Tag Archives: Family

It’s all about ‘family’ for Nowakowski, Calumet College of St. Joseph Crimson Wave

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

Calumet College of St. Joseph — a private four-year Catholic institution with about 380 undergraduates in Whiting, Ind., embraces a close-knit community.
“It’s a family-oriented school and we have a family-oriented team,” says Brian Nowakowski, head baseball coach for the Crimson Wave since the fall of 2012. “We do everything together (including community service, meals and study tables). We don’t single out a single player for any misdoing.
“When someone hurts we all hurt.”
When Brian and Jeannine Nowakowski’s son, Bryce, required two open heart surgeries in the first year of his young life and then a heart transplant at 2, the CCSJ family rallied with support. Part of the cost of tickets to the Midwest Collegiate League (now rebranded as the Northern League) All-Star Game held at the Crimson Wave’s home park — Oil City Stadium — were given to the Nowakowski family.
When Bryce was prepared for, underwent and recovered from his July 30, 2014 transplant at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the school allowed the head coach to stay there while his assistants — younger brother Scott Nowakowski and Juan Alonso — led the CCSJ baseball team.
“The school let me work from home and I never skipped a beat,” says Nowakowski, whose son is now 9. “I could never re-pay them back.”
With Bryce’s medical condition and his mother recovering after beating cancer, Nowakowski decided it was best not to travel much during a 2021 season effected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I had COIVD I would not be able to go home,” says Nowakowski, who resides with his wife of 11 years and child in Dyer, Ind.
The 2021 Crimson Wave only played games in the NAIA-affiliated Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“Competing in the CCAC is hard,” says Nowakowski. “We’re fighting for same kids in recruiting. All the teams are very competitive.”
Olivet Nazarene University finished atop the ’21 conference standings.
One feather in the Crimson Wave’s cap is Oil City Stadium, located on 119th Street in downtown Whiting with a unique oil refinery backdrop in the outfield.
“It’s a great stadium,” says Nowakowski. “The City of Whiting does a great job keeping it up. It helps in recruiting.”
Eight Calumet of St. Joseph players — Michael Biegel, Julian Espino, Kevin McCune, Thomas Montes, Cody Plebanski, Shaun Quinn, Glenford Wagner and Luke Woodward — made the 2021 CCAC all-academic team.
A typical mix, the current Crimson Waves roster consists mostly of players from Chicagoland and the Calumet Region with some international students.
“We find the best players we can,” says Nowakowki. “If you want to be a part of the school we’re going to take you.
“We have affordable tuition. There’s no in-state, out-of-state or intentional. It’s all the same.”
Located on New York Avenue in Whiting, CCSJ has an agreement with The Illiana, located across the street. In Oct. 1, the school broke ground on its first residence hall.
In 2022, CCSJ is to open the season Feb. 25 at Hannibal (Mo.)-LaGrange.
The following weekend the Crimson Wave plays a series at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga.
From there CCSJ goes to Lake Wales, Fla., to play in the Warner University Invitational and other games, including at Southeastern.
CCSJ finished outdoor fall practice about two weeks ago. The Crimson Wave did drill work four days a week and competed in intrasquad games on the fifth day.
Right now, players are at the Rittenmeyer Center four days a week conditioning with weightlifting and stability exercises.
Besides Scott Nowakowski (in his seventh year at Calumet College of St. Joseph), the coaching staff also features Nick Relli, Nestor Carillo and Rocco Mossuto. Elli played for Nowakowski at CCSJ. Carillo (Morton Community College in Cicero, Ill.) and Rocco Mossuto (Saint Xavier University in Chicago) are both former head coaches.
Nowakowski grew up on Chicago’s East Side and graduated in 1997 from St. Francis de Sales High School, a member of the vaunted Chicago Catholic League.
“It’s tough competition,” says Nowakowki. “There’s no easy games in the Chicago Catholic League.”
Nowakowski played for Pioneers head coach Al Lodl and was good enough as a right-handed pitcher to sign a free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins organization in 1997 and reported to spring training in 1998. He pitched in the minors that year and 1999 and then was employed in private sector jobs.
But the diamond beckoned.
“I’ve been a baseball guy most of my life,” says Nowakowski. “I missed the game.”
Nowakowski got into coaching as an assistant to Pat Montalbano at Hammond Clark High School and was a Crimson Waves assistant to Tony Myszak for one year before becoming head coach.
A few years into the job, Nowakowski earned an Organizational Management degree from CCSJ.

