Grant Lashure is now a junior catcher on the Eastern Illinois University baseball team bound for the June 2-5 NCAA Division I Nashville Regional. Lashure (pronounced Lasher) has played in 45 games for the 2023 EIU Panthers (41 starts) and the righty swinger is hitting .312 (49-of-157) with 11 doubles, 34 runs batted in and 23 runs scored. He is fielding at a .997 clip with 275 putouts and 25 assists. In his first season on the Charleston, Ill., campus (2022), Lashure appeared in 35 games (31 starts) and hit .286 (32-of-112) with three home runs, one triples, two doubles, 14 RBIs and 17 runs. His fielding mark was .996 with 251 putouts and 19 assists. While at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers High School, Lashure did not receive many offers to play college baseball. He committed to North Carolina Central University only to have that program suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lashure opted to stay at home and play for Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne. He was familiar with Titans head coach Lance Hershberger and assistant Connor Wilkins. He played travel ball for them with the Northeast Indiana Buzz, Summit City Sluggers and Kekiongas. Lashure was not big as a youngster and has since filled out his 5-foot-10 frame at 180 pounds. He appreciates the fundamentals and “small ball” he learned from Hershberger. “He taught the game extremely well,” says Lashure of Hershberger. “He allowed me to become the player I am today. “He allowed me to focus on the little things. With Coach Hershberger, I started to know the game and get a lot better. I became a more well-rounded player.” Lashure credits Wilkins for helping to hone his catching skills — things like, mobility, set-up, receiving, throwing and blocking. Born in Mooresville, N.C., Lashure moved to Fort Wayne as he was entering fourth grade. He was with the James Ball-coached Fort Wayne Cubs (now the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks) for his 10U to 12U travel seasons then was part of the 13U Strike Zone Spiders. He played a little second base as a Luers freshman, but Lashure was mostly a catcher as a four-year Knights varsity player. His head coaches were Gary Rogers the first two years and Jeff Stanski the last two. Grant says he is grateful to Rogers for giving him an opportunity to play with older brother Luke Lashure (Luers Class of 2016). The summer after graduation (2019), Grant played in the local men’s league with the Fort Wayne Blues. When he got to Ivy Tech, he got to play 30 games in the fall and just 11 in the spring because of the shortened 2020 season. But he continued learning and improving while working with Wilkins. “When you’re getting a lot of reps you’re going to get better,” says Lashure. In 2021, he played in 55 games (53 starts) and hit a team-best .421 (67-of-159) with two homers, one triple, 11 doubles, 52 RBIs and 46 runs. A .993 fielder, he collected 248 putouts and 37 assists. Lashure was with the Appalachian League’s Greeneville (Tenn.) Flyboys for 14 games in the summer of 2021. This summer, Lashure is to be with the MLB Draft League’s State College (Pa.) Spikes. But before that comes the postseason at Eastern Illinois. The Jason Anderson-coached Panthers followed up a 33-20 mark in 2022 by losing players who decided not to take their extra year of eligibility or enter the Transfer Portal. Among those was Jesse Wainscott (a right-hander and graduate of Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis who landed at Arizona State University). “We were left scrambling,” says Lashure. “We had a lot of arms to replace.” Even so, the team got off to a 12-4 start in 2023. But a 5-9 stretch came next. “We worried about making the (Ohio Valley Conference) tournament at a certain point in our season,” says Lashure. “We had to play as a team. Not just one individual was going to carry us. “We all competed.” The team ended the regular season on a seven-game win streak, including a three-game sweep at Southeast Missouri and went into the OVC tournament in Marion, Ill., as the No. 5 seed. Playing six games in four days, EIU went 5-1, beating No. 1 seed Morehead State for the NCAA tournament bid. “We took the longest route to the championship,” says Lashure. The Nashville Regional is hosted by No. 1 seed Vanderbilt (No. 6 of 16 national seeds) and also includes No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Xavier and No. 4 Eastern Illinois (38-19). Lashure, who turns 23 on June 18, earned a General Studies associate degree at Ivy Tech and is an Exercise Science major at Eastern Illinois. Mike and Monica Lashure have six children — Luke, Grant, Leah, Nick, Anthony and Veronica. Mike Lashure is Director of New Market Development for Schafer Industries. Monica Lashure is a stay-at-home mom. Luke Lashure played one baseball season at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. Leah Lashure played tennis at Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School and is now a art/substitute teacher at Our Lady of Good Hope School in Fort Wayne. Nick Lashure (Dwenger Class of 2024) is a prep baseball and football athlete. Anthony Lashure finished eighth grade. He plays baseball and basketball. Veronica Lashure, 6, is just getting started in school.
