Tag Archives: CSL

Carroll graduate Kuhns honing catching chops in Texas

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sebastian Kuhns is growing as a baseball catcher and the northeast Indiana native is doing it in northeast Texas.
The 2020 graduate of Carroll High School in Fort Wayne is a “COVID” freshman at Paris (Texas) Junior College, which is about 100 miles from Dallas.
Through the Dragons’ first 17 games of 2022, Kuhns was hitting .400 (10-of-25) with five doubles and nine runs batted in over eight games while splitting playing time with freshman Zach Munton.
Kuhns, who missed his senior season at Carroll because of the pandemic, Kuhns split his time in the summer of 2020 between the Chad Hines-coached Indiana Prospects travel team (he played for the Prospects in 2019, too) and the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. He ended up with the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers.
Kuhns was at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., for the 2021 season and hit .268 (11-of-41) with one home run and 13 RBIs in 18 games.
He did not play in the summer of 2021, but trained at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind. He did overall and throwing with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and Justin Hancock, hitting with Quentin Brown and Noah Niswonger and strength workouts with Michael Hammerstand, Christian Sullivan and Bram Wood.
Kuhns is considering another summer of training at PRP Baseball while possibly playing in the CSL.
When Kuhns made it known that he would be transferring from Lincoln Trail, a couple of schools reached out. Among them was Paris, which had three catchers moving on.
“I shot Coach (Clay) Cox a message,” says Kuhns. “He responded and now I’m here. I really enjoyed my phone call with him. I could tell everything he said was genuine.
“I can’t not say enough about Coach Cox. He’s one of the top motivational coaches I’ve had. He knows what to say to get us fired up. He made it clear what the expectations are. Last year (Paris) had like 3.8 team GPA. They do things right here.”
Kuhns signed at Paris — a National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Region 14 member — in mid-June. He he arrived Paris in the fall he was given No. 47.
Any significance to to those digits?
“Not really. Most of our class had already signed,” says Kuhns. “Maybe my arm’s like an AK-47?”
Kuhns is on pace to earn an Associate Degree in Business Management while he hones his skills behind the plate.
“There’s so many games within the game that I love,” says Kuhns, who moved from first base to catcher around age 12. “I take pride in picking up mannerisms of all my pitchers. It’s different for every guy.”
Kuhns appreciates the engagement of the position.
“You’re part of every pitch,” says Kuhns. “My arm is one of the tools that helped me getting into college. I was good at blocking, but my receiving wasn’t great.
“(Receiving) is one of the biggest adjustments for me moving from high school to college, where there is a smaller strike zone. You try to steal strikes for your pitcher and keeps strikes as strikes. I’m working on that art. The strike zone in Texas is even smaller.”
Kuhns talks about the junior college baseball life.
“People throw around JUCO like an adjective,” says Kuhns. “Guys really embrace that. We’re just some gritty guys working hard. That’s one aspect I really like. It really is good baseball. Down here (in Texas) it really is no joke.”
Kuhns played at Carroll for head coach Dave Ginder, who stressed all the situational things like first-and-third and bunt coverages.
“I didn’t fully appreciate everything he did until I got into college,” says Kuhns. “He knows the game really well and he’s really good at passing it on to his players.”
“I see similarities with Coach Cox and Coach Ginder. (Cox) let’s us do our thing. He’s not going to fix it if it ain’t broke.”
As a Chargers sophomore, Kuhns was a third-stringer on a catching corps led by Hayden Jones (who is now in the Cincinnati Reds organization).
“I can’t say enough about Hayden and what he helped me with in high school,” says Kuhns. “He helped me grow up and mature and with baseball in general.
“He comes from a great family. I worked with his dad for a long time.”
Kuhns went to Ken Jones (now assistant at Purdue Fort Wayne) at World Baseball Academy for catching and hitting lessons. The player was also at Wallen Baseball Softball and with the Fort Wayne Cubs/Fort Wayne Diamondbacks.
Born in Auburn, Ind., Kuhns grew up in the Fort Wayne/Huntertown area. His parents are Brian Kuhns (stepmother Sherri Foster) and Kimberly Kuhns. His siblings are Josh Kuhns, Olivia Kuhns, Kesley Foster, Eric Foster, Chris Kiger, Cassandra Kiger and Kyle Kiger.

Sebastian Kuhns (Paris Junior College Photo)
Sebastian Kuhns (Lincoln Trail College Photo)
Sebastian Kuhns catches for Paris (Texas) Junior College. (PJC Photo)
Sebastian Kuhns catches for Paris (Texas) Junior College. (PJC Photo)
Sebastian Kuhns throws for Paris (Texas) Junior College. (PJC Photo)

