Tag Archives: Fort Wayne

Baker receiving, offering knowledge as Manchester U. assistant

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

Kyle Baker has been on the job as a baseball assistant coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., for less than two months.
He took the full-time job after 1 1/2 years as a volunteer at University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was also a player.
Baker has been involved in recruiting and is getting ready for practice to resume at NCAA Division III Manchester on Jan. 30. The Spartans open the 2023 season Feb. 25-28 with games in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Manchester is to play DePauw in a March 4 doubleheader at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.
The home opener at Gratz Field is slated for March 8 against Olivet College.
Baker will be working with catchers and hitters and has talked with veteran Manchester head coach Rick Espeset (2023 will be his 27th season in charge of the Spartans) about how they will take on first base coaching duties.
While Baker sets up routines for infielders and outfielders, Espeset is crafting regimens for pitchers.
“I want to gain his insight on what practice plans should look like for Manchester,” says Baker. “(Coach Espeset) been doing it for a long time. He’s really good at what he does. I’m fortunate to learn from him.”
The rest of Espy’s staff includes Josh Brock and volunteers Keith Shepherd and Peter Shepherd.
Baker, who grew up in Monroe, Ind., traces his drive to coach to his senior year (2014) at Adams Central High School in Monroe, where he played baseball for Jets head coach Dave Neuenschwander.
“I learned a lot from Newy,” says Baker. “I enjoyed playing for him. I liked it so much I went back and coached with him.”
AC’s Lance Busse, Josh Foster (who is now head coach), Jalen Hammond, Joel Reinhard and Thad Harter also have a place in Baker’s heart.
Most of Baker’s time as a player was spent at catcher and he sees the connection between catching and coaching.
“You see a lot of big league catchers go into managing and they are typically successful because they know every facet of the game,” says Baker. “There’s always so much going on.”
Baker is demanding with his receivers.
“I expect a lot out of my catchers,” says Baker. “I tell them mid-play if a pitcher is not backing up (a base) where he’s supposed to be. You’ve got to remind them while watching the runners and trying to decide where the ball needs to be redirected. I expect them to compete at a high level all the time and be able to block the ball whenever they need to.
“The key to a successful baseball team is having a really talented and baseball-savvy catcher.”
Baker places receiving, blocking and calling pitches as high priorities for catchers and plans practices accordingly.
He throws in game situations like fielding pop-ups and backing up bases.
“Knowing where everyone is supposed to be on any given play is pretty high up on my list,” says Baker. “You really set your team up for success when you’re able to know what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Knowledge of each pitchers’ repertoire is key.
“What’s their best pitch and what are they’re not so comfortable with?,” says Baker. “How can you talk to them? Is this a pitcher that you can scold a little bit or is this a pitcher that you need to talk to more calmly?
“Just what type of pitcher are they and how are you going handle specific situations? There are 100 different situations.”
Baker also wants his catchers to develop relationships with umpires.
Before every game, they introduce themselves to the official and get their first name. They find out what they can do to make the umpire’s job easier that day.
“Ultimately, we want to have umpires that want to come back to our field and the person that they talked to the most has to probably be the nicest, too,” says Baker.
A topic in the catching world in receiving the ball with one on the ground. Baker is both new school and old school on this.
“When (runners) are on-base or there’s two strikes on the batter we need to be on two feet (because it allows more lateral movement than one knee down, which is a knee saver),” says Baker. “Why not use the best of both worlds?”
Baker says coaching college hitters often comes down to making one minor adjustment as opposed to a total overhaul of their swing.
“They’ve probably been successful at some point in their career,” says Baker. “What I teach may work for you, but it may not work for your teammate. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.
“Coaching hitting is a really tough thing to do because it is so individualized. You get into it and see how they hit and react to certain things.
“If you’ve got a team of 50 players there’s probably going to be 50 different swings that you have to learn and adapt to as a coach.”
As a coach at NAIA’s Saint Francis, Baker gained an appreciation for giving college players a good experience from Cougars head coach Dustin Butcher and assistants Connor Lawhead and Kristian Gayday and for Butcher’s running game.
“That’s something I’ll probably keep forever because (Saint Francis) is very successful at it,” says Baker. “It’s aggressive and knowing when to run.
“We talked a lot about the ‘free base war.’ When the defense is not paying attention but the ball is still in-play why not try for that extra base?”
Baker attended the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville.
This gave him a chance to network and bounce ideas off of other coaches.
“Nobody ever knows all the answers in baseball,” says Baker. “It’s just an endless pool of possibilities and outcomes. Someone in California many have seen something that I have not seen here in Indiana yet.
“There’s always stuff to learn at these clinics. Some of it you may use, some of it you may not use. It all just depends on how it fits your program.”
Baker is coaching athletes, but it goes further than that.
“I want to develop them as baseball players but also as student-athletes and people who are going to grow and maybe one day have their own families if they so choose,” says Baker. “Whatever they want to do in life. I want to put them on a path for their own success as much as I can.
“You’ve got to be a really good time manager when it comes to college. You typically find out right away if you’re going to be good at it or it’s something you need to improve upon.”
Baker has been dating Goshen (Ind.) High School and Goshen (Ind.) College graduate Lourdes Resendiz for more than two years.
Kyle’s parents are Richard and Yolanda Baker and he is the middle of three brother, between Randall Baker and Matthew Baker.