Jake Shirk has performed well enough on the mound to earn Horizon League Pitcher of the Week honors three times. Two of those came during the 2023 season and the other occasion was in 2022. Shirk, a junior right-hander for Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, has made 11 appearances this spring (all starts) and is 4-4 with a 4.52 earned run average, 59 strikeouts and 13 walks in 69 2/3 innings. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning) is 1.21 and opponents are hitting .254 against him. Fort Wayne, Ind., native Shirk is scheduled to start in Game 2 of a three-game Horizon League home series Saturday, May 13 against Milwaukee. In his previous start for the “Raider Gang” on May 6, he worked seven innings and gave up five hits with five strikeouts and no walks in a no-decision against Northern Kentucky. The start before that, Shirk fanned 14 batters with no walks in an April 29 win at Oakland. He whiffed nine in an April 22 outing at Purdue Fort Wayne. For his college career, Shirk hurled in 39 games (27 as a starter) and is 17-9 with a 4.66 ERA, 135 strikeouts and 39 walks in 172 innings. He prefers the starting role. “The best thing is to just get a good routine going,” says Shirk. “You have your start day and you can plan the rest of the week for your recovery and what days you want to get in heavy lifts. “It’s just easier getting your body feeling better week-to-week getting ready for the next start.” Shirk, who is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and turns 21 on June 5, throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider and change-up from a three-quarter overhand arm angle. His sinker has arm-side run and drop and is clocked around 90 mph. The four-seamer sits at 92 to 93 mph and has hit 94. He describes his slider as a “slurve” — a slider and curve mix — that tends to travel 82 to 84 mph. Shirk considers his change-up — with its horizontal run, drop and spin — to be his best pitch. He admires the “Airbender” thrown by Milwaukee Brewers closer Devin Williams. The best qualities of Shirk the athlete? “I’m a pretty good teammate,” says Shirk. “I just like to have fun at the field and try to get better every day.” “At the college level it’s good to get close with the freshmen and the newer guys in the program because if you get them more involved the program is going to be stronger as a whole.” Going into the weekend, Wright State is 31-18 overall and 18-6 in the HL. The Raiders are No. 70 in the current NCAA Division I RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings. “You just pick your teammates up,” says Shirk. “Not everybody’s going to have their best day. Help them bounce back for the next opportunity.” Alex Sogard, 35, is in his fifth season as Wright State’s head coach. “Sogard’s a great coach,” says Shirk. “He’s a big reason why I came to this program. He and (assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Nate) Metzger do a great job of keeping us close-knit. “The atmosphere’s pretty good here.” Shirk sees a straight shooter in Sogard. “He’ll be honest with you and he’ll pick you up if you don’t have your best day,” says Shirk. “He’ll tell you like it is and that’s what I like about him.” Metzger infuses his knowledge and keeps things loose by cracking jokes. “He’s a great guy to have around,” says Shirk. Volunteer assistant Derek Hendrixson and Director of Pitching Development Keegan Burney work together to help the mound staff. “It’s mostly with the mental side of the game,” says Shirk. “They help me stay locked-in week to week. “Trusting and believing in yourself in over half the battle.” Diamyn Hall was the first full-time mental skills coach at the D-I level and served at Wright State 2017-19. He is now a Leadership Coach in the Athletic & Personal Development Department at IMG Academy Bradenton, Fla. “I think they still incorporate some of the things he liked in the program today,” says Shirk. While he has not yet received his contract, Shirk is supposed to pitch for the Cape Cod League’s Orleans Firebirds this summer. He took off the summer of 2022 to give his arm a break after logging 86 innings in the spring. Shirk was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in both 2020 and 2021. “That was very beneficial for me,” says Shirk of facing college hitters in 2020 even before he went to Wright State. Born in Fort Wayne, Shirk was at what is now Wallen Baseball and Softball and played travel ball for the Greg Shirk-coached Wallen Wolfpack, Fort Wayne Diamondbacks and P.J. Fauquher-coached Indiana Prospects. A 2020 graduate of Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, where the Chargers were led by Dave Ginder. “It’s been a pretty successful program,” says Shirk, who was on the junior varsity squad as a freshman, played varsity as a sophomore and junior and had his senior season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shirk is a Finance major at Wright State. He is the son of Greg Shirk and Shaun Hart. “My dad has been a big mentor to me,” says Jake. “He gives me a couple of phone calls a week getting me ready for each start. He’s been a big help to my success so far in career. “My mom is very supportive. She helps me with school and makes sure I’m comfortable and happy.” Older brother Jared Shirk (Carroll Class of 2018) played high school baseball. Sister Reagan Hart is an eighth grader.
