Ryan Troxel is splitting his time this summer between college pitcher, youth pitching coach banking intern. He takes the mound for the wood bat Northern League’s Lake County CornDogs, which call Legacy Fields in Crown Point, Ind., home. On his off days, he guides arms for Valparaiso (Ind.) American Legion Post 94 Juniors (17U). “I’ve missed a few (Legion) games because I had to pitch,” says Troxel. “Other than that, I’ve been there. “I’ve been a busy man.” Troxel, a 2019 graduate of Valparaiso High School, pitched a scoreless ninth inning with three strikeouts during the 2022 Northern League All-Star Game. A Finance and Management double major at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Troxel is a summer intern for Centier Bank in Merrillville, Ind. Troxel explains why he changed his academic path from Business to Finance. “Finance gives you the options to help people know their (money) goals,” says Troxel. “I also coach baseball because I love helping people.” On the diamond, the right-hander was on the winning side as the East topped the West 5-4 in 10 innings July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. Troxel’s performance was fitting because the CornDogs right-hander has a regular-season scoreless streak of 12 innings covering last three outings. In eight games (six in relief), he is 3-0 with a 0.65 earned run average. He has 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 2/3 innings. He was named Northern League Pitcher of the Week on July 5. A 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, Troxel is coming off his second season at NAIA member Indiana Tech. In seven games (all in relief), he was 0-4 with 14 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 innings. In his first season with the Warriors (2021), Troxel came out of the bullpen 11 times and was 8-3 with a 4.46 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 innings. Kip McWilliams is Indiana Tech’s head coach and has also taken over pitching coach duties. “He gives us a lot of latitude to do what we want to get ready,” says Troxel of McWilliams. “He’s (coached) for a long time. He knows a lot about the game. “He’s definitely hard on guys. He expects a lot out of us. But — hey — we won a lot of games.” Tech went 32-21 and lost two one-run games as Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament runners-up in 2022. McWilliams earned his 500th coaching win in April. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Troxel uses a four-seam fastball (which has reached 87 mph), curveball, slider (which is generally clocked around 75 mph) and change-up. “I get most of my outs on off-speed pitches,” says Troxel. “I throw my change-up a lot more now. It’s really helped me against left-handers because left-handers have always killed me.” Last weekend, Valpo Post 94 won a regional championship. This weekend, Post 94 is hosting the Indiana American Legion Junior State Tournament at VHS. In 2020, Troxel played for Rocco Mossuto-coached Saint Xavier University (Chicago). In a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, he appeared in three games (one start) and was 0-0 with one save, a 4.50 ERA, eight strikeouts and eight walks in eight innings. Troxel played for Todd Evans at Valparaiso High. “He gave me a chance during my senior year to prove to him that I could be in the rotation,” says Troxel of Evans. “I think I had a pretty good senior year and he helped me a long the way.” Troxel went 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA and was honorable mention all-state, all-Duneland Athletic Conference, all-area and team MVP in 2019. Born in Elmhurst, Ill., Troxel was 1 when he moved to Valparaiso, where he played Little League then travel ball for the Chesterton Slammers, Triple Crown, Morris Chiefs and Valparaiso Post 94. He is grateful Chiefs coach Dave Sutkowski for his support. “He kept saying, ‘I believe in you,’” says Troxel of Sutkowski. “It was never about him. He was very influential in my choosing to play college baseball and also to move on and keep playing.” Ryan is the oldest of Jeff and Michele Troxel. Brother Zach Troxel is heading into his sophomore year at Valpo. He is pitching this summer for the Indiana Bulls. Jerry Troxel, Ryan and Zach’s grandfather who died in 2021, coached baseball for four decades at Gary Wirt. One of his players was Ron Kittle, who went on to be a major league slugger. “I really do love (coaching),” says Ryan Troxel. “It’s in my blood. That’s definitely in the future for me.”
