Rosters have been established for the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game. The showcase for players with remaining high school eligibility is slated for Wednesday, June 22 on the turf at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — site of the IHSBCA North/South Series June 24-26. Beginning at 9 a.m., Futures Game participants show their skills. Games are slated for noon (Navy vs. Gold) and 2 p.m. (Gray vs. Red).
Since Landon Weins has arrived on the Purdue University campus no one has pitched more innings out of the bullpen than the 6-foot-2 right-hander. Going into the the April 14-16 series at Penn State (the April 12 game against Purdue has been postponed), Weins (rhymes with Wines) has taken the bump for the Boilermakers 28 times totaling 54 innings. This spring, the senior is 3-2 with a 2.48 earned run average, 27 strikeouts and nine walks for a squad that is 21-7. The 2018 graduate of Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School embraces the relief role because he see it as the best way he can contribute to the team. “A lot of times I’m coming in behind a guy like Jackson Smeltz who is pretty dominant and he can get us ahead as well,” says Weins, who pitched for head coach Rob Fournier at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., in 2019 and 2020. “I really enjoy (coming out of the bullpen). It gives me time to see the hitters and what they prefer and what they’re struggling with that day.” Between in-game observation, video and scouting reports, Purdue pitchers have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an opposing offense. Weins uses a three-pitch mix — fastball, slider and change-up. “I made a really big adjustment in the off-season and my slider has become probably my best pitch this year,” says Weins. “Mine has like a gyro spin. It’ll come in straight and then go down and away from a right-handed hitter. “It’s like a curveball, but it’s flat and usually harder.” The slider can be thrown in any count. “I feel pretty comfortable with all three of my pitches,” says Weins. “Anytime I’m out there I want to compete as hard as I can.” Weins has been used in long relief with stints of 5 1/3 innings against Ohio State, 4 1/3 against South Dakota State and 4 against Bellarmine. Five other appearances have been for 2 to 2 2/3 frames. Playing for Boilers head coach Greg Goff and pitching coach Chris Marx, words of advice have carried with Weins and kept him steady. “They say remain the same,” says Weins. “Out on the mound, obviously there’s going to be days where you don’t have your best stuff. You’re going to be hit a little. You always keep your composure. If you’re going to carry around a swagger when you’re doing good, you always carry around that swagger when you’re not doing as good. “It’s such a quick game that can humble you very fast. But just because you have one bad day doesn’t mean it needs to lead to more.” There’s a rule after an outing — good or bad — that keeps players moving forward and not looking back. “We says flush it at midnight,” says Weins. The son of Scott and Angela Weins watched older brother Logan Weins (a 2014 Frankton graduate who pitched mostly in relief at Western Kentucky University 2015-17) on the diamond before him. “He’s probably one of my biggest impacts in his game,” says Landon of Logan. “Growing up he was always someone I could look up to. He just did things the right way. He’s definitely been my No. 1 supporter. He pushed me the hardest and gave me the hardest criticism that I needed to hear. (My parents) have always been a huge support system for me in no matter what I do or choose.” Landon played in the Frankton Town & Country Baseball before moving into travel ball at 10. He was with the Indiana Bandits followed by Indiana Magic and Indiana Nitro. He spent his 17U summer with the Indiana Bulls. Brad Douglas was — and still is — the head baseball coach at Frankton. “He’s a great guy and always been one to have my back if I ever needed anything,” says Weins of Douglas. “I loved playing for him. “He had a fire to him that I definitely didn’t like, especially when he was getting on me. “I appreciated him a lot more when I got into college than I did in high school because I was able to look back and see he wanted what was best for me and our team. He just pushed us to be our best.” As a Selling and Sales Management major at Purdue, Weins needs at least one more semester to get his bachelor’s degree. He chose that field of study in part because it fits his personality. “I definitely enjoy being a social person and talking,” says Weins. “I’ve met a lot of different people throughout the game of baseball. I’ve made many connections.”
“(Sharnowski) taught us to just be tough,” says Atwood, who is now in his second stint as head baseball coach at North Newton Junior-Senior High School in Morocco, Ind., where he was an assistant then a head coach in the mid-1980’s to the late-1990’s and is now also athletic director and dean of students. “You have to be mentally tough in baseball. You’ve got to be ready at all times.”
Atwood calls Urban “a heckuva a baseball guy.”
“Basics were key to everything,” says Atwood, who experienced an intense coach in Naylor.