Brian Nowakowski (Calumet College of St. Joseph Photo)

Baseball is in the blood for Terre Haute’s Moore, Kraemer, Dumas family

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

When Terre Haute, Ind., high school baseball rivals meet for the second time this spring on Friday, May 7, one family will be out in force.

It’s just that some will be in opposite dugouts and bleachers.

Senior infielder/pitcher Cade Moore will represent North Vigo. His uncle, Kyle Kraemer, has been the head coach at South Vigo since the 1995 season. He is a 1986 South Vigo graduate who went on to play at Purdue University.

Cade’s mother, Amanda Moore (South Vigo Class of 1992), is Kyle’s sister. Amanda is married to Scott Moore (North Vigo Class of 1990), who began his teaching and coaching career at South Vigo and is now an administrator at North Vigo. Scott’s parents are Steve and Diane Moore. 

Steve Moore (Terre Haute Garfield Class of 1962) was North Vigo head coach when his son played for the Patriots. Diane graduated from Garfield in 1964.

Kyle’s parents are Bob and Kelly Dumas. They once rooted for another grandson in former South Vigo Braves and Indiana State University standout Koby Kraemer (Class of 2008), son of Kyle.  Father coached son.

Bob Dumas is a Massachusetts native who came to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University and met Kelly (Terre Haute Gerstmeyer Tech Class of 1965).

A retired heating and cooling man, Bob Dumas is not hard to spot at at North Vigo-South Vigo game. He’s the one with the shirt that’s half blue with an “N” and red with an “S.” He had it made at an embroidery business in town.

“We’ve been South fans every since Kyle went to high school,” says Bob. “It’s been kind of a twisted year with Cade at North.

“There will be more favoritism to Cade because he’s actually playing.”

Says Kelly Dumas, “It’s a whole range of emotions. We’ve never been North fans.”

Cade, an only child, has always lived in the North Vigo district and attended DeVaney Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School. He played at Terre Haute North Little League. He’s also played travel ball with Mad Dog Baseball (coached by Travis Mason) and American Legion ball for Wayne Newton Post 346.

“I was a big fan of South watching (Koby) play as a little kid,” says Cade, who has taken hitting lessons from Koby and Kyle.”

What advice does Cade take from grandfather Steve Moore?

“Keep my head in the game and focus on making the right play,” says Cade, 18. “Be a leader and be a teammate. I’ve always been one to have a teammates’ back. Stick with a program. It’s been instilled from grandparents and parents. If you see a teammate knocked over you go help them up.

“I’m hearing the same thing from my coaches.”

Steve Moore, who has taught science at North Vigo, Indiana State and South Vigo, was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings then took over the Patriots for six years in the early 1990’s. 

“My expertise was in teaching the game,” says Steve, who for 18 years was the only man to tend to the overall maintenance of the North Vigo diamond which would become known as Don Jennings Field. “You have to think the game. Some kids are not thinking like they should about the game.

“We stressed fundamentals. Know what to do when the ball comes to you. In practice, we would go over just about everything.”

One of the school clubs at North Vigo was Baseball. Members/players would talk about the game and expand their knowledge.

“They had to learn the rules of baseball,” says Steve. “I gave tests. It was all in fun.

“It was a way to teach the game from a different perspective.”

He appreciates what he sees on the field from his grandson.