Jacob Daftari is winding up what has been productive college career — in the classroom and on the baseball field. A fifth-year senior at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Daftari has earned a undergraduate degree in Business Administration with concentration in Sport Management and is about to complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Commencement is slated for Saturday, May 13. A four-time scholar-athlete in high school, he has been an NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference All-Academic while at Indiana Tech. “My parents are always stressing that academics come first,” says Jacob, the oldest child of Dr. Sanju Daftari and Dr. Julie Daftari, who met while attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. “My parents have always stressed getting all your school work done before extracurricular activities or hanging out with friends.” Younger brother Jackson Daftari is an Agricultural Business major at Purdue University who is planning to attend law school. Sister Jillian Daftari is a cheerleader at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. As a righty-swinging second baseman batting second in the Indiana Tech Warriors batting order, Jacob Daftari is hitting .328 (44-of-134) with nine home runs, six doubles, 32 runs batted in, 41 runs scored and 21 walks. “To me it’s all about comfortability,” says Daftari, who carries a .1012 OPS (.437 on-base percentage plus .575 slugging average) in 41 games (39 starts). “I like to see what the pitcher does to the lead-off batter. I know I’ll get pitched similarly.” Daftari, 23, has three two-homer games in 2023 (Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 against Saint Ambrose of Iowa and March 4 vs. Bryan of Tennessee). He was named WHAC Player of the Week after going 7-for-14 with seven RBIs in the four-game sweep of Saint Ambrose. For his college career (2019-23), Daftari has played in 176 games (148 starts) and is hitting .329 (168-of-510) with 23 homers, 30 doubles, 117 RBIs, 123 runs, 65 walks and a .965 OPS (.535/.430). “My mentality is that even if I don’t barrel a ball I want to get on safely as much as I can for my teammates behind me,” says Daftari, a 5-foot-9, 175-pounder. “It’s all about passing the bat to the next guy and keeping an inning alive.” Daftari appeared in 21 games as a freshman, hit .190 and was on the team that went to the 2019 NAIA World Series. He hit .359 during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. He put up marks of .341 in 2021 and .329 in 2022. A middle infielder when he arrived at Indiana Tech, he was moved to third base and played there until moving to second base this spring. “It’s what I’m most comfortable with,” says Daftari of second base. “I feel I can play a greater role there. “At third base, anything but a routine play I could easily. Those routine plays got to my head a little bit.” As well as hitters, Brent Alwine coaches Warrior infielders. “He does a great job of ways at teaching us different ways we can think outside of the box in terms of making plays,” says Daftari. “There are plays where you need to think on your feet.” Kip McWilliams is Indiana Tech’s head coach and Daftari has kind words for him. “He’s a great individual,” says Daftari. “He’s also very knowledgeable about the game. “He does what he can to put our team in position to win. Even when things aren’t going well he’s always motivating us to stay together and play for each other.” Daftari played for the Indiana Summer Collegiate Baseball League’s Fort Wayne-based Kekiongas in 2019 and was an all-star in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020. He worked on his game, but did not play the past two summers. Born in Indianapolis, Daftari grew up in Lawrence and played his early baseball at what is now Skiles Test Baseball and Softball and counted the Indiana Prospects, Indiana Nitro, Travelers Baseball and the Kevin Christman-coached San Francisco Giants Scout Team (the fall squad won a Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association title in Florida) among his travel ball teams. Jacob’s family moved to Fishers and he began attending Hamilton Southeastern Schools in the middle of his seventh grade year. Daftari was a two-year varsity player at Hamilton Southeastern, where he graduated in 2018. His head coach was Scott Henson. “He was more of a nitty-gritty coach,” says Daftari. “He wanted to make sure things were done correctly. He pushed us to be the best so we could eventually play at a higher level. “We had a lot of guys who could play. Almost seems like Hamilton County breeds athletes.” Indiana Tech (29-12, 15-8) goes to Cleary for two regular-season-ending WHAC doubleheaders. The games are slated for 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30. The top six teams in the conference will play in the WHAC tournament begins May 4-5. The Warriors are currently seventh.