Dimitri Ivetic does not yet know where he will play college baseball in 2022-23. But the right-handed pitcher has been in this position before and he’s not pushing the panic button. Along his college baseball path, 2019 Highland (Ind.) High School graduate Ivetic has been at Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif., Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College and Danville (Ill.) Area Community College. Ivetic (pronounced Eave-Uh-Titch) made the decision to attend each only a few weeks before going there. “I think it helps me weigh my options and advice and make the decision that I think works best for me,” says Ivetic, 21. Born in Dyer, Ind., and played in the Highland Babe Ruth League, then travel ball with Morris Chiefs (now 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs) coached by Matt Mamula and Dave Sutkowski and Florida Pokers. His head coach at Highland High was John Bogner. “He’s very adamant on the fundamentals,” says Ivetic of Bogner. “He was very big on arm healthy and keeping guys healthy. Those are the biggest things I’ve been able to carry over into college. “We had a rough senior year, but my sophomore and junior years we won quite a few games.” How did a kid from northwest Indiana end up on the West Coast? “Ever since I was younger it was my dream to play college baseball,” says Ivetic. “My favorite school was UCLA. I always wanted to play there. I wasn’t good enough to go to UCLA so I decided to go to JUCO out in California.” Through a friend, Ivetic met Palomar pitching coach Hayden Carter while the latter was managing the summer wood-bat Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits. After a visit and seeing the facilities and experiencing the weather, Ivetic joined the program. The righty got into five games totaling three innings for the 2020 Palomar Comets. “I struggled with command a little bit,” says Ivetic. “Then the pandemic hit and we got shut down with mandates and restrictions. We are all like super-disappointed. “During that time I was able to go throw at nearby fields. On one of the last days I strained my forearm. I felt something pull in there. “That bugged me for the next couple months. I worked through it and made some mechanical adjustments which ended up paying off.” Away from baseball, Ivetic went to the beach and on hikes with his roommates. “We became a lot closer,” says Ivetic. “Those are some of my best friends to this day that I still talk to (regularly).” In the summer of 2020, Ivetic did not play but trained at Randy Sullivan’s Florida Baseball ARMory in Lakeland. “He’s a great guy,” says Ivetic of Sullivan. “He’s very innovative. He helped me a lot over the course of a couple years.” When Ivetic learned that the pandemic was going to keep Palomar from baseball activities in the fall of 2020 he decided to transfer to Santa Barbara City College. That turned out to be a tough situation with several COVID-19-related shutdowns and — eventually — no 2021 season. He played for the Bomb Squad in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., then went back to Santa Barbara in the fall and it did not go well. “My velocity was down and I struggled,” says Ivetic. “I made one little adjustment that kind of messed everything up.” During his fall exit meeting, Ivetic was advised that if he wanted more playing time in 2022 he should transfer so he went back to the Midwest and Danville Area, where he pitched in 12 games (26 2/3 innings) and went 2-2 with two saves, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks. “Danville was great,” says Ivetic. “The coaches were great. We struggled through some stuff, but overall it was decent. “I definitely made some memories.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Ivetic uses a four-seam fastball (which has been clocked as high as 90 mph), curveball and sweeping slider. “My slider is what I’ve been most comfortable with,” says Ivetic. “I can throw it for a strike in basically any count. It’s got more horizontal movement, but sometimes it will start to look more like my curveball.” Ivetic says he could return to Danville Area in the fall, but has no plans to do so. “It wouldn’t make much sense to go back to junior college at this point because — academically — it would just put me so far behind on how many credits would transfer,” says Ivetic, a Finance major who is in the Transfer Portal. “I’m not quite sure where I’m going. But we’re starting to get some idea of where I’d like to go.” Ivetic is back with the CSL’s Bomb Squad and was named to the July 4 All-Star Game. He also trains with PRP Baseball at the Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, visiting there before games at Grand Park. PRP Baseball, which was founded by Greg Vogt (now a rehab pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays organization), is under the day-to-day guidance of Anthony Gomez. He has coached Ivetic since he was 16. Dimitri is of Serbian descent and the only child born to Zarko and Paula Ivetic. His father sells for Jack Tuchten Wholesale Produce in Chicago and his mother works at Nordstrom.