Kyle Baker. (Steve Krah Photo)

Attention to detail guides McManama on, off baseball diamond

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

Andy McManama has learned there is power in precision when it comes to life and baseball and has demonstrated this as an an instructor/mentor at World Baseball Academy and assistant coach at Carroll High School — both in Fort Wayne, Ind.
His father — Terry McManama — was a longtime assistant coach to Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer Mark Grove and a Business teacher at Churubusco (Ind.) High School that passed along the importance of structure to he and wife Marla’s only child.
“It’s being on-time and being detailed,” says Andy McManama. “There’s work to be done. If we practice hard we can have fun and play games, but we have to make sure our work is getting done first.”
His grandfather owned a horse farm and was involved in harness racing. Andy was a 9-year Whitley County 4-H Horse & Pony Club member and worked his way through the offices of secretary, treasurer, vice president and president. The fairgrounds are in Columbia City.
“Growing up whether it was the baseball side or having a horse side it’s we’ve got some work to do to take care of things,” says McManama. “That’s always been a family thing — working hard for what you have.”
McManama grew up attending many World Baseball Academy programs, played catcher at Carroll for head coach and NEIBA Hall of Famer Dave Ginder and graduated in 2009 — the same year he became a World Baseball Academy intern with the RBI program (now On Deck Initiative for underserved and at-risk boys and girls).
Andy has applied his guiding principles as an instructor as well as Ginder’s bullpen coach. He has been on the staff since 2016.
“I’ve enjoyed being in that program and just how much attention to detail there is,” says McManama. “It’s how my brain functions and is wired.
“We dot our i’s and cross our t’s. Our kids play hard. That hasn’t changed since before (Ginder started leading the Carroll program).”
The IHSAA adopted a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) that went into effect during the 2017 season and rule now includes all levels.
“I think it works well,” says McManama. “It all comes down to player safety. With 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, their bodies are still developing. It’s really good from not overusing (their arms).
“The IHSAA has done a good job. It’s regulated now. It’s not just a free-for-all or everybody can do whatever they want.”
McManama notes that all pitch counts are not the same.
“A 100-pitch seven-inning outing is completely different to a 100-pitch three-inning outing,” says McManama. “You could have three high-stress innings and that makes a big difference.
“If a kid has 60 to 80 pitches through three he probably isn’t going to make it to his 100 or 120 unless you have to. Those are high-stress innings that don’t help the kids arm or body for sure.”
Coach Mac has served in several capacities at the ASH Centre, including tournament director and director of operations. This year, he took a full-time job with Allen Business Machines but still provides group and one-on-one lessons at World Baseball Academy two times a week as well as helping at Carroll.
“I enjoy working with catchers and pitchers quite a bit,” says McManama. “Lesson-wise we’ll do it all.”
With World Baseball Academy, McManama traveled to Bulgaria and worked with the Bulgarian Baseball Federation in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 made a visit to Kenya in 2013. A group from Bulgaria came to Fort Wayne in 2014.
“Those trips are eye-opening,” says McManama. “You see how other kids live and interact on the other side of the world.
“It’s a humbling experience on how many things we have here that we take for granted sometimes. It makes you appreciate a lot more.
“Being able to work with kids and see them grow — not just from an athletic perspective but as a young adult — is pretty gratifying to me.”
Locally, the WBA partners with schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne through its On Deck Initiative. There are more than 1,000 kids involved in the program.
McManama was raised as a Chicago Cubs fan and attended his first game at Wrigley Field while in elementary school.
At the horse farm, the radio was often tuned to the Cubs broadcast with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the spring or summer and Purdue football or basketball in the fall or winter.
“I actually prefer the radio broadcast for the Cubs rather than TV sometimes,” says McManama. “(Hughes and Santo) kept it interesting.”
Santo went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012. Hughes is the Hall of Fame’s 2023 Ford C. Frick Award winner.
McManama was in Cincinnati when Sammy Sosa slugged his 500th career home run April 4, 2003. The clout came on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Scott Sullivan and the opposite-field blast sailed over the wall in right.
More proof of his Cubs leanings: Andy has two female dogs named Ivy (8-year-old Australian Shepherd) and Wrigley (14-year-old Beagle/Lab mix).
Andy resides in Fort Wayne and is engaged to Tabitha Marrs.

Carroll High School (Fort Wayne) baseball pitching coach Andy McManama (left) and Will Worrell (Class of 2023).
Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy’s Andy McManama (32) in Kenya.
Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy’s Andy McManama in Bulgaria.
Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy’s Andy McManama (far right in back row) and company in Bulgaria.
Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy’s Andy McManama (third from left in front row) and company in Bulgaria.
Baseball in Bulgaria on Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy trip made by Andy McManama.
Baseball field made in Bulgaria by group featuring Fort Wayne-based World Baseball Academy’s Andy McManama.