Ball State right-hander Johnson impresses in College Summer League at Grand Park

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s hard not to stand out when you are 6-foot-6. But Ty Johnson did little to rise above as a baseball pitcher until his junior year at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
Johnson entered high school in the fall of 2016 at 5-10. By the end of freshman year he was 6-2. By the close of his sophomore year in 2018 he was 6-6.
“I got hurt a bunch freshman and sophomore year,” says Johnson. “I had growing pains. My body wasn’t ready for it. I was goofy and awkward.
“My junior year I got a little more athletic.”
The right-hander saw some varsity action as a sophomore for Richard Winzenread’s Wildcats then was a regular as a junior in the spring of 2019. He went 3-0 in seven games with an 0.88 earned run average. In 39 2/3 innings, he struck out 60 and walked 20.
That fall he played for Team Indiana, coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler.
The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season — which would have been Johnson’s senior campaign.
The lanky hurler attracted interest from scouts leading into the five-round 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but was not selected.
By this time he had impressed enough to be signed by Ball State University. An injury kept him out of early action, but he did get into three games for the Ben Norton-coached Local Legends of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
At Ball State, Johnson got to work with Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully.
“He trusts me,” says Johnson of Maloney. “He’s always believed in me. He has my back.
“That’s reassuring.”
Johnson and Scully have grown close.
“He checks in all the time,” says Johnson. “We work on my weaknesses. He’s brutally honest. It’s what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.
“I respect that.”
Scully has helped Johnson develop a longer delivery to take advantage of his length.
“I can maximize my velo potential,” says Johnson. “It will pay off in the long run.”
In the spring of 2021, Johnson made 15 mound appearances (11 in relief) and went 4-2 with a 6.83 ERA. In 27 2/3 innings, he recorded 34 strikeouts and 14 walks.
In the fall, there was work on a glide step to help in holding baserunners. In-season, there was an emphasis on developing an off-speed pitch and curveball.
His three pitches thrown from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot are a four-seam fastball (which sits at 91 to 93 mph and has reached 94), a change-up and curve.
By the spring, 195-pounder Johnson’s vertical leap was up to 36 inches.
“I’m pretty fast off the mound,” says Johnson. “I’m a lot more athletic than people think.
“This summer I got a lot better at fielding my position.”
Johnson says he would rather be a starting pitcher. He knows there were several on the BSU staff that had earned their way into that role last spring.
“I was suited to be a reliever freshmen year,” says Johnson. “I had no problems with it. I helped them best out of the bullpen.
“I prefer starting. That’s what Ball State wants me to do next year.”
Back in the CSL in 2021 — this time with the Caleb Fenimore-coached Bag Bandits — Johnson pitched in nine games (all starts) and went 5-1 with one complete game and a 2.03 earned run average. In 48 2/3 innings, he fanned 66 and walked 17. He posted a 0.99 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and opponents hit .176 against him.
Johnson was named College Summer League at Grand Park Pitcher of the Year. The Bag Bandits beat the Snapping Turtles in the league championship game.
The Ball State staff wanted Johnson to play in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League on the East Coast, but the pitcher opted to stay home. He trained in his basement or local gym and was allowed by Winzenread to do his throwing at Lawrence North with Bag Bandits teammate and 2021 LNHS graduate and University of Illinois recruit Cal Shepherd.
Academically, Johnson is undecided on his major. But he has declared Coaching as a minor.
“I could see me doing that the rest of my life,” says Johnson. “I would enjoy my time.”
Johnson was born in Rockwall, Texas, and moved with his family to the Lawrence Township area of Indianapolis when he was 2.
At 6, he played Coach Pitch at what is now Fall Creek Softball and Baseball. From 9U to 12U, he played travel ball for the Indiana Kodiaks, Indiana Mustangs and Oaklandon Youth Organization Bombers.
Johnson was with the Indiana Bulls from 13U to 17U. His head coaches were Tony Cookery, Ryan Bunnell, Dan Held and Troy Drosche.
Basketball was another sport for Johnson until seventh grade. He then decided to concentrate on baseball.
Ty (19) is the youngest of three children born to Rick and Lisa Johnson. There’s also Elle (24) and Pierce (22).
Salesman Rick played football in high school. Part-time receptionist Lisa played basketball.
Elle was born in Wisconsin where she was a high school swimmer. Pierce was born in Texas where he played high school basketball.

Ty Johnson on FOX 59.
Ty Johnson (Ball State University Photo)
Ty Johnson (Ball State University Photo)

