Nick Floyd played baseball at Ball State University for four years. The 2015 graduate of Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Ind., pitched for the Cardinals from 2016-19 then experienced independent professional ball with the American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, The Battle of the Bourbon Trail’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls (part of a COVID-19 pop-up circuit) and Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls Chukars. Now he’s seeing the college game from a coach’s perspective. Floyd, 24, leads pitchers for Indiana University-Kokomo. The Cougars are in the River States Conference (NAIA). He earned his Finance degree at Ball State in 2019, but was offered the opportunity to play pro ball then to coach when Drew Brantley was building his IUK staff and says it suits his temperament. “All the philosophies are still the same,” says Floyd, comparing his time as a college player and coach. “But now I better understand the little things that my college coaches tried to convey to us.” Floyd says he now appreciates those team rules set in place by Ball State head coach Rich Maloney. “Now I step back and look at the program as a whole and value the little things — like going about things the right way, being early to practice and everyone wearing the same thing on the road,” says Floyd. “Every player is supposed to get water only. Pop is not good for them. Everyone wearing the same color (at practice) is important for team unity. We want to be one cohesive unit instead of a bunch of individuals. “Not everyone’s the same. A little bit of individuality is totally fine. But it also needs to be structured and adding value to the group as a whole.” Maloney believes in building team culture. “That’s something he stresses a ton,” says Floyd. “He showed through his actions how I wanted to be as a coach.” As IUK pitching coach, Floyd reflects the two men who were his pitching coaches at BSU — Chris Fetter (now Detroit Tigers pitching coach) and Dustin Glant (now Indiana University pitching coach). Glant was head coach at Anderson (Ind.) University when Brantley was an assistant. “The No. 1 thing is attack,” says Floyd, who made 34 mound appearances (14 starts) for the Cardinals. “We want to pitch with the mentality of being the aggressor. I’m going to beat you on this pitch. It starts from the mental side of things. You have to have confidence in your own ability.” Floyd wants his pitchers to get ahead in ball-strike counts. He would rather they give up a bomb pounding the zone then walking the bases loaded and giving up a squib hit to score multiple runs. “We always go down in attack mode,” says Floyd. “Coach Glant taught me that.” Drey Jameson fanned a Ball State and Mid-American Conference-record 146 batters — 14.66 per nine innings — and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year before being selected in first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Drey definitely attacked,” says Floyd. “He knew he was better than you and he was going to go out and show it. “That kind of mentality filtered through everyone (on the Ball State pitching staff).” As IUK prepares for a non-conference doubleaheader against Shawnee State today (March 1) and a three-game RSC series against Ohio Christian, Floyd and graduate assistant Justin Reed (a former IUK player who is also Cougars catchers coach) are working with about 20 pitchers including a few two-way players. “Right now we’ve built up about four starters,” says Floyd. “Other guys in longer relief could potentially starts. “One mid-week starter could come out of the pen on the weekend.” Jeremy Honaker (a Connersville High School graduate who has coached at Zionsville and Martinsville high schools, the University of Indianapolis and in the Indiana Bulls and Canes travel baseball organizations) and student assistant Nate James (a Castle High alum who played at Kankakee Community College before transferring to IUK) are the team’s other coaches. The Cougars play home games at Kokomo Municipal Stadium — a downtown park it shares with the summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo High School. “Not many NAIA teams have access to a facility like that,” says Floyd. “We try to get outside any time it is remotely close to being good weather. “Last week we were shoveling snow for two hours just to get outside.” When getting outside is not possible, the team can use Cougar Gym, located downtown. The weight room is at the on-campus Student Activities and Events Center. Floyd accepted the job last summer while he was pitching for Idaho Falls and learning from Chukars field staff of manager Billy Gardner Jr. (a pro manager since 1995), pitching coach Bob Milacki (who pitched in the big leagues) and hitting coach Billy Butler (who was also a major leaguer). A few days after the season, he was in Kokomo. A former NCAA Division I player, Floyd compares that level to NAIA. “There isn’t a huge difference,” says Floyd. “The top-end guys on each are pretty comparable. “Most D-I lineups and pitching staffs are deeper talent-wise.”
As Ball State University develops baseball pitchers, one approach does not fit all. Each individual is assessed and brought along while keeping in mind what is best for them. “We’re not making a broad stroke,” says Larry Scully, the Cardinals pitching coach since August 2019. “Everyone is different in terms of their needs.” Scully, who began his coaching career in 1992 and has mentored 16 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections, uses the example of a freshman arriving on the Muncie, Ind., campus in the fall. That hurler is introduced to Bill Zenisek, Ball State’s baseball strength & conditioning coach. “He gets a measurement of movement for all the players,” says Scully. From this evaluation, which includes a TPI movement screening, specific exercises are prescribed that will help them become an efficient athlete. Players are introduced to proper nutrition and the weight room and learn that terminology. Rapsodo equipment is used during bullpen sessions and the motion-capture data is used for development as is Synergy slow-motion camera feedback. Then there’s the throwing program. “We get to see how the arm moves,” says Scully. As a part of that there is long toss. Some will go long and high and up to 300 feet the day after they throw and others will focus on mechanics and toss on a line for distance. Through it all, a pitcher’s delivery is checked for efficiency. How does he start? How does he drive down the mound? How does he finish? Since Scully is Driveline-certified, the Cardinals will use bands, PlyoCare Balls and mediBalls in training. Bullpen sessions may be geared toward refining a certain pitch or location. A pitcher’s workload — heavy or light in terms of innings or the number or intensity pitches — will also play into training. Fall ball began at Ball State the first week of September and just recently concluded. Pitchers worked alone the first two weeks and were then incorporated into team practices and scrimmages. Then adjustments were made during individual work. Until Dec. 3, pitchers will work eight hours a week, including strength sessions and 45 minutes a day Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with their pitching coach. “We’ll try to maintain what they do well and get better to help us win,” says Scully. Before coming to Ball State, Scully spent five seasons at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he worked with Braves head coach Elvis Dominguez. “We were one of the top academic schools in the Missouri Valley Conference,” says Scully, who also served as Bradley’s recruiting coordinator. the 2019 Braves led the MVC in earned run average (3.37), fewest hits allowed per game (7.21) and WHIP (1.27). What drew Scully to the Cardinals? “Ball State has a rich tradition in winning and developing pitchers,” says Scully. At BSU, Scully joined head coach Rich Maloney, who became the 27th active NCAA Division I coach to earn his 800th career coaching win in 2019. To date, Maloney is 