“I told Cade not too long ago. ‘You’re better than your dad and a whole lot better than your Grandpa,” says Steve. “He’s constantly thinking.”

Steve Moore enjoyed being a Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsor at North Vigo, bringing in speakers like former big league catcher and Terre Haute native Brian Dorsett, and coaching Scott and against players like future major leaguers Don Mattingly (Evansville Memorial) and Scott Rolen (Jasper) and well as Kyle Kraemer.

“I did not like to see Kyle come to the plate,” says Steve. “His technique was always good. He could hit the daylights out of that ball.”

Scott Moore, who is now assistant principal of building and grounds at North Vigo, takes over as Post 346 manager — a position long held by John Hayes and then Tim Hayes.

Of course, Cade gets pointers from his father.

“Take charge and keep your teammates in the game as well as yourself,” says Cade of that advice. He’s more of the fundamental type.

“He can break down my (right-handed) swing for me and help me make an adjustment.”

Says Scott, “I talk to Cade about how being a part of a team is important and working with other people for a common goal.

“It’s about setting goals and working hard. What could I have done differently? Those are life lessons.”

Scott Moore — and the rest of the family — have watched Cade excel on the tennis court. Cade and doubles partner and classmate Ethan Knott (a close friend that he’s known since they played youth baseball together) came within two wins of making the State Finals in the fall of 2019.

“Being involved in multiple sports helps the athlete all-around,” says Scott. 

Cade probably could have played tennis at the next level, but he has committed to play baseball at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. The Panthers are led by head coach Todd Lillpop.

“I like the way he runs his program,” says Cade. “I’ll go there to play infield. I’ll be a two-way if he likes me on the mound.”

Cade has been mostly a shortstop and third baseman when not on the mound for North Vigo.

Both sets of grandparents have already scouted at KWC and the town and look forward to spending time there and the places where the Panthers play.

“(Kentucky Wesleyan) has same colors as Garfield,” says Diane Moore. “Steve and I felt right at home.”

Diane, who retired after 32 years at the Vigo County Library, was brought up in a baseball-loving family.

“Before I even met Steve my father was a big Chicago Cubs fan,” says Diane. “My mother was from St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.”

Steve, who lived across the alley from Diane’s grandparents, met his future bride in high school.

Cade grew up spending plenty of time at his grandparents’ house. When he was young, Woodrow Wilson teacher Amanda dropped him her son at Steve and Diane’s and his grandmother took him to DeVaney. 

“(Cade) and Grandpa played I don’t know how much catch in our cul de sac,” says Diane.

Being part of a family filled with educators has not been lost on Cade.

“Not only has it helped me on the field but in the classroom as well,” says Cade.

It doesn’t hurt that he has ready access to facilities thanks to his dad’s job.

“Education has always been our focus,” says Amanda Moore. “You’re here to get an education first and then you can participate in extracurricular activities.

“Cade’s always been a pretty good student though it took a little bit of guidance in kindergarten and first grade.”

Says Scott, “Fortunately he had some good habits and worked through some things. (As an only child), my wife and I were able to focus on him. There was tough love. I wouldn’t say we spoiled him.”

Being six years younger than brother Kyle, Amanda tagged along or begged out when he had games when they were youngsters. She was a gymnast and then a diver at South Vigo.

“Not until Cade started playing baseball did I have any interest in it,” says Amanda. “One great thing about having Cade involved in baseball for so many years is the friendships. These people have become almost like family. 

“Some of the parents are like an aunt and uncle to Cade and vice versa. We travel together. We’ve supported each other when one child has been injured.

“It’s been nice to develop those almost familial relationships with those other people and children.”

Amanda has watched her son learn life lessons through sports. While in junior high he was on the track team and did not like it. But there was no quitting the team.

“When you make a commitment you can not back out of that,” says Amanda. “Taking the easy way out is not going to teach you anything about life.

“My brother has shown that loyalty is an important value to have and develop even through the tough times.”

