Pardon the pun, but Brayden Risedorph is on the rise on the national baseball showcase scene. A fireballing right-handed pitcher from Kendallville, Ind., Risedorph took part Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Baseball Factory All-America Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. The event featured 40 invitees from around the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Taking the mound for the National team in the eighth inning, Risedorph produced a 1-2-3 frame with two groundouts sandwiched around a strikeout. On Aug. 2-5, Risedorph was a part of the East Coast Pro in Hoover, Ala. He was assigned to the Reds for that showcase. Risedorph, who is in the East Noble High School Class of 2022, was at the invitation-only Prep Baseball Report Pro-Case Midwest July 6 at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., where his fastball was clocked at 95 mph and sat at 93 to 95 during his simulated inning. This fall, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is playing for the Cincinnati Reds Scout Team with tournaments in central Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin and the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship slated for Oct. 7-11 in Jupiter, Fla. Risedorph drew some notice before, but really began turning heads in recent months. “I was always pretty decent, but this summer is where I took my biggest step,” says Risedorph, 18. “I just kept making a lot of little jumps and kept getting invited to bigger and bigger things.” After one of the games of the East Coast Pro, Risedorph was approached by Ben Simon, an advisor/agent based in the Cleveland suburb of Moreland Hills, Ohio. Knowing the reputation of developing pitchers by head coach Jon Goebel, Risedorph committed last fall to play at National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., beginning in 2022-23, but has been getting interest from larger schools. Risedorph is a two-way player at East Noble, manning one of the infield corners when not pitching. In 2021, he hit .329 (24-of-73) five home runs, one triple, six doubles, 25 runs batted in and 19 runs scored in 26 games for Knights head coach Aaron Desmonds. In eight mound appearances, Risedorph was 3-3 with 2.00 earned run average, 60 strikeouts and 18 walks in 35 innings. As a pitcher-only with 5 Star Midwest National. Risedorph went to PBR tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and LakePoint Baseball Complex in Emerson, Ga., and racked up five shutouts. Throwing from a low three-quarter overhand arm slot, which gives him much natural run, Risedorph throws a four-seam fastball which has maxed out at 96 mph. He also uses a slider, change-up and, sometimes, a curve or splitter. “It goes straight left with a lot of horizontal break,” says Risedorph of his slider. “It ooks like a fastball then at the last second it dives to the left.” It’s a “circle” change that Risedorph throws when taking something off his hard stuff. His curve is of the “11-to-5” variety. He uses his middle and index fingers and throws his splitter like his fastball and it dives at the plate. Born and raised in Kendallville, Brayden is the youngest of Randy and Iolet Risedorph’s four sons, behind A.J., Ryan and Eric. Former Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne pitcher A.J. Risedorph is the head baseball coach, assistant boys basketball coach and dean of athletics at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind.
With giving players opportunities to develop and compete at a high level a priority, Indiana Elite Baseball is preparing for the spring and summer travel season.
Started as part of the Center Grove Little League in Greenwood, Ind., Indiana Elite Baseball had one team in 2011 then four teams in 2013 and was up to 10 squads in 2014 and has stayed in that range ever since. IEB will field 10 squads ages 12U through 17U in 2021. Younger players are typically come from central Indiana, but talent comes around the state.
“We started to grow it slowly,” says Indiana Elite Baseball founder and president Mike Chitwood, a former all-city player and 1989 graduate of Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis. “We wanted to do something bigger than a community-based team.
“I have a big passion for doing what I do. I love educating players and families on the process. I tell them to play the game for as long as you can.”
IEB has been a not-for-profit organization since 2013.
“I try to keep cost as low as possible for our families,” says Chitwood. “You have to do certain things to afford the families and players an opportunity to develop.”
In 2016, the organization got its own indoor training facility on the southeast side of Indianapolis. It’s open year-round only to IEB teams, coaches and instructors.
“It’s been a great addition for the last five years,” says Chitwood.
