on first base) that could even run to second base after a ground ball. Why? Because he was afraid to mess up. Why was he afraid to mess up? His dad was all over him all the time.
“Is that building belonging and connection? Is that creating memories? We can do all the drills we want. How are we speaking to these guys?”
At the same time, Carroll says coaches can talk too much.
“Are we giving too much information?,” says Carroll. “When you talk too much you’re interrupting the body’s ability to learn.”
It helpful to be specific, instructive and constructive.
It was a “nice pitch” but was nice about it?
“Maybe you give a tip?,” says Carroll. “When you just give ‘attaboy’ and you don’t give anything behind it, you’re creating a reliance on the coach. I don’t know what I just did, but (the coach) is happy.”
Carroll says its best to keep the focus for players external rather than internal (‘Make sure you load on that back side. Get your hands up. Make sure you spread.’)
“We give them 10 different things to think about and create that hazy focus,” says Carroll. “We see the ball yet we don’t see it.
“Do we have the ability to go external? Give them outside targets. Hit the ball in the gap. Are we guiding them to the answers or are we just telling them?”
It’s a matter of teaching by the coach and learning by the player.
Carroll has studied the findings of Frans Bosch, an authority on athletic movement.
“It’s not about learning a move and trying to perfect it, says Carroll. “It’s our job as coaches to put them in a learning environment where the brain eliminates what doesn’t work to get to what does.
“We’ve got to be able to create some sort of drill that gets them through every single thing so they know this works compared to that doesn’t work.”
Coaches can run practices where all plays are made perfectly and players “feel good” or are challenged to do things the right way to “get good.”
Carroll talks about “The Gap.”
Carroll says that if players are successful at a task — ie. fielding ground balls — and are successful 80 percent or better, they become bored.
“Did we get them any better?,” says Carroll. “If they fail 50 percent of the time or more, they go into survival mode. Are we learning? They just want to get out of there.
“Each player has a different gap. Do we know who’s in front of us?”
Carroll says that coaches can create the process, but asks if they know the player.
In closing, Carroll quoted author Peggy O’Mara: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
“We have this ultimate opportunity to influence a whole group of people,” says Carroll. “They are not jewelry to be shown off. They are human beings that play get to play baseball. Please don’t lose sight of that.
“We had our chance. Now it’s there. Let them have it.”
Jamey Carroll, an Evansville, Ind., native, played in the big leagues until he was 40. Now 45, he is coordinator of infielders for the Pittsburgh Pirates and a youth baseball coach. He spoke at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Nashville on “Guiding Gen-Z to Greatness.” (Minnesota Twins Photo)
Scott Haase is a collector of baseball knowledge — especially about pitching.
Haase (rhymes with classy) was in Nashville, Tenn., at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention, talking face-to-face with folks he has connected with online or by phone.
“I learned pretty quickly what I was going to get most out of (the ABCA convention) was the networking,” says Haase, a board member, pitching coordinator and social media manager for the Indiana Twins travel organization. “It’s good to put a name to a face, chat in-person and strength that relationship.”
Among those he has connected with is Steve Merriman, a pitching coordinator in the Colorado Rockies system who also happens to share a hometown with Haase — Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
Haase, who turned 33 in December, has many certifications, including from OnBase U (functional movement) and Driveline Baseball as well as group exercise and personal training for his full-time job as health coach and wellness coordinator for Community Health Network. He was at Pitch-A-Palooza in Franklin, Tenn., Dec. 13-15, 2019.
Haase came on board as an instructor and 17U pitching coach for Twins while also coaching at Franklin Community and conducting private lessons.
“It was six days a week of baseball for the first year of marriage,” says Haase, noting that his wife (Lora) was also busy at that time with coaching volleyball. “It was fun.”
After that first summer as a Twins coach, Haase decided to focus on being an instructor. He now coordinates pitching, teaches other instructors and coaches and runs the off-season training program with the organization as well as help Clymore with operations.
The Indiana Twins were housed in a facility near the University of Indianapolis then moved to spot in Martinsville with two buildings and three diamonds. There’s about 180 players in the program from 8U through 17U.
Haase notes that 8U gives family an introduction.
“Travel baseball is not right for everybody,” says Haase.
While high schoolers typically play up to eight tournaments each summer in June and July, younger players take part in up to 10 from April to July.
Beginning with 9U, teams have an off-season training program included in fees that lasts up to 20 weeks. Besides training in pitching, hitting, fielding and catching, there is Baseball I.Q.
Coaches were complaining because they were losing games because players who might look good during workouts don’t know how to back up first base or execute bunt coverage.
“Things that a travel ball coach doesn’t have as much practice time to cover,” says Haase.
A game created by Clymore involves a wipe board with a baseball field.
Players pull a card that gives them a situation. It might be “runner of first base and two outs.”
Another card is pulled.
It may say, “you’re the batter and you hit a ball past the defender in left-center field, what are you doing?”
That gives an opportunity to go around the room and see how many scenarios players identify.
As the game progresses, the card may have them as the right fielder and they are asked what they do when the ball goes into left-center field.
“It’s been pretty cool,” says Haase. “It gets them to think through it.”
Clymore is a proponent of mental skills and each team must spend part of their practices, which begin in January, doing some kind of mental work.
“It can be simple or elaborate,” says Haase. “They may watch a 10-minute video and have discussion and work sheet.”
It might be a TED talk or a motivational clip from a movie. Players and coaches will talk about how the subject elations to life, relationships, baseball or whatever.
“The mental component is such a big part of the game,” says Haase. “If you aren’t mentally strong, well-rounded an educated, in sports and in life you are not going to be able to succeed very much.
“If you don’t believe you’re going to have success — regardless of the reason — it’s going to be hard to have success.”
College players come back to train at the Twins facility during breaks. Among the recent alums is UIndy senior right-handed pitcher Reid Werner and Purdue Fort Wayne third baseman/pitcher Luke Miles.
Earlier in their development, the Schnell brothers (Nick and Aaron) and Avery Short played for the Indiana Twins. Outfielder Nick Schnell is now in the Tampa Bay Rays organization while left-hander Short is with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
A former left-handed pitcher/outfielder and team captain at Sacred Heart Academy in Mt. Pleasant (where he helped earn two district and regional titles and was the football team’s starting quarterback as a junior and senior), and pitcher at NCAA Division II Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, Mich., Haase video-taped himself and friends and studied footage of Tim Lincecum while trying to add velocity to his pitches.
Haase’s first coaching position was at a Little League in Saginaw.
He wound up in Indianapolis after long-distance dating his future wife. Scott and Lora Haase have an 8-month old (Max). Lora, who was an all-state volleyball player at Perry Meridian High School, coached Team Indiana in that sport for three years.
Scott Haase is a board member, pitching coordinator and social media manager for the Indiana Twins travel organization. The group has a training facility in Martinsville.