A former all-Big Ten Conference and professional infielder was hired in the fall of 2019 as head coach of the baseball program at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind., and was getting the Huskies ready when the 2020 season was placed on hold and — eventually — canceled because of the pandemic.
Recent Hamilton Heights graduates playing college baseball include Sam Fulton (Chattanooga, Tenn., State Community College), Alex Hewitt (Butler University in Indianapolis), Ike Peterson (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Reese Wills (Marian University in Indianapolis. VanOeveren says some current players are weighting their options.
“Recruiting is challenging for everybody because of COVID,” says VanOeveren. “I was recruited to numerous schools all over the Midwest. My advice: Don’t select the school just based upon baseball.
“Baseball comes to an end at some point for all of us.”
A 1991 graduated of Grandville (Mich.) High School near Grand Rapids, VanOeveren was initially recruited by Michigan assistant Ted Mahan (who went on to be head coach at Michigan State University) and Wolverines head coach Bill Freehan got involved near the end of the process. VanOeveren committed in May of his senior year.
“(Indiana Primetime) is good to the kids at Hamilton Heights, giving them the opportunity to play really competitive baseball,” says VanOeveren. “I love Finch Creek. We’re spoiled getting access to that place.
“We’re very fortunate to live in this area and have those opportunities.”
Besides VanOeveren, the 2021 Husky coaching staff features varsity assistants Brian Clancy and Brad Pitts, junior varsity head coach Adam Hughes and JV assistant Cole Meyer. Clancy, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., was on the 2000 staff. Pitts, who had coached at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, is a newcomer to Hamilton Heights.
Husky Ballpark has received laser-leveling and upgrades to the irrigation system from Marschand’s Athletic Field Service and a new backstop is going up. VanOeveren says new dugouts and other improvements could come this summer.
Brad Pitts is an assistant bseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.
Born in Macomb, Mich., Riedel moved to Tennessee around 10 and played at Cookeville for Butch Chaffin.
“He was very much a mental coach,” says Riedel of Chaffin, who mentored the Cavaliers to a 36-2-1 record and a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association AAA regional title in Riedel’s senior year of 2013. “You need to be mentally tough or you won’t be physically tough.”
Cookesville was put out of the tournament by future major league left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield and his Tullahoma team.
Riedel (rhymes with needle) appreciated the testimonials from big leaguers that related to specific aspects of mental toughness.
After taking a year away from the diamond, Riedel began his two-year junior college experience at Jackson College. Rick Smith was — and still is — the Jets head coach.
“He knew the game better than anyone I had been around to that point,” says Riedel of Smith. “For a lot of the guys he was hard to understand. I got it right away. We had a really good connection. He expectations for me and I had expectations for myself.
“I probably went above those and that’s what he and I were hoping for.”
“At the junior college level, it was different,” says Riedel. “Our coaches really expected us to better ourselves.”
Players had essentially unlimited access to practice facilities to get in work on their own time.
“It was very much do-it-yourself,” says Riedel. “That helped me going to the Division I level.”
In the fall of 2016, Riedel signed to play at Oakland (Mich.) University, but a coaching change led him to forego that opportunity.
Chris Fetter, then a Ball State assistant (and now pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers), brought Riedel to Muncie, Ind., for a visit and he soon signed with the Cardinals and went on to enjoy his time around head coach Rich Maloney and assistants Scott French and Dustin Glant.
“Having that connection calms you down and lets you relax,” says Riedel. “Coach Maloney was very passionate about the game. He was very intense.
“What really struck me with him on my visit was that he was very personable. He was very genuine. He told me what he expected out of me. He was very upfront.”
It also got Riedel’s attention that Alex Call was selected in the third round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox.
“I knew Alex signed (at Ball State) for a reason,” says Riedel. “I wanted to see what that was all about.”
“I will never forget that day,” says Riedel, who batted in the No. 3 hole in the 20-8 Ball State victory. “I always knew how it was going to go based on my first at-bat. If I was seeing the ball well, I knew it was going to be a good day.”
After sharply grounding out to the shortstop in the first inning, Riedel socked two-baggers to left center in the third, center in the fourth, right center in the fifth, down the third base line in the sixth and to left center in the seventh and final frame.
