Ben Komonosky was a catcher at the NCAA Division I level and now he coaches them. Plenty of times, he has been asked to “be a wall” behind the plate. Komonosky, who played at the University of Evansville and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana State University (also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), says that’s the wrong mental picture. The idea is to stop the flying object and keep it in front of you. “Be a pillow,” says Komonosky. “Walls are bouncy and we don’t like that. “It’s like being a goalie in hockey. You don’t want pucks bouncing off you.” Ben is the son of Ward and Cindy Komonosky. Ward Komonosky played goaltender for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Regina Blue Pats, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and Atlantic Coast Hockey League’s New York Slapshots. Ward Komonosky won 30 games and Prince Albert took the Memorial Cup in 1985. New York was coached by Dave Schultz, who helped the “Broad Street Bullies” Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. Besides leading drills for ISU catchers (receiving, blocking and throwing form various angles) for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs, Ben Komonosky also coordinates camps. There was an instructional/showcase event in October and another is scheduled for January. Komonosky, who turned 25 in September, says he has settled in to living in Terre Haute, Ind. “There are a lot of friendly people,” says Komonosky, who is from Regina, Sask., where he played baseball, football, basketball and volleyball at Vauxhall High School in Alberta. He was with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball as a senior in 2015. He spent the fall semester at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. “It was not the right fit and I went back home (to Canada) for a bit,” says Komonosky. “That spring I took time off. I was falling out of love with baseball. “But then I felt I was missing something in my life and started training again.” The backstop landed at North Iowa Area Community College, where he played for Trojans head coach Travis Hergert in 2017 and 2018. “It was a great two years there,” says Komonosky. “I needed time to grow into the player I needed to be. I was able to get stronger and better in every part of the game.” Though North Iowa — based in Mason City — was not as hard-nosed a some junior college programs, Komonosky understands what it means to be a “JUCO Bandit.” “The majority of (junior colleges) are blue collar with a bunch of grinders,” says Komonosky, who notes the emphasis on development. “Half of their job is sending guys on to the next level.” Komonosky played in 111 games for NIACC in 2017 and 2018 and hit .282 with 11 home runs and 76 runs batted in. Jake Mahon, then an Evansville assistant coach, saw Komonosky at a North Iowa scrimmage and invited him to visit to UE campus. He went on to play in 88 games (81 starts) for the Wes Carroll-coached Purple Aces from 2019 to 2021 and graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Sports Management. “I knew I wanted to stay around the game when my playing days were done,” says Komonosky, who spent the summer after graduating scouting for Perfect Game in Florida. In 2021-22, Komonosky was on the Jimmy Brenneman-led coaching staff at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill. The Bobcats are a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program. “I loved it there,” says Komonosky. “It was really good baseball. Junior college is a really good route for a lot of guys. There’s extra development.” Komonosky specialized working with Frontier catchers while also assisting the hitters, recruiting, and strength and conditioning. In the summer of 2022, Komonosky served as manager of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs. The team, based in Adrian, Mich., won the North Division and advanced to the playoffs and Komonosky was selected as GLSCL Manager of the Year. Komonosky played for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Swift Current 57s in 2018 and the WCBL’s Regina Red Sox in 2019. He did not play in the COVID-19 summer of 2020. He was recently named as Regina Red Sox manager for the summer of 2023. Komonosky has been an assistant coach at 2SK Performance and with the Inside Pitch Baseball Academy — both in Regina. Ben’s family athletic roots in Indiana precede him. Grandfather Glenn Young, who went to Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., played football at Purdue University and was a defensive back for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers (1956).