877-581-1 (546-337-1 in his second stint with Ball State) in 26 seasons. He has coached 65 players who were drafted 72 times. He’s coached six first-rounders with only one being drafted out of high school. The most-recent is right-hander Drey Jameson (34th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019). Maloney paid Scully a compliment during the interview process. “Everywhere you’ve been the pitching staff has gotten a bump,” says Scully of Maloney’s words. The 2021 MLB Draft was very satisfying for Scully. Three pitchers who the coach helped hone his craft were taken in the first seven rounds — Ball State’s Chayce McDermott (fourth round by the Houston Astros) and Bradley’s Brooks Gosswein (fourth round by the Chicago White Sox) and Theron Denlinger (seventh round by the White Sox). When looking at pitching potential, Ball State recruiting coordinator Blake Beemer is often drawn to athletes of a certain build. “They are long and lean with loose arm action,” says Scully. “Others might not be that, but they may be left-handed and can get left-handers out. “Blake does a good job of finding low-lying fruit. Here’s something we can probably fix (about the pitcher’s mechanics or pitch selection). “There’s a lot of moving parts. Everyone sees the final product, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.” Prior to Bradley, Scully was pitching coach at Murray (Ky.) State University (2014), Lamar (Colo.) Community College (2010-13), assistant at Saint Louis University (2007), head coach at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. (2000-06) and assistant at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999) and Indiana Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa (1992-96). Dan Skirka was a Murray State assistant when Scully was there and is now the Racers head coach. Scully was born in Toronto and played at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in 1986. His head coach was Jim Ridley, who was later inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Ridley twins — Jeremy and Shayne — were teammates who wound up playing at Ball State and were both drafted in 2000 (Jeremy Ridley by the Toronto Blue Jays and Shayne Ridley by the Baltimore Orioles.). “Jim was a tremendous influence on me,” says Scully. “He was a terrific coach and a terrific person. “Some are just very lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very good baseball people.” A left-handed pitcher, Scully competed in the Junior Olympics at 18U and then played for and coached with Rick Mathews (now in the Colorado Rockies organization) at Indian Hills and played for Joel Murrie (now with the Los Angeles Angels) at Western Kentucky University. Scully earned an English Literature from WKU in 1992 and master’s degree in Sports Administration from the United State Sports Academy in 1994. “It was my intent to be an English teacher and baseball coach,” says Scully. “I learned that’s tough gig. Both require a lot of time. Now I’m helping daughter now with her grammar.” Larry and wife Shari have six children from 30 down to eighth-grader Ava. Shari Scully has taught for nearly 30 years and is employed as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Tremont (Ill.) Middle School.
“We’ve got a veteran team,” says Maloney of his sales pitch to Goetz. “They didn’t get to go last year (because of a pandemic-shortened 2020 season). They’re hungry. We wanted to be able to go somewhere and play.
“I try to schedule really good opponents and get the kids to have the opportunity for experiences that they can remember and go to places they’ll never forget.”
A couple of items sweetened the deal. Arizona offered a guarantee in case the series could not be played because of COVID-19.
Also, one of Maloney’s former players at Michigan — Derek Kerr — is an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at American Airlines and that just happens to be the carrier the Cards chose to take to Tucson.
“It was totally incidental,” says Maloney. “I called and asked Derek if there was any way he could help Coach out and get an extension in case we got hit with COVID and couldn’t make the trip to Arizona. He promised and that’s what gave Beth Goetz the green light to say it’s OK to schedule the flight.
“Our guys have done a nice job of staying in their bubble the best they can and we’ve been able to make these trips.”
With senior right-handed pitcher John Baker playing a major role, Ball State split four games Feb. 19-22 at Arizona, went 2-1 Feb. 26-27 against Bradley in Normal, Ill., and 2-1 March 5-7 at Kentucky for a 6-4 start to 2021 season.
Baker has made four appearances (three in relief) and is 1-0 with a 1.45 earned run average. Opponents are hitting .127 against him.
“He should have gone to pro ball a long time ago,” says Maloney of Baker. “He has amazing moxie.
Those nine represent 521 games (with 465 starts) in their Ball State careers.
Sebby, the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, has started 122 of his 130 games while Messina and Simpson have started all 83 times they’ve been in the lineup.
“We’ve got a great bunch,” says Maloney. “It’s a fun team to coach. They’re highly-competitive and they’re experienced.
“They’ve done some pretty incredible things in the first couple of weekends. I’m certainly happy for them. They’ve created some great memories. But we’ve got a long way to go. We can get a lot better than we are.”
Maloney says he is encouraged by the “grit” of his team, which has several players back — right-handed fireballers Drey Jameson and Kyle Nicolas being the notable exceptions — from that went 38-19 overall and 20-5 in the MAC while Central Michigan was having stronger year at 47-14 and 22-5.
“In any other year we would have been a (conference) champion,” says Maloney.
WarrenNolan.com has Ball State No. 1 in both RPI and Strength of Schedule among NCAA Division I programs. Indiana State is No. 9 and No. 10, Notre Dame No. 20 and No. 35.
Maloney says high-profile wins can only help the Cards.
“Over the years we’ve been good enough to be in the NCAA tournament but because (the MAC) has been a one-team bid we just haven’t been able to get over the top in tournament play.
“The RPI — the power of the league — has held us back.”
When Maloney was head coach at Michigan, the Big Ten had bids for the conference champion and an at-large bid — something not enjoyed by the MAC.
“I talk about it a lot with the other coaches. There’s going when we can get two teams in. I don’t know if this is the year or not. Our conference is winning some games out of conference.
“The Mid-American Conference is at the highest level its been in a long, long time.”
For example: Kent State beat No. 2-ranked Mississippi State Saturday, March 6.
“The difference between David and Goliath isn’t really that big,” say Maloney.
Next up for Ball State is a three-game series March 12-14 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
The Cardinals is scheduled to open the home portion of their season with a four-game set March 19-21 against MAC foe Western Michigan.
Founded in 1991 with play beginning in 1992, the Bulls brought together the state’s elite for top-flight competition and exposure to college coaches and professional scouts and that continues to this day.
Craig Moore coached Blackford High School in Hartford City, Ind., to IHSAA state runner-up finishes in 1977 and 1978.
The East Gary (Ind.) High School graduate also coached Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) to success while it transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division I and was a Brownsburg (Ind.) High School assistant.
Moore was brought to the Bulls for the second season.
“Craig is the best talent evaluator I’ve ever seen,” says Dave Taylor, one of the Bulls founders and first coaches. “He had an amazing, uncanny ability to size up talent quickly.
“He’s one of the greatest recruiters I’ve ever seen and had tremendous enthusiasm. I’d run through a wall for that guy. (Players had) great loyalty for him. He was very demanding. But he loved his guys and they loved him.”