Former Fort Wayne Carroll catcher Jones decides time is right to turn pro

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Three years after graduating from Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Hayden Jones is bigger and stronger and more mature.
Jones, who signed last week as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds out of Illinois State University, says his biggest growth since his prep days has come on the mental side. That’s why he wanted to go to college first instead of pursuing his pro career right away.
“I put the dollar amount so high no one was going to sign me (out of high school),” says Jones, who turned 21 on April 27. “I’ve learned to accept failure when it comes, knowing its not going to be the end of the world.”
Hayden, whose father Ken Jones was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and is now a Purdue Fort Wayne assistant coach and grandfather Bill Jones (who died in November 2015) was a founding member and longtime executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and selected as an IHSBCA Hall of Famer in 1982, played for Dave Ginder at Carroll. The lefty swinger and earned four letters while garnering IHSBCA all-state honors three times and being selected as MVP of the 2018 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Hayden’s uncle, Brad Jones, lettered in baseball at Ball State University. His son, Tyler Jones, played at the University of Dayton in 2021. Cousin Chris Menzie was a baseball letterwinner at Huntington (Ind.) University. Jennifer Jones is Hayden’s mother.
Hayden Jones spent his freshmen season at Mississippi State University in 2019, appearing in 27 games (14 starts) and hitting .224 (11-of-49) with one home run, four doubles, five runs batted in, five runs scored and a .636 OPS (.269 on-base percentage plus .367 slugging average). His fielding percentage with the Chris Lemonis-coached Bulldogs was .971 with 64 putouts, three assists and two errors.
Because of NCAA Division I transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2020 season.
In 2021 at Illinois State, he played in 38 games (31 starts) and hit .230 (28-of-122) with five homers, two triples, six doubles, 28 RBIs and 15 runs. His OPS was .730 (.296/.434). He also fielded at a .990 clip with 182 putouts, 21 assists and two errors.
“I loved Mississippi State,” says Jones. “My girlfriend (Savannah Shinn) still lives down there. It just wasn’t a fit (baseball-wise).”
At ISU, Jones worked with Redbirds head coach and former big league catcher Steve Holm.
Jones’ mechanics were changed back to where he had been while working with his father in high school.
“It all clicked from there,” says Jones. “I was growing and maturing and understanding the game at a faster pace.”
To Jones, blocking, receiving and controlling the opponents’ running game are important. But overall baseball knowledge is a major key to catching.
“My dad and grandpa gave me that big piece,” says Jones. “You need that support staff. Now they can let go and let the Reds do the magic. I text my dad every single night. He’s learning from me now.”
Playing 18 games this summer in the new MLB Draft League with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Jones hit .237 (9-of-38) with one homer, one double, seven RBIs, six runs and .725 OPS (.383/.342). He learned from manager Coco Crisp and coach Ron Mahay — both former big leaguers.
While he still has years of eligibility left, Jones decided now was the time to move forward as a baseball player.
“I was ready,” says Jones, who was draft eligible three years out of high school. “I wanted to get my career going and get my foot in the door.”
Jones’ name was not called during the 20-round 2021 MLB Draft. The phone did ring five minutes after its conclusion with his agent telling him that Reds senior director of player personnel Jeff Graupe wanted the catcher.
In short order, he was traveling to Goodyear, Ariz., to take a physical and sign his contract with scouting supervisor Andy Stack.
“It was not the money I was expecting, but you don’t make your money until you get to the big leagues,” says Jones, who has began training. He and other free agents and draftees will see if the Reds assign them to the Arizona League, send them out to an affiliate (Low Class-A Daytona, Fla., Tortugas, High Class-A Dayton, Ohio, Dragons, Double-A Chattanooga, Tenn., Lookouts, Triple-A Louisville, Ky., Bats) or just keep working at camp.
“Nobody knows what to expect,” says Jones. “It’s where they need help in the organization.”
Jones spent the summer of 2020 with the Brent McNeil-coached Turf Monsters in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Among those running the CSL were Phil Wade and Blake Hibler, who coached Jones on Team Indiana in the Fall of 2016 and 2017.
Outside the all-star series, Jones was at Mississippi State in the summer of 2018. He was the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport (R.I.) Gulls in 2019.
Jones was pursuing a Recreation and Park Administration at Illinois State. He says he could complete it in another year.

Hayden Jones on Fox 55.
Hayden Jones (Illinois State University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Illinois State University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Illinois University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Mahoning Valley Scrappers Photo)
Hayden Jones (24) (Illinois State University Photo)
Savannah Shinn and Hayden Jones.
Hayden Jones (Cincinnati Reds Photo)

Mishawaka grad Jablonski gets his college baseball chance at Valpo U.