“The thing I enjoyed about coaching was the connection you made with the players,” says Riedel, now 26. “They came to play for you. They had respect for you and you had respect for them.
“The best coaches I played for, I had respect for them as a coach and had a personal connection with them. It relaxed me more.”
While COVID-19 restrictions have interrupted work, Riedel and wife Kayla got to spend extra time with daughter Nora shortly after her birth in Nora in March. The couple that calls Battle Creek, Mich., home welcomed son Wyatt in February 2018.
Like many Indiana boys, Eric Riggs’ athletic focus growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., was basketball.
His father, David Riggs, was on the 1962 Evansville Bosse state championship team and earned a letter on the hardwood at the University of Evansville in 1966-67. The Purple Aces were NCAA Division II national champions in 1963-64 and 1964-65.
Playing Knights head coach Kirk Speraw, Riggs started in 22 of 30 games and averaged 11.4 points and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman in 1995-96. UMass and Marcus Camby knocked UCF out of the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Then Riggs turned his attention back to the diamond.
The switch-hitting infielder had played baseball at Brownsburg for head coach Wayne Johnson and assistants Craig Moore and Mick Thornton. Big league pitcher Jeff Fassero came in to help the Bulldogs during the off-season.
“(Johnson) was a players’ coach,” says Riggs. “We were pretty stacked in our senior class. We had a lot of guys play at the next level (including Brian Stayte, Mark Voll and Joel Martin).”
Junior Quinn Moore, youngest son of Craig, was the mound ace in 1995 and went on to play at the University of South Alabama.
During a basketball recruiting trip to the school near Orlando in the spring of 1995, Riggs met with UCF baseball coach Jay Bergman near the end of the program’s 29-game win streak.
“He was very positive,” says Riggs of Bergman. “Coach Moore had been in Coach Bergman’s ear to let me walk on.
“(Craig Moore) was very instrumental in my baseball career. I just kind of played it. Basketball was my first sport.”
“I had never played year-round baseball. I wanted to find out what that was like. I ended up getting a partial baseball scholarship.”
Before he knew it, Riggs was batting ninth and starting at second base at the NCAA D-I level.
From 1996-98, Riggs amassed a career average of .362 with 49 doubles and a .573 slugging percentage. As an all-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team shortstop in 1998, he hit .394 with 26 doubles, 154 total bases and 64 runs scored.
In the winter of 2000-01, Riggs played a few months in Queensland, Australia, before returning to the U.S. and the Dodgers. He was with that organization for eight years (1998-2004, 2006), getting as far as Triple-A in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
In three seasons, his roommate was David Ross (who went on to be a 14-year big league catcher and is now manager of the Chicago Cubs).
“He’s a natural leader,” says Riggs of Ross. “Being a catcher that was his state of mind. He managed the pitching staff well.
“He was just a solid baseball player. Once he got his chance (in the majors), he showed them what he could do as a catcher and hit a little bit.”
Riggs also played Double-A ball for the Houston Astros in 2005 and was briefly with the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers at the beginning of 2007 before finishing up his pro career that year in Double-A with the Miami Marlins.
In 10 seasons at all levels, Riggs played in 1,050 games (with 500 appearances at shortstop, 235 at second base and 216 at third base) and hit .264 with 78 homers, 217 doubles, 459 RBIs and slugging percentage of .406.
Steve Farley, then the Butler University head coach, brought Riggs on as a part-time volunteer coach in the spring of 2008.
“Steve gave me a chance to see what coaching at that level was like,” says Riggs. “He was a very, very smart baseball man. He was great to learn from and watch work.
“I had a blast.”
Riggs also had the opportunity to pick the baseball brain of Butler assistant Matt Tyner, who had played the University of Miami (Fla.) for Ron Fraser and in the Baltimore Orioles system. After Butler, Tyner was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., a University of Richmond (Va.) assistant and head coach at Towson (Md.) State University.
With a change in his full-time job in 2009, Riggs changed his focus to coaching his sons. Eric and wife Trisha have four sons. Bryce (16) is a sophomore at Noblesville (Ind.) High School. Twins Blake (13) and Brooks (13) are seventh graders at Noblesville West Middle School. Beckett (8) is a third grader at Noble Crossing Elementary School.