Amanda also sees similarities in her son and nephew and notices a similar dynamic between her husband and son and her brother and his son.

“I can see the competitive edge and desire to work hard,” says Amanda. “I can see that mirror in Koby and Cade. They want to win and are willing to work hard.

“Kyle and Scott walk that fine line between being a coach and dad and not showing any favoritism. 

“Sometimes dad is tougher on their own child than they are on their own players.”

Kelly Dumas, a retired teacher who saw Kyle first play T-ball at age 3 and make tin-foil balls to throw around the house when it was too cold to go outside, has been to diamonds all over the place and made friendships with players and their families.

“We’ve enjoyed 50 years of baseball,” says Kelly. “I just like to watch all the different players come through and follow what they do afterward. It’s good to see both my grandsons be successful

“We’ve been so many places with Koby, especially when he played for the (Terre Haute) Rex (the summer collegiate team that will be managed in 2021 by former big league slugger and Kyle Kraemer player A.J. Reed). We went to little towns with old wooden stadiums.

“Cade’s been working very hard to be the best he can be.”

Koby Kraemer, who briefly played in the Toronto Blue Jays system after college, is now assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State University.

“We all love the game,” says Koby of the family’s affinity for baseball. “It plays a big part in our lives.

“The reason my dad has coached so long is because he loves it. The reason he’s successful is that he challenges people to be better.

“You get more out of them then they thought they had in them. That’s what makes good coaches.”

Besides April 30 (the Patriots won 8-5 at South Vigo) and May 7 at North Vigo, the rivals could meet three times this season. Both are in the IHSAA Class 4A Plainfield Sectional.

Kyle Kraemer (left) stands with father Bob Dumas and Cade Moore. Kraemer is the head baseball coach at Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo High School and the son of Dumas and uncle of Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo senior infielder/pitcher Cade Moore. Dumas wears a custom shirt touting the South Vigo Braves and North Vigo Patriots.
A baseball family in Terre Haute, Ind. (from left): Steve Moore, Diane Moore, Amanda Moore, Kyle Kraemer, Cade Moore, Steve Moore, Kelly Dumas and Bob Dumas. Kraemer is head coach at Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo High School. His nephew, Cade Moore, is a senior infielder/pitcher for Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School.

Madia helps manage many moving parts for Purdue baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

John Madia sees a vibrant future for college baseball in general and Purdue University baseball in particular.

“The sport — to me — is on a similar trajectory as college basketball,” says Madia, the director of player development for the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind. — a role created for the 2020 season. “The lights are getting brighter. The stage is getter bigger.

“College baseball has a very good chance to be a healthy revenue generator for universities.”

Madia sees momentum building for the idea of starting the season — at least at the NCAA Division I level — later and playing into July.

“We’re in total favor of that,” says Madia, who earned baseball letters at Purdue in 1975, 1976 and 1978 and came the Boilers to take the new position of director of baseball operations in 2015. “Team would playing in better weather in north and it would level the playing field. We’d have a better chance of keeping top talent in-state.

“It would not surprise me if 6,000 to 8,000 a game at Alexander Field with that model. People in the community to can go out to nice venue at a reasonable price. Purdue is very well-placed. Our ability to add seating is easy. We have very generous concourse areas and room for more seating down the left field line.”

That’s the future. In the present, Madia is helping the program maximize its potential while getting ahead of challenges.

Madia’ efforts complement those of Boilers head coach Greg Goff, assistants Cooper Fouts, Chris Marx and Harry Shipley and supervisor of operations Tim Sarhage.

There’s a planning meeting each morning because there are a lot of moving parts.

“As much as possible we want to anticipate as many scenarios as we can

proactive rather than reactive,” says Madia. “When we’e prepared it takes the stress off our program and student-athletes.

“We want to make sure everyone knows their role and how it can help us be successful on the field, classroom and community.”

In D-I baseball, besides areas like strategic and practice planning, training and travel, there are other things to navigate like NCAA regulations, compliance, player needs and alumni.