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.”
Brady Gumpf and Ryan Lynch were youngsters when they were first baseball teammates. The two buddies played in the summers for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs with Chris Hickey as head coach and Greg Lynch (Ryan’s father and former University of Wisconsin baseball player) as an assistant. Then came the Jay Hundley-coadhed Indiana Outlaws. That travel organization became the Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest). Both have earned All-American and all-tournament honors from Perfect Game. “We car-pooled down to Indianapolis every weekend,” says Lynch of the trips to meet up with the Outlaws or Canes. “It was always fun playing against him at school.” Lynch and C.J. Kavadas tried to coax Gumpf to play with them at Penn High School. But Gumpf stayed at South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph where his father – John Gumpf — was Indians head coach. When it came time for college ball, 2020 high school graduates Gumpf and Lynch both landed close to home at the University of Notre Dame. Because of depth and talent for head coach Link Jarrett’s Irish, Gumpf did not get into a game and Lynch pitched 2/3 of an inning in the spring of 2021. ND went 34-13, won the South Bend Regional and lost to eventual national champion Mississippi State in the Starkville Super Regional. This summer, righty-swinging outfielder Gumpf and left-handed pitcher Lynch were again teammates with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League-champion Bethesda (Md.) Big Train, where Sal Colangelo was manager, Sam Bender hitting coach and Craig Lopez pitching coach. They were placed there along with Irish mates Matt Bedford and Danny Neri by Notre Dame assistant Rich Wallace. In 28 regular-season games, Gumpf hit .290 (20-of-69) with three home runs, one triple, one double, 13 runs batted in and 18 runs scored. “At the beginning of summer I was struggling a little bit at the plate, but I turned it around pretty easily,” says Gumpf, whose last game action came in the fall of 2019 for Team Indiana, coached by Prep Baseball Report Indiana’s Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. “It was the first time playing in awhile. I was still able to grow as a player and improve. It was mostly just getting the reps.” Gumpf, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, split his defensive time for Bethesda between right and left field and did make an appearance at third base. A catcher/outfielder in high school, Gumpf has been mostly an outfielder at Notre Dame. “With my overall athleticism, I made the transition to that pretty easily,” says Gumpf. “I can still catch.” Brady played at what is now South Bend East Side Baseball Softball Association before joining the Granger Cubs. At Saint Joe, he was on the roster as a freshman as the Indians won the IHSAA Class 3A state championship in 2017. There was another sectional title in 2018. The 2019 season ended in the final game of the Griffith Regional with a loss to eventual 3A state champion Andrean. Gumpf was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore and junior and all-conference second team in 2018 and first team in 2019. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic there was no 2020 prep season. Gumpf was invited to play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., but was advised by Notre Dame coaches to take the summer off and train on his own. Gumpf has declared himself to be a Management Consulting major. Brady’s mother, Deanna Gumpf, is head softball coach at Notre Dame. Deanna and John also have a daughter — Tatum. Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, made regular-season mound appearances (seven in relief) for the 2021 Big Train and went 2-1 with a 5.54 earned run average. In 13 innings, the southpaw produced 22 strikeouts and eight walks. “It was a good experience for me to get some innings in and to develop,” says Lynch, who pitched in mid-week scrimmages with ND substitutes last spring. “I want to try to become a starter,” says Lynch. “I think I have the skill. “We do have a lot of guys who started coming back and there are transfers that we picked up. I want to compete this fall and earn some kind of spot.” Chuck Ristano is the Notre Dame pitching coach. Lynch employs both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a change-up, curveball and slider. The lefty gets plenty of arm-side run on his fastballs. The four-seamer sat at 88 to 91 mph in the spring. He tosses a “circle” change and gets his “12-to-6” curve to run in on lefties and drop a little bit. The slider is harder than the curve — mid 80’s vs. about 75. “One of my strengths is that all of my pitches look the same when they come out (of my hand),” says Lynch. “That’s good. That’s what I want — to keep the hitters off-balance.” Lynch has decided on Finance as a major as he enters his sophomore year at Notre Dame. He moves back to campus this weekend and classes begin Monday, Aug. 23. Baseball activities are expected to begin shortly after that. At Penn, Lynch was the 2020 Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year. Penn topped Saint Joe for the Northern Indiana Conference title in 2019. The Greg Dikos-coached Kingsmen were Class 4A state runners-up in 2017 with freshman Lynch in center field. He pitched a no-hitter that same season. Greg and Diana Lynch have three children — Kristina, Ryan and Brandon. Kristina Lynch plays soccer at Florida State University, where the Seminoles won a national title in 2018.