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Grant Jablonski had assumed that his baseball playing career was coming to an end with his couple of innings on the mound in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series in Madison, Ind.
The Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate had not gotten any college baseball honors and had already enrolled as a student-only at Purdue University.
“I had given up on baseball,” says Jablonski, who exited Mishawaka in 2019 as the school record holder in career pitching wins (20) and career stolen bases (63) and was part of three sectional championship teams on the diamond (2016, 2018, 2019). “I wanted to play at a bigger school, but I had nowhere to go after I graduated.”
It turns out that two former Valparaiso (Ind.) University assistant coaches were going to help Jablonski turn things around.
Nic Mishler, who was then on the staff at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College, was scouting at a sectional game and reached out to Jablonski.
“I owe him a lot,” says Jablonski of Westview High School graduate Mishler who is now head coach at DACC.
Ben Wolgamot, a Western Kentucky University who had also been at Valpo, pulled some strings.
It also helped Jablonski that VU head coach Brian Schmack was at the all-star series since his son, Kyle Schmack, was participating — and on his way to MVP.
After a postgame conversation, Jablonski went to visit Coach Schmack on the Valpo campus and soon was starting his NCAA Division I baseball experience.
“It’s crazy,” says Jablonski, who was 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds when he stepped on the campus. “I owe Coach Schmack a lot for giving me a chance.
“I’m still trying to put weight on,” says right-hander Jablonski who is now up to 5-10 and 175.
In two seasons (2020-21), he has appeared in six games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with a 6.24 earned run average with six strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings.
In his second season in the College Summer League at Grand Park, Jablonski has been working a morning jobs and commuting to Westfield, Ind., on the days he starts. On July 20, the Moon Shots right-hander pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings with one walk. The reason he came out of the game is that the team only had two pitchers available for a nine-inning game and Michael Brewer needed some mound time.
Jablonski played for the A-Team when the CSL cropped up in 2020 as other summer collegiate leagues were shutting down during COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a really good league,” says Jablonski, noting that University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Miami University fireballer and Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Sam Bachman (No. 9 overall to the Los Angeles Angels) played at Grand Park in 2020.
Former San Francisco Giants scout Kevin Christman has been Jablonski’s head coach in both his CSL seasons.
“He’s a super good coach to have,” says Jablonski of Christman. “He’s a good source of baseball knowledge.”
Throwing from the three-quarter overhand arm slot, Jablonski employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer sits about 86 to 89 mph. His curve moves end-over-end in a 12-to-6 fashion. His “circle” change has a low spin rate and drops. His slider — with more horizontal break — is somewhere between the fastball and change-up with its spin.
“The fastball and change-up compliment each other well when its coming from the same (release point).”
Jablonski says his fastball has spun at around 2300 rpm with the curve as high as about 2500.
There are flat screens at Grand Park that prominently display spin rates and velocity.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Jablonski. “You don’t need to fire 95, 96, 97 to be a good college pitcher.
“You need to threw multiple pitches in multiple counts for strikes and have command.”
Jablonski saw Schmack employ an opener (right-hander Easton Rhodehouse) and followed him with a starter (righty Ryan Mintz) in Valpo’s weekend series and both were able to spot pitches well and pitch to weak contact.
Left-hander Geremy Guerrero had a standout season for Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State University.
“He is by no means overpowering,” says Jablonski of Guerrero. “But he throws all pitches for command in all counts.”
One thing Jablonski appreciates about Schmack is the he makes small tweaks and does not overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics if it’s not necessary.
“He doesn’t try to change you too much,” says Jablonski. “It’s smaller changes.
“He knows what he’s talking about for sure.”
Born and raised in Mishawaka, Grant played for the Landsharks and later the Mishawaka Mayhem (2011-13), coached by father Jason Jablonski and Mike Fisher. That was followed by the Mike Lee-coached Indiana Shredders (2014-17), Mike Logan-coached Michiana Scrappers (2017-18) and Jim Shively-coached Indiana Chargers (2018-19).
Jablonski earned nine varsity letters at Mishawaka — four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football. His head coaches were John Huemmer in baseball, Ryan Watson and Ron Heclinski in basketball and Bart Curtis and Keith Kinder in football.
“He’s a great coach,” says Jablonski of Huemmer. “We had such a senior-led team (in 2019). He let us work on our own.”
The pitcher/middle infielder earned IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 and was all-Northern Indiana Conference second team in 2017 and 2019.
Jablonski, who turns 21 on Sept. 1, is a Business Analytics major and Supply Chain and Logistics Management minor at Valpo U.
Grant’s parents are Jason and Kelley Jablonski. His siblings — both older — are Sydney Jablonski and Ryan Lewis.
Jason Jablonski is administrative director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Kelley Jablonski works at Beacon Health & Fitness.
Sydney Jablosnki is heading into pharmacy school at Purdue.
Ryan Lewis, who played baseball at Mishawaka High and Ancilla College, is employed by the City of Mishawaka.

WSBT-TV Video on Grant Jablonski
Grant Jablonski (Valparaiso University Photo)
Grant Jablonski (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)
Grant Jablonski (Valparsaiso University Photo)

Reinoehl makes diamond impact as Franklin College sidearmer

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Alex Reinoehl just wanted to get a chance to play.
With so many talented players on the Franklin (Ind.) College squad, it didn’t look like Reinoehl would be able to crack the Grizzlies lineup at his favorite position — third base.
In the fall of his freshman year (2017), Franklin head coach Lance Marshall approached Reinoehl and asked him if he could pitch.
He threw some from a three-quarter overhand arm slot but really got movement when he dropped down sidearm — something he had done while playing with his buddies.
Reinoehl pitched in a scrimmage against Vincennes University with his sidearm delivery.
“It was moving a ton,” says Reinoehl. “Guys were not hitting it.”
That’s when he became a college baseball regular — as a pitcher.
In four seasons at NCAA Division III Franklin (2018-21), Reinoehl has made 42 appearances (all as a reliever) and is 12-3 with three saves and a 3.74 earned run average. He has 67 strikeouts and 21 walks in 84 1/3 innings.
In 2021, red-haired righty got into 18 games (16 in relief) with 3-0 record, four saves and 3.50 ERA. He fanned 32 and walked 12 in 36 innings. He had five K’s and one walk in four bullpen innings March 27 against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Earlham College.
Reinoehl, who turns 23 on Sept. 25, graduated in May with a degree in Criminal Justice and minor in Spanish from Franklin and plans to complete a Psychology minor while using his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility in 2021-22.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder uses a sinking fastball that has been clocked at 84 mph with a slider and change-up.
“(Speed) is not what I’m all about,” says Reinoehl. “It’s more sink.”
He’d like to get a little more velocity, but he also knows if they get too much they could flatten out and not get as much desired dive.
He has fed his knowledge by listening to Coach Marshall, Franklin assistant and former Franklin Central High School and University of Indianapolis right-hander Jake Sprinkle, other pitchers and online information. Former big league submariner Brad Ziegler and SidearmNation.com are two of his resources.
Reinoehl is 2017 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Ind., where his head coach was Craig Trout.
As a junior, Reinoehl started at third base and scored the decisive run in the Knights’ 2-1 win against Western in the 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state championship game.
Born in Houston, Texas, Reinoehl moved to Brazil — father Jon’s hometown — at 8 and played for league and all-star teams in what is now Clay Youth League Baseball through his freshmen year of high school. His lone travel ball year was as an eighth grader with the Terre Haute Junior Rex.
In high school, Reinoehl played American Legion ball for Kris Lawson-managed Clinton Post 140 for one summer and Eric France-managed Brazil Post 2 for two.
Reinoehl has pitched for three summer collegiate teams — the Midwest Prospect Baseball League’s Franklin (Ind.) Cougars in 2019, the College Summer League at Grand Park’s Juice in 2020 and the Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex in 2021.
Richmond, Ind., native and former Wright State University and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league infielder Matt Morrow was head coach of the CSL‘s Juice.
A.J. Reed, who socked 140 professional home runs (four in the big leagues), is head coach for the Rex. Jacob Harden, who was recently named head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School, is an assistant.
Jon, who played football and basketball at Northview, and Anna Reinoehl have five children — sons Steven, Alex, Isaac, Peyton and daughter Emma.
Indiana University graduate Steven Reinoehl played soccer at Northview. Ball State University student Isaac Reinoehl played basketball for the Knights. Peyton Reinoehl (Northview Class of 2022) is also a basketball player. Emma Reinoehl is about to turn 14 and will be a Northview freshman in the fall.
Grandfather Steve Reinoehl played baseball at Van Buren High School, which is part of the Northview consolidation.

Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)

Indiana native Estep finds himself while playing in Oklahoma

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dawson Estep counts it a privilege to play baseball.
So even though he considers himself a middle infielder, he’ll go wherever coaches want to use him.
“I don’t write the lineup,” says Estep, a 2019 graduate of University High School in Carmel, Ind., who is preparing to return to Connors State College in Warner, Okla., in mid-August. “I’ll play anywhere as long as I’m on the field having fun.
“I’m just excited to be out on the field playing.”
This summer, the 21-year-old has been primarily been used at second base by Moon Shots head coach Kevin Christman in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Estep and Christman go way back.
“I’ve know him known since before I was 10,” says Estep. “He’s watched me grow up.
“It’s fun playing for him in the summer.”
Christman, a retired San Francisco Giants scout, has helped Chris and Sue Estep at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield and the Indiana Mustangs travel organization and is very familiar with the Estep children — Tron, Dawson and Jasmine.
RoundTripper/Mustangs founder Chris Estep is a master instructor and University High head coach. He played at the University of Kentucky. Sue Estep was a cheerleader at UK.
Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate Tron Estep played football at Elon (N.C.) University, where he has earned underrate and masters degrees, and is about to go to U.S. Army National Guard boot camp.
Competitive dancer/cheerleader Jasmine Estep is heading into her senior year at Carmel High School.
“She’s probably the best athlete in the family,” says Dawson of his sister. “She can do 10 straight back flips.”
Cousin Chase Estep, who played with Dawson on the Indiana Mustangs, played his second season at Kentucky in the spring and is with the Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish this summer.
Dawson Estep helps out at RoundTripper when he’s not working out, honing his skills or playing in the CSL.
At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Estep has added about 15 pounds of muscle since going to Connors State in January.
A catalyst for University’s IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up and state championship teams in 2018 and 2019, Estep went to Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., and played for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Warriors in the spring of 2020, a season shortened to 12 games by the COVID-19.
After the shutdown, Estep took online classes and worked out back in Indiana. When there was a change in the Rend Lake coaching staff and uncertainty about the 2021 season, he began looking for other opportunities.
“We were at the height of COVID and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Estep. “I didn’t want to get stuck and not have a place to be.”
Estep posted Twitter videos of himself on offense and defense and Connors State reached out. He visited and ended up going with the Perry Keith-coached Cowboys.
“I’ve found myself as a ballplayer,” says Estep. “It’s the right spot for me.
“I’m in the right environment where I can grow as a player and a person.”
Keith has been at Connors State for more than three decades and amassed more than 1,600 wins. His teams have made five JUCO World Series appearances.
“He’s a legend in the coaching world,” says Estep of Keith. “He’s one of those coaches that makes you go the extra mile. He gets the best of everybody. He’s honest even if you don’t want to hear it.
“He’s the guy you want to go to battle for and he’ll go to battle for you.”
Estep credits Keith for helping him mature and grow.
Estep has embraced the “JUCO Bandit” approach to baseball.
“You’re on your own but you’re not on your own,” says Estep. “You have to grow up fast.
“You use the resources you have and come up with things on the fly. You have a lot of ingenuity and use what you have. When I’m back home I have a lot more things at my disposable. It makes makes me appreciate them.”
Estep says junior college baseball — for those who work at it – provides a chance to play right away and find their niche in the game. In his first season Connors State, he worked out at many infield positions in a utility role.
In 17 games, he hit .324 (11-of-34) with seven runs batted in, 11 runs scored and two stolen bases as the Cowboys went 37-18.
In the fall, JUCO players are often at the field up to 10 hours a day.
“The fall is where the boys become men,” says Estep. “It’s the grind.
“Once they move on to a four-year school they’re prepared for anything.”
Since he was 14 or 15, Estep has been a switch hitter.
“I liked hitting left-handed when I played wiffle ball with my friends,” says Estep. “I started becoming comfortable (in baseball).”
Estep explains the advantage of hitting from both sides of the plate.
“I don’t have issues hitting a breaking ball,” says Estep. “Everything comes into me. I go after the fastball and stay back on the change-up.
“I don’t see lefties a lot. I’ve had maybe 10 at-bats right-handed this summer. So I work even harder on the right side.”
For either side, Estep does plenty of tee work and sets the pitching machine at high velocity to get ready for game speed.
He does drills that concentrate on his lower half.
“I sometimes get antsy with my feet and try to kill the ball,” says Estep. “I try to be a fundamentally-sound as possible.”
He likes to take the same amount of cuts righty and lefty since he does not know who is coming out of the bullpen if the starter should leave.
Dawson was born in Indianapolis and spent his whole life in Carmel.
While he and his father probably talk about baseball everyday, there’s also conversations about school. After he gets his basic classes completed and lands at a four-year school, Dawson sees himself pursuing a degree in sports management or business.
“I want to get into coaching and help younger kids,” says Dawson of his post-playing ambitions. “This game has helped me so much.
“I might as well do that for the rest of my life.”