“We always boil it down to this: We have to do a great job with our student-athletes,” says Madia. “We them to look back and say I had a great student-athlete experience at Purdue. That’s going to bode well for our future.”

To achieve this goal, the school has assembled high baseball I.Q. personnel and added many resources — academic, cultural, time management and medical (which addresses physical and mental well-being). 

Of course right now, COVID-19 protocols are a major issue. The virus halted the 2020 season after 14 games (the Boilers went 7-7).

“These kids have ever been exposed to anything like that,” says Madia. “Players have had relatives with virus.”

NCAA D-I rules allow a 45-day window for fall practice. Purdue started in September ended in late October. 

“We were plowing new ground,” say Madia. “We never had to plan a fall around a COVID world.

“Following strict guidelines put in place by the university, players are tested every week.

“If there’s an exposure, there’s a very aggressive protocol to get them out of the bubble,” says Madia. “We spent a lot of time as a staff to build natural bubbles within the program/ The ame guys with each other everyday.

“We had to single out baseballs for them. Equipment was wiped down. It was a lot of work and planning but it kept us safe.

“We got through entire fall without any major disruptions.”

Moving back to the individual phase, they’ve gone from 20 hours a week of practice with athletes to eight.

The Boilers have a relatively large number of newcomers. It’s been a challenge to build camaraderie while social distancing.

“Coach Goff really likes to do a lot of team activities and build that rapport and culture of family,” says Madia.

Purdue goes virtual after Thanksgiving. Most students will leave campus next Wednesday and not return until January. 

Madia says they must test negative for COVID before being allowed back on-campus.

“In-season we’ll probably be testing our guys everyday,” says Madia. “It looks like the Big Ten (Conference) will not allow non-conference games. The protocol is same for all conference schools.”

If there are more Big Ten games than usual — say four-game weekend schedules instead of three — Madia wonders if teams will be allowed more than the usual 27-man travel roster.

Prior to returning to Purdue in his operations role, Madia worked in industry as an executive with Dow Chemical and CH2M as a global business and HR leader. 

He has long been on the Purdue Athletic Advisory Board and held various advisory roles to the College of Agriculture. 

He has coached amateur baseball and served on the board of the Indiana Bulls travel organization. He was an associate scout for the Baltimore Orioles.

Former Purdue head coach Doug Schreiber brought Madia on as director of operations. In that role, he was responsible for alumni outreach, player and staff professional/career development and other general marketing/operations duties to advance the program.

“I always viewed Purdue as one of the best decisions I made in my life,” says Madia. “Coming out of Purdue University can definitely open doors for you. It’s up to you to kick them in.

“I’ve always maintained good relationships with coaches and players. This is one way of giving back and staying involved.

“I’ve had a ball with it. With a new position you get to determine what that looks like when you stand it up.”

A lefty swinger and thrower, Utica, N.Y., native Madia played first base for Joe Sexson and Dave Alexander when the Boilers played across campus at Lambert Field. He missed the 1977 season with injury.

“Coach Sexson would make a great mayor,” says Madia. “He knew everybody. He had a great way of communicating with each player as an individual.

“He was a fun guy to be around. He was also ultra-competitive.”

Alexander, who died Feb. 26, 2020 at 79, was the coach for Madia’s last two Purdue seasons and two became close friends after that.

“He took the whole game of baseball to another baseball with his knowledge and I.Q.,” says Madia of Alexander. “He taught you how important it was to appreciate and honor the game.”

Alexander brought intensity to the diamond.

“If you were meek and didn’t want to bring it everyday you weren’t going to be very successful around Coach Alexander,” says Madia. “Everybody saw that side of Alex. the side they didn’t see was how loyal he was to the guys that played for him. He would do anything for you. When you were done playing for hm was the time to build that friendship.”

With Madia’s input, Alexander began recruiting in upstate New York. Many good players come from that area to this day.