Tommy Sommer knows the value of speed and pitch movement. But the 10th-round selection in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox also sees the value in poise under pressure. Now 22. Sommer has been doing it since he was young. “I have really good feel for the game and I’ve always been good at managing situations,” says Sommer, who pitched four seasons (2018-21) at Indiana University. “All those things come naturally to me. “Velocity and off-speed pitches are important, but handling emotions is taken for granted,” says Somer. “All of that stuff is an asset to me. “My dad is a big inspiration. He was a pro athlete. I’ve been in locker rooms since 3 and 4 years old.” Tommy was in some high-pressure moments during his travel ball days with the Indiana Bulls and saw his father — former soccer goalkeeper Juergen Sommer — on some big stages. The elder Juergen, who shined at Culver Military Academy and IU, earned 10 caps on the U.S. National Team, and was he first American goalie to play in the FA Premier League. Juergen was playing for Major League Soccer’s Columbus (Ohio) Crew when oldest son Tommy was born and the New England Revolution (Boston) when youngest son Noah (now 19 and a Pre-Medical student at Vanderbilt University) came into the world. He has coached keepers for the U.S. Men’s National team and for the Indy Eleven and runs Carmel FC. Tommy Sommer played soccer while growing up, but fell in love with the diamond. “Baseball has carved a great path for me,” says Sommer, who has done from playing wiffleball in the back yard in Columbus with mother Susie (who is now a realtor) to T-ball at First Baptist Church after the family moved to Carmel, Ind., to travel ball (Smithville Gators, Indiana Nitro and then the Indiana Bulls in high school — three summers with Dave Taylor as head coach and two with Sean Laird at 16U and 17U). “(Taylor) let us grow as baseball players and would teach from mistakes,” says Sommer. “(Laird) was more hands-on. He wanted you to put your best foot forward and hold yourself accountable. “He wanted you to be more aggressive. You’re going after something (a college scholarship or pro contract) and developing a future in the game.” Sommer graduated in 2017 from Carmel High School, where he played three seasons for Dan Roman and one for Matt Buczkowski. He appreciates the opportunities afforded by both Greyhounds bench bosses. When it came deciding on college, Sommer was more than familiar with IU with his family’s ties to the school. “We had family gatherings in Brown County,” says Sommer. “It was almost too comfortable.” He was enticed by offers from Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools, but Sommer saw in Indiana the chance to play right away in the competitive Big Ten Conference. He played one season with Chris Lemonis as head coach and Kyle Bunn as pitching coach and three with Jeff Mercer and Justin Parker in those roles. Sommer made 45 mound appearances (24 as a starter) with a 13-9 record, two saves and a 3.17 earned run average. In 157 2/3 innings, he struck out 160 and walked 71. He helped the Hoosiers win the Big Ten regular-season title in 2019. In 2021, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder made 12 starts and went 5-4 with a 4.60 ERA. He fanned 69 and walked 38 in 62 2/3 innings. He also earned a Finance degree from IU’s Kelley School of Business in May. Prior to the MLB Draft, Sommer pitched three innings for the Cape Cod League’s Falmouth Commodores. He was on the Cape when the White Sox picked him and is now at a mini-camp in Birmingham, Ala. After that, some will go to Glendale, Ariz., and on to affiliate teams. The top four farm teams in the system are the Low Class-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers, High Class-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash, Double-A Birmingham Barons and Triple-A Charlotte (N.C.) Knights. After a shortened 2020 season at IU because of COVID-19, Sommer pitched in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “It was fun toe play with kids I played with or against for a decade,” says Sommer. “It was a unique experience.” He also got the chance to work with pitching instructor Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park. In the winter, Sommer had gone to The Barn in Lapel and got pointers from White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Shirley and White Sox area scout Justin Wechsler, a Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School