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Warren sharing stories for decade with Top Coach Podcast

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

“Every coach has a story.”
It’s a line that comes early on the Top Coach Podcast hosted by Jack Warren.
“If we’re able to listen to what people are saying, everybody’s got something to say,” says Warren, who published his first episode in 2013 (with then-Indiana University head coach Tracy Smith) and No. 421 Jan. 30, 2023 (with State University of New York-Oswego’s Scott Landers). “I love to hear people’s stories.”
Mostly baseball interviews though he has featured other sports (including a talk with Jeffersonville, Ind., High School coach Danny Struck), the podcast features conversations with coaches at all levels. The focus is not X’s and O’s, but the relatable stories they tell.
“The absolute best way to learn — bar none — is a good story,” says Warren. “If I can get someone to tell a memorable story I’ve done my job.
“Who’s got something to say to other coaches to instruct, encourage and edify them? Bottom line: If someone’s got a compelling story, I want to tell it and I want to hear it.”
Discussions are not about bunt defense or gripping the curve, but things like organization, management, communication as well as career and staff development.
Over the years, Warren began consulting and career coaching.
“I’ve picked the brains of 1,000-plus coaches,” says Warren, who advises youth coaches to beware of money issues.
“If you go into college coaching right now you better hope you don’t have a lot of debt so it’s not something you’ve got to worry about,” says Warren. “You’ll be working 60-70 hours a week with the baseball team.”
Warren coached at the high school and youth levels in Indiana, Illinois (including Normal’s Calvary Christian Academy) — and briefly — California and worked for three decades for State Farm Insurance. The job gave him the flexibility to coach.
A Tennessee native and 1976 graduate of Gary (Ind.) Wirt High School (he was a Troopers classmate and teammate of future big league slugger Ron Kittle and began coaching at Gary’s Miller Little League as a junior) Warren was one of the early podcasters.
In the mid-2000’s, he and friend Tom Jackson started a baseball podcast in central Illinois.
Warren landed back there while working for State Farm Insurance. He attended Illinois State University in Normal for two years, got married and later graduated from Middle Tennessee State University.
“Bloomington-Normal is a baseball hotbed,” says Warren. “Within three miles of each other you’ve got Heartland Community College which is one of the top junior college baseball programs in the country, Illinois State University which has done very well and Illinois Wesleyan which won the (NCAA) D-III national title.”
At the time, the head coaches were Nate Metzger at Heartland, Mark Kingston at ISU and Dennis Martel at Illinois Wesleyan.
In a 30-mile radius there were about 70 high school graduates playing on college diamonds.
“We decided to take advantage of that and we started a podcast dedicated to local baseball,” says Warren of the show which aired weekly from a local restaurant from March to September or October.
In 2013 while living in Towanda, Ill., Warren got the idea to try to take it national. He contacted Kingston and some other coaches in his inner circle. He learned about third-rail topics to avoid and began to send invitations to potential guests.
“I still thank Tracy Smith for being willing to step out there on faith and do the podcast with me,” says Warren.
His fourth episode in 2013 was with then-Purdue University head coach Doug Schreiber. He followed up with Schreiber in 2014 at Purdue and 2021 at Purdue Fort Wayne.
The first several minutes of the first interview was mostly about Ken Schreiber, who won over 1,000 games and seven state titles as head coach at LaPorte (Ind.) High School.
“Growing up in northwest Indiana there was LaPorte and everybody else who wanted to be LaPorte,” says Warren.
The podcast pioneer has filled guest map from coast-to-coast. Other podcast chats with ties to Indiana include Notre Dame’s Mik Aoki (2015), Saint Joseph’s College’s Rick O’Dette (2015), Indiana’s Chris Lemonis (2016), Noblesville High School’s Justin Keever (2017) and Butler University’s Blake Beemer (2022). He’s shined the Assistant Coach Spotlight on Munster (Ind.) High School graduate and Trinity Christian College’s Adam Enright (2017), IU-Kokomo’s Jason Leone (2018) and Culver (Ind.) Academies’ J.D. Uebler (2022).
At first, Warren went after the biggest names he could find and it was “easy pickings.” He was able to land folks like Florida State’s Mike Martin, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, Texas Christian University’s Jim Schlossnagle and even American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ron Polk and former Kentucky head coach and SCORE International/Inside Pitch Magazine publisher Keith Madison.
“In other sports those kinds of guys are impossible to get,” says Warren. “(Baseball coaches) love to give back. Baseball coaches are some of the most giving people there are.
“One of the reasons I think both baseball and softball coaches are this way is because you have to do everything yourself. You don’t see high school golf coaches mowing the grass or track coaches lining the track. You don’t see football coaches (lining the field).
“Baseball coaches have to do it all.”
So while not all show guests are the most well-known, they all have a story to tell.
“Top Coach is not just about the biggest names in coaching,” says Warren. “It just means you add something to the sport.”
Warren retired from State Farm, worked briefly in North Carolina and landed with wife, Pam, in Fernandina Beach, Fla. That’s where Corn Belt Sports and its media arm — Top Coach — now calls home.
He records his podcasts and is able to make TC Tour stops around the Sunshine State.
Metzger, who now pitching coach at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, encouraged Warren to attend his first ABCA Convention.
He’s now at regular at the ABCA, where he spends three days in early January going from one person to the next absorbing their stories.

Jack Warren.