Dawson Estep (Connors State College Photo)
Moons Shots second baseman Dawson Estep (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)
Moon Shots infielder Dawson Estep (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)
Moons Shots second baseman Dawson Estep (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)
Switch hitter Dawson Estep (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)

Kokomo graduate Perkins chooses Indiana University for next phase of mound career

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jack Perkins has decided to continue his college baseball career a little closer to home.
The 2018 Kokomo (Ind.) High School graduate pitched for the University of Louisville in 2019, missed 2020 while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery and competed again for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals in 2021.
Right-hander Perkins was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but chose instead to go to college.
As a U of L freshman, right-hander Perkins made 16 mound appearances (four as a starter) and went 3-0 with one save and a 4.18 earned run average for a pitching staff coached by Roger Williams. In 32 1/3 innings, he struck out 37 and walked 18. One of his starts was May 14, 2019 at Indiana University. He tossed three shutout innings then faced five batters with recording an out in the fourth.
Nine days later in a relief stint against Clemson, Perkins felt a tear in his elbow. Within a week, he had his operation and began his journey back.
Suiting up for the Snapping Turtles, Perkins started a few times during the 2020 season of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
The righty went back to Louisville, where he completed a double major in Finance and Marketing in three years (he came out of high school with several college credits) and got into 11 games (10 as a reliever) in 2021. Perkins was 1-1 with one save and a 7.31 ERA. He fanned 15 and walked 22 in 16 innings.
Perkins, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, competed for the CSL’s Turf Monsters at the beginning of this summer then waited to see if he was chosen in the 2021 MLB Draft (he was not).
He also opted to change schools. His final three choices coming out of high school were Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana.
This week, Perkins announced that he is transferring to IU where he will work with Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer, pitching coach Justin Parker and will be reunited with assistant and former Indiana Bulls coach Dan Held.
Jack visited Indiana and the pitcher came away impressed with Mercer and Parker.
“I made a great connection right away,” says Perkins, 21. “They’re great people as well as great coaches. My dad (Scott) came with me on the visit and thought the same thing.”
Perkins was with the Bulls n his 13U to 17U summer, including 16U with Held as head coach and Alex Graman as pitching coach.
“Dan Held is great guy,” says Perkins. “I loved playing for Dan. I’ve been close with him since high school.
“I’m very grateful for the Bulls organization and all they’ve done for me.”
Perkins, whose family moved to Westfield after he left high school, has been working with former big league pitcher Graman and Dr. Jamey Gordon at Pro-X Athlete Development at Grand Park the past couple of years.
It also helped Perkins in his decision to transfer to Indiana that already knew many Hoosiers players from competing with or against them in travel ball or in the College Summer League.
Perkins and Parker have already had conversations about “tunneling” each delivery from his high three-quarter overhand arm slot so the batter can’t tell the difference between his four-seamer, two-seamer, change-up, curveball or cutter coming out of his hand.
“We want to get all my pitches coming out of the same spot to create a little more deception and swing and miss,” says Perkins. “We’re feeding everything off the fastball.”
Perkins’ four-seam fastball sits at 94 to 97 mph and hit 99 in the spring.
At its best, Perkins’ change-up has been recorded on Trackman with 20 inches of vertical break and 14 inches of horizontal.
He describes his curve as having slurve action.
“It’s pretty hard and steep with a lot of late break,” says Perkins of a pitch he tends to throw in the 82 to 86 mph range.
The cutter is a pitch that Perkins has used to get out of jams with ground balls and quick outs. It has been clocked at up to 95 mph and can break in on left-handed hitters for weak contact or even broken bats.
Since his undergraduate work is complete, Perkins has the option of pursuing a masters or a graduate certificate.
While he secures an apartment in Bloomington, registers for classes and waits for his transfer to process so he can go on campus, Perkins is honing in Westfield.
“My goal to stay in shape, have a clean slate in the fall and get to work,” says Perkins, who has two years of remaining college eligibility.
Perkins was born and raised in Kokomo. He played T-ball through age 12 at what is now UCT Baseball.
At Kokomo High, Perkins played football for Wildcats head coach Brett Colby and baseball for Kats bench boss Sean Swan.
“They are the favorite coaches I’ve ever played for,” says Perkins of Colby and Swan. “They invested in you as a person and a player. They took the
invest in you as a person and a player. They took the extra effort to show why they care about you.
“There were tons of life lessons.”
Scott Perkins was a football player at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. His wife, Carrie, studied nursing at DePauw University.
Scott and Carrie have three children — Caitie, Jack and Brooklyn. Caitie started at IU-Bloomington, transferred to IU-Kokomo is on a path to being a nurse practitioner. Guatemala-born Brooklyn was adopted at a young age. She is entering her freshman year at Guerin Catholic High School in Carmel, Ind.