Matt Peters has not only unlocked the door to pitching velocity, the Fort Wayne, Ind., right-hander has kicked the door in and the baseball world is taking notice. The 6-foot-4, 215- pound sophomore at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast in Fort Wayne has been clocked as high as 101 mph. There are seven to nine pro scouts at all of Peters’ mound starts. He nows gets mentioned among the nation’s hardest throwers, including University of Tennessee righty Ben Joyce, who has fired it at 104 mph. Peters was on the cover of Collegiate Baseball. The first time 101 came was March 5 against Lincoln Trail College at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Peters did that again as recently as Monday, April 11 as the Titans played the Trine University junior varsity in Angola, Ind. A Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) commit, Peters has made a significant jump since the summer of 2021. “I worked a lot on my mechanics last fall with Coach Javi,” says Peters. “When I got into my legs my arm slot came up (to mid to high three-quarter overhand).” Ivy Tech pitching coach Javier DeJesus helped Peters reorganize his mechanics to make him move more efficiently. “Matt has confidence in how his body moves,” says DeJesus. “He can trust himself to throw the crap out of the ball and just where to put it. “The first (bullpen) pitch out his hand in the spring was 99 mph. I thought, ‘what did I just create?’” DeJesus gauged Peters’ deliveries last Aug. 16 and the speediest pitch came in at 93 mph. DeJesus, who was an All-American at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, pitched professionally for 10 seasons and has instructed many young arms, put his Titans hurlers — Peters included — through a grueling training program he created 15 years ago that he calls “Hell in the Cell.” “It is just as bad as it sounds,” says DeJesus of the routine that includes plenty of medicine ball work, long toss and sprinting to increase explosiveness. “You get your quick-twitch muscles going,” says Peters. “Coach Javi knows how to teach. He makes me think. He’s taught me a lot about the game.” After about six weeks of training with DeJesus, Peters attended a fall junior college showcase at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Miami pitching coach Jeff Opalewski saw Peters blaze them in at 98 mph and signed the hurler for the Danny Hayden-led RedHawks in 2022-23. Peters follows another gas-throwing Indiana native in Sam Bachman. The Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate was selected in the first round of the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft by the Los Angeles Angels. Bachman and Peters were on competing travel teams when they were of that age. A general studies major, Peters says he needs summer credits to complete his associate’s degree. Peters has been assigned to the MLB Draft League’s Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), where ex-big leaguer Homer Bush is the manager, former 14-year major league lefty Ron Mahay in the pitching coach and Craig Antush the assistant pitching coach. That season begins Besides DeJesus, Peters is also thankful for mentoring by Ivy Tech head coach Connor Wilkins and Titans assistant Scott Bickel. “(Coach Wilkins) is great role model,” says Peters, 21. “He’s helped me become a more mature person. He is a great example. “(Coach Bickel) was the person I really looked to when my parents (Matt and Laurie) got divorced. “I’ve had a lot of people who’ve helped me. My brother (David Peters) has pushed me very hard.” Matt is the youngest of three with sister Rachel being the oldest. Drew Buffenbarger and Mark Flueckiger are also Ivy Tech coaches. The program was established by Lance Hershberger, who was head coach from 2018-21. Because of the savings, Peters transferred to National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Ivy Tech from NJCAA D-I Hillsborough Community College (Tampa, Fla.) where he spent the spring of 2021 after being at NJCAA D-III Oakton Community College (Des Plaines, Ill.) in the fall of 2020. It was while throwing at an indoor facility during winter break that Peters was spotted and presented with the opportunity to play in Florida. A starter for Ivy Tech, he was a reliever for the Hillsbourgh Hawks and Oakton Owls. Peters did not pitch during the summer of 2020 and was with the College Summer league at Grand Park’s Snapping Turtles in 2021. Robb Wicks was the head coach. At Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School, Peters was on the baseball team as a freshman, sophomore and senior and was cut as a junior. “My flip of the switch was when I didn’t play on my Senior Night,” says Peters. Then he graduated in 2019, he was 5-9 and 160 when he graduated then hit my growth spurt his year of college. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Peters played for the Indiana Prospects at 11 and 12 then for Indiana Baseball Factory from 13 to 17. The latter team was coached and organized by his father. The Prospects were started by uncle Mark Peters. The organization once included cousin Dillon Peters, who is now a left-handed pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Matt Peters’ four-seam fastball has the most giddy up. “I get a lot of arm-side run with the two-seamer,” says Peters. “My change-up is a slower version of my two-seamer with more depth. “My slider is good because I can throw it hard and it still has depth.” He threw one slider at 90 mph with the rest at 87 to 89 Monday at Trine. DeJesus showed him grips let him try to execute. “Matt has been an absolute joy to work with,” says DeJesus. “I have not called one single pitch of Matt’s “Pitchers and catcher have to work together. That’s how the they learn the game. They get a feel what they’re doing and give me the feedback. “A young man has a mind and he’s got to use it.”