Indiana Elite Baseball offers a full winter training program led by director of baseball operations Brian Simmons.
Players train four hours a week November to March.
“I’m a big advocate of multi-sport athletes,” says Chitwood. “But get to as many (baseball workouts) as you can.”
Younger teams tend to play in 12 events a year, beginning in early to mid-April. Older teams play seven or eight tournaments after Memorial Day.
Simmons is a graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis who played at Xavier University and Ball State University and in independent pro ball. He was an assistant at Roncalli to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Wirtz and aided Eric McGaha at Mooresville (Ind.) High School and was head coach at Roncalli and Indianapolis Arlington.
Deron Spink is the other IEB instructor. A California native, Spink coached future big leaguers Ryan Howard and David Freese in the St. Louis area and was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., and director of baseball operations at Villanova University in Philadelphia before moving to Indiana.
Spink was a volunteer assistant to Steve Farley at Butler University and is a former director of baseball operations and recruiting for Indiana Elite Baseball who now resides in Evansville while still coming to Indianapolis to give private lessons.
Chitwood, Simmons and vice president Jeff Amodeo make up IEB’s board. Amodeo coaches and does much of the behind-the-scenes work.
Through a relationship with Franklin College the past four years, Chitwood has gotten Grizzlies assistants to coach for Indiana Elite Baseball in the summer. Tim Miller has gone on to become head coach at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va. Former Franklin and IEB coach Tyler Rubasky is Miller’s assistant.
Current Franklin assistants Jake Sprinkle, who played at Franklin Central and the University of Indianapolis, and Trevor Tunison, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., also lend their talents to IEB.
Chitwood used to have a rule that after 15U, there could be no coaches who had sons on the team.
“As long as a dad is in it for the right reason and they’re not in it to take care of their son, I will let a dad continue as long as they want to continue for multiple reasons,” says Chitwood. “These days, it’s harder and harder to get a guy to spend his entire summer at the baseball field.”
“There’s a misconception that you had to play collegiately or at a higher level professionally to be a coach,” says Chitwood. “(16U Black head coach) Steve Sawa didn’t play past high school. But he’s a student of the game. He’s a great coach.”
John Curl, a Logansport (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Texas A&M and in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and is a Kokomo (Ind.) High School assistant, helps Sawa.
Paul Godsey (Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky.), Dan Sullivan (Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) and Scott Gilliam (UIndy) and Brian Maryan (Rose-Hulman) are former college players who also have sons on their respective teams. Gilliam is assisted by former Eastern Illinois University pitcher and IEB father/coach Kyle Widegren.
Fortified with knowledge that he gained playing in Indiana and lessons learned since a Kentucky native is passing along baseball wisdom in the Commonwealth as owner/pitching coordinator at Pitching Performance Lab.
Opened in October 2019 by Chad Martin, the Lexington business has trained more than 300 players and currently works with about 200. PPL shares space and partners with Watts Performance Systems, owned by Drew Watts.
According to the WPS website: “The collaborative approach to baseball training offered by Watts Performance Systems and the Pitching Performance Lab is like nothing else available in central Kentucky. Throwing athletes who train at our facility receive training guidance that addresses their specific needs both from a skill standpoint and a movement/strength standpoint.”
Says Martin, “We’re integrating strength and skill together to make sure every athlete’s individual needs are met.”
The plan is not rigid. It is adaptable so adjustments can be made depending on the player’s needs.
One size does not fit all.
“We talk to our athletes and see what are goals are,” says Martin. “We don’t emphasize velocity alone.”
Martin and his instructors utilize motion-capture technology such as TrackMan and Rapsodo, which gives feedback on vertical and horizontal break, release angle and height, spin rate and efficiency and tilt and helps in the process of creating a separation in various pitches.
While those these things are helpful, the idea is not to get too caught up in technical jargon.
“It’s a lot of information even for me,” says Martin. “It can be something as simple as a grip adjustment or a visual cue.