Taylor played baseball at Southmont High School and captained the Wabash College team in 1983 then went to law school and began coaching Babe Ruth baseball at the state championship level.
He soon learned something.
“Indiana was not a baseball state,” says Taylor. “It was very provincial and very hometown-based — even American Legion was geographically-limited.
“The baseball world tended to be dominated by towns with size and tradition. There was not a lot of great baseball beyond that. There was nowhere for a great player to go.”
Ohio and Kentucky had elite travel baseball since the 1960’s, but not Indiana.
“We were behind,” says Taylor. “There was no high level of competition in Indiana for the elite.”
Taylor notes that the 1992 Major League Baseball Player Draft had just one selection from Indiana — Jay County High School graduate Shane White in the 24th round by the Chicago Cubs — while Ohio had more than 100 with over half that number out of the Cincinnati area alone.
When a national tournament rolled around, Taylor coached the Indiana representative. Open tryouts were held and there were players from all over the state, though most came from central Indiana.
Indiana lost in the medal round in Tallahassee, Fla., getting beat by eventual champion California but beating Georgia and Texas along the way.
“It was a great experience,” says Taylor, who learned that the players on the Sacramento-based California team had been playing 180 games a year since age 8. “Practicing for two weeks was not how you made better baseball players.
“We would take the top five (players in the state) and fill in with like players.”
As the Indiana Bulls took shape, Taylor gathered men like John Thiel, Bob Lowrie, Bob Stephens and Tony Miller for their business and baseball expertise and also landed Jeff Mercer Sr., Mike Mundy, Dave Mundy and Craig Moore on the coaching staff.
A real estate appraiser for his day job, Moore spent hours away from his profession seeking the right fit for his players.
“He had a really good feel where a guy would have success,” says Taylor. “He would help find the right situation for that kid.
“He was all about the kids. He was tireless man at helping kids get their college scholarships.”
Many times, every senior in the Bulls program was placed by the winter of their final prep year.
Taylor marvels at how Moore was able to make quick fixes during games and set his guys on the right path.
“He didn’t mince words,” says Taylor. “He was very direct. He knew you didn’t motivate everybody the same way.”
As a result of Moore’s drive, the Bulls as a whole moved forward.
“He forced us to get better at everything as an organization,” says Taylor. “He wasn’t going to sit around and wait.
“He was just an amazing guy. He just gave and gave and gave.”
Taylor remembers Lance Moore as his father’s right hand man.
“Lance was a really bright guy — almost a baseball genius,” says Taylor. “He was a gentle giant (at 6-foot-3 and 225). Lance always had a smile. He had no enemies.”
Lance Moore played at Brownsburg, where he graduated in 1988 — brothers Jered Moore (1989) and Quinn Moore (1996) followed.
“He was a good baseball man,” says Quinn Moore of Johnson. “He just wanted to help kids. He never took a dime for it. He always gave back his coaching stipend.
“He he did it the right way. He demanded respect and that we played the game the right way.”
Johnson helped build the current Brownsburg diamond and took pride in its upkeep.
“He built a winning culture in Brownsburg,” says Quinn. “Wayne probably doesn’t get enough credit for building Brownsburg into a baseball power.”
Jered Moore played college baseball at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
“Dad had the desire to help kids reach their dreams and goals,” says Jered, who is now head coach at Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School and will leads the Bulls 12U White squad in 2021. “Back then did not have all the scouting services you have now. He was constantly on the phone. His long distance bill was high.
“He knew the and how to judge talent. Coaches really respected his decisions.”
Jered notes that the first players from Indiana to sign at Stanford University, including future major league infielder Eric Bruntlett, did so based on Craig Moore’s reputation.
Rolen, Zapp, Closser, Whisler, Lind, Richard, Lynn, Meyer, Barnhart and O’Conner have all been honored as Indiana Mr. Baseball.
Grand Park, a complex in Westfield, Ind., with 26 total baseball fields, is home to the Indiana Bulls. The 2021 season is to feature 30 Bulls teams 8U to 17U.
In the 1980’s, it was not unusual for a high school-aged team to play 15 to 20 games in the summer. Now they play around 50.
“This gives them a ton of time on the mound,” says Jered Moore. “They’re just better ballplayers with all that experience. The more games you play the better you become.
“When dad was coaching the Bulls we would host a tournament at IU, Butler, Ball State or Purdue two times a year. At other times, we were traveling. We spent 20 or 21 days in June and July in a hotel.
“Grand Park gives us a chance to give kids more exposure with all the kids in one location.”
Quinn Moore began at the University of South Alabama and finished at Indiana University. He is now in his second year as Indiana Bulls president.
“My dad took the Bulls to another level,” says Quinn. “A Carmel-based organization grew into the statewide Indiana Bulls.”
While his teams earned their share of victories and titles, that was not the bottom line with Craig Moore.
“It was never about winning over exposure,” says Quinn. “A college coach was there to see if the kid could hit the ball in the gap (even if the situation called for a bunt).”
Based on his experience as a college coach, Craig Moore set pitching rotations so college recruiters would know when and where to see Bulls arms.
“He knew what was best for kids at recruitable ages,” says Quinn, who will lead the Bulls 12U Black team in 2021. “The (Bulls) email chain started with him and my brother and I took it from there.”
Quinn says his father tended to carry a larger roster — 18 to 20 players with 10 of those also being pitchers. Now it’s more like 16 with plenty of two-way players. Of course, there are more teams.
When Craig Moore was coaching, he might have three or four pitchers who touched 90 mph. These days, the majority of hurlers on 17U rosters touch 90-plus.
Cerebral palsy likely kept Lance Moore from playing past high school.
“It was important for Lance to be involved with the Bulls and at a high level of baseball,” says Taylor.
When Jered Moore began coaching for the Bulls in 1999, he invited brother Lance to be an assistant.
“It was awesome,” says Jered. “We were best friends.
“He was very quiet, but he knew the game.”
Jered Moore considers himself fortunate to be a in baseball-crazy Zionsville, where 103 players came to a high school call out meeting. During the fall Limited Contact Period, players not in fall sports participated in practices on Mondays and scrimmages on Wednesdays.
“Indiana high school baseball is in a really good place as far as talent and the number of players that are playing,” says Jered, who is also a real estate appraiser.
The sport had long been a family affair and in the summer of 2003 all four Moores — Craig, Lance, Jered and Quinn — coached a 17U team together.
“That’s my favorite year of coaching,” says Jered Moore.