If 2023 truly is the final baseball season for Ivy Tech Northeast Community College — a two-year institution in Fort Wayne, Ind. — bitterness is not an emotion displayed by the Titans as they look to finish strong. Ivy Tech Community College Board of Trustees voted 8-1 April 7, 2022 to discontinue athletics at the Northeast campus after 2022-23. “At this point I’ve pretty much heard we’re done,” says Ivy Tech Northeast head coach Connor Wilkins, who was an assistant to Lance Hershberger when the program began in 2017-18. “I haven’t heard of anything miraculous happening. “It’s not something we really talk about a lot. We’re just grateful for the team we have right now and getting to play out the rest of the year.” Wilkins and his players are staying positive. “I’ve got a good group of guys this year that buy into our identity,” says Wilkins. “They’re really trying to become great at what we teach as a baseball team — execution, bunt, steal, be selfless, an RBI approach with a guy at third, battle with two strikes and just try to do all the little things right. “I’m very proud of the young men we’ve turned out.” The Titans played their final “home” game at Shoaff Park Thursday, April 20 and beat Adrian JV 17-7. With a sense of gratitude, the team heads into the final week of the regular season. Pending the hiring of umpires, Ivy Tech was to play Lourdes JV today (Monday, April 24) at World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne. Away dates are slated Tuesday against Jackson (Mich.) Community College and Northwestern Ohio JV (doubleheader) Thursday. More games may be added for the weekend. By maintaining a record of .500 or better against D-I and D-II junior colleges, the Titans have qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association D-II sub-regional playoffs May 4 at Sports Force Park in Sandusky, Ohio. The four-team single-elimination event will also feature the No. 2, 3 and 4 teams from the Ohio Community College Athletic Association, likely Bryant & Stratton, Edison State and Lakeland or Clark State. The winner advances to the eight-team regional. The first round is slated for May 11-12 features three-game series with No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The four survivors play May 18-20 in the double-elimination second round to determine a qualifier for the NJCAA D-II World Series May 27-June 2/3 in Enid, Okla. The nature of junior college baseball is coaches working the phones to get athletes connected with their next school. “It was heightened this year because you have to find freshmen homes, too,” says Wilkins. “We’re excited. Most of our sophomores who are undecided are very close to making decisions.” Several Ivy Tech players have found a landing spot for 2023-24 and the others are considering their options and offers. Redshirt sophomores Noah Mattheson and William Myklebust are committed to the University Northwestern Ohio (NAIA). Among sophomore commits, there’s Gage Smith (NCAA Division I Southern Indiana), Grant Collins (NCAA D-II Purdue Northwest), Adam Besser (NAIA Indiana Tech) and Kaleb Fritz (NAIA Ottawa University in Arizona). Wilkins says sophs Justin Bultemeier, Mannuk Cadiz, Zachary Green, Logan Greer, Brayden Dockery, William Johnson, Andrew Lion, Jaycob McCullough, Johnny Sewell, Aiden Thompson and Tarron White are undecided. Freshmen Ivan Balboa and Max Shultz have indicated they will go to NJCAA South Suburban. Other freshman commits are Kail Baughman (NAIA Calumet of St. Joseph), Brandon Lehman (NAIA Roosevelt) and Hayden Lowe (NJCAA Jackson). Freshmen that are currently undecided include Samuel Dunlavey, Cal Ostrowski, Joey Spin, Nathan Tappenden and Brock Thornton. Besides Wilkins, the Ivy Tech coaching staff includes pitching coach Javier DeJesus and infield coach Drew Buffenbarger. DeJesus is also hospital administrator and instructor at The Diamond Baseball and Softball Academy in Fort Wayne. Wilkins is a dual-credit advisor and Buffenbarger an admissions specialist at Ivy Tech Northeast. Connor and wife Alana have two daughters — Rey (3) and Margot (9 months). The youngest was born just before baseball Ivy Tech activities began last fall.
Jarrett Grube, Jarrod Parker and Kip McWilliams are to be inducted into the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame as part of its 2023 class. Grubb played at DeKalb High School, Vincennes University, the University of Memphis and in the majors with 2014 Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander was in affiliated pro ball from 2004-17. Parker played at Norwell High School and in the big leagues with Arizona Diamondbacks (2011) and Oakland Athletics (2012-13). The right-hander was a pro from 2008-15. McWilliams is in his 15th season as head coach at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. He has more than 500 wins, numerous conference titles and an NAIA World Series appearance on his resume. The NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet is 5 p.m. Sunday, June 11 at Classic Cafe Catering and Event Center, 4832 Hillegas Road, Fort Wayne. In addition to the Hall of Famers, Fort Wayne Canterbury High School coach Pat “Bubba” McMahon will receive the Colin Lister Award and WFFT-TV 55 sports director Justin Prince the Bob Parker Award. Reservations may be made at the following link https://forms.gle/vfTWCs2VVcPZqK9a6. Tickets can also be purchased through the reservation link via PayPal or attendees can pay via cash/check at the door.