York entering second season leading Whitko Wildcats

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

Cody York, who is going into his second year as head baseball coach at Whitko Junior/Senior High School in South Whitley, Ind., in 2023, has been around the sport in northeast Indiana most of his life.
Born in Fort Wayne, he played in Holy Cross and Hamilton Park youth leagues and four years at North Side High School, where he graduated in 2008.
His head coaches were Bruce Miller as a freshman and then Randy Moss for the next three years.
“(Moss) had a huge impact on my life,” says York, 33. “He showed me how to compete on the baseball field and what it takes to be good at it.”
North Side head football coach Casey Kolkman (now at Heritage) showed York what consistency looks like.
“No matter what happened — good or bad — he stayed even-keeled,” says York of Kolkman. “His demeanor never wavered one way or another.
“I take my style from (Moss and Kolkman).”
York also played basketball for the North Side Redskins (now Legends).
After high school, York played one season each at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., for head coach Keith Schreiber and Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne for Kip McWilliams and now is a heavy equipment operator for the City of Fort Wayne.
York’s first season of baseball coaching was 2021 as Whitko assistant.
Whitko (enrollment around 415) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley and Wabash).
The Wildcats are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Prairie Heights and Westview. Whitko won its lone sectional title in 2017.
York’s 2023 coaching staff features varsity assistant Andrew Shepherd, junior varsity assistant Michael Ianucilli and volunteers Jacob Gable and Austin Roberson. The head coach got acquainted with his assistants through two Fort Wayne-based summer adult circuits (Carrington League and Men’s Senior Baseball League).
Pitching coach Shepherd played at Wabash High School (Class of 2012), Ianucilli at Fort Wayne Concordia (Class of 2017), Gable at North Side (Class of 2015) and Roberson at Fort Wayne Snider (Class of 2012). York is also looking to hire a JV head coach.
York helped coach middle school football at Whitko in the fall while his assistants ran IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions. This winter, Limited Contact Period practices have been from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and dedicated to throwing, hitting and weight training.
With nine starters being freshmen or sophomores, the Wildcats went 9-18 in 2022.
Shortstop David Ousley (Class of 2023) is scheduled to sign with the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) Thursday. Ousley was a team captain in ’22 along with Isaiah Cripe (Class of 2024).
Ousley and Cripe are expected back along with Class of 2023’s Brent Bowers, Jaxon Harper and Cody Adkins, 2024’s Logan Hoffman and Max Platt and 2025’s Easton Grable, Riley Harman and Breyden Kirkdorffer.
The Wildcats play home games on-campus. A year ago, Whitko got a new scoreboard. New dugouts and batting cages are being installed.
York is also the program’s hitting coach and wants his players to get more repetitions while staying mechanically sound.
“I’m very meticulous when I’m in the cage with them,” says York.
Plans also call for replacing infield dirt and outfield warning tracks with red brick dust.
As a feeder system for the high school, York has established a middle school team that will play games Monday through Wednesday in the spring of 2023 so it does not interfere with travel ball schedules.
Cody York is engaged to Alisha Withered. The couple each have 10-year-olds from previous relationships.

Cody York.
Cody York and the Whitko Wildcats.