Floyd Central alum Lozado now coaching at UT Martin

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

Alex Lozado is making the transition from college baseball player to coach.
Lozado was a right-handed pitcher at the University of South Florida after serving as a pitcher and infielder at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla.
In 2021, he made five mound appearances for USF and posted a 3.18 earned run average and 1.06 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 5 2/3 innings.
The Billy Mohl-coached USF Bulls won the American Athletic Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
One thing that stands out about Mohl is the way he cared. When Lozado and his roommates experienced a gas leak at their apartment, the coach was quick to help.
“He would always tell us that if we got in any trouble — no matter what time it is — to make sure he is our first call,” says Lozado. “I gave him a call at 2 a.m. He said, ‘I’m going to set up the guest bed rooms for you guys. Come on over and stay at my place.’
“Mol is a great coach, but even a better person.”
Lozado, whose playing career was ended by an elbow injury, graduated from South Florida in 2022 with a degree in Communications.
At Gulf Coast State, Lozado played in 66 games (63 starts) in 2019 and 2020 and hit .268 with two home runs, 28 runs batted in and 28 runs scored. He also made 18 trips to the mound (nine starts) and went 5-2 with four saves, a 3.77 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 11 walks in 62 innings. During the COVID-19-shorted 2020 season, he was 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 42 strikeouts and five walks in 41 1/3 innings. He hurled the first four innings of a combined no-hitter against Faulkner.
“I was a big-time change-up guy,” says Lozado. “I got the point with my elbow where I couldn’t bend my slider as well.
“Change-up was definitely my pitch.”
The Mike Kandler-coached Commodores went 44-28 during Lozado’s two-year stint.
“I loved Kandler,” says Lozado. “He pushed you real hard, but at the end of the day he’s going to let you know that he loves and cares about you and is going to do anything for your best interests.”
Lozado is glad he went the JUCO route.
“Graduating from high school at 17 my dad though junior college was probably the best option for me and it was,” says Lozado. “I saw a lot of progress not only from high school to college and from my freshman to sophomore year but grew as a person and a player.”
Alex (22) is the oldest of Willie and Karen Lozado’s two children. Floyd Central, graduate Mia Lozado (19) is a junior at the University of Louisville.
Willie Lozado, who comes from a Puerto Rican family, was born in the Bronx and went to high school in Brooklyn. The third baseman/shortstop was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1977, did not sign and was then selected by the Milwaukee Brewers out of Miami Dade College in 1978.
He met Karen while playing for Triple-A Louisville. Willie played 43 games for Milwaukee in 1984. His only MLB home run — a three-run shot — came on Sept. 11 against Boston’s Steve Crawford at Fenway Park.
Willie later coached at Floyd Central.
Born in Louisville, Alex grew up in Sellersburg, Ind. The family moved up the hill to Georgetown, Ind., his junior year at Floyd Central.
A former Kentucky Baseball Club travel ball player and 2018 graduate of Floyd Central High School (Floyds Knobs, Ind.), Lozado earned three letters and earned all-area, all-Hoosier Hills Conference and Pitcher of the Year honors (he posted a 1.30 ERA as a junior and 1.80 as a senior) while playing for Highlanders head coach Casey LaDuke.
“He has a fire to win that is almost unmatched,” says Lozado of LaDuke.
Lozado arrived at the University of Tennessee at Martin in August as a volunteer assistant coach for the NCAA Division I Skyhawks.
The connection was made through a relationship between USF pitching coach Karsten Whitson and UT Martin hitting coach Pat Cottrell.
Working on a staff led by Ryan Jenkins, Lozado works with outfielders and does a myriad of things, including hitting fungos and pitching batting practice.
Lozado is working at the Play’n Sports vendor booth at the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention which runs Jan. 5-8 in Nashville.

Alex Lozado. (University of Tennessee at Martin Photo)