graduate who pitched at Ball State University and in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. In 2019, Sommer was a substitute arm for the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex while also rehabbing from knee surgery and training with Lehr. The lefty was with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers in the summer of 2018. Sommer throws a four-seam fastball which sits between 88 to 92 mph. He also employs a cutter which runs away from left-handed batters and into right-handers. “I want to induce weak contact,” says Sommer of the cutter. “It’s a good pitch in counts where someone is hunting a fastball. “You get them off thinking they’re in a dead-red fastball count.” The change-up is where Sommer gets strikeouts in the bottom of the strike zone. “It spins sideways and drops off the table,” says Sommer. “There is vertical depth and halo spin. It’s the opposite of a gyro ball.” Sommer mixes in his curve to let hitters know that’s a part of his arsenal.
Jack Perkins has decided to continue his college baseball career a little closer to home. The 2018 Kokomo (Ind.) High School graduate pitched for the University of Louisville in 2019, missed 2020 while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery and competed again for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals in 2021. Right-hander Perkins was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but chose instead to go to college. As a U of L freshman, right-hander Perkins made 16 mound appearances (four as a starter) and went 3-0 with one save and a 4.18 earned run average for a pitching staff coached by Roger Williams. In 32 1/3 innings, he struck out 37 and walked 18. One of his starts was May 14, 2019 at Indiana University. He tossed three shutout innings then faced five batters with recording an out in the fourth. Nine days later in a relief stint against Clemson, Perkins felt a tear in his elbow. Within a week, he had his operation and began his journey back. Suiting up for the Snapping Turtles, Perkins started a few times during the 2020 season of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The righty went back to Louisville, where he completed a double major in Finance and Marketing in three years (he came out of high school with several college credits) and got into 11 games (10 as a reliever) in 2021. Perkins was 1-1 with one save and a 7.31 ERA. He fanned 15 and walked 22 in 16 innings. Perkins, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, competed for the CSL’s Turf Monsters at the beginning of this summer then waited to see if he was chosen in the 2021 MLB Draft (he was not). He also opted to change schools. His final three choices coming out of high school were Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana. This week, Perkins announced that he is transferring to IU where he will work with Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer, pitching coach Justin Parker and will be reunited with assistant and former Indiana Bulls coach Dan Held. Jack visited Indiana and the pitcher came away impressed with Mercer and Parker. “I made a great connection right away,” says Perkins, 21. “They’re great people as well as great coaches. My dad (Scott) came with me on the visit and thought the same thing.” Perkins was with the Bulls n his 13U to 17U summer, including 16U with Held as head coach and Alex Graman as pitching coach. “Dan Held is great guy,” says Perkins. “I loved playing for Dan. I’ve been close with him since high school. “I’m very grateful for the Bulls organization and all they’ve done for me.” Perkins, whose family moved to Westfield after he left high school, has been working with former big league pitcher Graman and Dr. Jamey Gordon at Pro-X Athlete Development at Grand Park the past couple of years. It also helped Perkins in his decision to transfer to Indiana that already knew many Hoosiers players from competing with or against them in travel ball or in the College Summer League. Perkins and Parker have already had conversations about “tunneling” each delivery from his high three-quarter overhand arm slot so the batter can’t tell the difference between his four-seamer, two-seamer, change-up, curveball or cutter coming out of his hand. “We want to get all my pitches coming out of the same spot to create a little more deception and swing and miss,” says Perkins. “We’re feeding everything off the fastball.” Perkins’ four-seam fastball sits