At that time, future big league pitchers Lynn, Lindblom and Hunter toed the rubber for the Bulls.
Before Dan Held left the Bulls to become an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at IU, it was he and Quinn Moore that controlled social media and a hashtag was created: #BullsFam.
Quinn, who is also a regional sales manager for BSN Sports, enjoys seeing former players now coaching in the organization and having their sons play for the Bulls. Among those is Josh Loggins, Eric Riggs and Rolen (who played on the first Bulls team in 1992).
“The Bulls are family to me,” says Quinn. “It was family to my dad and to my brothers.”
Scott French played for Craig Moore’s Bulls and is now the organization’s director of baseball operations.
“Craig was awesome,” says French, who was a standout catcher at Shakamak High School and Ball State University, coached at BSU and helps with Mike Shirley in teaching lessons at The Barn in Anderson, Ind. “He made it a really good experience.
“Craig could coach in any era in my opinion. He knew when to push buttons and when not to push buttons.
“He was very honest, which is all you could ask of a coach. He was very credible. He didn’t sell players (to coaches and scouts), he just put them in front of people. We have the connections, structure and process (with the Bulls). He was part of starting that process.
“Quinn and Jered have put in a lot of time to help people get somewhere. It’s a passion for them and they got it from their dad.”
A.J. Zapp is like so many baseball coaches. He is anxious to practice with his team.
Hopeful that time will come soon, Zapp gives an indication of how that session might go.
“We like to get into a lot of fundamentals early on — things like PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice), bunt defense, baserunning and defensive outfield play,” says Zapp. “We run multiple stations during batting practice. We keep (players) busy and avoid a lot of standing around.
“We like to keep practices short and sweet. Get your work done and get out of there.”
“After that you lose their attention,” says Zapp. “It’s not the number of reps, it’s the quality of reps you want to be taking.
“It requires the right mindset. Kids must come to practice to work.”
A.J. and wife Nikki Zapp reside in Greenwood and have three children — Evan (15), Ellen (13) and Emilie (10).
Evan Zapp (Center Grove High School Class of 2023) plays on the Indiana Bulls15U Grey travel baseball team with his father as an assistant to head coach Zach Foley.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has teams separated now, there is hope they might be able to play in the latter half of June. Zapp’s team is supposed to play three of four events at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., with out-of-town tournaments in Bloomington, Ind., and the Atlanta and Kansas City areas.
A.J. has coached his son on the diamond since Evan was 6, including some time with the Indiana Astros and Indiana Bulls.
Like his father, Evan throws with his right arm and bats from the left side.
“I encouraged him to be left-handed hitter,” says A.J.
In 2019, A.J. Zapp was Bulls 14U Red head coach. For eight years — seven with the Astros and one with the Bulls — A.J. coached with Phil Milto (uncle of former Roncalli and Indiana University pitcher and current Chicago White Sox farmhand Pauly Milto). Doug Zapp, A.J.’s father, was bench/pitching coach for seven seasons.
A former baseball player at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., Doug Zapp is a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame. Doug and Linda Zapp have an older son named David.
Zapp, who turned 42 in April, got his organized baseball start at Center Grove Little League (now know as Center Grove Youth Baseball) in Greenwood, Ind. In 1992 and 1993, he was on Center Grove Senior League squads that went to the Senior World Series in Kississimmee, Fla.
Up until high school, A.J. was coached by his father. The younger Zapp was a catcher when he was younger. At 12 or 13, he moved to first base.
With a stacked Center Grove High varsity team, A.J. got just 10 varsity at-bats as a sophomore then began turning heads with the Indiana Bulls in the summer of 1994. He also shined on the CG varsity in the spring of 1995 and with the Bulls that summer.
In the fall of 1995, Zapp signed a letter of intent to play for head coach Paul Mainieri at the University of Notre Dame. As his senior season approached, he was hearing from that he might be taken high in the draft.
“I had a tough decision to make,” says Zapp, who helped his pro ball status with a 1996 season that saw him hit .524 with 16 home runs and be named first-team All-American, first-team all-state and Indiana Mr. Baseball. Center Grove won the Franklin Sectional, Franklin Regional and Richmond Semistate before bowing to eventual state champion Jasper at the IHSAA State Finals.
Zapp did not make an early verbal college commitment.
“It’s a little bit different now,” says Zapp. “We have (high school) freshmen and sophomores committing now.
“It makes it tough on the college recruiters to have to evaluate players at 15 and 16. But it’s the times we live in.”
South Spencer High School right-handed pitcher Josh Garrett (No. 26 by the Boston Red Sox) was also a first-rounder in 1996. He pitched in affiliated baseball through 2001, reaching the Double-A level.
Zapp played 1,046 games in the minors (1996-2006) in the Braves (seven seasons), Seattle Mariners (two), Cincinnati Reds (one) and Los Angeles Dodgers (one) systems with 136 home runs and 542 runs batted in.
He socked 26 homers and drove in 92 at Double-A San Antonio as a Texas League postseason all-star in 2003 and belted 29 homers and plated 101 while hitting .291 at Triple-A Tacoma in 2004. On Aug. 20 of that year, he drove in nine runs and vaulted the Rainiers to victory with a walk-off grand slam.
Zapp is one of the few players to launch a homer over the tall wall in center field at Cheney Stadium – the “Blue Monster.”
Brian Snitker, who is now the manager in Atlanta, was Zapp’s manager at Low-A Macon in 1998, High-A Myrtle Beach in 2000 and Double-A Greenville in 2002.
Former Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves manager and current Baltimore Orioles bench coach Fredi Gonzalez was Zapp’s manager at Triple-A Richmond in 2002. After that season, Zapp was granted free agency and signed with the Mariners.
“Those days can change a kid’s life,” says Zapp. “Losing out on that many rounds, I’m not a fan of it.
“There will be a lot of free agent signs.”
An unlimited amount of undrafted players can be signed for $20,000 each.
Kris Benson was the No. 1 overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Clemson University. Besides Zapp, first-round high school draftees were Texas pitcher John Patterson (No. 5 by the Montreal Expos), Pennsylvania pitcher Matt White (No. 7 by the San Francisco Giants), California third baseman Eric Chavez (No. 10 by the Oakland Athletics), Washington pitcher Adam Eaton (No. 11 by the Philadelphia Phillies), Florida pitcher Bobby Seay (No. 12 by the Chicago White Sox), California outfielder Robert Stratton (No. 13 by the New York Mets), New York outfielder Dermal Brown (No. 14 by the Kansas City Royals), Virginia shortstop Matt Halloran (No. 15 by the San Diego Padres), Louisiana shortstop Joe Lawrence (No. 16 by the Toronto Blue Jays), Louisiana pitcher Todd Noel (No. 17 by the Chicago Cubs), Georgia pitcher Jake Westbrook (No. 21 by the Colorado Rockies), Louisiana pitcher Gil Meche (No. 22 by the Seattle Mariners), Kansas third baseman Damian Rolls (No. 23 by the Los Angeles Dodgers), Florida pitcher Sam Marsonek (No. 24 by the Texas Rangers) and Pennsylvania outfielder John Oliver (No. 25 by the Cincinnati Reds).