Purdue alum Serrato spreading knowledge as Kent State coach

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

A Purdue University graduate is applying some lessons he learned while playing for the Boilermakers in his role as an assistant baseball coach/recruiting coordinator at Kent (Ohio) State University.
Barrett Serrato, a graduate of West Chicago (Ill.) High School, played four seasons for head coach Doug Schreiber at Purdue (2009-12) and received a Physical Education degree and experienced a Big Ten Conference championship in 2012.
Former Boiler assistants Jamie Sailors (current Lafayette Aviators managers) and Spencer Allen (now a Northwestern University assistant) were involved in Serrato’s recruitment.
“It’s hard to pick one experience,” says Serrato of his time at Purdue. The whole thing was so enjoyable for me.
“We’ve got a team group chat now. Any time anybody texts it’s like we never left.”
Among players who were on the 2009 and 2012 rosters with Serrato are Kyle Bischoff (New Haven High School graduate), Ryan Bridges (Griffith), Eric Charles (Zionsville), Sean Collins (Pendleton Heights), Joe Haase (Knightstown), Jake Hansen (Westfield), Robert Ramer (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Tyler Spillner (Fort Wayne Northrop). Bridges was head coach at Hanover Central High School.
Three future big leaguers were juniors on the 2012 team — Cameron Perkins (Southport), Kevin Plawecki (Westfield) and Nick Wittgren (McCutcheon). Brett Andrzejewski (Westfield) was also on that team.
“We all really got along,” says Serrato. “We all jelled. On the field and off the field we really enjoyed our time.
“Winning conference in 2012 was the icing on the cake.”
That squad went 45-14 overall, 17-7 in the Big Ten and beat Indiana twice to win first Big Ten Tournament title. Serrato was named to the all-tournament team.
Another memorable moment for him came in 2011 while Purdue swept a three-game series from visiting Indiana. It was the first sweep of the Hoosiers in 14 years.
“I remember a couple of fans getting on top of the IU dugout (with brooms),” says Serrato. “That’s as good as it gets.”
In 177 games (151 starts) at Purdue, the lefty-swinging Serrato hit .309 with eight home runs, 117 runs batted in and 116 runs scored.
Lessons learned from Schreiber (who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) included discipline.
“You have to have discipline in everything you do,” says Serrato. “Be the toughest team on the field at all times. Play hard and don’t back down.
“If you have high goals and high standards you have to be able the stuff that comes with it.”
Serrato says Schreiber stressed fundamentals and following the path.
“You knew the standards and the rules,” says Schreiber. “Nobody got any special treatment. This is how we do things and we’re going to do it this way.
“That’s been the biggest carryover to what I do now.”
In Serrato’s last three seasons in West Lafayette, Jeff Duncan was a Boilers assistant and is heading into his 10th season as Kent State coach in 2023.
Selected in the 48th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins out of high school, Serrato was later picked in the 30th round by the Texas Rangers in 2012 and played in the minors in 2012 and 2013.
Serrato was on Duncan’s Golden Flashes staff 2015-17, coached 2018-19 at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and was at the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2019 before coming back to Kent State in January 2020.
“Coach Dunc is a people person,” says Serrato. “He relates to every type of person.
“He’s good at making sure each guy feels important.”
As recruiting coordinator, Serrato is after a certain kind of player.
“Here at Kent we have a bit of a track record in western (Pennysylvania) and Ohio,” says Serrato. “We have a similar stomping grounds to Purdue. We go into Chicago and Wisconsin. We get some guys from around the Detroit area. It’s a tough kind of kid.
“We’ve got high standards here. We’re going to go into some big places. We’re going to play some really good teams and we’re going to expect to win. If we don’t have a strong mental will — hey, we’re going to get this done — we’re not going to accomplish what this program has set out to do.”
With relationships as a priority, Serrato wants to bring the right people into the Golden Flashes fold.
“If there’s a bad attitude, we’re out,” says Serrato. “At the end of the day we need people who can handle failure and be mature in what they do.”
While looking at potential recruits, he is readying body language, energy and gathering information from multiple sources.
“Off the field are they positive people?,” says Serrato. “What are others saying about them?”
As a hitting coach, Serrato prepares his players to have mature conversations — something he gleaned from pro ball — and preaches three things in this order: mentality, approach and fundamentals.
“It’s that toughness, that go-get-it attitude,” says Serrato. “Anybody who’s been around this game knows that as a hitter you’re going to fail a lot. Guys who can’t take some punches are really going to struggle.
“With two strikes, we shortened up (our swings) and sacrifice power. Our motto is ‘win fastballs away with two strikes.’ If we get beat (inside) we tip our cap.”
Barrett, 32, and wife Karlie met at Kent State. The couple has two daughters.

Barrett Serrato. (Kent State University Image)