The three oldest Riggs boys have had their father as a coach with the Indiana Bulls. Eric was an assistant with Bulls teams Bryce played on from age 8 to eighth grade and he is now head coach of the 13U White team as well as a board of directors member. The 12-player roster (pitcher-only players become a thing in the high school years) includes Blake and Brooks.
The team played in two fall tournaments and plans to ramp up preparation for the 2021 season of 11 tournaments with 50 or more games in January. His assistants include Brandon Inge, J.J. Beard and Kyle Smith. Former MLB third baseman/catcher Inge (Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates) go back to their Cape Cod Baseball League days in college with 1997 Bourne Braves.
Kevin O’Sullivan (who went on to coach the 2017 national championship team at the University of Florida) was the Bourne head coach. The ace of the pitching staff was left-hander Mark Mulder, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft and went on to win 103 games in nine Major League Baseball seasons with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.
When he can, Eric also helps coach the Noblesville Millers travel team that includes Beckett.
“I’m using what I’ve learned from players and coaches I’ve been around,” says Riggs. “I want to pass that to kids to make them better people and baseball players.”
Riggs, 44, is also a sales pro for BSN Sports with college and high school clients. He says uniform trends at the high school level tend to revolve around what catches a coach’s eye on the college scene. If they like the Vanderbilt look, they may wish to replicate in their school colors.
Freedman, a newspaperman for 50 years living in Columbus, Ind., serving as sports editor of the Seymour (Ind.) Tribune, has authored or co-authored about 110 books in the past three decades — about 60 on sports with two-thirds of them being on baseball.
He lived the Phillies story as a Philadelphia Inquirer staffer in 1980 assigned to write the sidebar on World Series MVP and future Hall of Famer Schmidt. The journalist was able to draw from what he witnessed at the time plus research. Philadelphia topped the Kansas City Royals in six games as Schmidt hit .381 (8-of-21) with two home runs, seven runs batted in and six runs score.
The seed that grew into the Cy Young book was decades in the making.
“I had it in my head for years and years and years — almost 30 years,” says Freedman. “I was getting more and more interested in baseball history.”
Even though he was serving as sports editor at the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News at the time, Freedman made a trip to the research library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., and gathered information on the man with 511 career pitching victories — far more than anyone in big league annals and wrote a column about Denton True Young — first known as Cyclone for clobbering a wooden fence with his pitches and then Cy.
“Nobody will ever come close,” says Freedman of durable right-hander Young’s win total. “There have been some Cy Young books, but not a lot.
“This is the first time in 20 years there’s been a new look at Cy Young.”
“(Cy Young is an) old story, but he never gets old,” says Freedman. “I wanted to get Cy Young’s voice as much as possible and get into what kind of guy he was.
“He was not a controversial guy. He did not get into trouble. He didn’t keep late hours. He didn’t party.”
Except for his time on a baseball field, Young spent his time as a farmer in northeast Ohio.
Since Young’s 22-year-old career spans from 1890 to 1911, finding the pitcher’s voice was not easy.
“When Cy Young was playing sportswriters did not go to the locker room right after the game and get quotes,” says Freedman. The scribes were focused on getting play-by-play details into their stories and then meeting deadlines and often racing for the train station for the team’s next game. “Contemporaneous reports are missing.”
Luckily for Freedman and other baseball researchers, Young lived to be 88 and shared his thoughts freely for decades after the end of his career.
“His brains were picked about his highlights,” says Freedman. “That stuff was golden material for a guy like me.”
Young spent much of his Hall of Fame career with two primary catchers — Chief Zimmer and Lou Criger. The latter is an Elkhart, Ind., native who was with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston from 1896 to 1908.
The Cy Young Award was first presented to the top pitcher in Major League Baseball in 1956 in honor of a man who not only won 94 more games than the second man on the list (Hall of Famer Walter Johnson), but tossed an astounding 7,356 innings with 29,565 batters faced and 749 complete games. Both the American and National leagues have handed out the Cy Young Award since 1967.
“I love baseball history,” says Freedman. “I learn something all the time when I do the research.
“I was very happy when I held the Cy Young book in my hand.”