“We always go simple first. Our goal is not to overcomplicate pitching. We try to stay away from really big words because it doesn’t really matter.”
Of all the players trained by PPL, 25 to 30 have been strictly position players who don’t pitch. There have been many two-way players and pitcher-onlys.
With non-pitchers, the goal is to make them a better overall thrower with their arm speed and path.
Martin is a board member and coach with Commonwealth Baseball Club travel organization and is to coach the 17U Xpress team this summer with trips planned to Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. CBC teams begin at 13U with some designated Xpress and others Grays. Depending on the level, some teams will compete in events at Prep Baseball Report events at LakePoint Sports campus in Emerson, Ga.
Travel ball is about college exposure. There are opportunities at many levels.
“We are definitely not D-I or bust,” says Martin. “We look for programs where we feel comfortable sending kids.”
Martin, 30, grew up in Lexington, where he graduated from Dunbar High School in 2008. He was recruited to Vincennes by Ted Thompson (now head coach at Tecumseh, Ind., High School) and played two seasons (2009 and 2010) for Trailblazers head coach Chris Barney and pitching coaches Scott Steinbrecher and Jeremy Yoder.
After two seasons at the junior college, 6-foot-7 right-hander Martin took the mound at IU for head coach Tracy Smith and pitching coach Ty Neal in 2011 and 2012.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for (my coaches),” says Martin. “I’m tickled to death to be able to coach and do it as my job.”
Martin made 36 mound appearances for the Hoosiers (17 starts) and went 4-8 with a 4.08 earned run average. He struck out 81 batters in 139 innings.
Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 10th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Martin relieved in 14 games with the Arizona Cubs in 2012 and played a few games with the independent Florence (Ky.) Freedom in 2013.
Martin remembers Barney’s approach.
“He was always real supportive and real,” says Martin. “He didn’t lie about how he thought we were performing. That was a good thing.
“I thought I was really good and I wasn’t. I decided to work harder.”
Martin thrived in the junior college culture.
“We had some long days in the fall,” says Martin. “Juco is synonymous for doubleheaders all the time.
“It’s a good opportunity to get reps.”
As younger coaches, Steinbrecher (who played at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.) and Yoder (who had been a graduate assistant at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.) introduced new wave concepts.
Smith (who is now head coach at Arizona State University) was a straight shooter like Barney.
“He had a real good ability to be able to kick you in the butt and pat you on the back,” says Martin. “He was able to give players the right source of motivation. He got into my rear end a bunch of times. Having expectations is something I needed — some guard rails to keep me in-check and focused.
“I really enjoyed playing for him.”
Martin appreciated Neal’s way of explaining pitching concepts.
“We’d talk about what location worked better for setting up certain pitches,” says Martin. “It was more about getting outs and not so much mechanics.”
In pro ball, Martin had to adjust from starter to reliever.
“I’d long toss like I did as a starter then sit for seven innings,” says Martin. “I got hurt my first outing.”
In the minors, Martin saw the importance of routines and taking care of the body.
But the biggest takeaway was the anxiety component. Players can care too much about what people think and implode.
“It can be extremely stressful,” says Martin. “You can be around some of the best players on Planet Earth and wonder if you belong.
“It helped from a mental standpoint.”
He passes that know-how along to his PPL and travel ball players.
“We put a big emphasis on the mental side,” says Martin. “We want them to be prepared for what they’re going to encounter during a game. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
“There are coping strategies when things go wrong so there are not as many peaks and valleys.”
Martin says younger players tend to be very emotional and there’s no shame in getting upset or embarrassed.
“You’ve just got to learn to process it and let it go,” says Martin. “It seems to help.
“Some players are better at it than others.”
When Indiana was recruiting Martin they wanted to see how he would handle hard times.
Neal (who is now coaching at Loveland High School in Ohio) attended four or five games where Martin pitched well and sent short messages afterward.
When Martin had it rough in a fall outing the conversation got a little more intense.
“They wanted to see how I would handle adversity,” says Martin. “It’s damage control.