Alum, former pro Richardson now in charge of West Noble Chargers

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

Waylon Richardson, who was named this week as head baseball at West Noble High School in Ligonier, Ind., has had most of his baseball experiences as a player.
Born in Goshen, Richardson grew up around Ligonier, moved near Cromwell in high school (parents Franklin Jr., and Kimberly Richardson own about 220 acres of farmland) and got acquainted with the game early at Wawaka.
At West Noble, he competed four years each in baseball and basketball and two of football.
As a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher he appeared in 11 games as a senior in 2015 and went 6-1 with one save, a 1.61 earned run average, 85 strikeouts and 30 walks in 56 2/3 innings. As a junior, he pitched in eight games and went 1-3 with a 2.18 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 1/3 innings.
Richardson scored 445 career points on the basketball court.
In his senior football season of 2014, he passed for 1,236 yards and eight touchdowns.
His head coaches were Doug Brown (baseball), Jim Best (basketball) and Monte Mawhorter (football). The trio always seemed to get their older players to take leadership roles.
“They were hard-nosed coaches and role models,” says Richardson. “They got the most out of their group of players each and every year. I still reach out to each of them. I couldn’t have asked for three better high school coaches.”
Richardson went to Kankakee (Ill.) Community College. In 2016, he made one start and experienced a shoulder separation and sat out the rest of the season.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was the Cavaliers closer. In 27 games, he went 2-0 with nine saves and an 0.30 ERA, 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 innings. KCC went to Enid, Okla., and won the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series.
Richardson was named to all-region and all-World Series teams.
That summer, he hurled for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. He made 11 appearances (10 in relief) and went 2-4 with 4.91 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He also tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017.
In 2018, a trainer for the Chicago Cubs visited Kankakee and advised head coach Todd Post and pitching coach Bryce Shafer to shut Richardson down after three appearances because he had come back from surgery too soon. The right-hander continued his rehabilitation and threw bullpens for professional scouts.
Richardson committed to play at Saint Leo (Fla.) University for head coach Rick O’Dette (who played at coached at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.), whose pitching philosophy went hand-in-hand with Shafer.
Post congratulated Richardson when he was named as West Noble head coach.
“He’s like a second father to me,” says Richardson of the veteran field boss. “He got me into that mental mindset that led me to bigger and better things. It got me drafted.”
Post helped Richardson understand the importance of the little things in baseball. Those add up to big things.
“It was a whole new perspective on baseball (for me),” says Richardson.
When the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was held Richardson was selected in the 40th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched in the minors in 2019. Various injuries limited him to three games and three innings. He was released in May 2020. The minor league season was canceled that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richardson, who was getting old for a Class-A ballplayer, opted to retire.
Waylon married the former Abby Richards of Churubusco in October 2020 and started working in construction as a remodeler and house flipper and flooring sub-contractor. Abby Richardson is a speech therapist and cheerleading coach at West Noble.
Waylon Richardson, 25, was a varsity assistant to brother Aaron Coy (other siblings include Brittany Richardson and former all-state, Ball State University and Grace College basketball player Haley Richardson) during the 2022 West Noble baseball season. Coy is a 2006 West Noble alum who played baseball at Goshen College.
As the man in charge of the Chargers, Richardson had from nine to 17 players participate in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities.
“We share to many athletes at our school,” says Richardson, who held optional open fields after football practice. “Without everyone there it’s hard to put in your philosophy.”
He was able to critique the swings of newer players, getting them to use more of their lower half. He got the older players to take the younger ones under their wins and emphasized knowing where to throw the ball on defense.
The winter Limited Contact Period is Dec. 5-Feb. 4. Richardson plans to have his twice-weekly sessions following basketball practice.
“We want to get as many kids as possible,” says Richardson.
Hitters will be asked to have an approach at the plate and not just be free swingers.
A brand new outdoor batting cage was recently installed at the Chargers’ on-campus field. Richardson’s wish list includes a new scoreboard and a new or remodeled press box.
“I’m excited,” says Richardson. “We lost eight seniors but return at least six everyday starters. We have a really good young freshman class. The ones showing up (at practices) are athletic and versatile.”
Richardson says he sees college baseball potential in Class of 2023’s Elijah Bacon and Winston Deel.
The coaching staff includes returnees Dave Shields, Mel Coyle and Jose Marmolejo.
Shields was on the staff when Richardson was a player.
“I respect his Baseball I.Q.,” says Richardson. “He’s like a father figure to the kids.”
Coyle doubles as a junior varsity coach and groundskeeper.
“He makes sure Charger baseball plays on a beautiful diamond,” says Richardson, who is also hoping to bring on two former college teammates.
Richardson seeks pitchers who get ahead in the count.
“We want to work low in the zone — inside and out,” says Richardson. “If you command two pitches, you can play around with a third and get hitters to chase.”
Looking at his 2023 season opener, Richardson is considering letting pitchers go one inning each to see what they’ve got and doing the same thing in Game 2.
“We want to figure out our rotation and relievers going into conference play and the end of the year,” says Richardson.
West Noble (enrollment around 720) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview).
The Chargers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with East Noble, Fairfield, Lakeland, NorthWood and Wawasee. West Noble has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2006.
West Noble Little League (formerly Kimmel Baseball & Softball) prepares players for the high school. Greg Eash is WNLL board president for an organization which has traditionally fielded teams from T-Ball to 1/2 Pints (seventh and eighth graders).
“Greg Eash great coach for our feeder system,” says Richardson. “I’ve told my coaches we need to get down there and show our face to the youth.”

Waylon Richardson (West Noble High School Photo)
Waylon and Abby Richardson (West Noble High School Photo)
Waylon Richardson pitches for West Noble High School.
Waylon Richardson helped Kankakee (Ill.) Community College win the 2017 NJCAA Division II World Series.
Waylon Richardson was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched briefly in the minors. (Four Seam Images)