“With Dave Alexander there was no gray. It was black and white. If he trusted you, he was with you,” says Madia. “He was very, very passionate about politics and history. I stayed in close contact with him all the way up to the end. He had a big impact on my life.”

Madia was named Distinguished Alumnus by the School of Animal Sciences and the College of Agriculture in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and a Purdue Old Master in 2014.

John and Jean, also a Purdue graduate, have four children and Boiler grads — Megan (2005), Katie (2007), former Purdue baseball player Drew (2010) and Dan (2011).

John Madia, a Purdue University graduate, is the Boilermakers baseball director of player development. (Purdue University Photo)
The Purdue University baseball family is guided by (from left): First row — assistant Chris Marx, director of baseball development John Madia and head coach Greg Goff; second row — assistants Harry Shipley and Cooper Fouts. (Purdue University Photo)
Leading the Purdue University baseball program are (from left): assistants Chris Marx and Cooper Fouts, head coach Greg Goff, director of player development and volunteer assistant Harry Shipley. (Purdue University Photo)
John Madia, a Purdue University graduate, is the Boilermakers director of baseball development. He came back to Purdue as director of baseball operations in 2015. (Purdue University Photo)

Tirotta stays close to home while gearing up for final season with Dayton Flyers

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Riley Tirotta is enjoying baseball and family life this summer.

Coming off an abbreviated junior season at the University of Dayton in Ohio because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tirotta spent the first month of quarantine at home in South Bend, Ind., and about a week in Bryan, Texas, where he participated in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational.

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty swinger who has started 109 games at Dayton (including 97 at third base the past two seasons with starts at designated hitter, right field, first base and second base as a freshmen in 2018), Tirotta did not get selected in the five-round 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Citing unfinished business, he decided not to sign a free agent contact with an MLB organization and he’s planning to come back for his senior season in 2021.

“We had a really good team at Dayton this year,” says Tirotta. “We can do a lot of special things. We have a lot of seniors returning. If I do some things individually and we win some games, I can put myself in an even better position (for professional baseball). 

“We want to finish what we started.”

As a sophomore, Tirotta led Dayton in hits (59), at-bats (227) and stolen bases (18 in 20 attempts) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (41). He enjoyed 16 multi-hit games. 

His freshmen year yielded 27 hits and seven stolen bases while he fielded at a .987 clip.

A past honoree on the dean’s and Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner’s academic lists, Tirotta is on track to earned his Finance degree at Dayton.

At the CSBI, Tirotta played on a team managed by former big league pitcher, Gary, Ind., native and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins and got to face former high school teammate Nate Thomas and college mate Cole Pletka.

Before joining the Matt Kennedy-coached Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park this week, Tirotta spent about 10 days training at Prospect Performance Academy in Aurora, Ohio — near Cleveland and Akron.

Tirotta has worked for more than a year with agent and PPA founder/owner Ben Simon.

“He’s helping me get ready for pro ball and reaching out to scouts,” says Tirotta of Simon. “We’re pretty good friends.”

The CSL plays its games on Monday and Tuesday (11 a.m. doubleheaders). Tirotta spends the rest of the time in South Bend, where he works out at the O’Brien Fitness Center and the 1st Source Bank Performance Center (home of the South Bend Cubs), where Mark Haley is the director.

Following workouts prescribed by trainers, including those at Dayton, Tirotta hits the gym five or six times a week. He goes through strength and conditioning moves and does sprint training.

“I use my speed as well as my power,” says Tirotta. “Just being at athlete on the baseball field is one of my biggest strengths.

“I like to use my athleticism a lot. I’m making plays and using my arm strength. I take extra bases when I can and get stolen bases. I’m hitting a few home runs here and there. I’m pretty well-rounded. I’m not a power-only guy.”

Dayton played just 14 games before the 2020 season was halted. Tirotta started cold and finished hot. He wound up hitting .228 (13-of-57) with one homer, one double, 15 RBIs, nine runs, four stolen bases.