Freedman’s newspaper career started when he was in high school in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass.
He was with the Inquirer when an Alaskan vacation turned into 17 years as a sports editor there. He later was on the staff at the Chicago Tribune and Florida Times-Union and was sports editor at The Republic in Columbus, Ind. He has won more than 250 journalism awards.
Along the way, Freedman kept researching and writing books. There are many related to Alaska, even one that ties baseball to the remote 49th state.
“As long as I can come up with a great topic in my mind and (a book publisher) also thinks it’s a good idea,” says Freedman.
When his books come out is not entirely up to Freedman. Done and awaiting editor’s approval is a something tentatively called “1930: When Everybody Was Babe Ruth.”
To Freedman, 1930 was the “Year of the Hitter” the way 1968 is referred to as the “Year of the Pitcher.”
“Hitting went crazy and pitching was atrocious,” says Freedman. “That year the seams were raised on the ball. Pitchers could not control it. (Hitters) had the years of their lives.
“After that, they changed the rules so it didn’t happen again.”
Lefty-swinging outfielder George “Showboat” Fisher played four major league seasons — hitting .261 in 1923, .220 in 1924 and .182 in 1931. His 1930 mark was .374 as a reserve for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fisher lived to 95.
“He got to talk about (the 1930 season) for the rest of his life,” says Freedman, who notes that ’30 was the year of the National League’s last .400 hitter (Hall of Fame first baseman Bill Terry of the New York Giants at .401).
All eight position players in the St. Louis Cardinals regular starting lineup hit .300, including outfielder George Watkins at .373.
It was hoped that the Phillies book would come out as part of a 40th-year anniversary and a celebration was planned during spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and that changed everything about 2020.
On March 16, Freedman was on his way home from a western trip to cover rodeo (he once spent three months in Wyoming researching a book on rodeo). He literally had businesses shutting down behind him as he drove back toward southern Indiana.
One day he ate in a restaurant, the next day they were putting chairs on top of tables at a truck stop.
More recently, Freedman has been able to cover high school football for his paper and has been contemplating his next baseball book project.
First baseman Johnny Mize was a star for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and New York Yankees in the late 1930’s through early 1950’s.
“He’s been under-covered,” says Freedman of the Hall of Fame.
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.
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.
An unprecedented time in modern baseball has Pat Murtaugh doing his job in a way he did not anticipate.
In his 32nd year as a professional scout, the West Lafayette, Ind., resident has been evaluating players while the game on the field has been at a standstill because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
The last spring training games were played March 12 and the regular season is on hold.
Murtaugh, who is in his fifth year as a pro scout for the New York Yankees, has been watching video of players that the organization might have an interest in for possible trades.
“We’re digging in a little deeper and going through different organizations and arranging players,” says Murtaugh. “Because of the time we have, we are really able to go deep into the (player’s) history and make notes of it.
“During the season, we don’t go this deep. We don’t have the time.”
He and his fellow scouts have been sifting through reports and analytical data.
A passion for the game has kept Murtaugh in it for all these years.
“It’s the competition to get players in your organization,” says Murtaugh. “You get tied to those players and want to see their progress.
“We like to get to know them as well as we can. When they’re on the other team, it’s hard. You can’t tamper with them. But once you get them into your system you get to know them. Make-up of the player is so important to acquire. They may have all the skill sets. But hitting or pitching in Yankee Stadium is so different. It may be overwhelming for their personality.”
From talking to other people who’ve been around the player, Murtaugh finds out things about players like they might be a tough guy on the outside but soft-hearted on the inside.
Players might look good in the batter’s box or on the mound. They might put up head-turning numbers in the gym.
“But it still comes down to tools,” says Murtaugh. “That’s the starting point of everybody.”
Scouts like Murtaugh, project where those baseball tools — speed, power, hitting for average, fielding and arm strength — might take a player.
Once they get a handle on that and have the player in their organization, they can delve into the athlete’s intelligence level and if he is coachable (able to retain information).
When Murtaugh was with the Diamondbacks, he also scouted the Reds system. He became intrigued with a shortstop in the low minors named Didi Gregorius.