Varsity baseball on Indiana college campus gets the attention. But those teams aren’t the only ones taking to the diamond representing their schools in 2022-23. National Club Baseball Association — a division of Pittsburgh-based ColClubSports — features two squads at Indiana University (D-I and D-II) and one each at Ball State, Notre Dame and Purdue. These four plus Illinois and Illinois State belong to the NCBA Great Lakes South. Squads played one or two series in the fall. Most games are in March and April. The four-team NCBA D-I Great Lakes Regional is slated for May 12-14 at Ash Centre/World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne, Ind. The eight-team NCBA D-I World Series is May 26-June 2 in Alton, Ill. D-II regionals are May 5-7 at sites to be determined with the eight-team D-II World Series May 19-May 23 in Alton. Indiana-based teams are made up of players with high school and/or high level travel ball experience. The NCBA tracks rankings, statistics, standings and selects All-Americans. Notre Dame is No. 9 and Illinois State and Illinois are vote-getters in the D-I Week 16 poll. NCBA Great Lakes team previews can be found HERE.
Indiana IU club officers are president Garrett Larson (Lucas, Texas), secretary Spencer Puett (Eden Prairie, Minn.), treasurer Jacob Kortenber (New Haven, Ind., graduate) and social media chair Casey Fanelli (Westfield, Ind., alum). Brenden Schrage (Elmhurst, Ill.) is a future vice president. Games tend to be on Saturdays and Sundays. Indiana’s D-I team went 2-4 in the fall — 1-2 against both Illinois and Illinois State. Beginning the Week of March 13, the spring season sees IU play Eastern Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State and Tennessee for single games. Ball State visits for three games and the Hoosiers play three-game sets at Notre Dame and Purdue. The D-II squad went 4-2 in the fall — 1-2 vs. Xavier and 3-0 vs. Eastern Kentucky. Beginning the Week of Feb. 27, the spring season includes a three-game home series against Michigan State, three at Akron and three at home against Ohio State. “The club experience is a great one not only for myself but a lot of other people because our club consists of mid- to high-level high school baseball players who could not make it at the next level or wanted to only play Division I college ball or go to a bigger school and get a better education,” says Larson, a junior Sports Media & Advertising co-major. “Club baseball is a way for us to keep playing the game we love.” At Indiana in 2022-23, 85 to 100 players tried out for 26 vacancies on two teams. There’s about 20 players on each squad. The club is responsible for securing playing fields and off-campus practice facilities, umpires and uniforms. Club dues and fundraising helps pay expenses. Bloomington North High School is Indiana’s home field. “We’re very appreciative for that opportunity,” says Larson. The club makes a donation to the school for the use of the Cougars’ diamond. In past seasons, the club played some games at Bedford North Lawrence High School. The club also supports the varsity Hoosiers when they play at Bart Kaufman Field aka The Bart. “We go to those games all the time,” says Larson. “A lot of our best players tried to walk on and came to play for us.” Club players tend to sit close to the home dugout and backstop and can be heard on TV and radio broadcasts. Kortenber, a sophomore Sports Marketing & Management major, played for Dave Bischoff at New Haven High School and explains his reason for playing club baseball. “I just really wanted to stay connected to the game and meet a bunch of new people,” says Kortenber, who considered being a manager for the varsity team. “Then I decided I could actually keep on playing.” A club sports fair during “Welcome Week” is a big recruiting tool. The club is open to anyone who wants to practice. Then there’s a travel roster. Both D-I and D-II teams at Indiana practice together. Schrage gives his “why.” “It gets me out of the house,’ says Schrage, who now calls Indianapolis home and is a sophomore Informatics major with a Business cognate. “I like to collaborate with different people. I enjoy baseball players. That was my crowd in high school. “I just want a competitive edge outside of doing lifting and homework. It’s nice to travel on the weekends and be part of a team.” Indiana’s Twitter handle is @ClubBaseball_IU. The Instagram address is iuclubbaseball. The D-I roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE. The D-II roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Ball State BSU club officers include president Ross Culy (Winchester, Ind., Community High School graduate), vice president Clay Hamm (Blue Valley alum) and social media manager Ben Carr (Zionsville Community graduate). Ball State lost three-game series to Notre Dame and Purdue in the fall. The spring slate begins the Week of March 20 and the Cardinals play a series at Indiana with home series against Illinois State and Illinois. Culy, a third-year senior on pace to graduate in the spring with a double major in Analytics and Economics, talks about what he gets from club baseball. “It definitely starts with a lot of friendships and relationships you make,” says Culy. “Relationships are really important in life. “Being president has