He batted fourth in the Flyers’ final game on March 9 at Dayton swept a three-game series against Northern Kentucky. 

The previous day, Flyers head coach Jayson King inserted Tirotta in the 3-hole and he went 3-for-6 3-for-6 with a home run, double, three runs batted in and three runs scored.

“I was putting good barrel on the ball and going in a good direction,” says Tirotta. “Then COVID happened.

“(Coach King has) done everything for me. He’s gotten me into the Cape and a lot of good leagues. He gets us where we need to be.”

Tirotta hooked up with the CSL when other collegiate summer leagues were canceled or scaled back for 2020. 

He got into 28 games in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2019 — 19 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and nine with the Harwich Mariners. He signed a temporary contract with Y-D and finished with league runner-up Harwich. He supposed to go back to Harwich this summer, but the league canceled its schedule.

He knew he wanted to play summer ball. He was not sure where and then the opportunity came at Grand Park.

“There’s a lot of guys I grew up playing with and against,” says Tirotta, a 2017 graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., who played travel ball with the Indiana Bulls his 17U and 18U summers after being with the South Bend Silver Hawks for 15U and 16U and the Michiana Scrappers for 11U through 14U. Coached by his father, he started organized baseball at Southeast Little League in South Bend.

Playing summer ball two times a week in Indiana, Riley also gets to be around parents Mike and Stacy Tirotta and younger brother Jordan (a 2020 Marian graduate who plans to study dentistry at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis). 

Sunday nights are for dinners at grandpa Frank Tirotta’s house. It’s not unusual for 40 or more relatives and friends to gather for these weekly feasts or on holidays.

“I have a very close family,” says Tirotta. When pandemic hit that shut down meals with his grandfather — a widower — and visits were kept at a distance. “He was fed up with it and itching to see everybody again.”

Mike Marks has broken bread with the Tirottas. He runs the Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., and has been helping Riley with his swing since Marian coach Joe Turnock and son Josh Turnock recommended him during Tirotta’s freshmen year with the Knights.

“He’s the reason I am a college hitter,” says Tirotta. “I put in a lot of hours with him.

“He’s definitely part of the journey in my baseball career.”

Baseball gears back up again next week. Right now, Tirotta is getting ready to join family for some camping.

Riley Tirotta, a graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., has played three baseball seasons at the University of Dayton in Ohio. This summer he is playing in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. (University of Dayton Photo)

Thompson brings NG3 values of character, community and change to Indiana

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coaches and educators are busy people.

They are balancing practice schedules, lineups, game strategy, lesson plans and more.

Lending a helping hand in the areas of character development, servant leadership and other positive behaviors is where NG3 — headquartered in Atlanta — comes in.

The “NG” stands for Next Generation and the “3” stands for Character, Community and Change.

Jason Thompson, who has launched N3 in Indiana with Jimtown High School as the pilot in 2017-18 after spending a year learning the program while serving a school in Georgia, explains the C’s a little more.

“Character means do what you say,” says Thompson. “Community means serving others. Change means bring positive change wherever you go.”

A non-profit, faith-based organization, NG3 invests in the lives of high school students, spending time with them and teaching them valuable lessons while providing mentors in small gatherings known as “Huddle Groups.”

While Thompson and other volunteer mentors have been ever-present at Jimtown, he has also met with student-athletes at other schools in northern Indiana, including Fairfield and Goshen and has established partnerships with Jimtown, NorthWood and Triton for 2018-19.

“My hope is to add at least two schools a year moving forward,” says Thompson, a former football player at Concord High School and Anderson University who established a sports ministry at Nappanee Missionary Church. “We will have a person at each school we work with — people who are invested and embedded in those communities. Long-term, I’d like to see NG3 in every school in Indiana. That’s a big goal.

“NG3 is coming along at just the right time. I am passionate about helping people and teams reach their potential.