at 94 to 97 mph and hit 99 in the spring. At its best, Perkins’ change-up has been recorded on Trackman with 20 inches of vertical break and 14 inches of horizontal. He describes his curve as having slurve action. “It’s pretty hard and steep with a lot of late break,” says Perkins of a pitch he tends to throw in the 82 to 86 mph range. The cutter is a pitch that Perkins has used to get out of jams with ground balls and quick outs. It has been clocked at up to 95 mph and can break in on left-handed hitters for weak contact or even broken bats. Since his undergraduate work is complete, Perkins has the option of pursuing a masters or a graduate certificate. While he secures an apartment in Bloomington, registers for classes and waits for his transfer to process so he can go on campus, Perkins is honing in Westfield. “My goal to stay in shape, have a clean slate in the fall and get to work,” says Perkins, who has two years of remaining college eligibility. Perkins was born and raised in Kokomo. He played T-ball through age 12 at what is now UCT Baseball. At Kokomo High, Perkins played football for Wildcats head coach Brett Colby and baseball for Kats bench boss Sean Swan. “They are the favorite coaches I’ve ever played for,” says Perkins of Colby and Swan. “They invested in you as a person and a player. They took the invest in you as a person and a player. They took the extra effort to show why they care about you. “There were tons of life lessons.” Scott Perkins was a football player at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. His wife, Carrie, studied nursing at DePauw University. Scott and Carrie have three children — Caitie, Jack and Brooklyn. Caitie started at IU-Bloomington, transferred to IU-Kokomo is on a path to being a nurse practitioner. Guatemala-born Brooklyn was adopted at a young age. She is entering her freshman year at Guerin Catholic High School in Carmel, Ind.
“He wants to get the best out of you,” says Graziano of Schrage. “He definitely helped me settle in by instilling that confidence in me.
“I feel like I was ready to throw pretty well.”
As a Butler freshman in 2018, Graziano made 13 mound appearances (four starts) and went 3-0 with a 4.70 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings.
Primarily a mid-week starter in 2019, the lefty appeared in 15 games (seven starts) and went 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 17 walks in 44 innings.
The Bulldogs were 8-7 and coming off a March 11 victory against Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) in Port Charlotte, Fla., when the team found out the 2020 season had been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were sitting at the pool,” says Graziano. “We thought we were coming back in two weeks.
“We were optimistic.”
It soon turned out that the rest of the campaign was canceled and student-athletes were sent home.
Graziano went back to northwest Indiana having gotten into four games (all as a starter) and went 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 1/3 innings. His first start was on a Saturday and the rest came on Sunday.
“I worked all fall to get there,” says Graziano of his role. “I finally got it. I really liked pitching on the weekend.
“Everyone’s locked in and there’s a little bit of pressure.”
When the 2020 shutdown happened, Graziano had already secured an internship and was looking to find a baseball team for the summer.
“Butler business school requires two internships,” says Graziano. “That’s 240 hours. You also take a class, write a paper and do interviews.
“It’s kind of a lot.”
For his first internship, Joe is on the clock online at his house in Schererville, Ind., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. He is upstairs while his mother, Roxanna, does her sales job with U.S. Steel, is in the basement.
When Joe is done with his internship duties, he does his band and weighted ball work and heads across the street to Autumn Creek Park to play catch with younger brother Joshua.
At 21, Joe is two years older than his brother. Joshua is enrolled at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis. Their father, Joseph, is a manager at the BP Whiting Refinery, which is very near where Joe is in his second stint with the Oilmen.
The summer right after he graduated from Lake Central in 2017, Joe appeared in seven Northwest Indiana games (five starts) and went 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA, 39 strikeouts and six walks in 31 innings.