Willard follows father as Eastside Blazers head coach

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

Eastside Junior/Senior High School athletics has been a big part of Cade Willard’s world all of his 23 years.
His parents — Aaron and Kerri Willard — have both been employed by DeKalb Eastern Community School District.
Cade played baseball and basketball for the Butler, Ind.-based Eastside Blazers — Jason Pierce for the first two years (2014 and 2015) and his father for the last two (2016 and 2017) on the diamond and Ryan Abbott on the hardwood.
A right-handed pitcher, Willard played three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne (2019-21). He redshirted in 2018. He appeared in 92 games (all in relief) for the Mastodons. His head coach the last two seasons was Doug Schreiber.
“Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with good coaches,” says Willard.
Graduating in 2021 as a Business Management major and Marketing minor, Willard went to work at Eastside teaching Business and Computer Science and joined his father’s baseball coaching staff.
After an IHSAA Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2021, Eastside won another sectional title in 2022. The Kelly Green & White went 26-7 in ’21 and 21-8 in ’22.
Eastside (enrollment around 380) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview).
The Blazers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Eastside has won seven sectional titles.
Aaron Willard was a North coach and Owen Willard — little brother of former volleyball/softball athlete Madison (Willard) Shelter (Class of 2014) and Cade — was the MVP at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
At the end of the season, Aaron Willard kept his athletic director tag but passed the head coaching baton to Cade.
His decision to pursue business or education and coaching was made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I grew up around Eastside my whole life,” says Cade. “It seemed right.
“It makes it more special being in your hometown.”
Aaron and elementary P.E. teacher Kerri now have more time to see right-hander Owen pitch at PFW.
Cade is also an assistant to Ed Bentley on the Blazers varsity boys basketball staff. Willard found time to lead IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities (two days a week for two hours) in the fall and will do so again in the winter, beginning Dec. 5. He will roll right from basketball to baseball on some days.
“In the fall, we got better, got in a routine and got our hitting philosophies down,” says Willard, who had eight to 10 high schoolers at each session along with a handful of junior high players. “On paper, we had our starting infield out there.
“It’s important to get kids in before the holidays. We can see what numbers we have.”
Cade wants the ones who are able to attend to get used to his practice structure.
“The past few years we’ve been successful,” says Willard. “It’s about keeping the tradition alive.
““We’re always a scrappy team. I want to get our guys ready to compete. We have a few spots to fill. We were super senior-heavy last year.
“For some it will be the first time playing varsity baseball. Toward the end of the season we’ll be alright.”
Besides Owen Willard, Class of 2022’s Nick Snyder moved on to college baseball at Indiana University Southeast.
Willard has a mixture of seasoned and younger assistant coaches.
“I think it’s important to bring on experienced guys who know what to do in different situations,” says Willard.
Eastern graduate Tony Emenhiser — who coached with Pierce and Aaron Willard — is back. Alum Gary Kaiser was also on Pierce’s staff.
Conner Dove is junior varsity head coach and is assisted by Mike Gustin. Dove was an Eastside classmate of Willard. He was a teammate of Prairie Heights graduate Gustin at Trine University (Angola, Ind.).
Willard expects to have around two dozen players for varsity and JV squads. Among returnees is Class of 2024’s Loden Johnson and Ryder Reed and Class of 2025’s Jace Mayberry.
Pitchers will be asked to throw strikes and keep the ball low and away from he middle of the plate.
“Free bases hurt,” says Willard. “You can throw two pitches for strikes and get away with it and be effective with three.
“In our non-conference games we’ll see who can throw and who cannot throw. It’ll get us ready for rather get ready for conference in the later weeks.
There will be a lot of juggling (of positions) this year for sure. We want to put the best lineup out there for conference.”
Eastside plays home contests on-campus at Michael D. Fieldler Field. The diamond played host to a fall league and has had its dugouts upgraded with other projects in the works.
Bobcat Youth League locations at Butler and Riverdale-St. Joe develop players that end up at Eastside. Fifth and sixth graders travel to play area teams, including in Hicksville, Ohio. Butler is about four miles from the Indiana-Ohio line.
The non-conference high school season tends to include Ohio opponents like Archbold, Edgerton and Fairview.
A youth camp is planned at Eastside for the spring.
“It is important to get youth kids enjoying and playing baseball
doing it the right way,” says Willard. “Dad — being AD — says that’s an area you could blossom in with time over the long run.”

Cade Willard.
Cade Willard.
Aaron Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Owen Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Cade (left), Owen, Kerri and Aaron Willard.

Being ‘Rock Solid’ aim of Boles, Lakewood Park Christian Panthers

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

“Rock Solid.”
It’s the motto adopted by Lakewood Park Christian School baseball for the way the Panthers want to be — on and off the diamond.
It’s a reference to Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
It’s about a firm foundation — a subject that comes up during gameday chapel sessions.
Lakewood Park Christian (a K-12 school with an enrollment around 170 in the top four grades) is an athletic independent.
The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont and Hamilton. Lakewood Park has not yet won a sectional title.
After coaching in area youth leagues, Scott Boles came to Lakewood Park Christian in Auburn, Ind., in 2017 as a volunteer.
“I started volunteering to serve God and do more with my life,” says Boles, who became Panthers head coach for the 2018 season.
In 2022, Lakewood Park Christian went 7-10, tying the single-season school record for victories.
That was accomplished with a roster of 10 aka “The Dirty Diez.”
Three of the players had not played baseball since age 12. One suffered a burst appendix during the season.
“It’s a small Christian school,” says Boles. “It’s all bout hard work and effort.
“We’re relentless. We don’t quit. We want to win. But we also want kids to have a good experience and bring guys up the right way to be men. That’s what we’re all about.”
For 2023, Boles expects to have as many as 18 players with seven at travel ball level.
“The next two years we should break every record that exists,” says Boles, who watched last spring as Corbin White (Class of 2024) set the batting average mark at .469 and pitcher Gabriel Dager (Class of 2024) established the earned run average mark at 1.94.
Also in the mix is Carson Boles (Class of 2024). The 17-year-old is the youngest of Scott and Rachel’s two children. The couple — married in 1999 — also has Makenna (19), a 2020 graduate of Carroll High School where she played tennis.
Boles had Carsten White (Corbin’s older brother and 2018 graduate) and Brian Johnson as assistant coaches in 2022 and hopes to have them both back in 2023.
Carsten White and Andrew Carpenter (Class of 2017) both played for Lance Hershberger at Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne. Carpenter was killed by a drunk driver in 2019.
“The next three years we should have 3-5 kids play college baseball,” says Boles.
Lakewood Park Christian plays on an on-campus field players dubbed “The Lake.”
The field recently got a new mound thanks to the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers.
A warning track has also been installed that goes all around the field. New fencing in front of the dugouts is on the way.
“We’ve had a lot of upgrades the last six years,” says Boles. “We’ve had $15,000 to $18,000 in donations.”
Bill Jones, who coached at DeKalb High School and is an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, helped put the field in place decades ago.
Scott Boles is a 1995 graduate of Columbia City (Ind.) High School, where he played baseball for four years and earned three letters as a left-handed pitcher and first baseman.
The Eagles’ head coach was Tom Wood.
“He was just a good man,” says Boles of Wood. “He treated the kids right.”
Boles was at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for a year.
Working in a family business, he is now a distributor for Mission Foods Products.
He opened a 1,500-square foot training facility in Fort Wayne called the Upper Room Baseball Club and has his own travel ball organization.