Mahar continues to learn as coach in Cincinnati Reds system

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

A former big leaguer living in southern Indiana is sharing his knowledge with young professionals.
Kevin Mahar, who played at Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.) for head coach Mitch Hannahs (now head coach at Indiana State University) and at Indiana University for head coach Bob Morgan and briefly as a center fielder with the 2007 Texas Rangers, lives in Jasper, Ind., and has been a coach in the Cincinnati Reds organization since 2013.
The 2022 season saw Mahar roving from level to level, including the big leagues, as outfield/baserunning coordinator and has been told he will be in that position in 2023.
“Baserunning is about being aggressive and smart,” says Mahar. “We look for the ball in the dirt, take an extra 90 feet.
“We put pressure on the pitcher and the defense.”
The message to outfielders is straightforward.
“Catch the ball,” says Mahar, who also teaches about getting in position, anticipation, reaction and game situations.
“A lot of the stuff we do now is detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “We have drills that focus on technique and tempo.”
Mahar has worked with players along with Reds special assistant and former Reds flycatcher Eric Davis.
“He was an exceptional outfielder and was around a lot,” says Mahar of the man who played 17 MLB seasons. “Our goal is to make sure each player in exceptional at who they are. They all have a lot of ability, but each individual is different. We want to make them the best version of themselves and reach their capabilities.
“We are not trying to create robots in the outfield. We allow them to play free out there.”
Mahar was born in Pontiac, Mich., but grew up in Midland, Mich.
“Jasper is very similar,” says Mahar. “Midland is a big, big sports town.”
Among the sports in the town near Saginaw Bay and Michigan’s “thumb” are baseball, hockey and football.
Mahar graduated from Midland High School in 1999 (he helped the Chemics to a Class A state title in 1998) then spent one year with Hannahs at Lincoln Trail and four with Morgan at Indiana (one as a redshirt). He earned second-team all-Big Ten Conference honors in 2004 before signing that year as a free agent with the Rangers.
“He was great,” says Mahar of Hannahs. “We was a baseball guy. He knew how to get the best of (his players).”
With adopted son Malik Chatman a defensive back on the Indiana State football team, Mahar still has occasional contact with Hannahs.
“(Coach Morgan) was very, very detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for him holding me accountable for my actions.”
The 6-foot-5 Mahar was in the Rangers system through 2007, played for both the independent Kansas City T-Bones and in the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2008 and was with the Phillies through 2010. He was mostly a first baseman his last two seasons.
He assisted Andy McClain at Brebeuf Jesuit School in Indianapolis in 2011 and Jay Lehr at Carmel (Ind.) High School in 2012. McClain is now head coach at Indianapolis North Central and Lehr is a lead pitching instructor with several pro clients at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind.
Kevin and wife Atalie moved from Indianapolis to Dubois County — where she is from — about the time he joined the Reds. Atalie Mahar is employed by Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools and is a Health and Occupational Services teacher. There are three other children in the Mahar household — eighth grader Stella (13), fourth grader Nash (10) and Cecilia (1).
Mahar, who recently got home from instructional league at Arizona, will be spending time with family while also teaching lessons a few days a week and planning for the 2023 season prior to gearing up for spring training after the first of the year.
Mahar was hitting coach at Billings (Mont.) in 2013 and 2014 and hitting coach at Daytona Beach (Fla.) in 2015. After being away from coaching in 2016, he spent the next three seasons (2017-19) as bench coach at Dayton (Ohio) and was at the Reds summer camp then alternate site during the COVID-19 season of 2020. He was bench/gameplanning coach for Louisville (Ky.) in 2021.
With the Bats, he gathered advanced scouting reports with information on opponent’s hot and cold zones and tendencies.
Mahar has soaked up information along the way. He’s picked up things from many. Among them are Davis, Willie Harris, Juan Samuel, Billy Hatcher and Delino DeShields. These five played in more than 7,200 big league games.
“I had some great coaches coming up and I continue to keep learning,” says Mahar. “There are always new techniques and new ways to reach kids. I’ve adapted drills I saw other organizations doing while I was roving.”
Mahar also sees the way his players learn. Preferences include Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic (VARK).
“You learn how to reach each kid,” says Mahar. “Once you understand that, it makes our lives as coaches easier.”

Kevin Mahar. (Cincinnati Reds Photo)

Veteran broadcaster Kellman gets thrill by calling game on Yankees network

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

Howard Kellman has called more than 6,600 games as a play-by-play broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians.
This week, Kellman stepped away from his longtime duties and travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., to broadcast on the radio for the New York Yankees Friday, Sept. 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kellman, 70, saw Tampa Bay score a combined eight runs in the seventh and eight innings in a 9-0 victory.
Christian Bethancourt socked a two-run home run in the seventh. The Panamanian was the Indianapolis team MVP in 2021.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Kellman while waiting for his flight from Tampa back to Indianapolis. “Working with (color commentator) Suzyn Waldman and producer Jack Maldonado were terrific.
“I’ve know the Yankee people for a long time,” said Kellman, an Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer. “When there was this word that John Sterling might miss games I reached out to the Yankees and they told me to contact (general manager) Chris Oliviero at WFAN. I sent a CD of my work.”
What is the difference between broadcasting Triple-A versus Major League Baseball?
“Well, you’ve got the crowd and bigger ballparks,” said Kellman. “It was fun.
“Remember, I grew up as a Yankee fan. This was a great thrill.”
Kellman, professional speaker, award-winning sportscaster and author, hails from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Brooklyn College.
He wound up in Indianapolis, called his first Indians game in 1974 and has been the team’s voice for all but two seasons since (1975 and 1980).
It was not Kellman’s first time on the call for a New York team. He broadcast three Mets games in 2014. He filled in for three Chicago White Sox games in 1984.
As he does for every contest, Kellman was meticulous in his preparation for the Yankees vs. Rays.
“In this day and age it’s a lot easier with the Internet,” said Kellman. “You have everything available to you. I follow the Yankees close and I’m still a Yankees fan.
“I got help from the Tampa Bay people from reading things online and also talking to their broadcasters (including Neil Solondz, Dewayne Staats and Andy Freed).”
Stats worked in Oklahoma City and Freed in Pawtucket when those teams shared a league with Indianapolis.
Kellman missed two home games with the Indians while in Florida. The team has not sent a broadcaster on the road in 2022. He was expected back behind the mic tonight (Sept. 3) as the Indians play at Louisville.
Greg Rakestraw, Cheyne Reiter and Jack McMullen handled the game during Kellman’s absence.