When Brice Davis got the call that led him into professional baseball he was busy on the field. Davis was coaching third base for Indiana Wesleyan University in a doubleheader when the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers manager Jamie Bennett, who pitched of the DuBois County (Ind.) Dragons and Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats coached with the RailCats, and outgoing hitting coach Derek Shomon reached out about filling Shomon’s spot since he had taken a coaching job in the Minnesota Twins organization. “They wanted to see if I’d get rattled,” says Davis of the timing. “It was a twisted joke.” But Davis impressed and after the twin bill received text messages and got a good review. The next thing he knew he is joining the Boomers for spring training and after that came a 96-game regular season and the fourth league championship in franchise history. “It was whirlwind,” says Davis of the 2021 baseball season began in early February with Indiana Wesleyan in Lakeland, Fla., and ending in late September with Schaumburg in Washington, Pa. “It was an incredible year and an incredible ride. “It was a really special group (at IWU). To be leaving them at that time was incredibly tough. I’m in awe that we got to share all those runs together.” Indiana Wesleyan wound up 2021 at 44-14, Crossroads League regular-season and tournament champions and an NAIA Opening Round host. Davis, a four-year starter at IWU and a 2013 graduate with a Sports Management degree, spent three seasons on the staff of Wildcats head coach Rich Benjamin (2019-21). “He’s a huge offensive mind and about hitting for power,” says Davis of Benjamin, who was an assistant at Fishers (Ind.) High School before moving on. “I saw it as an opportunity. “I wanted to see if I could hack it at the college level.” Davis first became a hitting instructor in 2009 (his training business is Davis Baseball LLC). But it was a big transition to working with professional hitters in 2021. “You’re helping prepare guys to be successful (in pro ball),” says Davis. “At the college level, you’re doing a lot of development. They’re making strides every single month to be the best versions of themselves and trying to stay locked in. “Guys at the professional level are already pretty talented. They want to take their skill level and apply it against a pitching staff (or individual). In both arenas the goal is to simplify life. You pick out an approach that is going to breed results and success.” The difference between high school and college and pro baseball is that the pros play everyday with much more travel and they don’t have as much time to work on their craft. “Learning how to hit when you’re only 80 percent or getting your two knocks comes in a lot of ways,” says Davis. “I was amazed how many guys played hurt.” How a player felt on any given day is how they prepared for that day’s game. That might mean more batting practice or less. “You can’t treat everyday like Opening Day,” says Davis. “It just doesn’t work like that.” Since Schaumburg is an independent league team, scouting is done differently. Major League-affiliated clubs have access to plenty of stored data on opponents. The only resource available to the Boomers staff was Frontier League TV (2021 was the first year that all league clubs broadcast games). Coaches and players spent a lot of time looking at video to find tendencies. The Evansville Otters were the only team who put pitching velocity on the screen during their broadcasts, leaving Schaumburg to study those videos when teams took on Evansville. In the league championship series against the Washington Wild Things, the staff was at a disadvantage. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boomers had not played anyone on Washington’s side of the league during the regular season. Also, there was no radar gun reading available at Wild Things Park. “It was all hearsay. You had no more information than in a non-conference high school baseball game. It was ‘see it and hit it, boys!’ It was absolute gauntlet level from our staff and our players. It’s not copy-paste-print like it is at some of the other levels. It’s not like high school baseball where you can trade tapes. “It was a big learning curve.” Davis notes that the Frontier League is now partnered with Major League Baseball so maybe things will change for the better. Not all pro players take to information the same way. “This guy wants to know velo and out pitch and this guy wants to know as much as possible,” says Davis. “Other guys don’t want to know anything and just play the game.” And if a pro hitter doesn’t want info, it’s not up to the coach to shove it down his throat. “You have respect for what they’re trying to do,” says Davis. While Schaumburg players hail from all over the country, there are also a number with ties to the area, including former Indiana Wesleyan pitcher Isaiah Rivera from Des Plaines, Ill. “There are a lot of college players in the region,” says Davis. “You don’t want to miss on anything in your back yard. Chicago is a cool city with a lot of great athletes in it.” Davis says many have the misconception that independent ball is full of 27-year-old has-beens. But a good deal have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft and spent time in the affiliated minors. The Frontier League is unique because it puts players into Rookie, Experienced and Veteran eligibility classifications and there is a cap on veterans (those turning 29 by Oct. 1). Teams can also make just 30 transaction moves per season. “The world of independent baseball is fascinating,” says Davis. Another thing about 2021 in much of independent ball is that there was no season in 2020 because of the pandemic. “They’re learning how to play baseball again and getting their timing back,” says Davis. “It’s like they’ve been waiting for the prom for two years. “It was about managing emotions, telling them to enjoy the moment and don’t overthink it.” There was a time when Davis didn’t want to think about baseball. It stung too much when his playing career was over and he did not watch a game for two years. Brice’s father was a high school boys basketball coach for many years. Hagerstown, Ind., native Jerry Davis was a head coach at Triton Central and Wawasee and an assistant at Marion and Hamilton Southeastern. He came back to Indiana from Dallas, where Brice was born, to teach math and coach hoops. “I grew up in the gym,” says Brice. “My safe place to process life was listening to bouncing balls. That’s a sanctuary few people understand.” Davis, who did not play high school basketball to focus on baseball opportunities, joined the Hamilton Southeastern hardwood staff of Brian Satterfield and coached freshmen for two seasons. “Climbing up the hard way in basketball appealed to me,” says Davis. “Going to clinics and studying tape was a journey in itself.” Then came the call back to baseball and he answered it. “I’m in a better head space when I’m going to the field,” says Davis, who received words of encouragement that still resonate with him. Brian Abbott, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association executive director and a former IWU assistant, approached Davis at the IHSBCA State Clinic when the latter was on Matt Cherry’s Fishers Tigers staff. “He was one of the first people who told me I needed to be in coaching,” says Davis of Abbott, the IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “It’s because of kids like myself. He said, ‘you belong in this industry. You might be the only person who gets to tell a kid that day that they matter. “You have a purpose to connect with kids.” Davis has taken that connection to heart. “I love teaching the game,” says Davis. “I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. A lot of good can be done by powerful teaching and coaching. “It’s a great profession.” Davis, who was part of Fishers’ first graduating class in 2008, was reunited with Cherry for three seasons (2016-18) as an assistant coach. The 2018 team made an IHSAA Class 4A state title run. “He’s single-most influential person in my life besides my dad since I was 15,” says Davis of Cherry. “He knows there’s more to people than baseball. He’s transformational.” Cherry, who had coached Davis prior to the 2016 season he needed a freshman coach. Davis accepted the invitation. “I’ll be darned if I wasn’t completely consumed,” says Davis. “I told (Cherry) the next year I want to be a varsity coach. I want to be with the older kids. I want to dive in and see where it could go.” In 2017 and 2018, Davis was Fishers’ hitting coach. The latter team set 21 school records. “We had all the fun in the world,” says Davis. Now 32 and living in Wheeling, Ill., Davis is teaching at area facilities, including Parkway Bank Sports Complex aka The Dome in Rosemont, Ill., and East Sports Academy in Itaska, Ill., and helping at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Owls head coach Bill Fratto is also an assistant/first base coach for the Boomers. Through it all, Davis has developed a fraternity of brothers at each baseball stage and keeps in-touch with people on his high school, college and pro path. Kris Holtzleiter, the new Eastbrook High School head coach, played and coached with close friend Davis at IWU. “Every season has a story whether it’s good or bad,” says Davis. “You must make the most of the moment you’re in. “It’s not about the championships or the trophies.” It’s the people.