Matthew Alter can see a future in baseball coaching at the collegiate level. He’s already gotten a head start by assisting in travel ball while also a college player himself. The 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Lutheran School with two years of eligibility remaining at Hanover (Ind.) College is in his third summer with the Indiana Bulls. He assisted with Scott French’s 15U Bulls Black squad in 2020. That team featured Class of 2023 standouts Max Clark (Franklin Community) and Andrew Wiggins (Heritage Christian). Alter aided (former Anderson University assistant) John Becker with the 15U Bulls Grey squad in 2021 and is now helping Becker’s 16U Bulls Grey team. By summer’s end the group will have played about 40 games with tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Ga., and Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo. “After college the plan is to be a college baseball coach,” says Alter, who turned 22 in May. “The quickest way to be an assistant is to be a pitching coach. But I’m also interested in being a graduate assistant.” Matthew’s cousin, Jared Broughton, is a college baseball coach. He most recently served for three years at Clemson (S.C.) University. Dick Alter, Matthew’s father, retired from Indianapolis Lutheran following the 2019 season after 40 years of coaching (about the last 25 years of that as a teacher). “There’s so many thing he taught me,” says Matthew of the shared wisdom shared. “The biggest thing my dad taught me is that baseball is the game of life. “It doesn’t matter what you did today, it’s what you do tomorrow and the next day.” Born in Carmel, Ind., Matthew the son of Dick and Karen Alter (who is president of Borshoff, a public relations and advertising agency in Indianapolis). The Alter family moved to the south side of Indianapolis when their son was 3. He played at what is now Franklin Township Little League (located behind the former Wanamaker Elementary School) and then was in travel ball with the Indiana Prospects and Indiana Pony Express. Alter played football, basketball and baseball (for his father) at Lutheran then went to Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., where Broughton was associate head coach. Matthew says going to college to play baseball meant “going from being an only child to having 40 brothers.” He counts slugger Alex Christie (Center Grove) among his good friends on the team. As a right-handed pitcher, Alter made six relief appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season and went 1-0 with a 2.65 earned run average, nine strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings for the Piedmont Lions. Alter decided to transfer to another NCAA Division III school in Hanover. Grant Bellak is the Panthers head coach. Until leaving for another job, Thomas Murphy was HC’s pitching coach. “(Coach Bellak) and I have a great relationship,” says Alter. “He focuses more on hitters and infielders.” Murphy helped Alter in 2020-21 by helping him build up his lower half to utilize his power and increase velocity. Using a Core Velocity Belt and throwing weighted PlyoCare Balls with Driveline Baseball exercises were part of the routine. “(Murphy) helped us pitchers with the mental aspect of the game,” says Alter. “He is big on visualizing success and always trying to stay positive. It’s about keeping composure and maintaining positivity and self talk.” Alter pitched in 11 games (eight starts) in 2021 and went 5-0 with 45 strikeouts and 33 walks in 52 1/3 innings. In 13 contests (11 starts) in 2022, he was 5-5 with 45 strikeouts and 29 walks in 72 innings. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference plays Saturday and Tuesday doubleheaders and Alter was the Saturday morning starter. “A lot of the teams (in the HCAC) are very similar,” says Alter. “They have a few good pitchers. But it relies solely on hitting. “That was evident in our conference tournament. There were a lot of high-scoring games.” Alter spent just over two weeks with the 2022 summer wood-bat Coastal Plain League’s Lexington County (S.C.) Blowfish before shutting it down for the summer with a tender shoulder. “It was from overuse,” says Alter, who did not play on any summer teams in 2019, 2020 and 2021. “But I did not tear my labrum.” Using a three-quarter arm slot, Alter throws two kinds of fastballs (four-seam and two-seam) plus a slider, change-up and curveball. He topped out at 87 mph with the four-seamer this summer. “The two-seamer is one of my best pitches,” says Alter. “It definitely moves. It starts at the middle of the plate and ends up outside to a lefty. It moves so much I’m able to fool hitters.” Alter employs a “circle” change and a 12-to-6 curve that he is able to throw for a strike in any count. A Communication major, Alter is on pace to graduate at the end of his fourth year in 2023. If he takes a fifth year, he says he will likely pursue a masters in Communication. Hanover does not have a graduate program in that subject.
“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.”