The 2022 Lakewood Park Christian School baseball team. Head coach Scott Boles is in the middle in the second row. Assistants are Carsten White (far left) and Brian Johnson (far right)
With 10 players, the Lakewood Park Christian Panthers tied the single-season school record with seven victories.
Scott and Carson Boles.
Carson Boles.
Lakewood Park Christian mound meeting with Panthers head coach Scott Boles.
Carson, Rachel and Makenna Boles.
With the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers, Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., gets a new mound.
With the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers, Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., gets a new mound.
With the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers, Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., gets a new mound.
With the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers, Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., gets a new mound.
With the help of Fort Wayne TinCaps groundskeepers, Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., gets a new mound.

Brock grateful for opportunity to coach for Manchester, Espeset

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

Josh Brock is approaching two years as lead assistant baseball coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III program in North Manchester, Ind.
Brock, 40, came back to the Spartans full-time in January 2021. He had been an assistant a different times since 2013. He played for Manchester for four years (2001-04).
“I feel extremely fortunate to be around someone like Coach (Rick) Espeset,” says Brock of the longtime head coach and director of athletics.
Playing four seasons for Espeset and then being on his staff has impressed Brock about how the coach thinks the game.
“He has a level of baseball savvy,” says Brock. “He’s also preparing players for life after baseball.”
Putting it in football terms, Brock describes himself as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator while Espeset is defensive coordinator.
“I do the majority of the hitting and baserunning and work with outfielders since I played that position,” says Brock. “Espy works with the defense and makes all the strategic decisions.”
Brock also does the bulk of the recruiting.
The summer (roughly mid-May through August) is where Manchester coaches spent most of their time on the road. There’s also digital resources and the coaching network.
“There are alums and people in the baseball world who know and respect Coach Espeset (that recommend potential recruits),” says Brock.
Fall and winter is the time recruits are encouraged to visit the campus and to follow up on referrals.
The team conducts four weeks of fall practice (basically the month of September).
“We assess players and get the new guys acclimated,” says Brock. “Guys have a baseline they can use to transition into the off-season.”
At the end of the fall, players meet individually with coaches to receive an assessment and guidance on how they can develop.
NCAA Division III rules limit the contact time for coaches and players so there is no practice until it gets closer to the spring season.
What separates Manchester from some D-III program is that the offseason is truly “off.”
“We’re hands-off,” says Brock. “(Players) can just be a student and not worried about baseball obligations.
“Some of our guys are going to be in the weight room and the indoor cages all winter long. Some don’t pick up a baseball or bat again until (after Jan. 1). That’s their decision to make.”
Josh grew up close enough to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., to have his father — Jerry Brock — take him to Generals’ batting cage on a regular basis.
There he met Wayne head coach Dave Fireoved.
“I was in awe of him,” says Brock. “He was always so good to us and a high-character guy. He loved the game and he loved his players.
“I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play for him.”
One of the coach’s sons — Mitch Fireoved — was the same age as Brock.
After four seasons at Wayne (1997-2000), outfielder Brock chose to play college baseball at Manchester.
There was a buzz around Espeset and his program after the Spartans won 70 games in his second through fourth seasons (1998-2000) with a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in 1999.
Espeset and assistant Shawn Summe were regulars at Brock’s travel games. Two of his Fort Wayne Marlins teammates — Jared Kurtz (Fort Wayne South Side) and Brian Minix (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) — signed with the Spartans as did Ryan Carr (Norwell) and Eric Screeton (New Haven) of the rival Fort Wayne Indians.
Kurtz went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization. Screeton became a coach, including leading the program at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
Brock’s last season as a player was 2004 — the year Manchester won a HCAC regular-season championship and advanced to the D-III World Series.
He earned a Business Administration and Management degree from Manchester in 2005 and entered the professional world.
Along the way, Brock decided to change career paths and got a Masters in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne as well as a Transition to Secondary Education and Teaching certificate from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 2013.
It was also 2013 that Brock was junior varsity baseball coach for Steve Sotir at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
When Espeset needed help at Manchester, Brock served as lead assistant in 2014 and 2015 and was a volunteer in 2016 while teaching at Summit Middle School, a part of Southwest Allen Schools as is Homestead High.
In two of the next three years, Brock was an Homestead assistant to Nick Byall while taking one year off to focus on his studies. He earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2019.
“I’m grateful for my experiences and the accreditations I’ve been able to achieve,” says Brock.
He is hopeful his schooling makes him a better coach, educator and person.
Brock began teaching at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., in the fall of 2019. He helped out with Manchester baseball in the spring of 2020 and taught at Norwell through the fall semester of 2020.
When a full-time position came up at Manchester, Brock went back to the school as a full-timer.
Always looking for new ideas and things that will help players, Brock appreciated going with Espeset to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention (the 2023 event is Jan. 5-8 in Nashville).
“It’s Candyland for baseball coaches,” says Brock. “I enjoy talking to other coaches.
“The ABCA is very giving group. (Members) are very giving with their time.”
Last winter, Brock spoke about middle infield play for a coaches clinic hosted by the Summit City Sluggers.
Brock is not married and has no kids.
“I’m the cool uncle,” says Brock, whose niece and nephew live with older brother Jeremiah in Hawaii.
Their parents — Jerry and AeSun — live in Fort Wayne. AeSun Brock was born in South Korea.