Howard Kellman. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)

Smith building excitement as new Manchester Squires coach

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

Shane Smith has coached baseball for 24 years and at every level from T-ball and 18U travel with the past two years as an assistant at Wabash (Ind.) High School.
Smith can now add high school head coach to his list of diamond experiences.
Last week he was board-approved to lead the baseball program at Manchester Junior/Senior High School in North Manchester, Ind., which is about 20 miles north of Southwood Junior/Senior High School.
Oldest son Blake Smith (19) graduated from Wabash in 2022 and is now a freshman baseball player and Sport Management major at Manchester University in North Manchester.
Shane and Tiffany Smith’s younger sons Ashton (18 and a senior) and Jackson (15 and a sophomore) are still in involved in baseball at Southwood, which is also in Wabash County and conference rival to Manchester. Ashton Smith played at Wabash the past two years.
Daughter Ella Smith is a seventh grade softball player and dancer.
“Baseball has been our family thing,” says Shane Smith, who celebrates 20 years of marriage to Tiffany in October. “This is an opportunity I’ve always wanted: to run a varsity baseball program.
“I prayed about it. I talked to my family. They’ve been supportive. I don’t take it lightly and I appreciate it.”
Smith was involved with the Wabash Pride travel program for eight years, serving as president for six. He also coached for the USA Prime.
At Wabash High, he assisted Apaches head coach Jack Holley. They had met when Smith was 13 and playing for the Prep League Blue Jays coached by Holley.
“He’s an Old School baseball traditionalist and he’s got a great heart,” says Smith of Holley, who played on Wabash’s 1986 state champions and then at Valparaiso University. “He’s got a great deal of knowledge, but he puts things in perspective.
“It’s bigger than baseball. We’re dealing with people’s sons.”
During his high school years, Smith also played for Wabash American Legion Post 15 coached by Steve Furnas and Oren Wagner.
Smith is a 1999 graduate of Wabash. One of his high school coaches in his younger years was Todd Adams, a former Anderson (Ind.) University player who was in charge of strength and conditioning for the Apaches.
“He was a physical specimen,” says Smith of Adams, who is now his insurance agent. “He poured everything he had into us. We were than more than just our stats.
“He got the most out of us simply by showing he cared. He expected maximum effort and that’s who I am as a coach.”
Rick Espeset, head coach at Manchester University, coached with Smith for four years in the summer and made an impression.
“You can achieve success and all these goals but you have to stay grounded,” says Smith. “Everything we did was fun and maximum effort
He was a relationship-first guy, too.”
Ethan Espeset, Rick’s son, is a 2022 Manchester Junior/Senior High graduate.
Manchester (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko).
The Squires were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Rochester, Wabash and Whitko. Manchester has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2016. The 2002 Squires were 2A state champions.
Jack Rupley was Manchester’s head coach from 1998 until retiring at the end of the 2022 season.
“Jack was very consistent as far as leading a program and its expectations,” says Smith. “I want to add to the already-strong history.”
Smith plans to bring his unique strengths and passions to the Squires baseball program.
“I like to play fast and put pressure on the defense,” says Smith. He notes that Wabash stole 140 bases in 2022 and that’s a realistic goal at Manchester. “I like the kids to play loose and fail with confidence. I’m not looking for them to be a robot. I’m going to empower my players to steal that base.”
Smith passionate about serving others and he’s going to bring that to the Squires.
Wabash conducted a “dad’s practice” with a fathers and male role models joining the players and Smith plans to do the same at Manchester.
“We’re going to have a good time,” says Smith.
He wants to have walk-up songs and “cool gamed experience” for his players.
“I’m an Old School guy with a New School side to me,” says Smith. “I want to mix it up a little.”
In just a few days, the Manchester Squires Baseball Facebook page already had over 100 followers.
“Excitement is growing,” says Smith. “We want to do something special.”
Smith expects eight players with varsity experience to return in 2023. That includes the top four in batting average (junior Garrett Sites .389, sophomore Ethan Hendrix .365, junior Evan Martynowicz .338, junior Gavin Martin .303) and leading base stealers (Sites 11, Hendrix 10, Martynowicz 8 and Martin 7).
As a pitcher, Martynowicz went 2-2 with a 2.31 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and 13 walks over 42 1/3 innings.
Smith has already attended Manchester sporting events to meet players and parents and reached out to Manchester Recreational Association and wants to offer coach and player clinics.
“My main goal is to generate excitement in the community,” says Smith. “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I plan to support these kids and families and have a good foundation of a relationship way before the first day of practice.”
The coach plans to have a call-out meeting in the near future.
Manchester does not currently have junior high baseball. Smith says he would like to start that, perhaps through MRA.
“We want to make sure (younger players) have a sound foundation,” says Smith. “We want to make sure in T-ball they fall in love with the game. So many times we overwhelm the kids and it becomes a job.
“They have to have a great experience, continue to love it and have the confidence. Youth baseball is all about fundamentals and gaining confidence.
“If we are going to have a true feeder system, the focus has to be development and long-term success over short-term success.”
Smith works as a social worker and school safety specialist for Wabash City Schools. He is currently in the L.H. Carpenter Early Learning Center.
He is also on the Wabash County’s Child Protection Team, which is an accountability piece for the Department of Child Services.
Smith earned a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in Human Resources Management from Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Shane Smith.
The Smiths (clockwise from upper left): Shane, Ashton, Blake, Jackson, Tiffany and Ella.

“Dad’s Practice” with Blake, Shane, Ashton and Doug Smith.

Shane Smith (left) advises a Wabash High hitter.