Sandwich first-rounders in 1996 included North Carolina outfielder Paul Wilder (No. 29 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays), California pitcher Nick Bierbrodt (No. 30 by the Arizona Diamondbacks), Florida pitcher Matt McClendon (No. 33 by the Reds), Canadian pitcher Chris Reitsma (No. 34 by the Red Sox) and New York pitcher Jason Marquis (No. 35 by the Braves).
Benson (70 wins in 10 seasons), Patterson (18 victories in six seasons), Chavez (260 home runs in 17 seasons), Eaton (71 wins in 11 seasons), Seay (11 wins in eight seasons), Brown (271 games in eight seasons), Lawrence (55 games in 2002), Westbrook (105 wins in 14 seasons), Meche (84 wins in 10 seasons), Rolls (266 games in five seasons), Marsonek (one appearance in 2004), Bierbrodt (six wins in five seasons), Reitsma (32 wins and 37 saves in seven seasons) and Marquis (124 in 17 seasons) all made it the bigs. Bierbrodt made a stop with the 1997 South Bend Silver Hawks along the way.
Stratton and McClendon made it as high as Triple-A, Halloran Double-A, Noel and Wilder Advanced-A and Oliver Low A.
In 2019, there were 13 high schoolers drafted in the first round — Texas shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 2 by the Royals), Florida outfielder Riley Greene (No. 5 by the Detroit Tigers), Georgia shortstop C.J. Abrams (No. 6 by the Padres), Texas corner infielder Brett Baty (No. 12 by the Mets), California third baseman Keoni Cavaco (No. 13 by the Minnesota Twins), Washington outfielder Corbin Carroll (No. 16 by the Diamondbacks), Illinois pitcher Quinn Priester (No. 18 by the Pirates), Georgia Premier Academy/Panamanian pitcher Daniel Espino (No. 24 by the Cleveland Indians), North Carolina pitcher Blake Walston (No. 26 by the Diamondbacks) and New Jersey shortstop Anthony Volpe (No. 30by the New York Yankees).
North Carolina high school pitcher Brennan Malone (No. 33 by the Diamondbacks) was a compensation first-round selection.
Competitive balance first-round picks from high school were Texas pitcher J.J. Gross (No. 36 by the Rays) and Pennsylvania outfielder Sammy Siani (No. 37 by the Pirates).
Abrams played for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2019.
Indiana’s three 2019 first-rounders came from the college ranks — University of Kentucky pitcher Zack Thompson (No. 19 by the St. Louis Cardinals), Tulane University third baseman Kody Hoese (No. 25 by the Dodgers) and Ball State University pitcher Drey Jameson (No. 34 by the Diamondbacks). Thompson (Wapahani), Hoese (Griffith) and Jameson (Greenfield-Central) are prepped in the Hoosier State.
Generally speaking, there are more right-handed pitchers out there. That means lefty swingers will see pitches breaking into them. Of course, the opposite is true with righty hitters against lefty pitchers.
Zapp sees big leaguers try to combat this trend.
“The two-seamer and cutter very popular in Major League Baseball now,” says Zapp. There’s also been plenty of lefty vs. lefty and righty vs. righty. “Games lasting longer because of the match-ups late in the game. Relievers have wipe-out sliders. Every reliever seems to throw 95 mph-plus with their fastball.”
When Zapp was playing, the gas increased as he went up in levels.
“A lot of those big arms are starters early in their careers and they move to the bullpen,” says Zapp.
Looking at how the youth baseball scene has changed over the years, Zapp says in the impact of social media and entities like Perfect Game USA and Prep Baseball Report give players so much exposure.
“The training, too,” says Zapp. “Kids are training all year-round. There’s a lot of hard workers.
“The competition is getting better. It’s a very competitive sport.”
Zapp, who was head baseball coach at Franklin (Ind.) Community High School in 2007, is around sports during his day job, too. As a sale representative for BSN Sports — the largest Nike and Under Armour team dealer in the country — he talks all day with athletic directors and coaches and sells practice gear, football, uniforms, spirit wear and more.
A.J. Zapp graduated from Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., and was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 1996. (Best Card Image)
Nikki and A.J. Zapp are surrounded by their three children (from left): Evan, Emilie and Ellen. A.J. was Indiana Mr. Baseball at Center Grove High School in 1996, played 11 professional seasons and is now a coach with the Indiana Bulls with Evan on the team.
The apple didn’t fall too far from the baseball tree.
“I’ve always known I wanted to coach,” says Blake Beemer, a Ball State University assistant and second-generation college baseball coach.
Blake’s father, Gregg Beemer, was on the staffs at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is now the recruiting director for the Dayton Classics travel baseball organization.
“He loves baseball and passed it down to me,” says Blake. “I think when I was 11 I decided that college would be ideal for me. I’m fortunate to be living the dream.”
Beemer, 28, was born in Dayton, played for Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chuck Harlow at Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio, and played four seasons at Ball State (2010-13) for head coaches Greg Beals, Alex Marconi and Rich Maloney. He was a team captain in his final three seasons with the Cardinals. For his career, he hit .286 with 108 runs scored and 94 driven in.
He has learned that to make an impact, it takes an investment.
“The biggest thing we do as college coaches is that we have to care,” says Beemer. “You have to try to create relationships and get to know your guys and what they’re going through off the field as well as on it.”
It just doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.
“As you create that trust, that understanding, that love, I think that’s when you can start to open up and coach guys a little bit harder or find what makes guys tick,” says Beemer. “When they know you really care that’s when it really can be special.”
In addition to Harlow in high school, Beemer says Beals, Marconi and Maloney all made their mark on him in different ways.
“(Beals) was a very tough, demanding coach,” says Beemer. “But he was quick to make sure you knew he was on your side. (Marconi) was more laid-back, a guy you could really talk to. You didn’t feel intimidated by him.
“(Maloney) has that professionalism, caring and love. When you have that, you can really do a lot of things. He brought that back (to Ball State) when he came in 2013.
“We weren’t talented the year before. He told us he loved us and we were going to be good. The power of belief got us there (the Cards went from 14-36 in 2012 to 31-24 in 2013).”