Josh Brock. (Manchester University Photo)

Josh Brock (7). (Manchester University Photo)

New head coach Taylor emphasizing fundamentals at Indian Creek

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

Fundamentals will be a priority as new head baseball coach Greg Taylor begins to make his imprint on the program at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind.
Taylor has been guiding the Braves on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the current IHSAA Limited Contact Period.
“We’re establishing fundamentals from the very beginning and preparing them for off-season drills,” says Taylor, whose players will take part in weight training, arm conditioning and have a chance to hit in the “barn” as Indian Creek gets prepared for the 2023 season. “Our strength and conditioning coach (Bram Wood) is fantastic. (Strength training) gives them the advantage of being physically fit and it plays into health. The boys miss less (play and practice time) and are not hurt as often.”
Taylor notes that Wood’s training is sports-specific, even geared to positions within sports.
Three assistant coaches — Chris Steinway, Mark Ferguson and Craig Davis — were part of the IC staff a year ago. Tim Guyer is new to the program. The Braves look to field varsity and junior squads in 2023.
Indian Creek (enrollment around 625) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo).
The Braves were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Brown County, Edgewood, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo. Indian Creek has won six sectional titles — the last in 2019.
A fieldhouse, which will be used by baseball and other teams, is under construction at Indian Creek. The location of the softball field has been moved.
Turf was added to the football field for this fall and is available for baseball and other squads to practice on when their diamonds are too wet.
There is a movement to establish a middle school baseball program that would play as a club sport in the spring.
Meanwhile, the high school staff is working with local youth league and travel ball players.
“We want them to engage in our program,” says Taylor. “That’s an important thing — getting a feeder program following the same philosophy, fundamentals as high school.”
A volunteer years ago at Indian Creek when Brian Luse was head coach, Taylor followed Luse to Franklin Community.
Recent Indian Creek graduates who moved on to college baseball include the Class of 2018’s Dylan Sprong (Franklin, Ind., College) and 2019’s Dustin Sprong (University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.) and Wyatt Phillips (University of Indianapolis).
For several years, Taylor has coached travel baseball. The last four years have been with the Shelby County Cubs.
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Taylor is a 1992 graduate of Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, where he played four years for Spartans head coach Tom Muth.
“We did a lot of fundamental work,” says Taylor, who was a shortstop.
He played two years each for Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Jerry Blemker at Vincennes (Ind.) University and Gary Hogan at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.
Taylor was selected in the 40th round of the 1996 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The switch-hitting middle infielder played through 1998. Future National League MVP Jimmy Rollins was a teammate on the 1997 Piedmont Boll Weevils and 1998 Clearwater Phillies and the two sometime roomed together on the road.
A senior director in medical affairs for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Greg has been married to Kate for 25 years. Kate Taylor is in public relations and coaches diving at Indian Creek.
The couple has two children — Ella (16) and Grayson (13). Ella Taylor is a junior diving and track athlete at IC. Indiana Creek seventh grader Grayson Taylor is in baseball, tennis, basketball, diving and track.

Greg Taylor.

Led by Gaff, Mathison, Moss, Risedorph, Summit City Baseball Academy coming in December

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

Sharing their knowledge to the next wave of players, four current or recent collegians from northeast Indiana will lead the Summit City Baseball Academy.
The developmental camp featuring instruction by Tanner Gaff, Carter Mathison, Treyvin Moss and Brayden Risedorph and organized by Jayce Riegling is slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 27-28 for Grades 5-6 and 7-8 and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 29-30 for high schoolers at Summit City Sluggers, 5730 Bluffton Road, Fort Wayne.
A Summit City Baseball Academy pitching session is scheduled each day from noon to 2:30 p.m. with hitting from 3:30 to 6 p.m. (all Eastern Time). Cost is $100 for one session or $150 for two. Spots are limited. Entry deadline is Dec. 14.
Gaff, a 2016 Whitko High School graduate who pitched at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, began his professional career this summer in the Minnesota Twins organization. The right-hander was with the Florida Complex League Twins followed the instructional league. As a youngster, he played for the Sluggers.
“We’re trying to help them get to that next level whether that’s improving their mechanics or velocity or teaching them the fundamentals of the game,” says Gaff. “We want to give back to the 260 community though its open to everyone around.”
While he is likely to keep it basic with the younger pitchers, Gaff foresees being able to get into more details with high schoolers.
“Pitching is kinetic chain-oriented, which is how the whole body works,” says Gaff. “It’s working from the ground up. It’s using their body efficiently. A lot of pitching has to do with the lower half. The upper half tags along at the end of a throw. That’s simple way of explaining it. The arm is pulled through.
“There is no such thing as perfect mechanics. There are elite compensators that know how to get into certain positions better than others or use other parts of their body to make up for what they lack.”