developed my leadership abilities and people skills.” The club is hoping to play one home series on the varsity field (Ball Diamond) and will play the other at a local high school or perhaps Gainbridge Field at McCulloch Park in Muncie. Fall home games are played at Ball Diamond. Club dues are $350 for the year or $175 per semester and pay for jerseys, travel, umpires etc. “We try to keep our costs as low as possible and keep guys in the club,” says Culy. The club had to disband during the COVID-19 pandemic and came back in 2021-22. “We’re accepting anybody who wants to play,” says Culy. “We have from former college players and high-level high school to kids who never played before. “We don’t currently have enough to make cuts. This year we had huge growth. We have 30-ish guys which is a big improvement from last year. Most recruiting was done at the club fair at the beginning of the school year. “A lot of it is just getting our name out there and getting the players who have the talent and interest,” says Culy. Three member of Ball State’s swimming and diving program — Michael Burns (South Bend, Ind., Riley High School graduate), Erkan Ozgen (Burr Ridge, Ill.) and Porter Brovont (Eastern of Greentown alum) — have indicated they will join the baseball club at the conclusion of their season. Hamm, a sophomore Sport Administration major, split his high school days between New Castle and Blue River Valley before playing one season at the University of Northwestern Ohio and transferring to Ball State and joining the club. “I just wanted to get back into baseball,” says Hamm. “It’s a lot of fun. Everybody wants to be there and wants to play.” Carr, a freshman Sports Administration major and Marketing minor, tells why he’s involved. “I love baseball,” says Carr. “I played it all my life. I played throughout high school and had some opportunities to play (intercollegiate ball). Ball State was the best first for me. “I got involved (in club baseball) and it’s a blast.” As an Indiana Expos travel ball player, Carr was coached by former Indiana club member Leo Tobasco. Carr is a submarine pitcher. He was throwing from a three-quarter arm slot as a high school junior and looking to see how he could help on a staff of fireballers. “One of my coaches suggested that I try to see if I could throw sidearm or lower,” says Carr. “I kept messing with it and kept messing with it. I became an effective groundball pitcher.” As social media manager, Carr has been able to tap into skill he learned from his father who is a graphic designer and get his friend who is a photographer to provide compelling shots. “I’ve edits for our schedule on Instagram that I’m pretty proud of,” says Carr. Cooper Roach, a Delta High School graduate and freshman Data Analytics major, was smitten by baseball growing up in Muncie. “There’s something different about it I love,” says Roach. “I don’t think I can ever get away from baseball because of it.” Ball State’s club fair is how he found out about the opportunity to keep playing in college. “I’d like to see the club aspect pushed a little more,” says Roach of club sports overall. Ball State’s Instagram address is ballstatebaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Notre Dame ND club officers are president Josh Dippold (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers graduate), interim vice president Sam Sikkink (Minnetonka, Minn., and serving for Lafayette, La.’s Jacob Tate who is studying abroad), secretary Chris Ayres (Malvern, Pa.) and treasurer Brady LaBahn (Apple Valley, Minn.). Players pay $315 per semester to pay for travel, umpires, league, registration etc. Donation also come in from alumni and family during “ND Day.” The Irish won the 8th annual Battle Creek Blast in the fall as the wild card, besting Illinois State B 11-1 and Michigan-Flint 21-1 and losing 5-4 to Michigan in pool play before topping Michigan 11-4 and Illinois 18-1 in the single-elimination bracket. Besides taking that 12-team event at C.O. Brown Stadium, Notre Dame also swept a three-game conference series against Ball State. The spring began this past weekend with a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Next is a series at Illinois then home series vs. Indiana, Illinois State and Purdue. South Bend Clay High School has been a home field for Notre Dame. The club is hoping to play some games on-campus at Frank Eck Stadium — home to the varsity Irish. Notre Dame lost to Michigan in 2022 regional championship. “It was nice to see them this fall in Battle Creek,” says Dippold, who played his home games while at Bishop Luers at the Ash Centre. He grew up playing travel ball around Fort Wayne, including with the Summit City Sluggers and Lance Hershberger-led Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana Buzz. Dippold, a senior Theology major with a Pre-Health supplemental major and Latino Studies minor, intends to go to medical school. The club president says about 50 players try out in the fall. There are currently 29 on the roster (33 is the maximum). “I love baseball and the leadership that comes with being around so many ballplayers and friends,” says Dippold. “It’s for the love of the game and you need to be heads-up to be a good ballplayer. It’s America’s Pastime to me. “I see the freshmen and sophomores