“He was a pretty hard-nosed little character,” says Atwood. “(Brandon) was all of the kids.”
The 2020-21 school year is Atwood’s second back at North Newton, where he is now athletic director. The COVID-19 pandemic kept him from coaching the Spartans in the spring 2020. If the weather cooperates, North Newton could open the season Thursday, April 1 against Hebron. The team is slated to visit Harrison in West Lafayette Saturday, April 3.
With 24 players in the program, the Spartans will field varsity and junior varsity teams, playing home games on the campus located at the school.
Mike Atwood has three adult children — Michael (32), Brittney (30) and Braden (29).
Michael is in the U.S. Army serving in Kuwait. Britney works as a technician at a Lafayette, Ind., hospital.
Braden Atwood was a three-time placer at the IHSAA State Finals (fourth as a sophomore, fifth as a junior and second as a senior) at Delphi and went on to a be a four-time placer and NCAA Championship qualifier as well as a three-time team champion at Purdue University. He took part in the U.S. Team Trials and was later a volunteer assistant coach at West Point (Army). He is married and living in Connecticut and has a daughter.
Hughes values the relationships he forms with his players.
A former head coach at Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School (2009-2013) and assistant at Fairfield (2018) in Benton, Ind., and Concord (2019) in Dunlap, Ind., Hughes encourages his assistants — Perry Haimes, Cody Hilligoss, Tony Driver and Billy Pendlen — to spend five minutes each practice talking with a different kid and not about baseball.
“Get to know them on a personal level,” says Hughes, who was hired to lead the Minutemen program in January 2020. “It really matters to kids when you care about them beyond the field.”
During his time coaching at Frankton, where he graduated in 1990, Hughes had a player who was experiencing trouble with his father.
The coach and the young man had long discussions that had nothing to do with baseball. They read scripture and spent hours on Hughes’ front porch talking about life. That player ended up going into the military.
“Kids need that role model,” says Hughes. “Some just need someone to listen to them.
“We have four years to make an impact on young men’s lives — positive or negative. You can teach life lessons through baseball. For those who want to go, you can help them go to college.”
Hughes stays in contact with the Concord athletic office to help players stay on top of their grades.
“You’re a student first then an athlete,” says Hughes.
Senior Dalton Swinehart has committed to continue his academic and baseball careers at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
With the idea of building a feeder system and having an impact even earlier, Hughes has established a Boys of Summer team for grades 6-8 that will play games. These players learn how things are done at the high school level.
“That’s one of the ways we want to turn the program around,” says Hughes. “Eighth graders can come to our (high school) workouts.
“We want to keep them involved and keep them interested.”
There were 42 players working out last fall. Of that number, 17 not already on a travel team for 2021 were picked for the Boys of Summer. Another 15 with travel teams will be a part of separate workouts.
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Concord players took batting practice and learned about situational defense while developing a sense of pride in the facility.
Hughes volunteered at Fairfield during head coach Darin Kauffman’s first season then served a junior varsity coach on Pat Doherty’s Concord staff.
He was hired in January 2020 as Concord head coach. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.
Much of the time without games was spent sprucing up the Concord field. Last summer, Hughes and Haimes put in more than 100 hours apiece. There was plenty to do like edging, filling low spots, power washing batting cages, fixing the portable hitting tunnel and overhauling the home plate area and bullpens.
“People are buying in because they saw were were serious about it,” says Hughes, who expects to have a new press box with concession stand and restrooms installed after Memorial Day.
At Frankton, Hughes had three head coaches — Dave Hicks (freshmen year), Steve Sharpee (sophomore and junior years) and Kyle Campbell (senior year).
Hughes played at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., where he was named Mid-Central Conference (now the Crossroads League) Player of the Year in 1994. By that time, Hicks was an assistant at MCC rival Bethel College.
In the summer, Hughes played baseball for Athletes in Action in South Africa against Olympic and National Teams. He also played three seasons with the semi-pro CFD Kokomo Saints.
IWU was led by Jim Hazen in Hughes’ first two seasons and Bill Barr in his last two. While he finished up a Criminal Justice degree, Hughes took his first coaching position as an assistant to Barr.
Years later, he coached his own children in youth leagues then the job opened up at Frankton. He led the Eagles for five seasons and later moved to Millersburg, Ind., and eventually took a job with the Goshen Street Department.