Beemer says Maloney is “ultra-competitive.”
“He’s still fiery,” says Beemer. “He’s competitive. He wants to win. He challenges myself to bring energy everyday and he challenges our guys.
“It’s fun when we have that coming down from the top. It gets the best out of everybody in the group.”
“With social media today, you can find players all the time,” says Beemer. “Our recruiting time from an NCAA standpoint is March 1 to Nov. 1. That’s the time period we can be out on the road everyday and go watch players.
“When November comes, we dial it back and can only recruit at camps on our campus.”
It becomes a projectable exercise. The BSU staff has to consider who might be taken in Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft from their roster or their commits from high school and whether or not they are likely to sign with professional teams. They might need to fill a need at the junior college level.
“It’s a balancing act,” says Beemer of juggling the current team with the future of the program. “Recruiting has sped up so much. We’re recruiting (high school) sophomores and juniors pretty regularly now.
“We pride ourselves in being a mid-major team that finds under-the-radar-type guys that may develop a little bit later.”
Beemer notes that 2019 first-rounder Drey Jameson was an undersized right-hander when he came to Ball State out of Greenfield-Central High School and that current junior right-hander Kyle Nicolas has steadily developed since arriving in Muncie from Ohio.
“Typically, we don’t get that blue chip recruit who’s a freshman stud in high school. We get the guy who’s getting better as a junior and senior. Hopefully we aren’t missing and don’t have to over-recruit.
“We want good players wherever they’re at,” says Beemer. “There’s a lot of really good baseball in Indiana. Grand Park (in Westfield, Ind.) is a great complex to recruit (for recruiting). We can go 45 minutes and see just about everything.”
Beemer says as Maloney and Ball State builds the brand, they can go get players from California and other places.
Former Ball State University baseball player Blake Beemer is now an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals. (Ball State University Photo)
Taking his ability to evaluate baseball talent and manage people, Anderson, Ind., native Mike Shirley is embracing the complexities of his new job as amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox.
Shirley, 49, took over his current role in late August. He was named assistant scouting director for the White Sox in November 2018. He began serving the organization as a cross checker in 2010.
As a cross checker, Shirley managed five or six area scouts.
“I was very active with a certain set of people, helping guide their schedule and my own schedule,” says Shirley. “As assistant scouting director, I was helping the director fulfill the entire (Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft) process.”
That meant helping to coordinate the entire amateur department while also acting as a national scout.
As director, Shirley is in charge of everything for the amateur scouting department.
“There’s so much more that goes into being a baseball scout than looking at players,” says Shirley. “There’s management of people, (molding) philosophy, understanding budgets and personnel and keeping everybody on track.”
Shirley notes that more attention is paid to the draft than ever before and there are so many pieces to the puzzle.
“I love the fact that scouting is so difficult some days to put all these pieces in order,” says Shirley. “That’s the most interesting part of the challenge that comes with it.”
With the training now available, players are now reaching the elite level at younger ages.
“Prospects now have currency and value as your organization changes and grows,” says Shirley. “The restructuring at the major league level has changed.
“The rebuild has changed the dynamic of what prospects mean. If your club is in a rebuild and it’s you know it’s not competitive let’s say in 2019, your processes become completely different.”
Clubs take into consideration drafting players that will give them the most currency in the market place.
“There are times now you’re drafting players you know — based on your cycle of talent from top to bottom — may be used as trade chips to get you to the next major league star,” says Shirley. “That’s really changed. There was a time 20 years ago when every team felt like they had a chance to win and every team was running for the title.
“We’re all trying to be competitive, but we also understand where are cycles of talent are (at any given time).”
With the 2020 season and June draft looming, where are the White Sox led by executive vice president Ken Williams and senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn?
“We’re hugely in a position to be successful for the next five to eight years,” says Shirley. “It’s pretty well-documented we’ve in a rebuild process the last four years. It’s been trying times for everybody, especially for our fans, to stomach the tough days and the losses. I think we’re on the back of that now.
“Everybody is so excited about where we’re headed and what we’re capable of doing in the near future. Our young talent is significant. Our minor leagues is strong.”
Shirley is always taking in information from members of the White Sox amateur scouting department.
“The listening skill has to be sharp everyday,” says Shirley. “You have to be able to comprehend what these guys are doing and listen.
“There’s constant communication.”
During the season, area scouts are filing daily reports and messages are flying back and forth via calls, texts and emails.
A recent three-day recent organizational meeting at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., brought together all the scouting department and part of the player development staff.
“It was designed to get everybody in one room,” says Shirley. “We talked about philosophy, planning and where are evaluations are for the 2020 draft class.
“We listened to player development speak about players we’ve drafted in the past, where those players are at and shared information.”
It’s all about getting better and evaluating performance as scouts and player development folks.
“We did a good job here. We missed here,” says Shirley. “There’s constant evaluation of those two departments. We try to work together to make sure our decisions are tighter. Where are we missing? Where are we strong?
“You’re looking at it with full transparency. You’re not tricking yourself.”
Shirley has began conducting conference calls with his 17 area scouts.
“It’s a little deeper conversation than just what they submitted on the follow list,” says Shirley of a catalog of every player in a scout’s area that is likely to be drafted in 2020. “We want to listen to their voice.”
Scouts have been meeting with high school and college players and will continue to do so. These interactions help the White Sox put the make-up piece together in their draft evaluation.
Shirley says the club wants to know if a player is smart of lackadaisical, engaged or disengaged in the conversation or is a grinder.
“How do they go about their business?,” says Shirley. “What’s their family dynamic like? What’s their mom and dad like? Who influences them the most?”
Those pieces start to be put together via these conference calls.
“We’re always willing to take a risk on players who have elite talent,” says Shirley. “But if you don’t have elite talent and you have bad make-up, obviously there’s a red flag we try to stay away from.”
Scouts have been working on the 2020 draft for two years already. They were on the road again three days after the conclusion of the 2019 draft.
Most of the players who wind up in college, we’ve seen when they are in high school,” says Shirley. “The depth at which we follow these players is significant. The elite players we spend a lot of time on.”
There’s many ways to track players, including seeing them play in-person, video services, TrackMan and Rapsodo data and more.
“There’s so much more to the process than what your eyes tell you any more,” says Shirley. “We have multiple angles and multiple opinions.
“The sharing part among your departments becomes so tremendous. Everybody is in the boat rowing together trying to get to the destination.”
Stoudt-coached teams won 654 games with 14 sectional titles and three regional championship and 10 conference championships in 32 years as a head coach through 2012. He sent a number of players into college and professional baseball.