on our team and I want to give back to the game. When I’m older I know I will be a coach of some sort. “I’m incredibly grateful that God has bestowed this opportunity for me to still be playing the game as a senior in college. This year I feel like we have something left in the tank and some unfinished business. “I’ve always been a competitor. I look forward to being something more than an academic competitor and let it loose on the baseball field.” Jake Fuehrmeyer, a graduate of Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind., and a senior Science Pre-Professional (Pre-Med) major, decided to attend Notre Dame rather than play varsity baseball and study at a smaller school in Illinois. He expresses his appreciation for club ball. “It’s been everything to be college experience-wise,” says Fuehrmeyer. “I never would have thought I’d still get to play ball once I got to Notre Dame. “It’s allowed me the opportunity to continue to compete at a high level. My favorite thing to do is play baseball. “All of the guys on the team are such great dudes. I look forward to going to practice. I look forward to competing in games. It’s given me a ton of new friends.” While vans were to be used to travel to the Kentucky series, players typically car-pool to away games. “It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” says Fuehrmeyer. “We’ll go wherever the baseball is.” In-season, Notre Dame tends to practice twice a week for 90 minutes. Outside of practice, Fuehrmeyer seeks time to get in swings on his own or long toss with a friend. There is an on-campus practice space. RBIs Unlimited in Mishawaka offers an off-campus training option. While he’s got a full plate, Fuehrmeyer does carve out time to follow the varsity Irish. “College baseball is some of the most-exciting baseball you can watch,” says Fuehrmeyer. “It’s evolving at a rapid pace. We’re seeing some outstanding talent come through Notre Dame. “We’ve got some serious talent on the varsity team and it’s reflected in how good our club team is. “I look at some guys and say, “Wow! Why aren’t you playing (NCAA) Division I baseball somewhere?” Notre Dame’s Twitter handle is @NDclubbaseball. The Instagram address is ndclubbaseball. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Purdue PU club officers are president Daniel Stephen (Fort Wayne, Ind., Northrop High School graduate), vice president Ross Ostrager (Plainview, N.Y.), treasurer Jacob Knaust (O’Fallon, Ill.), fundraising officer Jeremy VanTryon (Plainfield, Ind., High School alum), community service officer Joe Patton (Kansas City, Kan.) and safety officer Kyle Goff (Fort Wayne, Ind., Carroll graduate). Dr. Howard Zelanik is advisor. Purdue went 6-5 in the fall — 3-0 vs. Ball State, 2-1 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 0-3 vs. Illinois State and 1-1 vs. Miami (Ohio). Beginning the Week of March 13, an 11-game spring includes contests against Ohio, Tennessee, Ohio State, Iowa and Wyoming in Panama City Beach, Fla., before a three-game series at Illinois, three at home against Indiana and three at Notre Dame. Purdue senior James Ham, a Lafayette (Ind.) Harrison High School alum, pitched a no-hitter Oct. 1, 2022 against Ball State with 15 strikeouts in seven innings. The no-no was caught by junior Ostrager. The club was present at the B-Involved Fair and had callouts last August. Tryouts were last September at the Purdue Intramural Fields. Home games are played at Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School. The team has a set of bats, helmets, and catchers gear. Hats, jerseys, black pants, gold stirrups and a gold belt are provided. Players must have their own glove, cleats, white baseball pants, gray baseball pants, black socks and black belt. Semester dues can vary depending on expected club expenses. They are typically around $300 for returning members and $350 for new members. The Twitter handle is @PUBaseballClub. The Instagram address is pubaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and the schedule HERE.
Other Places George Boardman is a pitcher on the Vanderbilt University club in Nashville, Tenn. Boardman, of LaPorte, Ind., is a freshman Law History Society major. After playing for coach Kurt Christiansen, he graduated from Culver (Ind.) Academies in 2021. “I’m pretty serious about going to law school so playing for an actual college team was too much of a time commitment,” says Boardman. “I selected Vanderbilt for many other reasons, but (club baseball) was an added benefit. “Most of the people on our team could have played (NCAA) D-III baseball.” Like Boardman, they those Vandy for its academic rigor. “Club baseball here at Vanderbilt is really, really balanced,” says Boardman. “We practice three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We usually play six or seven series (in the spring and fall) with three games each. “Attendance at those series is completely optional. The flexibility is perfect. If you have a class or a ton of homework, just text your coach or (club) president and say, ‘I can’t make it.’ “You can pretty much make out of it what you want.” The club plays many of its home games at nearby Belmont University though there is a contest scheduled April 9 against Georgia State at Hawkins Field — where the Vandy Boys varsity plays.