Mathison, a 2021 Homestead High School graduate and former Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year, is a sophomore outfielder at Indiana University coming off a summer with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats.
“I know I’ll be working with hitters,” says Mathison. “With the high schoolers I’m thinking about teaching them a lot about the mental game, the mental side of hitting as well as some drills. With the junior high kids, it will be what they need to be thinking about when they’re at-bat and what position they need to be in to be a successful hitter.”
Mathison says confidence is the key to hitting for him. He goes the plate thinking he’s going to find his pitch and hit it hard.
Moss, a Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School alum (Class of 2018), is a redshirt senior outfielder at Northern Kentucky University.
“We want to spread the knowledge that we gained over the years,” says Moss. “We’re in a position now that these kids would love to be in our shoes. We want to inspire and work with this younger generation.
Moss, whose father Randy is the director of player development for the Summit City Sluggers, anticipates some points of emphasis at the camp.
“For the high school kids it will be more about the mental game,” says Moss. “Any collegiate-level player will tell you how big the mental side of the game is.
“With the younger (players), it’s the basic mechanics that can help them along the way.”
Risedorph, an East Noble High School alum (Class of 2022) and IHSBCA North/South Series participant, is a freshman right-handed pitcher at Indiana University. He played for the Sluggers during his prep sophomore summer.
“If you have a way of giving back to the community, it’s pretty important to do something,” says Risedorph. “I’ve been exposed to some great baseball people and great talent. It would be a waste not to spread the love and spread the knowledge.
“I thought this would be fun to do and give back a little bit. It’ll be some mechanical stuff and the mental aspects of the game like learning how to compete and have fun. I’ll share some pitching drills that have helped me throughout my career.”
Riegling, a 2020 graduate Lakeland High School, where he was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball), is a student at Indiana University with a goal of becoming a sports agent. Among his projects is the JKR Podcast.
Mark Delagarza founded the Summit City Sluggers in 1996 and has coached college baseball.
“Jayce wants to utilize their skills and knowledge and transfer it to the kids who sign up for the camp,” says Delagarza. “It says a lot about these guys that they’re willing to do it.
“These guys appreciate what was giving to them in the day. I think it’s awesome that they want to share and help the young kids get better like someone did for them.”
For more information, contact Riegling at (260) 585-4388 or Jayce.SCLA@gmail.com.

Tanner Gaff.

Carter Mathison.

Treyvin Moss.

Brayden Risedorph.
Jayce Riegling.

Werling now showing the way for Fort Wayne North Side baseball

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

Mike Werling sees a diamond in the rough.
The new head baseball coach at Fort Wayne (Ind.) North Side High School knows there’s been tough times for the Legends and plenty of challenges lie ahead, but his is hopeful he can turn around a struggling program.
“It’s going to take time,” says Werling. “We’re going to take our licks (in 2023). I’m looking for commitment and improvement from day to day.
“We have the talent to compete. We might sneak up on people that overlook North Side this year. It could be a fun ride.”
The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period is in full swing and the Legends work out Mondays and Wednesdays at Carington Field, which is about four miles southeast of the school.
There are senior captain-led stretches, throwing projections with Tom Emanski drills, full infield/outfield cut-off work, drop-step drills for outfields and Pitchers Fielding Practice to name a few.
“We want to make sure kids know what they’re doing now so it’s not an issue in the spring,” says Werling, who is helped by assistant coaches Reggie Williams and Dezmond McNeilly.
Fort Wayne North Side (enrollment around 1,520) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne).
SAC games are played in home-and-home series and some Saturday doubleheaders.
“It’s a very big, very tough conference for baseball,” says Werling.
The Legends were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Columbia City, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. North Side is seeking its first sectional title.
Hamilton Park Little League feeds the Legends program.
“There is a negative stigma for North Side baseball. It’s a matter of changing the culture and making the kids excited about wanting to come out there.”
Werling says having Williams as Hamilton Park Little League president will help spread the word and lift up Legends baseball in a positive light.
Two players from the Class of 2023 — righty-swinging shortstop/third baseman Gabriel Oliva and left-handed pitcher Christian Cox — have been getting looks for bigger colleges.
Welling, who took his new post at the end of August, was pitching coach at North Side 2019 to 2021 and was junior varsity coach at his alma mater — Heritage Junior/Senior High School in Monroeville, Ind., in 2022.
Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer Dean Lehrman has been a head baseball coach for 43 seasons — nine at Woodlan and the past 34 at Heritage.
“Coach Dean is a special guy,” says Werling, who was a left-handed pitcher for Lehrman and graduated from Heritage in 2008 then at Ohio Northern University for one season and the Portland Rockets before a labrum injury caused him to stop. “There are mannerisms and ways about him he had then and nothing’s changed. They are the same drills and same workouts. He’s big on the little things and fundamentals. And there’s commitment.”
“My Dean Lehrman comes out all the time in practice. He’s built a very successful program in his time there. What he does works.”
Prior to coaching at North Side, Werling works 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at Sauder Manufacturing in New Haven, Ind., where he drives a forklift.