“He was tremendous,” says Shirley of Stoudt. “He built a program of high-end talent.
“He expected you to show up and held you accountable. He pushed you to be you best. He was demanding and his demand forced you to raise your expectations for yourself.”
Having an elite arm in right field, Shirley was reluctantly converted to a pitcher. He hurt his arm, underwent Tommy John surgery and was released. He concluded his pro career with the independent Anderson Lawmen in 1995 (Mid-America League) and 1996 (Heartland League) while also completing his degree at Indiana University.
Mike and Kimberly Shirley have been married 22 years and have three baseball-playing sons.
Various ailments, including stress fractures, caused Caden and Colton to miss long stretches of development as high school players.
“Being a baseball man like I am and watching my own children suffer, it’s been one of the biggest challenges as a father,” says Shirley. “You see how hard they’ve worked through their lifetime and you see them lose almost two years of their careers and it’s very difficult.”
For years, Shirley has operated a training facility in Anderson called “The Barn.”
“There’s so many young, talented players in there that have bright futures,” says Shirley. “That’s why I’ll always stay connected.
“You want to give them the guidance and give your expertise.”
Players from youth through major league come to the facility to train.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, who has played in the big leagues, took swings at “The Barn” during Thanksgiving week.
Minor leaguer Nick Schnell (selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018) got in the cage before heading off to Florida.
Zack Thompson (a first-rounder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019) and Drey Jameson (a first-rounder for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019) have trained at “The Barn” since they were youngsters.
So has Cole Barr, a Yorktown (Ind.) High School product who slugged 17 home runs at Indiana University in 2019.
“It’s been a really productive situation,” says Shirley. “There are guys in there who are going to be the next Nick Schnell or next Cole Barr.
“It’s a special place. We don’t ever try to be famous. We’re not on Twitter. If you’re a baseball guy, the proof’s in the pudding. Are you making players or not? Are you helping players get to their goals?”
Mike Shirley, a native of Anderson, Ind., is the amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox. He is a 1988 graduate of Pendleton Heights High School. (Chicago White Sox Photo)
Kehrt, an Avon, Ind., resident, is heading into his third year with the D-backs after concluding his own professional career. As a right-handed pitcher, he competed for 10 seasons in the minors with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.
Selected in the 47th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by Boston out of the University of Southern Indiana, Kehrt pitched in the Red Sox system into 2014 and in the Dodgers chain 2014-16, going 45-57 with a 4.55 earned run average over 222 games (128 as a starter). He hurled at the Triple-A level in 2011-14 and 2016.
He was the Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs Citizen of the Year in 2011. That same year he was 2-1 in 10 games with Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League.
He pitched in the Double-A Texas League All-Star Game in 2015. He was with Laguna of the Triple-A Mexican League and Trois-Rivieres of the independent Can-Am League in 2017.
Kehrt also played winter ball in Puerto Rico with Mayaguez in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and Caguas in 2015-16, Venezuela with Zulia in 2014-15 and Magallanes in 2016-17 and Mexico in 2016-1 with Mazatlan.
In his role as scout, he estimates that he drives 50,000 miles a year while checking on high school and college players in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
“I commute as much as possible,” says Kehrt, who tries to make it back to wife Meagen, 4-year-old son Maddux and 2-year-old daughter Belamy immediately after most scouting trips. “Fall is more organized with scrimmages and scout days and these new exhibition games. Summers and falls have more showcase environments. Spring can be crazy and you can go from Michigan to Kentucky in one day to see players.”
Kehrt traveled to the University of Louisville Wednesday, Oct. 16 to see action in the annual Pizza Bowl fall intrasquad series.
Whenever the weather, schedule changes and traffic allows, Kehrt tries to arrive at the field as early as possible to observe players during warm-ups. He sees how they interact with teammates and coaches.
“I want to get the whole picture of what the player is,” says Kehrt, 32. “I talk to the people in their life. I try to get multiple looks.”
Drey Jameson, a hard-throwing right-hander who signed with the Diamondbacks in the first round out of Ball State University, was tracked by Kehrt.
Kehrt, 33, saw 2019 Southport (Ind.) High School graduate Avery Short several times before Arizona selected the left-handed pitcher in the 12th round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
“For a high school kid, he was able to throw an insane amount of strikes,” says Kehrt of Short. “He had an advanced (baseball) IQ for a 17- or 18-year-old kid.”
“They get experience and get used to grinding during the summers (in travel ball),” says Kehrt. “They have fun during their senior years. It’s one last hurrah and they can showcase their stuff.”
Andrew Saalfrank was chosen by the Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2019 draft out of Indiana University. Purdue University catcher Nick Dalesandro (10th round) and Indiana State University right-hander Ethan Larrison (16th round) were taken in 2018.
A 2004 graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School, Kehrt played two seasons for Brian Planker and one for Michael Thompson. After playing in the Plainfield Little League and Plainfield Teenage Babe Ruth Baseball League in his younger years, he pitched in a few tournaments with the Indianapolis Bulldogs his 16U summer then spent full summer seasons with the James Hurst-coached travel team as 17U and 18U player.
“(Hurst) gave me the best advice I ever got,” says Kehrt. “He told me to go to college. That’s what he did (left-hander Hurst pitched at Florida Southern College and got into eight games with the 1994 Texas Rangers and hurled in three with the 1995 Indianapolis Indians). “That was a pivotal point in my high school career.”
Off to college to study marketing (he finished his degree in December 2008), Kehrt played at USI for four seasons (2005-08) — the last two with Tracy Archuleta as head coach and Joel Weaver as pitching coach.
“They changed the culture of the team,” says Kehrt of Archuleta and Weaver. “Coach Weaver connected with me on mechanics. He broke it down, made it easy to understand and click in the game.
“I owe a lot to me making a big step to both of those guys.”
Kehrt’s pitching coach for six seasons with Red Sox minor league teams was former big league left-hander Bob Kipper, who spent time with the righty reflecting on the positives and negatives of his outing.
Spending time around major league pitchers in spring training was also instructive to Kehrt.
“I’m a big learn-by-example guy,” says Kehrt. “I’d watch John Lackey during his bullpens and see how his mechanics work.”
With the Dodgers, former big league pitcher Matt Herges was his pitching coach at Double-A and Triple A.
“It was eye-opening how much more I could learn at age 29 and 30,” says Kehrt. “He allowed me to play an extra year.”
Kept busy these days with scouting and family, Kehrt has taught lessons in the past at former big league pitcher Bill Sampen’s Samp’s Hack Shack training facilities.