“We ended up getting him,” says Murtaugh of the Netherlands native who went on to play for the Diamondbacks and Yankees and is now with the Philadelphia Phillies. “He came in after (Derek Jeter) and sustained that position. He has natural tools. His intelligence level is real good. He speaks five different languages. He’s a good person and has good work habits.”
“I didn’t realize I had got bitten,” says Murtaugh. “I had this knot on the inside of my thigh.”
Murtaugh flew out the next day. In talking with wife Kathleen, he was convinced to go to urgent care.
The said, ‘we’ve got to do surgery,’” says Murtaugh. “They cleaned all the poison and venom out. I was fine after that.”
And — with the media accounts — somewhat famous.
“I was at spring training this year and there was a family sitting behind me,” says Murtaugh. “I had my bag with name tag. The father must have Googled me and said to me, ‘I just read about that black widow.’”
Kathleen Murtaugh is an assistant professor at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing — a division of Franciscan Health — in Lafayette. Pat has three step-children and 10 grandchildren.
Pat Murtaugh, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is a pro baseball scout for the New York Yankees. 2020 is his 32nd year as a scout.
In his 12th year with the Rockets in 2020, McIntyre knows just the kind of player he likes to land in the NCAA Division I’s Mid-American Conference.
“There’s a baseline of talent you have to have at the D-I level,” says McIntyre, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Purdue University — both in West Lafayette, Ind. “What the kid has inside matters as much as anything.”
“I tend to go toward the dirtbag type of player that can hit a little bit,” says McIntyre. “Going forward, I’d like us to be a little more athletic on the field. I’d like to run a little better.”
McIntyre and company value offensive versatility and the ability to drive the ball.
“We have to have some thump,” says McIntyre. “I’d like everybody to at least be able to hit a double.
“I do like to recruit hitters — not just 6-5 guys who hit the ball real hard.”
McIntyre notes that the better players get the game to slow down and learn how to hunt pitches in certain counts.
This comes with time and work.
“We’re a mid-major school,” says McIntyre. “We’re not getting the most refined product. We take pride in our development.
“We recognize talent and develop it. The expectation to win is the next hurdle.”
In the fall, Toledo takes two or three weeks on individuals, getting pitchers and hitters up to speed on the program’s philosophy. Hitters hunt fastballs and try to stay in the middle of the field.
“That’s the time guys go out and compete for playing time for the spring,” says McIntyre.
If things need to be refined, they can be done after that.
McIntyre was an infield coach and assistant hitting coach for Cory Mee, who was Rockets head coach for 16 seasons (2004-19) and enjoys the change of pace that came with 2019-20.
He was recruited at Purdue as a catcher and played mostly third base and shortstop in his six minor league seasons after being selected as a second baseman by the Detroit Tigers in the 20th round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
“Growing up in the McCutcheon area, baseball is a big deal,” says McIntyre. “(McCutcheon players), those were your superstars.
“(Burton) made that happen. He grew that system from the ground up. He was intense and winning was the expectation. Practices very organized.”
It was more of the same when McIntyre played at Purdue for Doug Schreiber.
“He was definitely intense,” says McIntyre, who was part of Schreiber’s first Boilermaker recruiting class. “You knew what the goal was to win. Period. No excuses.”
Purdue opened the 2001 season by knocking off the No. 1 team in the country — Rice.
It was not a big deal to Schreiber.
“We were expected to win,” says McIntyre.
When the Boilers twice lost to No. 2-ranked Clemson by two runs in 2002, there was no celebration.
“There were no moral victories,” says McIntyre.
Tristan McIntyre, Nick’s cousin, is now head coach at McCutcheon. Jake McIntyre, Nick’s brother, is on the Mavericks coaching staff.
“I’m pumped for him,” says Nick of Tristan. “He gets it.”
Nick McIntyreturned 39 on the day Toledo played its last game of 2020 — a March 11 loss at Vanderbilt.
With the early shutdown to the season, the NCAA has awarded another year of eligibility for players.
“It only benefits us,” says McIntyre. “We had a very strong junior class this year. As for our seniors, we’ll see if they want to come back.”
Combined with the MLB draft possibly being limited to 10 rounds or less, it will make for a very competitive situation with players staying in the college game — either at their current schools or entering the transfer portal — and incoming high schoolers.