“It was the first time I faced college hitters,” says Graziano. “I was playing with kids out of The Region. We were finally on a friendly surface and can be teammates.
Manager Adam Enright, a Munster (Ind.) High School and University of Southern Indiana graduate, also worked closely with Oilmen pitchers.
In 2020, he is being used strictly as a reliever.
“I didn’t want to rush back into it,” says Graziano. “I’m pitching 2-3 innings at a time. I want to build my stamina and pitch count back up.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound southpaw took off about a week off when the 2020 spring season shut down then began training, lifting weights and throwing while reaching out to the Oilmen.
“I want to keep my spot when I get back to Butler,” says Graziano.
A week later, the Yorktown (Ind.) High School graduate lashed a two-run double to aid in the A-Team’s 6-4 triumph against the Snapping Turtles.
How does the righty-swinging third baseman assess his strengths?
“Physically, I can do it all on the field — play defense, run and hit for power,” says Barr. “The average is coming along.
“I have athleticism. I was a middle infielder until last year. I have pretty good range (at third base).”
Barr, a 5-foot-11, 191-pounder, has listened to Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer and former assistant Casey Dykes (now a minor league hitting coach in the New York Yankees organization) regarding hitting and done his best to apply it.
“I kist want the ball to spin true,” says Barr. “I don’t want to flare or hook the ball. I look to put myself in a good position to be able to do that.
“If I can spin the ball, I can adjust and do other things.”
Mercer has been on the job since the summer of 2018 and Barr has benefitted.
“He has a lot of information to offer,” says Barr of his head coach. “We are like-minded. We are not afraid to work hard.
“We’re pretty competitive.”
In three seasons at Indiana, Barr played in 97 games (84 starts) and hit .258 (76-of-295) with 19 home runs, 64 runs batted in, 62 runs scored and a .389 on-base percentage.
He decided not to sign and came back to the Hoosiers.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season, Barr started all 15 games at third base and was the regular No. 3 batter in the IU lineup. He hit .246 (14-of-57) with two homers, nine RBIs, 12 runs and a .366 OBP in 15 games.
The last game for a 9-6 team was March 11 against Cincinnati in Bloomington.
Barr stayed in shape and kept his baseball skills sharp while also keeping up with his studies during the quarantine. The Finance major and 2020 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honoree is now around 20 credits shy of his degree.
He is looking forward to in-person classes, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
“Online classes — I’m not a huge fan of it,” says Barr. “It’s hard to learn business stuff and work through problems online.
“It’s hard to pay attention. I’d prefer to be in class in-person.”
He was honorable mention all-state in 2015 and 2017 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference 2015-17. Perfect Game rated him as the No. 2 shortstop and No. 14 overall player in Indiana. For his prep career, he hit .333 with nine homers, 45 RBIs and 51 stolen bases.
Barr was a middle infielder and also pitched as a freshman, sophomore and senior.
“I was probably a better pitcher in high school than a hitter,” says Barr. “I had no real thoughts of pitching in college. Most pitchers aren’t 5-10 now.”
Cole was also a safety and wide receiver for the Yorktown Tigers as a freshmen, junior and senior.
Joe and Cherie Barr have four sons — Cole (22), Alex (20), Reid (17) and Drew (15).
Joe Barr is a plant manager at Magna Powertrain. Cherie Barr is a nurse at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. Alex Barr is heading into his junior year as a Wabash College wrestler. Reid Barr will be a Yorktown High School senior and wrestler Drew Barr a YHS sophomore in the fall.
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.
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.
Haddad has been in the organization since 2013. He was signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent and was a catcher is the system until 2016, when he served as a player-coach at Staten Island in preparation for a minor league coaching assignment.
But an opportunity came with the major league club and Haddad has been on the Bronx Bombers staff since 2017. He can use his knowledge to help Blake and Swanson with their transition.
Radley and wife Arielle, a Franklin, Ind., native who he met at Butler, moved from Manhattan to New Jersey in January. It’s a 20-minute drive to Yankee Stadium.