Greg and wife Phoebe Hughes enjoy fishing together. She was the one who nudged him to get back into coaching. Hughes’ stepsons are Fairfield freshman Trenton and Benton Elementary third grader Carter. Trenton plays basketball and shows pigs in 4-H. Carter plays baseball, basketball and flag football.
Hughes, who also offers baseball lessons, will help with Carter and the 10U Fairfield Dukes.
“I just enjoy coaching kids,” says Hughes.
Kyle, Zac, Aubree and Ryan are Greg’s four children from a previous marriage. Kyle is a senior at Ball State University and is engaged to be married in May. Zac graduated from Ball State last May. Aubree is a BSU sophomore. Zac is an eighth grade at Pendleton Heights.
With Scott Haley as Argylls head coach, MG won two games in 2017, three in 2018 and seven in 2019. The latter team won its first game in the IHSAA Class 2A Eastern (Greentown) Sectional.
Haley was stressing fundamentals.
“We had lost nine or 10 seniors when I took over,” says Haley. “We were returning little or no varsity experience. The feeder system was not very strong. We were really betting back to the basics of the game like playing catch the correct way.
“It was a rough first year.”
There was anticipation for the following season. But a pandemic took that away and players didn’t get on the field.
“We were ready for a breakthrough season,” says Haley. “My heart broke for them.”
Haley is now getting Madison-Grant ready for what its hopes will be a fun and successful 2021 campaign, which is slated to open April 5 against Wes-Del. The 2021 roster is expected to have plenty of seniors. Pitcher Nick Evans is expected back as a four-year starter and has gotten plenty of attention from college baseball.
When “Senior Night” comes along, Haley plans to also honor the five players from the Class of 2020.
The Argylls are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Elwood, Taylor and Tipton. Madison-Grant has won six sectional crowns — the last in 2012.
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Madison-Grant concentrated on fundamentals.
“We got outside quite a bit and took advantage of the new pitching machine we bought through our fundraiser,” says Haley. “There were a lot of drills and live action.
“We allow junior high kids to come out also. It gets them excited about the game.”
Winter Limited Contact open gyms began this past week and Haley had 15 players Jan. 5 and 11 Jan. 7.
Madison-Grant plays its home games on-campus. Several upgrades have been made or are planned for the field, including installation of new bullpens, re-sodding, refurbishing of dugouts, new wind screens, edging in the infield and outfield and an overhaul of the mound.
“We’ve tried to do something every year to make it better,” says Haley, who hopes to get to show off the place when his team hosts the Grant Four tournament May 1 (with Eastbrook, Mississinewa and Oak Hill) and Argyll Classic (with Eastern of Greentown, Southern Wells and Tri-Central) May 15.
Besides Haley, the Argylls coaching staff includes Mike Evans, Gary Harbert, Norm Dailey (junior varsity) and Brock Massey (junior high). Haley says he anticipates having around 25 players for varsity and JV teams in the spring.
The well-received junior high program for seventh and eighth graders was established two years ago with about 15 players. Baseball will also be a part of the new Madison-Grant Youth Sports League.
“We’re giving them guidelines that we want them to follow so they’ll be ready when they get to high school,” says Haley.
Prior to taking over the MG baseball program, Haley was JV coach for three seasons on Todd Farr’s Eastbrook staff.
“He was a players’ coach,” says Haley of Farr. “He was good on practice schedules and fundamentals. The kids really enjoyed playing for him.
“He built that Easbrook program back up.”
Haley is a 1980 Eastbrook graduate. His baseball coach was Tim Sumner.
“He basically taught me almost everything about the game,” says Haley. “He saw something in myself that I had not seen.
“I owe a lot to him.”
Sumner, a 1965 Hammond Morton High School graduate, was a player and assistant coach Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and an assistant for College World Series teams led by Ron Polk at Mississippi State University. He was also an assistant AD at MSU and was director of athletic academics and athletic compliance at the University of Memphis. He established Batters Box Baseball in Collierville, Tenn. Sumner died Dec. 19, 2019.
Haley attended Huntington College (now Huntington University) for one year, but his playing career was ended when he twice re-broke a wrist he had broken already broken in high school.
He recently retired from a 26-year stint as a Walmart manager and works part-time at Lowe’s in Marion, Ind.
Scott and Barbra Haley have been married 31 years. Their daughter Adara (30) is married to Nicholas Smith.
Many programs are planning to play a few games once restrictions are lifted July 1.