Logan Wiening grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., proud of his hometown. Out of his pride and love for the diamond came Old Fort Baseball Co. The self-taught graphic designer started the business in the summer of 2021. There are now more than 30 products and designs that appear on T-shirts, caps and stickers. And the list keeps growing. “I try to keep it fresh and keep ideas coming,” says Wiening. “When I started as a sports fan from Fort Wayne I never saw anything sports-related. “People are drawn to an appealing design.” Wiening saw a hole in the market and filled it with nods to former teams like the Fort Wayne Kekiongas (which played in the first professional league game in 1971), Fort Wayne Wizards (the team that played at The Castle and pre-dates the Fort Wayne TinCaps), General Electric Voltmen (a local semi-pro team), Fort Wayne Colored Giants (who played in the first half of the 20th Century), Fort Wayne Daisies (an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League club and a big seller), Elmhurst Little League (established in 1954) and more. “I want to celebrate Fort Wayne’s baseball history and it’s past, present and future,” says Wiening. “I’m into retro-type logos. The old Wizards logo has a nostalgic meaning for me. But I can appreciate almost any logo for what it is.” Wiening, 28, collected baseball cards as a boy and could recite stats at age 6. He played the sport until about 13 and was a basketball player in high school. He graduated from Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School in 2013 and earned a Business and Marketing degree at Purdue Fort Wayne in 2017. Including an internship, Wiening spent six years with the NBA G-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants, doing sales, marketing and design. He worked in the Purdue Fort Wayne athletic department for three years and is now a marketing strategist at Fort Wayne-based Franklin Electric. Wiening also does free lance work. Clients include PFW, Fort Wayne FC soccer, local high schools and businesses and has designed logos for college athletes. Brand ambassadors include Carroll High School graduate and professional catcher Hayden Jones (Cincinnati Reds organization) and pro pitcher Garrett Schoenle (Chicago White Sox system) plus East Noble High School graduate and Indiana University freshman Brayden Risedorph, Homestead alum and University of Dayton freshman Caden Tarango, Dwenger graduate and University of Saint Francis sophomore Sam Pesa and Dwenger alum and Indiana Tech freshman Kasen Oribello. “I have a long list of long-term opportunities and ideas,” says Wiening, who sees Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons softball as a future design possibility. “I’m into really telling the story of what that team was.” Wiening sponsors Jayce Riegling’s The JKR Podcast and has partnered on other Riegling projects. Support Local Baseball is a line that has done well on a national basis with orders going out to nearly 20 states so far. Winning won’t put any design or wording on just any product. “There has to be a reason behind what we’re doing,” says Wiening. “We want to tie it to the community.” Besides The JKR Podcast, Wiening has been a guest on several other podcasts including Ballpark Hunter, The Baseball Bucket List, Baseball By Design and Earned Fun Average. Logan and wife Megan reside in Fort Wayne.
About 4,000 teams are expected to play in Bullpen Tournaments events across the spring, summer and fall seasons at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and other diamonds. His part of that will keep Chris Gorman hopping. As Bullpen’s Director of High School Tournaments, he handles registration, scheduling and operations and also helps with staffing of interns and hourly workers and assists with youth tournaments when needed. Most of the 15U to 18U tourneys held in June and July and coordinated by Gorman are staged at Grand Park and Championship Park in Kokomo. Other local, high-quality off-site fields like Kokomo Municipal Stadium are also used. The majority of teams are from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, but there are those from outside. Gorman counts Director of Operations Cam Eveland and Vice President of Operations Michael Tucker as his direct supervisors. Born in Fort Wayne and raised in Auburn in Indiana, Gorman is a graduate of DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind. (2015) — where he played basketball — and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. (2019) — where he was Sport Administration major and Marketing minor. Gorman has also served Bullpen Tournaments as an hourly Quad Manager, making sure games ran smoothly and on schedule. “This role helped me understand the operations and the standard that was needed to be met for all our events,” says Gorman. From there he was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo., a Prep Baseball Report facility just outside of Kansas City. The job allowed him to implement to apply the same standards set by Bullpen at Grand Park. “This role required me to have my hands in many different areas of our business and helped me understand the entire company as a whole rather than just from an operations standpoint,” says Gorman. Why did he choose this as a profession? “I knew I always wanted to have some sort of career in the sports world,” says Gorman. “I was always curious about how things worked behind the scenes, so when I started out as an hourly worker for Bullpen, I was able to get hands on experience of the behind-the-scenes work involved in running high quality events. “I learned to love the jobs I was asked to do so pursuing a sport operations role was something that interested me very strongly.” Gorman’s resume also includes Security Assistant for the Chicago Cubs, Tournament Director for PBR, Tournament Site Director for World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne and Ticket Sales Representative for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
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.
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 FamerMark 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.