Mike Werling.
Mike Werling and daughter Raegan.

The Werlings: Mike, Shelby and daughter Raegan.

Foster gets opportunity to lead Adams Central Jets program

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

A large swath of Josh Foster’s life — nearly 20 years — has been attached to baseball at Adams Central Middle/High School in Monroe, Ind.
The new Jets head coach was a student manager for three years of middle school. He played for AC for four years under four different head coaches — Dave Neuenschwander, Mark Conrad, Jody Wendle and Herb Bergman.
“It was a blessing,” says Foster. “I gained knowledge from all four.”
After college, he came back and served junior varsity coach and then varsity assistant.
Neuenschwander approached him to let him know 2022 — Nick Neuenschwander’s senior year — would be his last year leading the baseball program.
“We were in-sync,” says Foster of himself and Dave Neunschwander, who also imparted lessons to him on the football field. “My senior year, (head coach Rick) Minnich needed to motivate me a little bit. He sent me to Coach Newy who said we need to to step it up. He was not rude, but was not going to sugar-coat it. We’ve had that friendship.
“It’s been great having a mentor like that.”
Adams Central lost in the baseball sectional in Foster’s junior year (2000) then finished as IHSAA Class 1A state runners-up in his senior season (2001).
Foster was one of 19 seniors on the Jets 2000 Class 1A state football championship team and one of nine 12th graders on the baseball and basketball teams (AC advanced to the regional).
Foster played three seasons at the Doug Coate-coached University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
“I was transitioning into a closer, but I was ready to get married,” says Foster, who made high school sweetheart and 2002 Adams Central graduate Julie his wife and the couple went about building a family that now includes five children — seventh grader Jencee, fifth grader Jaxsen, fourth grader Jordyn and kingergarteners Judsen and Jarren.
Josh has been involved with coach his sons’ youth and travel teams. Kevin Foster, Josh’s father, took him to Pony League practices at 3 and has helped his son as a coach.
Adams Central (enrollment around 375) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Bluffton, Heritage, Jay County, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan).
The Jets were part of an IHSAA Class 2A baseball sectional grouping in 2022 with Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams and Woodlan. Adams Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2016. The Jets last won the ACAC in 1976.
For the first time in years Adams Central is taking part in IHSAA Limited Contact Period fall practices (two hours two times a week).
Led by Foster and junior varsity coach Lance Busse (Class of 2016), these sessions have been attended by up to 12 players — many of them sixth graders.
Foster has been putting together AC’s first middle school baseball program. It will likely be a club team with seventh and eighth grade squads playing game against Indiana and Ohio teams during the spring.
Two dozen middle school players came out to a recent meeting and more are expected. Foster is seeking volunteers to coach the boys.
This supplements the feeder program that is the Monroe Youth League.
Besides Busse, Foster expects Jalen Hammond (Class of 2019) to be on the coaching staff.
A project on Adams Central’s field calls for leveling the infield and there has been talk of installing a warning track.
Knowing the players as he does, Foster is optimistic about the Jets’ potential.
“I am expecting a lot out of the guys, says Foster. “We lost nine (to graduation) last year.
“If come out ready to work and do things that right way we can be successful.”
Class of 2022’s Blake Heyerly at (Vincennes, Ind., University) and Jaren Hildebrand (Spring Arbor University), Class of 2021’s Justin Bultemeier (Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne) and Class of 2019’s Parker Bates (Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne) are recent Adams Central graduates that moved on to college baseball.
“Coach Neuenschwander did a nice job of getting guys seen and plan to continue that,” says Foster.
Dalton Combs (Class of 2013) was a 2022 Frontier League All-Star in Washington, Pa. Foster took some of his young players to see Combs in the game. Kyle Baker (Class of 2014) is on the Saint Francis coaching staff.
Foster is also Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agent, based in Monroe.

Three generations (clockwise from upper left): Kevin, Josh and Jaxsen Foster.
The Fosters (clockwise from upper left): Julie, Josh, Jencee, Judsen, Jaxsen, Jarren and Jordyn.

Josh, Jaxsen and Julie Foster.

Josh, Jaxsen and Judsen Foster.

Jaxsen and Josh Foster.
Dalton Combs (2013 Adams Central High School graduate) with Max Suman, Jaxsen Foster and Chandler Hirschy at the 2022 Frontier League All-Star Game in Washington, Pa.