Jeremy Kehrt, a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School and the University of Indiana, works in the bullpen during his minor league baseball career. He is now an area scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Jeremy Kehrt pitched in the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers systems during his baseball-playing career.
The Kehrt family (from left): Jeremy, Maddux, Meagen and Bellamy. Jeremy is an area scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Kehrts resides in Avon, Ind.
Especially his last two seasons, the right-hander was able to throw all his pitches for strikes and was often able to put out the fire.
As a senior, he was named to the all-Mid-American Conference first team. He made 24 mound appearances (19 in relief) in the spring of 2019 and went 7-0 with five saves and a 2.19 earned run average. In 56 1/3 innings, Floyd used his two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and change-up to amass 55 strikeouts and 18 walks. He fanned a single-game career-high eight batters May 10 against Ohio University.
Floyd was 5-1 in 22 games with 48 strikeouts and 17 walks in 49 2/3 innings as a junior. For his BSU career, the Jimtown High School graduate was 14-3 with six saves, a 3.47 ERA, 131 K’s and 81 walks in 158 innings.
“Consistency is the main thing for me,” says Floyd, 22. “I finally put it together at the end of my college career.
“My goal is summer is to keep working out to get stronger and keep competing. The only way to get better is the compete. I want to carry over my success against college hitters to pro hitters.”
Floyd’s change-up has arm-side sink and been known to devastate right-handed batters.
“When I throw it right I can get a lot of movement on it,” says Floyd. “It’s my go-to pitch.
“I’ve always thrown a change-up. But it got good during my college career.”
Ball State pitching coach Dustin Glant helped Floyd adjust his grip on the pitch which he throws like his fastball.
“It’s almost like a screwball,” says Glant. “He caught the spin axis just right. He can throw the change-up to both righties and lefties.”
Glant got to work with Floyd for his last three seasons with the Cardinals.
“I watched him progress as a pitcher and as a young man with his maturity and competitiveness,” says Glant.
Floyd says Glant has all his pitchers taking on a mentality and attitude of confidence.
“You know you’re better than the hitter and you’re going to get them out every single time,” says Floyd.
That competitive fire was especially evident in Drey Jameson, who was an All-American and the MAC Pitcher of the Year and selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
“We saw that and fed off that,” says Floyd, speaking for the rest of the BSU mound crew.
Glant saw Floyd morph into a relief role and embrace it.
“It’s give me the ball late and I’ll win this game for you,” says Glant. “He has ice water in his veins.
“His stuff got better and he became aggressive on the mound.”
Floyd has found comfort in chaos.
“I like getting thrown right into the fire,” says Floyd. “Adrenaline kicks in right away.”
“He cares about all his players — on and off the field,” says Floyd. “He’s steady. He’s got a lot of years of experience.”
While earning a degree in Finance this spring, Floyd made his third straight all-MAC academic team.
“I’m really good with numbers,” says Floyd, who carried a 3.39 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale during the spring semester.
He is now learning to adjust to pro ball with its long road trips and individualized training.
“There’s no school,” says Floyd. “For the first time, I can solely focus on baseball day in and day out.”
Floyd played three sports at Jimtown — four years varsity in baseball, three in basketball and two in tennis. His head baseball coach was Darin Mast. He gave up tennis after his sophomore year to play fall baseball.
The only child of Mill and Diana Floyd, Nick says he was fortunate that both parents could attend his games as he grew up while other families had to divide and conquer to follow their children.
Nick started at Baugo Little League in Elkhart. In his 11U summer, he began to play travel ball and was with the South Bend Predators, Michiana Clippers and Indiana Bearcats before landing with the Indiana Chargers during his high school years.
“That’s where I really got college contact,” says Floyd of the Chargers.
Nick Floyd made his professional baseball debut June 16, 2019 with the Gary SouthShore RailCats. (Gary SouthShore RailCats/Adrien Hall Photo)
Nick Floyd, a graduate of Jimtown High School and Ball State University retired all six Saint Paul Saints batters he faced June 16 at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. It was his pro baseball debut. (Gary SouthShore RailCats/Adrien Hall Photo)
Nick Floyd, a Jimtown High School graduate, pitched for Ball State University from 2016-19. (Ball State University Photo)
Maloney is enjoying the Jameson experience at Ball State because he does not expect it to last past this season.
“We’re not going to have him,” says Maloney. “He’s going to go pretty high in the draft. Everybody in the country knows that. It’s great. That’s what you want. You want him to realize his dream and have a chance to play in the big leagues.
“He’s special. He has moxie. He has confidence.”
The 21-year-old Jameson just doesn’t believe in holding back and wants always be the aggressor.
“I’m very competitive,” says Jameson. “I never want to take a pitch off.”
Where does he think he’s improved most since his high school days?
“I’ve become a true pitcher,” says Jameson. “In high school, you could have considered me as a thrower. Last year, you could have considered me a thrower.
“Since I’ve become a pitcher-only, I’ve really improved my game. That comes with time on the mound.”
In 2018, Jameson’s honors included Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American, Baseball America Freshman All-American second team, MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year, all-MAC first team and MAC Pitcher of the Week (April 9, 2018).
Jameson says Ball State pitching coach Dustin Glant has reinforced his competitive drive by pushing him and firing him up.
What does compete mean to Jameson?
“It’s 100 percent every pitch,” says Jameson. “You don’t take a back seat. You don’t back down. You just go right at them.
“I’m super-competitive and have a chip on my shoulder. That’s very crucial to competing in my opinion. I trust myself. I trust the guys behind me.”
Jameson is the Cardinals’ Friday night starter for weekend series and is expected to take the ball Friday, April 26 against Bowling Green in Muncie.
Tuesday, April 23 was scheduled as a bullpen day. But since BSU was playing Indiana at Victory Field in Indianapolis, Jameson took another opportunity to compete and worked the first inning. It took him 14 pitches to strike out all three batters he faced.
With wipe-out breaking stuff to go with the heat (he regularly touches 94 to 97 mph and registered 100 twice on the Miami University scoreboard on April 12), Jameson can be a handful for hitters.
In 11 starts in 2019, he is 2-3 with a 3.53 earned run average. He has 92 strikeouts and 20 walks in 58 2/3 innings with a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 1.12. Opponents are hitting .211 against him.
Jameson has worked with former Pendleton Heights High School, Ball State and Arizona Diamondbacks system pitcher and current Chicago White Sox area scout Justin Wechsler.
“He’s been a very big help for me,” says Jameson. “He’s helped me with my mechanics and getting into my legs a lot more than I used to.”
Maloney says Wechsler was also a fierce competitor with a nasty breaking ball.