Teams will be using this opportunity to recognize the Class of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the entire IHSAA spring sports season, including baseball.
Regional tournaments would have been played Saturday (June 6).
Following is a sampling of some the salutes across Indiana.
Hornets head coach Roger Roddy says current plans call for Monday and Thursday practices and Friday intrasquad games the last two weeks in July with senior recognition July 30.
A family picnic is in the mix. Like many programs, Angola has been giving social media shout-outs via Twitter.
Greyhounds head coach Matt Buczkowski traveled to the homes of his seniors to present a commemorative bat.
Warriors coach Pat O’Neil made video wrap-ups after every games of a faux season. The Hall of Famer “saw” his team win a virtual state title.
Once the quarantine began but before the season was canceled, O’Neil asked his players to send him a 20-second video of them working on offensive and defensive skills. There was an award for the most dedicated player.
There was a parade of cars at the baseball field.
“One coach gave a letter certificate, one coach gave letters or chevrons, one coach gave new jerseys,” says O’Neil. “They took individual photos in center field with new jerseys.
“It was good to see them be enthusiastic.”
When July arrives, O’Neil is planning to have practices for junior varsity and varsity players, including seniors.
A scrimmage with a senior recognition that includes souvenir bats and a cookout is slated for July 6.
A youth camp is also planned at the end of July.
In the last year of the program before the merger of Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central, Crimson Chargers head coach Scott Rost conducted a Twitter tournament and voters selected their favorite jersey.
Rost was also hired to be head coach of the Elkhart High School Lions in 2020-21.
Tigers head coach Matt Cherry hopes his team will be able to play doubleheaders July 13-14 with seniors being saluted.
“It’s the craziest spring I’ve ever been a part of,” says Eagles head coach Brad Douglas. “I’ve tried to reach out to the boys the best we can following all the social distancing protocol.”
Gift baskets with sunflower seeds, Gatorade, bubble gum and a baseball painted by Brian Borumn was taken to the seniors.
Tributes were placed on Twitter and new jerseys were made available for photos.
“At least once, we want to put them on and get a team picture,” says Douglas. “I don’t want these boys to be forgotten just because we didn’t get to play this year.”
Panthers head coach Brian Jennings turned on the lights at his field at 9:20 p.m. as a tribute to the Class of 2020.
Trojans head coach John Bogner, who counted son Justin among his seniors, has done his best to acknowledge the Class of 2020.
Social media has been part of that.
Without games to play on what would have been Senior Day for the Vikings, head coach Mark Fluekiger spent 12 hours working on Viking Field.
As the sun was setting, he took photos and recorded a video tribute to seniors.
The Jimmies are looking forward to a unique doubleheader on July 11.
Early in the day comes delayed commencement. At 7:30 p.m., Jimtown plays Bristol Americn Legion Post 143 in a game at Booster Field.
Jimmies coach Cory Stoner says he expects that all 11 of his seniors will be able to play catch with their fathers prior to playing in the contest.
Stoner, who is also the JHS head football coach, also plans to have baseball practices in July.
Drive Main Street in Lanesville, Ind., and you’ll see banners on light poles for senior sports athletes — that includes 11 baseball seniors.
“They’ve meant a lot to our program,” says Swingin’ Eagles head coach Zach Payne. “They’e good kids and good leaders.”
Payne says there may be a joint event with Lanesville softball. There has also been talk about games in late July featuring Corydon Central, North Harrison, South Central (Elizabeth) and Crawford County.
Slicers head coach Scott Upp had Schreiber Field lit up at 8:20 p.m. as a nod to his seniors.
May 20 was supposed to be Senior Night for Mishawaka.
Cavemen head coach John Huemmer went to Freddie Fitzsimmons Field, hung nine senior jerseys on the backstop and turned on the lights.
A Senior Night dinner was being planned. An engraved gift bat will include the bats of seniors.
Huemmer is hopeful that there will be a few practices and games in July.
Bear Tolman Field had the numbers of New Prairie’s eight seniors painted on it and there’s drone photos to prove it.
Cougars head coach Mark Schellinger says its not likely that high school teams will practice or play this summer though his players have connected with their various travel organizations.
“We’re hoping to get together as a team to recognize team and seniors,” says Schellinger, who was the head coach for the North at the 2019 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Madison (the 2020 series in Evansville was canceled). “(Seniors) made very big contributions to our program — on and off the field. They added to the culture and raised the expectations. They set examples for younger players.