Jack Perkins
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)

Purdue’s Firestone using summer to get better

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jack Firestone is getting his cuts and hitting his cut-off man while preparing for his next college baseball season.
A lefty-swinging outfielder, Firestone is playing for the Patrick Morey-coached Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and works on his swing at The Barn in Lapel, Ind., with Mike Shirley and Scott French and with current Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School head coach Jered Moore and former ZCHS assistant and current University of Indianapolis volunteer coach Jeremy Honaker and lifts weights with Laird Training’s Sean Laird.
“I’ve always believed in those guys and they’ve always been there for me,” says Firestone of Moore and Honaker.
Firestone smacked a home run and rapped two singles in a CSL game this past week.
“I’m just trying to put the bat on the ball the best I can — just put the ball on the ball,” says Firestone. “If it gets out, it gets out.”
Firestone was a redshirt freshman at Purdue University in the spring of 2021 and got into 24 games (four as a starter) on a team that had three seniors starting in the outfield — Ben Nisle in left, fifth-year Skyler Hunter in center and Miles Simington in right.
“It was a waiting year for me,” says Firestone, a Financial Counseling and Planning major and Management minor. “Just be patient for next year.”
Firestone did not see action during the 2020 Boilermakers season that was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach.
“I love playing for him,” says Firestone. “He’s high energy. I love him. He knows what he’s doing.”
He did play in the inaugural CSL season for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers and was named to the all-star team.
While at Zionsville, where he graduated in 2019, Firestone earned three baseball letters playing for Moore.
Firestone was named offensive player of the year as a senior. The Eagles won sectional titles in 2017 and 2018 and regional crown in 2017. That was year the year he was named junior varsity MVP. He was the freshmen squad MVP at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., before his family moved to Zionsville.
Born in Warsaw, Ind., to golf pro Todd and Purdue alum Jennie, Jack went to Fort Wayne while in kindergarten and played his first organized baseball in Don Ayres Little League. He played travel ball for the Summit City Spartans, Leo Lions and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks then — after moving to Boone County — the Indiana Mustangs. He also played fall ball for the San Francisco Giants scout team.
Todd Firestone, the son of Tom Firestone, played golf and basketball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., served as head golf pro at Tippecanoe Lake Country Club in Milford, Ind., and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking that post at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis at the start of 2016. Tom Firestone is in the Kosciusko County Basketball and Bethel University Athletic halls of fame and was athletic director at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School.
Trey Firestone, Jack’s little brother and a senior at Zionsville Community in 2022, is a football wide receiver getting NCAA Division I offers.

Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)

Right-hander Geesaman seeking next baseball opportunity

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Wyatt Geesaman is seeking other baseball opportunities and he’s honing his pitching skills in the College Summer League at Grand Park.
A 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher, Geesman graduated from Jay County High School in Portland, Ind., in 2019 and began his college experience at the University of Cincinnati, where he made two mound appearances in two years.
The former Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant is now in the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“I’m looking around and seeing what is a good fit,” says Geesaman, who is with the CSL’s Caleb Fenimore-coached Bag Bandits in 2021 after twirling for the Park Rangers in the circuit’s inaugural season of 2020. “I go out there and try to compete.
“I focus on that pitch and try not to let what happened before effect me or what happens next.”
Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., is about a 90-minute trip from Portland. Geesaman does his training at home and travels on gameday.
Geesaman identifies the area where he’s improved most since his Jay County days.
“I’m more consistent,” says Geesaman. “In high school I was kind of wild. I’ve settled down a little bit.”
Delivering from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot, Geesaman throws a four-seam fastball which sits at 85 to 89 mph and has been up to 92. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball and a “circle” change-up.
Beginning in high school, Geesaman began pitching from the stretch even with the bases empty
“It simplified things a little bit,” says Geesaman.
At Jay County, Geesaman played for veteran coach Lea Selvey.
“I love him,” says Geesaman of Selvey. “He’s a great guy to play for. He still helps me out today if I need help.”
Geesaman, 20, was born in Muncie, Ind., grew up in Portland and played his first organized baseball in the Redkey (Ind.) Junior League.
At 10, he switched to travel ball and was with the Indiana Longhorns, Summit City Sluggers and Indiana Prospects before spending his high school summers with the Indiana Bulls.
Geesaman earned four baseball letters for the Patriots — tossing a perfect game with 18 strikeouts helping his team to a sectional title as a senior. Jay County won conference, sectional and regional titles his junior season. He also played forward in basketball and receiver in football for JC.
At Cincinnati, Geesaman was working toward at Marketing degree.
Jeff and Lisa Geesaman have two sons — Jacob (a 2021 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate) and Wyatt.
The Bag Bandits are scheduled to play a single game with the Turf Monsters at 7:05 p.m. Sunday, June 20 at Championship Park in Kokomo and a 3 p.m. doubleaheader against the Park Rangers on Monday, June 21 at Grand Park.