“It makes the cream rise to the top and puts more quality players in the pool,” says McIntyre. “There will be a a lot more competition the next few years. Junior college baseball will be very good.”
With Reinstetle in charge, Toledo is aggressive in recruiting and goes after junior college players to help supplement those coming out of high school.
“We’re calling everybody on earth,” says McIntyre. “We may get shot down a lot.
“If you want to play baseball, there’s somewhere for you. You decide the lineup the way you play in the fall and participate in practice.”
For now, COVID-19 has the diamond world in a holding pattern.
“You can only get better at baseball if you’re playing,” says McIntyre. “A lot of our guys are missing out on this time.
“How much summer ball will get played. It’s unknown right now.”
Repay, a graduate of Highland (Ind.) High School, has been a manager of the Bismarck (N.D.) Larks in the Northwoods League the past three years and got most Toledo players placed with summer collegiate leagues back in the fall.
Nick and Heather McIntyre have three children — daughters Mia (8) and Morgan (5) and son Mason (18 months). The former Heather Zielinski is a Sylvania, Ohio, native who played golf at Purdue. Nick and Heather did not meet while attending Purdue but at a tailgate event.
Nick McIntyre, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Purdue University — both in West Lafayette, Ind. — was in his 12th season as a baseball assistant coach at the University of Toledo in 2020. (University of Toledo Photo)
Not all hitters are the same, but what are Pascoe’s points of emphasis?
“Being on time with the barrel, staying athletic in the box and working their bodies properly to get the most out of their swing,” says Pascoe. “A hitter’s approach is largely dictated on the situation as to where they are at in the count, who is on the mound, where runners are, and how they have been pitched by a team or pitcher.”
Butler hitters have a routine as they go through fall, winter and spring.
“We try to hit on the field as much as possible throughout the year so they are able to see the flight of the ball, which can give the hitter good feedback,” says Pascoe. “We go through a lot of drills as well early on to get them to feel their body moving properly – this will be done in the fall and preseason daily in the cages.
“When we get on the field we look more to situational hitting and hitting high velocity and breaking balls.
“Another component is also giving them more tools as a hitter – working on base hit bunting is big for a large majority of our guys. “While we talk about approach the entire year, the regular season is where we mainly focus on that so they do not get bogged down by mechanics and they can just be athletic and let everything work.”
Video and pitching machines are used often in training for Bulldog hitters.
“This past year was the first year that we used the hitting Rapsodo, which is a great tool to use in the cages when we can not get outside on the field,” says Pasceo. “Weighted bats have also been a big tool we have used at Butler.”
Launch angle and exit velocity are also a part of the equation.
“LA and EV can be useful data when tracking progress and what range for those works best for each hitter,” says Pascoe. “Certain guys are better with higher LA while others are better at lower LA. “EV can be good to give a hitter feedback to progress with getting stronger or gaining bat speed as well as just overall ability to square the ball up.
“When it comes to game time, we try to not chase these numbers so much and just look to get in there and compete.”
Analytics has become a big part of the collegiate game and it’s no different at Butler.
“Analytics do come into play quite a bit as we look at how to play certain hitters, shifting our infielders and outfielders around,” says Pascoe. “We also use analytics to determine certain matchups from both and offensive and defensive standpoint.”
Pascoe sees several outstanding qualities in Schrage as a coach.
“Coach Schrage has a lot of knowledge about the game of baseball, but he also has the drive to continue to learn more and grow as a coach,” says Pascoe. “He is very good at developing and maintaining a strong culture in programs – a lot of which attributes to his strong communication skills, his passion for the game as well as his players, and how he holds players and coaches accountable.”
Schrage, Pascoe and pitching coach Ben Norton all share in recruiting duties, but it is Pascoe that is typically on the road a little more during fall and spring practices.
Pascoe, an infielder and catcher, played at Evansville for head coach Wes Carroll from 2007-10. As a junior he was on the all-Missouri Valley Conference second team at designated hitter, leading the Purple Aces in hitting at .331.
“I enjoyed my time playing for Wes,” says Pascoe. “He always pushed me to be a good ball player and a good person while holding me accountable.
“Playing for him, he brought a lot of energy and passion for the Evansville program. For me, it was easy to play for him because I knew he cared about me and had a lot of pride for the program while also teaching me about the game of baseball.”