“We still spent a lot of time together as a team and a group (in the preseason) — even though games didn’t start.”
Raiders head coach Andrew Brabender says his team gathered at a player’s house for a senior dinner.
Nothing is set in stone, but Brabender says he’d like to put together an alumni game in late July or early August to be staged at the new turfed athletic complex.
“It’s a little closure for seniors,” says Brabender. “They weren’t going to get to play on that field anyway.”
Knights coach Craig Trout has gotten banners and jerseys to his players for photo opportunities.
Senior numerals have been painted on the field.
Northview is hoping to have a wiffle ball game after July 4.
“It’s hard right now for (the players),” says Trout. “It’s hard for their parents.”
Panthers head coach A.J. Risedorph has filled his time not only with online teaching and helping with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Zoom meetings, he’s been dressing his diamond.
Senior numbers have been emblazoned on the field.
SOUTH BEND CLAY
Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold saw that uniforms were distributed for photos.
Twitter appreciation was spread on Twitter.
Yard signs were made as was a video to the tune of “Centerfield” by John Fogerty.
Clay assistant coach Tony Cruz, who recently was released from the hospital following COVID-19 treatment, has invited players to join his South Bend American Legion Post 151 team this summer.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody at all levels,” says Warriors head coach Jason Rahn. “First and foremost, everyone’s health and safety is the top priority.”
Westview lost several top players to graduation in 2019, but there was excitement for 2020.
“We thought we did a good job of re-loading,” says Rahn.
Seniors have been spotlighted on Twitter with vintage-looking baseball cards.
The Class of 2020 has been invited for a July 16 home game against Bristol American Legion Post 143. Westview looks to play at Lakeland July 20 and host another Northeast Corner Conference foe July 22.
While the local recreation season has been canceled with local parks just now opening, travel ball (8U to 14U) is on.
“We feel like we’re making the best of it,” says Rahn, who indicates a camp is being planned for rec ball players.
Miller has brought enthusiasm to the diamond for much of the organization’s long history.
The Rockets — started in 1959 by Dick Runkle and continued by Ray Miller (Randy’s father) — celebrated 60 years of diamond fun and memories in 2019. That makes it one of the longest-running continuous teams in amateur baseball.
“We go back to our 1960’s roots,” says Portland manager Randy Miller, who has seen the Rockets square off against squads from Albany, Geneva, Dunkirk, Elwood, New Castle, Upland, Yorktown and beyond. A rivalry with the Gas City-based Twin City Bankers is well-chronicled in Bill Lightle’s book “My Mother’s Dream.”
When the Rockets began, they were comprised of players from Portland and later fanned out from Jay County.
“We’re still townball,” says Miller”. We just come from a lot of towns.”
The ’19 Rockets (10-13) had four players who claim Portland as their hometown — Peyton Heniser, Chandler Jacks, Max Moser and captain Mitch Waters. They also came from Auburn, Bluffton, Carmel, Ellettsville, Frankton, Indianapolis, LaPorte, Marion, Pendleton, St. Joseph and Thorntown in Indiana and Coldwater, St. Mary’s and Vandalia in Ohio.
The oldest players were Waters (35), Chris Gaines (33), Zeth Tanner (29), Codey Harrison (28) and Craig Martin (28). The rest were under 25 with seven teenagers. Waters is the director of operations at the Jay County Community Center.
A graduate of Jay County High School and Manchester College, Waters played for the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Kings of the independent Frontier League.
“Our guys are some of the best athletes their high schools have ever had,” says Randy Miller. “They’re gamers.
“I’m just so proud of them.”
Miller, 65, began playing for the Rockets in 1972 and caught a doubleheader at 51. By the 1990’s, he was sharing manager duties with his father and has continued helped continue the tradition.
“I’ve got a motorcycle and a boat,” says Miller, a former teacher at Adams Central High School in Monroe, Ind. “I’m not on them very much in the summer.”
Runkle had the Rockets competing in the old Eastern Indiana Baseball League. Local talent included Steve Takats. His Ball State University teammate, Merv Rettenmund, played for Portland in 1966 and made his big league debut as a player with the Baltimore Orioles in 1968 and was an MLB hitting coach for many years.
The Rockets went 18-1 and won the EIBL in 1968.
With the team in financial trouble, Ray Miller took over in 1972. He doubled the schedule and included games with Fort Wayne teams.