Wyatt Geesaman (U. of Cincinnati Photo)

Pro X allows players to develop at Grand Park

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bringing instructors, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning experts under one roof, Pro X Athlete Development serves clients in Westfield, Ind.

Pro X (short for “Professional Experience”) celebrated its grand opening at it Grand Park facility in April 2019 after getting started in a temporary downtown location in 2017.

“We want to provide an all-inclusive training experience for our athletes,” says Joe Thatcher, former major league pitcher, co-founder and president at Pro X. “We provide sports performance so athletes can get bigger, stronger and faster. We have rehabilitation with Dr. Jamey Gordon. We have sports-specific instruction (for baseball, softball, golf and football).”

Thatcher, a Kokomo, Ind., native who worked with Gordon (who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as partner and Director of Athletic Development at Pro X) during his baseball playing career, wanted to replicate what he experienced in the majors.

“Everyday I walked into the clubhouse the coaching staff, training staff and strength staff knew what I was doing,” says Thatcher, who last pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2016.

Pro X staffers, which include instructors Jay Lehr, Bryan Chestnut, Jaylen Quarles, Alex Graman, Jordan Estes and Zeth Tanner, share notes on athletes. One might have a hip mobility that does not allow a player to do what an instructor is asking of them.

“We take any physical limitations barrier and it leads to better success in baseball training,” says Thatcher. “One of the stigmas is that we’re an indoor baseball facility. We are about true athlete development.”

Using the latest innovations in the field, Pro X develops a plan for each athlete while working to keep them healthy.

“We make sure you’re moving the way you’re supposed to while getting bigger, faster and stronger so your body can handle more force,” says Thatcher. “You have to decelerate or you’re going to get hurt.

“That only happens if you’re training the right set of muscles to do that.”

During the winter, Pro X has 10 to 15 professional players working out at the elite facility which features 60,000 square feet in total with over 35,000 square feet of open turf space, 22 batting cages (11 full), 3,000 square-foot weight room, golf simulators and much more.

“The sports rehabilitation/training area is the heart and soul of who and what we are,” says Thatcher of the place where athlete assessments and private-pay rehab sessions are performed. There’s a full strength staff.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart and right-hander pitcher Drew Storen, who both went to Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, have trained at Pro X as has Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon and Kansas City Royals right-hander Jesse Hahn

Rodon, who resides in Veedersburg, Ind., did his Tommy John surgery recovery at Pro X.

This past week, former Southport High School and current Arizona Diamondbacks minor league left-hander Avery Short was pitching live to hitters on the Pro X turf.

“It’s fun to work with high-end athletes,” says Thatcher. “But our focus is capturing the young kids and starting them early.

“We want level the playing field for kids in the Midwest who don’t get to play all year-round. We’re exposing them to the training and all the innovations that’s out there.”

With a Diamond Sports Membership at Pro X, clients can have unlimited access to cages and turf. 

A Sports Performance Membership allows holders to attend all classes, including Weight Room 101 Transition. It starts with athletes around 7 and goes all the way up. 

A Diamond Plus Membership combines Diamond Sports and Sports Performance.

Pro X and Bullpen Tournaments partnered to sponsor the 12-team College Summer League at Grand Park in 2020.

“We saw an opportunity,” says Thatcher of a circuit that gave a place for several players displaced by the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down summer leagues. “We threw it together in about a month. It took a lot of work to get it up and running and a lot of flexibility with state regulations and COVID-19.”

About 100 players took advantage of a play-and-train option which allowed them to play in games — usually on Mondays and Tuesdays at Grand Park with occasional games at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis or Kokomo Municipal Stadium on other days — and train at Pro X Wednesday through Friday.

“(The CSL) is centrally-located which can be an advantage for us,” says Thatcher. “We’ve had a lot of really good feedback from college coaches who had kids in our league.

“We’re already starting to work on next year.”

The league has also featured players who graduated from high school in 2020.

“They’ve got to see what (college baseball is) going to be like,” says Thatcher. “They get on the field with the same field of guys you’re going to be competing against.”

The No. 5-seeded Turf Monsters bested the No. 2 Snapping Turtles 5-4 in the inaugural CSL championship game contested Friday, July 31 at Victory Field.

Julian Greenwell (two), Ethan Vecrumba, Jake Plastiak and Kollyn All drove in runs for the Turf Monsters (10-7-5).

Tyeler Hawkins scored a run on a wild pitch. Sam Crail, Brodey Heaton and Brendan Hord plated a run apiece for the Snapping Turtles (11-7-4).

Reese Sharp, who did not give up a hit until the sixth inning, was the winning pitcher. Cameron Pferrer earned a two-out save. Arian Coffey absorbed the loss.

Joe Thatcher is the co-founder and president of Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind. The Kokomo, Ind., native pitched in the majors. His last pro team was the 2016 Iowa Cubs. (Chicago Cubs Photo)
The 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park was won by the Turf Monsters with a 5-4 win Friday, July against the Snapping Turtles at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. (College Summer League at Grand Park Image)
Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., offers a “Professional Experience” for all members, including Diamond Sports (baseball and softball). The facility is located at Grand Park. (Pro X Athlete Development Image)