Being close year-round has made it easy for Haddad to get to know the ins and outs of the team’s analytics department.
Hadded earned a Finance degree at Butler. His familiarity with regressions, progressions and algorithms allows him to work with weight averages and other analytic concepts.
“You need to have some experience in some upper level math,” says Haddad. “You don’t have to be a genius. It’s math and it’s computers and being able to write codes.
“(Players) are very open to what we’re trying to do. Kids coming from college programs are more up with technology and buzzwords and they understand the value. We’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. Sometimes you just have to use different verbiage.”
Haddad notes that 29-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole, who signed as a free agent in December 2019 and likely would have been tabbed by manager Aaron Boone as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter had the 2020 season started on time, has embraced analytics during his career.
“He’s really smart guy and cares about his career,” says Haddad. “He applied what they gave him in Houston. He used the information presented to him.
“We’re trying to parlay off of that and make him just a tick better.”
With Haddad being close by, he’s also been able to catch area residents Coleand righty reliever Adam Ottavino during the current COVID-19-related shutdown. Some of those sessions happened in back yards. The Stadium was just recently made available.
Players and staff are literally spread across the globe and have stayed in-touch through group texts and Zoom calls. Sharing of Google Docs has allowed coaches and other pitchers to keep up with their progress.
Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey makes sure they have what they need, including a catcher, so they can stay on track and be ready.
Haddad likes the way Gerrit puts it: “I will keep the pilot light on so I can fire it up.”
Haddad moved with his family to Carmel, Ind., at 10. He played travel baseball with the Carmel Pups. They were in need of a catcher so Radley put on the gear and fell in love with the position.
“I loved everything about it,” says Haddad, who was primarily a catcher at Brebeuf, two seasons at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. (2009 and 2010), and two at Butler (2012 and 2013). “I liked the mental side, being involved in every pitching and calling games. I liked working with all the pitchers and seeing how guys can manipulate the ball.”
John Zangrilli was a frequent spectator at Carmel Pups games and is now Greyhounds pitching coach on a staff led by Matt Buczkowski.
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf when Haddad was there and had a major impact.
“He was the most beneficial person in my baseball career,” says Haddad of Zangrilli. “He taught me about being a real baseball player and taking care of business.
“That meant doing things the right way, paying attention to details.”
It was also the way you treat people. It was more than baseball, it was life skills.
Zangrilli was at Radley and Arielle’s wedding in 2018.
Haddad earned honorable mention all-state honors at Brebeuf. He helped the Braves to an IHSAA Class 3A No. 1 ranking and a Brebeuf Sectional title while hitting .494 with 38 runs scored as a senior.
Playing time at Western Carolina was limited and Haddad decided to go to Butler, where he started 89 games in his two seasons.
NCAA rules at the time required players transferring between Division I school to sit out a transfer season. That’s what Haddad did when he went to Butler, where Steve Farley was Bulldogs head coach.
“Steve was a great guy,” says Haddad. “He welcomed me. He didn’t have any stigma about who I was and why I was leaving a school. He knew I wanted to get on a field.
“He’s a good man who taught people how to live the right way.”
Though he doesn’t get back to Indiana often, Haddad stays connected to central Indiana baseball men Zangrilli, Farley, Chris Estep, Jay Lehr and Greg Vogt.
“We played together or against each other our whole lives,” says Haddad of Vogt. “He’s done a great job of building a program he believes in.”
Bob Haddad Jr., Radley’s father, is Chief Operating Officer at Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus. Radley’s mother, Lauren Schuh, is remarried.
Radley (30) has two younger brothers — Griffin Haddad (28) and Ian Schuh (20).
Grffin is an assistant athletic trainer for the Green Bay Packers. He went to Brebeuf for four years, earned his undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University and his master’s at the University of Michigan.
Ian spent one year at Brebeuf and finished high school at Carmel. He is at South Dakota State University with his sights on being a conservation officer.