After his playing career was over, Pascoe joined Carroll’s coaching staff and spent five seasons (2011-15) learning the craft.
“Coaching for him provided me with a lot of experience early because he gave me the freedom as a coach to work with hitters and catchers a lot, while also giving me many responsibilities with recruiting,” says Pascoe.
One of the Aces was Kevin Kaczmarski, who played his last season in Evansville in 2015 and made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Mets in 2018.
“We really worked with Kevin on getting rhythm to his swing, especially early in his college career,” says Pascoe. “He came in with an extreme amount of athleticism but was a little stiff with his swing so once he learned to loosen up, have some rhythm and load up on time, he really took off.
“Once he gained some rhythm to himself and to his swing, we got him to use the whole field with authority. All of this was done because he wanted to learn it and he put in a lot of work to do it.”
Pascoe has several men he considers leaders in his life, including father Paul, Schrage, Carroll, high school coach Ian Hearn (now head coach at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern High School), former Evansville assistant Marc Wagner and former Traverse City Central, Western Michigan University and Detroit Tigers organization player and college coach Sam Flamont.
“All of them have taught me about the game of baseball and the intricacies, but also how to handle different players and their personalities and to enjoy the process that goes into everyday coaching,” says Pascoe. “(Flamont) has also been a major role model and mentor for me – he is the biggest reason why am where I am at in my life.”
Pascoe, who is single, will keep busy this summer, running tournament games on-campus and recruiting.
Andy Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School and the University of Evansville, is an assistant coach at Butler University. Among his responsibilities, he leads the hitters and helps with recruiting. (Butler University Photo)
Andy Pascoe (left) has seen offensive numbers improve since taking over as Butler University hitting coach for the 2017 season. (Butler University Photo)
Andy Pascoe just completed his third season as hitting coach at Butler University in 2019. Before arriving in Indianapolis, he played and coached at the University of Evansville. (Butler University Photo)
Getting a pitching staff prepared for an NCAA Division I baseball season takes time.
That’s why Ball State University pitching coach Dustin Glant was more comfortable starting with the Cardinals in the fall and having a full year to help his hurlers develop.
Glant, who had been a volunteer assistant at BSU in 2013, re-joined the staff mid-way through 2016-17 when Chris Fetter (now pitching coach at the University of Michigan) left to take a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
It took Glant some time to gain the trust of his pitchers and to know their strengths and weaknesses.
Even with that late start, Glant saw his arms achieve that first season. They did even more in the second one.
The 2018 Cardinals set a program record for strikeouts (560) and ranked sixth in the national with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Two BSU pitchers were taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Glant’s watch — right-hander/designated hitter Colin Brockhouse (Toronto Blue Jays and did not sign) in 2017 and right-hander Evan Marquardt (Cincinnati Reds) in 2018. Left-hander Kevin Marmon (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent in 2017.
Right-hander Drey Jameson was named Mid-American Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year and was selected to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team in 2018. Right-hander John Baker was on that honor squad in 2017 and is on watch lists for his junior year in 2019.
“In my young coaching career, we’re having success developing velocity,” says Glant, 37. “But in a year and a half, we’re not doing a very good job of throwing strikes. We’ve put a lot of our time in the bucket of how do we get better at commanding the ball and being more attack-focused.”
Do you have to sacrifice speed for control?
“I don’t think we should have to,” says Glant. “We structured some things in the fall with our throwing progression. I’m hoping that translates into more strikes during the season.
“There were some adjustments made in how we play catch, how we throw and our focus level on certain things.”
Glant’s hurlers threw often during the eight-week fall development phase.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney typically gave Glant and his pitchers 90 minutes on the front side of practice to do their work before joining the full team.
“Not everybody has that luxury,” says Glant. “It’s huge that I have that time from him.
“Then it’s just building volume. We throw a lot. I believe in that. We don’t save our bullets. We want to condition the arm to be able to handle a heavy workload during the season.”
As the fall begins and pitchers begin the “on-ramping” process, Glant takes into consideration how much they’ve thrown during the summer and whether they are a returning arm or a newcomer then he allows so many throws at a certain distance and builds upon that.