With the support of wife Betty, Ray helped secure a playing facility in Portland that is now known as Runkle-Miller Field.
“Mom was always there with a sandwich and a cold beverage,” says Randy Miller of his mother, who served 16 years as city clerk.
In 1984, the Rockets merged with the Bank of Berne Lancers and went 34-20. The ’85 season was the best to date at 41-14 with Portland’s first-ever American Amateur Baseball Congress state title.
Miller became AABC state secretary in 1991 and the Rockets won AABC state crowns in 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006 and in more than 30 years as manager Portland won more than 900 games.
With Randy Miller, siblings Brad Miller and Mickey Scott and many community members pitching in, the Rockets have survived. Mickey, who was city clerk for 12 years, used to run Runkle-Miller’s “Rocket Lunching Pad” concession stand and now Brad does it.
All three Miller offspring have taken turns watering the field. The baselines are seeded to help with all the excess rain.
For years, the Rockets were purely a family-funded operation.
Since the mid-1990s, the Rockets have swung wood bats. At first, Randy provided those. But that got too expensive and now the players provide their own clubs.
For $100, the team picks up the cost of caps, uniforms and handles insurance.
Randy Miller carries on a tradition by giving the “Rocket Report” on WPGW 100.9 FM on afternoons following games. Samantha Thomas, who once worked for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, is involved with keeping score and other team functions.
Randy Miller schedules games, recruits players, pays bills and generally keeps the Rockets going.
“That’s my legacy,” says Miller. “I carry the torch.”
The Rockets coaching tree spreads far and wide, especially along the U.S. 27 corridor.
“They want to give back to the game,” says Miller. “We are a baseball town. I really believe that.”
Portland won 35 or more games a season throughout the 2000’s and went to the NABF World Series in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2012. A few years ago, the Rockets posted a 35-12 mark.
In 2018, an $28,000 scoreboard was installed at Runkle-Miller Field.
A 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural on the side of Portland’s Ritz Theatre was painted by Pamela Bliss and dedicated July 28 and many alums and Rocket backers came to celebrate.
Wearing the gold and black, fans were in Fort Wayne to see the Rockets’ latest season come to a close.
But the fun is not over yet for 2019. The annual Rocket Rally golf outing is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Portland Golf Club. For more information, email Randy Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Randy Miller and Mitch Waters share in the spoils of victory for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team. (Portland Rockets Photo)
Dalton Tinsley hits for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team. (Portland Rockets Photo)
Former players and fans gathered July 28, 2019 for the dedication of a 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural and celebration of 60 years of Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball. (Portland Rockets Photo)
Artist Pamela Bliss created the 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural on the side of the Ritz Theatre in Portland, Ind. On Aug. 28, 2019, there was a
Siblings Brad Miller (left), Randy Miller and Mickey Scott stand in front of a “Wall of Dreams” mural in Portland, Ind., celebrating 60 years of Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball. The mural behind them depicts Randy and their father, Ray Miller, who were co-managers for years.
The story of the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team and the “Wall of Dreams.” (Portland Rockets Photo)
Runkle-Miller Field received a $28,000 scoreboard in 2018. The field is home to the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team, which has been around since 1959. (Portland Rockets Photo)
Entering his second season in 2019, Todd is emphasizing defensive communication and execution at the school in Gaston, Ind., northwest of Muncie.
“If you’re defense is bad, it’s hard to win even if you do hit,” says Todd. “We try to limit the free 90’s and win that battle every game.
“That gives us a chance to at least be in the game.”
During this IHSAA limited contact period, Todd’s Warriors have been in the small middle school gym on Wednesday or Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.
“We usually have stations for defensive reps or conditioning for an hour then do hitting and flat-mound bullpens for an hour,” says Todd. “We keep them working. Everybody is doing something. We don’t want anybody standing around. We’re getting a lot of things accomplished and getting better at all times.”
MEC teams play each other once at various times during the spring to determine a conference champion.
Todd says it has been announced that beginning in 2021 conference games will be played every Tuesday and Thursday with schedules being laid out around those days.
Non-conference opponents include Alexandria-Monroe, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Liberty Christian, Madison-Grant, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic, Southern Wells, Union City and Yorktown. The Delaware County tournament is slated for May 7 and May 11.
The home field is located behind the school on North Yorktown-Gaston Pike (North 600 West).
The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 1A grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del last won a sectional title in 2011.