“We want to be present on school campuses on a weekly basis. A lot of students are probably skeptical at first. They have adults in their lives that are here and gone. It may be a parent or a coach.

“We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We aim to be there for the long haul and model all those character traits for them.”

Thompson got involved at Jimtown through his relationship at NMC with former high school principal Jeff Ziegler and continues to work with current JHS principal Byron Sanders.

This spring, Thompson has been able to work closely with the Jimtown baseball program. He is at practice several times a week and makes it a point to be at home varsity and junior varsity contests. “We continue to build relationships. We are there be an encouragers.

“Coaches find that ‘other voice’ is beneficial to them.”

Thompson, who holds bachelor of education and master of ministries degrees from Bethel College, has helped coordinate service projects for Jimtown coach Darin Mast and other Jimmies teams and classes.

“We come in and serve,” says Thompson. “It’s about being available, being present.”

School-wide, Jimtown has about 50 kids involved in huddle groups.

These groups of generally 10 students or less meet once a week, usually in the home of one of the group’s members.

“You can get real,” says Mast of the small group. “You can do life.

“It builds much more community.”

Thompson says the goal is to get to the point that huddle groups can be offered to all students.

Mast has known Thompson for years from serving with him at NMC.

“He’s like a spiritual/mental athletic trainer so to speak,” says Mast of Thompson. “It means something to him.”

Mast continues to compliment NG3.

“I really like the concept of what they’re doing,” says Mast. “The whole point of a team anyway is bringing that togetherness.”

Mast likes taking time to build character and addressing concepts like integrity, commitment, honesty, social media, family, trust, loyalty, perseverance, teamwork and excellence and having the students define those traits and what it means when they add or subtract those from their lives. “So much time is spent with X’s and O’s and the ins and outs of the sport.

“I felt like it was something that needed to be addressed and now we have an avenue to do that.”

Mast said that coaches are ultimately graded on their won-loss record.

“That’s the No. 1 priority,” says Mast. “But I’ve failed them as a coach if I haven’t helped them become productive members of society — great workers, husbands and dads.

“It’s all that stuff goes into character development and leadership with NG3.”

Mast says the IHSAA’s InsideOut Initiative of leaving the “win-at-all-costs” culture goes hand-in-hand with the ideals of NG3.

Darin Kauffman first heard Thompson speak to the Fairfield girls basketball team during their run to the regional last winter. Darin’s wife, Lindsay, is an assistant to Falcons head coach Brodie Garber.

Kauffman, who is in his first season as head baseball coach at Fairfield, invited Thompson to address his players and plans to do it again.

“I have athletes who have not played baseball in awhile,” says Kauffman. “I wanted them to hear about being a great teammate and how we can mesh and play together. And hear it from someone outside

“(Thompson) is a great speaker. He talks at their level. I think the guys got a lot out of it.

“It’s a great program. I’m glad we have that in our area.”

Thompson sends a weekly email called “Coaches are Leaders” to a list of about 75 with tips and links to articles that reinforce the NG3 model.

“I want to find ways to serve coaches,” says Thompson.

Tim Dawson, an Indiana High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was Thompson’s coach at Concord.

“He brought passion and excitement,” says Thompson of Dawson. “He used football to teach so many life lessons.”

As he headed off to college, Thompson thought he was going to be a teacher and coach.

“I’ve come full circle,” says Thompson. “This almost better than coaching. I get to work with athletes across teams.”

Helping his along the way is his family.

Jason and Rachael Thompson, who will be married 16 years in May, have two daughters Haley (11) and Natalie (7). The family resides in Nappanee. Rachael Thompson, a Goshen High School graduate, teaches at Prairie View Elementary School in Goshen.

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Jason Thompson (second from left in back row) spends time in the dugout with the Jimtown High School baseball team. Thompson is the Indiana director for NG3 and has spent the 2017-18 school year embedded with Jimtown students.

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NG3 Indiana director Jason Thompson addresses baseball players at Fairfield High School.