After the fall, weight and mobility training becomes a priority and pitchers don’t get on the mound as much.
It really depends on the needs of the athlete.
“We’re really individualized,” says Glant. “Their bodies don’t move the same way. There are different deficiencies that you have to attack a different way.
“You have to learn your guys and know how they work. Then you’re able to hone in on who needs to be doing what.”
As Glant gets his 16 pitchers ready to open the season Feb. 15 against Stanford in Tempe, Ariz., he has them throwing between 25 and 35 minutes before they go into their skill work of flat ground or bullpens.
From his high school stops, he knows what it’s like to have players who can perform at another position and be used on the mound. Troy Montgomery (who played in the Detroit Tigers system in 2018) was an outfielder who Glant tried as a pitcher at Mt. Vernon because of his athletic talent. He also did the same with Brady Cherry (who is now an infielder at Ohio State University) while at Lapel. He was one of the best prep pitchers in Indiana.
Even if they do not play another position in college, Glant wants them to have the mindset of an athlete.
“In high school, typically your best players can do everything and you need them to do more things,” says Glant. “You get guys in college and their brains are thinking ‘I’m only a pitcher.’ It feels like they lose some of that natural athleticism when they were in high school playing more than one sport, more than one position and moving around more.
“We want to turn it back. Let’s get back to being an athlete and get more athletic in our moves.”
Glant is also concerned with what’s happening between his pitchers’ ears.
“It’s huge,” says Glant of the mental game. “It’s my biggest weakness as a coach and our biggest weakness as a pitching staff.
“I devoted my entire summer to learning this thing, understanding it better and being able to help my guys better mentally. We did some good things in the fall and kept it going right through this training time. I hope it pays off.”
Glant says it’s important to develop routines inside of the game and slow down breathing and heart rate when things get out of control.
There’s also questions to be asked and answered.
“How is our self talk?,” says Glant. “Are we reviewing our outings? Are we reviewing our bullpens?”
Glant says he wish he knew more about the mental side when he was a player.
Dave and Sharon Glant are parents to three children — Jessica, Dustin and Nate. Jessica Glant is a physician assistant in Maine. Nate Glant is an assistant baseball coach at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.
Dave Glant is a third-generation railroad worker.
Dustin looks back on his boyhood and marvels at how hard his father worked and still had something left in the tank to teach him about baseball.
“He worked manual labor,” says Dustin. “He’d come home from these 12-hour shifts and then he’d have the energy to practice with me for a couple hours.”
Dave Glant showed Dustin about being hard-nosed and disciplined and about body language.
“Your opponent should never know how you’re feeling and how things are going,” says Dustin. “My preference is to be stone-faced and the emotion is positive emotion for your team.
Don’t stare a hole through the shortstop when he makes an error behind you.
“We try to get guys to embrace those situations,” says Glant. “What more fun can than picking up your shortstop? He’s excited because you got him off the hook. You’re excited because you got out of the inning with the team.
“That just builds momentum with you to the dugout.”
His father broke down VHS videos for a 12-year-old Dustin to review and use to improve.
“He was way before his time,” says Dustin. “And he was never a college player. He was a dad that really had a passion for helping me get better.”
“To me, he is a legend and like a second father figure,” says Glant of Fireoved. “He picked right up where dad left off with accountability, discipline, work ethic, how to be a good teammate and how to train.”
That intensity continued at Purdue University. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched for three seasons for the Boilermakers (2001-03) for head coach Doug Schreiber and assistant coaches Todd Murphy and Rob Smith (now head coach at Ohio University) and was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He competed six seasons in the Diamondbacks organization (2003-08), reaching Triple-A in his last season.
With Maloney, Glant is seeing a different side of coaching.
“I’ve never seen that side of it,” says Glant. “I’m learning how to love your players and how to build relationships.
“You’ve got to be a transformational coach and not a transactional coach. That’s what I’m learning from Rich Maloney.”
Dustin and Ashley Glant have a daughter — Evelyn (16 months). The baby is named for a grandmother on the mother’s side.
Dustin Glant, a Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne High School graduate who pitched at Purdue University and in the pro baseball, became the Ball State University pitching coach prior to the 2017 season. (Ball State University Photo)