Rutgers-bound Besser keeps on buzzing the ball past batters

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

Grant Besser’s habit of dodging bats with his pitches got him noticed during his prep days and it continues at the collegiate level.
At South Adams High School in Berne, Ind., the left-hander and four-time first-team all-Allen County Athletic Conference selection whiffed 451 in 241 innings with a 1.27 earned run average. He also hit .397 with eight home runs and 58 runs batted in.
As a senior, Besser fanned 130 in 54 frame and posted a 0.77 ERA and hit .426 with two homers and 17 RBIs for the Brad Buckingham-coached Starfires. He began working out that winter in Fort Wayne with Pittsburgh Pirates strength trainer Dru Scott.
When not pitching, lefty Besser was the unorthodox choice for South Adams at shortstop his last three seasons.
“I knew it looked silly, but I had been playing shortstop all my life,” says Besser. “I can throw from any arm angle. I had a great time doing it.
“Besides I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it for long. I knew pitching is what I wanted to do.”
Besser played in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. He was honored as the 2019 Northeast Indiana Baseball Association/Dick Crumback Player of the Year.
The 2021 recipient of the award — Carter Mathison (Homestead/Indiana University) is Besser’s teammate this summer with New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats. Mathison was also the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Besser shined on the mound at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers.
In 36 appearances (10 starts), he went 6-4 with eight saves and a 2.66 earned run average as the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Buccaneers posted marks of 16-11 in 2020 (COVID-19 shortened), 44-16 in 2021 and 42-15 in 2022. He amassed 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 94 2/3 innings.
Besser played no summer ball in 2020 and dealt with an injury at the beginning of the 2021. He came back and hurled five innings in the state tournament and did not allow a baserunner.
“I really saw a spike in all of my numbers for the good (in 2022),” says Besser. “I blew every category away from the previous years.”
He was in 20 games in 2022 and went 3-2 with six saves, a 1.28 ERA, 61 K’s and 16 walks in 42 1/3 innings.
Ben Bizier is head coach at Florida SouthWestern State. Derrick Conatser is Bucs pitching coach.
“I like that toughness to he brings to the table,” says Besser of Bizier.
In his exit interview with Bizier Besser was told that 18 Major League Baseball organizations have been following him as they prepare for the 2022 First-Year Player Draft (July 17-19 in Los Angeles).
“He said there’s a really good chance it happens this year,” says Besser, who turns 22 in September. “Out of high school I had zero (college) offers. Coach Buckingham offered me to Florida JUCO’s. I earned a scholarship at FSW in the spring.
“Money has never been the big thing for me. It’s opportunity and getting my foot in the door.”
This is Besser’s second straight summer at Keene and he has had several meaningful chats with Swamp Bats president and general manager Kevin Watterson.
So far, Besser has made four appearances (one start) and is 1-0 with an 0.87 ERA. In 10 1/3 innings, the southpaw has 10 strikeouts and one walk. The NECBL regular season ends July 30.
Throughout his college experience, Besser has been used in multiple pitching roles, including starter, long reliever and a closer.
“It doesn’t matter to me as long as we get a win,” says Besser. “I’m very versatile.”
Besser has excelled with an ability to keep his head when things get tense.
“It’s mental toughness. I preach it,” says Besser. “I can spot when somebody doesn’t have that mental toughness.
“I’m ready for the situation. I’m consistent with all that I do. I work quick and throw strikes. Preparation and a steady mindset is key.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, Besser uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball.
“My four-seamer has natural run and a high spin rate,” says Besser. “Up in the zone is where I get the most out of it.
“This summer it’s been sitting 89 to 91 mph (it hit 92 at Florida SouthWestern State).”
Besser’s two-seamer moves in to left-handed hitters and away from righties.
His “circle” change-up break to his arm side and is usually clocked around 83 mph.
“My curveball is more of a slurve,” says Besser of the pitch that’s often delivered at around 78 mph. “I mix and match. Sometimes it’s 12-to-6 and sometimes I sweep it. It depends on the situation.”
Grant is the oldest of Mike and Katina Besser’s two sons. Adam Besser, a right-handed pitcher for Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, turns 20 in August.
Mike Besser is a salesman for Moser Motor Sales. Katina Besser is chief financial officer at Swiss Village Retirement Community.
The family moved from Geneva and Berne when Grant was in the fifth grade. Beginning at 9U, he played travel ball for the Muncie Longhorns and Indiana Bandits and then Summit City Sluggers founder Mark DeLaGarza reached out to him and he spent two summers with the 17U Sluggers, playing for head coaches Todd Armstrong and Brent Alwine.
“My parents’ sacrifices let me do that,” says Grant. “The Sluggers gave me a lot of knowledge on baseball.”

With two years of eligibility remaining, has committed to NCAA Division I Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He signed with the Scarlet Knights over the winter.
Why Rutgers?
“What really attracting me was coming home to the Big Ten,” says Besser, who was born in Fort Wayne and grew up in Geneva and Berne. “It’s up-and-coming program and pretty hard-nosed.”
With Steve Owens as head coach and Brendan Monaghan guiding pitchers, the Scarlet Knights posted an overall mark of 44-17 and Big Ten record of 17-7 in 2022. Rutgers played Michigan in the conference tournament championship game.
After earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Management at Florida SouthWestern State, Besser is considering a Labor and Relations major at Rutgers.

Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)

Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)
Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)
Head coach Ben Bizier (left) and Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)

City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
Grant Besser (Keene Swamp Bats Photo)

Marian, Northwestern Ohio alum Brammer independent ball veteran

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

South Bend, Ind., native Dylan Brammer has pitched his forkball on multiple continents.
For most of the past decade, the right-hander has played professional baseball in independent U.S. leagues and abroad.
At 32, he’s still got his eye on his next pitch while sharing his knowledge with youngsters coming up in the game.
The 2008 graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School who played at Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.), Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Northwestern Ohio started his pro career with the independent Frontier League’s Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks in 2012. Rich Austin was the manager.
Rockford was giving Brammer — who was a two-way player in high school and college — a shot at shortstop.
“I was always a good hitter, but not a great hitter,” says Brammer.
The RiverHawks discovered how hard he threw and sent him to the bullpen to see if he could harness his speed.
By the time Brammer was released last day of transactions, he saw his future on the mound.
“I know I can compete at that level as a pitcher, but I couldn’t throw strikes,” says Brammer. “I told myself I’m going to concentrate the next eight, nine, 10 years on my craft — pitching.”
Brammer, who has Marketing degree from UNOH, worked a genetic software sales job in 2013. But he heard and headed the call of baseball and went back to the diamond.
He played with he Pittsburg (Calif.) club for three seasons in the independent Pacific Association. Wayne Franklin managed the Pittsburg Mettle in 2014 while Aaron Miles was in charge of the Pittsburg Diamonds in 2015 and 2016.
Brammer started 33 games for Pittsburg and went 16-9 with 206 strikeouts and 102 walks in 217 innings.
In the latter part of 2016, Brammer landed with the Steve Brook-managed River City Rascals, a Frontier League team in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Mo. In four games (two starts), he went 2-1 with 13 K’s and eight walks in 17 2/3 innings.
An opportunity to play overseas came in 2017 and Brammer was off to the Czech Republic to play for 3n2 International Stars at Prague Baseball Week and for Czech Baseball League’s Skokani Olomouc.
A month break between the end of the regular season and the playoffs gave Brammer the opportunity to travel all over eastern Europe.
In what is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer south of the equator, Brammer played in Australia in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The first two seasons he was with the Port Adelaide Magpies in the South Australia State League and won two Capps Medal awards as MVP. Port Adelaide went to back-to-back championship series. Brammer had games of 23, 21 and 19 strikeouts.
He managed in both Port Adelaide and Perth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he did not go back to club ball in Australia.
The 5-foot-10 righty was with the New Jersey Jackals for parts of four seasons, winning 16 games, saving 18 and whiffing 184 while walking 90 in 218 2/3 innings.
Brooks Carey managed the team in 2018 and 2019 in the Canadian-American Association. The COVID-19 season of 2020 saw the Jackals in the All-American Baseball Challenge.
Carey guided New Jersey in the Frontier League in 2021. When the Jackals were not going to the playoffs, Brammer finished the season with the Atlantic League’s Stan Cliburn-managed Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
In nine games (all in relief) with Southern Maryland in 2021, Brammer went 1-0 with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 14 innings.
A testing ground for Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League pushed the mound back to 61 feet, 6 inches, restricted infield shits and had Trackman call balls and strikes during the 2021 season.
“It didn’t take that much time to adjust (to 61-6),” says Brammer. “My off-speed was up in the zone at 60-6. It broke a little more and stayed lower in the zone (at 61-6). They did me a favor.”
Throwing straight over the top, Brammer uses four pitches — four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and forkball.
“I have a heavy fastball that goes from 90 to 92 mph,” says Brammer. “I hide the ball really well and have fast arm speed.”
Brammer’s family moved to Florida after his high school days and he has been there in the off-seasons since 19.
He received an invitation to pitch in the Mexican League in 2022. With his girlfriend due to have a boy in December, Dylan opted to stay in Delray Beach, Fla., and teach baseball lessons while coaching the 12U East Boynton Blaze. He’s also staying sharp for his next playing opportunity.
“I take pride in how serious I take baseball,” says Brammer. “I work at it daily.”
Born in South Bend to Michael and Lisa Brammer, Dylan is the second oldest of 10 (seven girls and three boys).
Brammer played at South Bend Southeast Little League and helped his team to the state tournament at age 12.
When he got older, one of his summer teams was Mishawaka American Legion Post 161 coached by Jeff Moore.
He played for Tim Prister at Marian High.
“He was tough on us,” says Brammer of Prister. “I loved that about him. He expected a lot out of our class.
“We took practices and games serious.”
Marian was IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up in 2008, losing 5-1 to Crawfordsville in the championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Brammer played shortstop and batted third that day, getting one of three hits off Athenians left-hander Cameron Hobson.
Brammer drew interest from some NCAA D-I schools, including Butler and Michigan State. He says he did not have the grades to get into Butler and went the junior college route.
Playing for Ancilla Chargers head coach Joe Yonto, Brammer hit .420 with 13 extra base hits in 44 games in 2009.
At Vincennes U. in 2010, Brammer hit .372 with 18 extra base hits and a .428 on-base percentage for the Chris Barney-coached Trailblazers. VU went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Baseball World Series in Enid, Okla.
At Northwestern Ohio in 2011 and 2012, Brammer hit a combined .292 and posted a 1.21 earned run average on the mound with 61 strikeouts in 49 innings. The Racers head coach was Kory Hartman.

Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Skokani Olomouc Photo)
Dylan Brammer (New Jersey Jackals Photo)