Todd is assisted by Ken Zvokel (varsity) and Zach Tanner (JV) with occasional help from other volunteers. Mary Helen Bink has been a scorekeeper for Wes-Del for more than three decades.
A year ago, Wes-Del had 20 players in the program. Nine of those have graduated and two others are not expected back. Based on call-out meetings, Todd says he may have as many as 24 this spring.
The first official day of practice is March 11. Spring break for Wes-Del Community Schools is March 22-29. The baseball team is slated for open its season April 2 and have six games scheduled in the first eight days.
“Players have 10 practice to get before spring break,” says Todd, referring to the IHSAA rule for participation. “It’s imperative that they come to all practices.”
Wes-Del Youth Athletic Association provides baseball and softball for T-ball through age 12.
To provide baseball opportunities for middle schoolers, a team has been organized for Wes-Del boys that plays in the spring and summer.
Others Wes-Del athletes participate in the summer in the East Central Indiana League and in travel baseball.
Bob and Felicia Todd have two children — McKenzie (20) and Zack (15). Zack Todd is a freshman baseball player at Wes-Del and plays with the Indiana Nitro during the travel ball season.
Bob Todd is a 1996 graduate of Muncie South Side High School, where he played freshmen baseball when Larry Lewis was head coach.
Before taking the job at Wes-Del, Todd had coached in area travel ball organizations, including the Indiana Mojo.
Todd is employed as a general manager for American Pest Professionals, which has offices in Muncie and Marion.
The Todd family (from left): Felicia, Zack, Bob and McKenzie. Bob Todd is head baseball coach at Wes-Del High Sch
Taking a cue from Tug McGraw and Stanley’s last college coach, Rich Maloney, the Raiders carry the motto: Ya Gotta Believe!
“I’m big on consistency. Make the routine play. Throw strikes. It’s basic things of baseball like competing and believing in yourself,” says Stanley, who enters his fifth season as head coach in 2019. The 1993 Shenandoah graduate has also also served two stints as an assistant at his alma mater. “Everything you attack in life, you gotta believe you’re going to do it and do it well.”
MEC teams play each other one time to determine the conference champion. The Raiders joined the league in 2017-18. Stanley says plans call for conference games to be played on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 2021.
The Raiders are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris and Wapahani. Shenandoah has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2006.
Stanley’s assistant coaches are Ryan Painter (varsity) and Rusty Conner (junior varsity). The Raiders normally have about 30 players in the program each spring.
Shenandoah plays home games on its campus at the Dale Green Field complex. In recent years, the facility has gotten new dugouts, a new backstop and fencing has been replaced. This spring will bring a new scoreboard.
The feeder system for the high school includes Little League and Babe Ruth program in Middletown and several travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Longhorns, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Premier, Indiana Prospects and Midwest Astros.
The right-handed pitcher says the first time he was drafted, he planned to go to college (he earned four letters at Ball State University). The second time the money wasn’t right and the third time he decided it was time to move on and start a family.
Bruce and Holly Stanley, who attended Shenandoah and Ball State together, have two children — Cy (18) and Meg (15). Cy Stanley is a freshman left-handed pitcher at Taylor University. Meg is a sophomore softball player at Shenandoah.
Current Shenandoah senior pitchers — left-hander Hadden Myers (Indiana Tech) and right-hander Gavin Patrick (Wabash College for baseball and football) — are also college-bound.
Pat Quinn was Ball State’s head coach when Stanley arrived in Muncie.
Stanley appreciates the way Quinn instilled work ethic and competitiveness.
“(Quinn) was a big influence,” says Stanley. “He showed me how to go about things in a professional way.
“He brought intensity to the game. It really helped me be successful.”
Stanley says Maloney was also intense and set expectations high.
“He was good at bringing about the family atmosphere,” says Stanley. “We were working for each other. He was a great mentor, leader and father figure.
“I’d have run through a wall for him repeatedly.”
Stanley has been a teacher for 20 years. He spent 14 years at South View Elementary in Muncie and is in his sixth year as a special education teacher at Shenandoah.
Bruce Stanley (left) coached his son at Shenandoah High School in Middleton, Ind. Cy Stanley (right) now plays for Taylor University.
Holly and Bruce Stanley both attended Shenandoah High School and Ball State University. The couple have two children — Cy and Meg. Bruce is head baseball coach and a special education teacher at Shenandoah.