Tag Archives: Great Falls Voyagers

Indiana native Rodmaker keeping White Sox minor leaguers strong, conditioned

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tim Rodmaker is in the business of making baseball players stronger, more agile and just plain physically better.

A strength and conditioning coach in the Chicago White Sox system since the 2006 season, Rodmaker looks to exploit athlete’s strengths while improving upon their weaknesses.

“It’s important for guys to use what they’re good at,” says Rodmaker, a native of Georgetown in Floyd County, Ind. “But you can’t forget about the things you’re not good at.”

Just because a guy can lift every weight at the gym doesn’t mean he skips cardio or vice versa.

“It comes down to knowing the individual you’re working with,” says Rodmaker, who will be back with the Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons for the 2019 regular season. “Some guys need actual strength and some agility. Then there’s nutrition and mobility work. I tailor a plan that fits them specifically.”

Rodmaker, a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, does this be observing and then consulting with the player.

“I can make some notes myself where improvements can be made and where they’re doing a good job,” says Rodmaker. “But I want to hear from them. Who knows themselves better than they do?”

Rodmaker also welcomes input from managers, coaches and roving instructors.

Once a plan is formed, Rodmaker and the player go forward with it. To make it work, the athlete must be committed to it.

There are specific skill sets and strength and conditioning needs for baseball players, depending on their role. It might be third baseman or relief pitcher or designated hitter.

“These guys have the luxury that they to need to train for this one specific thing,” says Rodmaker. “It can’t get any more focused than it is.”

All of them will be asked to achieve a range of motion and strength in that motion that relates to their position.

“They will attack the movement chain,” says Rodmaker. “The game is played in short bursts of usually no more than 10 seconds. But a game could last 2 1/2 hours (and the minor league regular season lasts for 140 games).”

For this reason, a balance must be struck between aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

A typical day when the Barons are at home is a long one for Rodmaker.

With a 7:05 p.m. game time, he gets to the ballpark around 11 a.m. to get his own workout in and begin preparing for the arrival of players.

Most players in the White Sox system prefer to lift before the game and that begins around 1 p.m. Stretching for pitchers and position players is at 3:30. Pitchers do conditioning work during batting practice.

After a pre-game meal, starting pitchers will work out under Rodmaker’s supervision.

Pre-game routines start around 6:40.

“By Double-A, they have ownership of a pre-game routine,” says Rodmaker. “But, if necessary, I will lead it.”

During the game, the strength and conditioning coach is back in observation mode.

“I see if what we’re doing is paying off,” says Rodmaker.

Some players will choose to lift after the game. At this point, it’s 11:30 or midnight.

On the road, the schedule is condensed. The team usually finds a local gym for a 10 a.m. workout.

Rodmaker, who is active with the Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society, spoke at the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic in Indianapolis. His topic was “Strength and Conditioning On a Budget.”

While even teams at the professional level think about financial constraints, it’s the time limitations that Rodmaker focuses on.

He says to focus on the big movements that will give the athlete the most bang for their buck.

These exercises require no equipment at all.

“They can show up at the park and do this stuff,” says Rodmaker.

He has also found that he does not like to use cones when doing agility work.

“Guys don’t respect cones,” says Rodmaker. “They can use their glove or mitt or hat. They will take care not to step on that.”

Rodmaker is a 2000 graduate of Floyd Central High School, where he was in wrestling for four seasons (making it as far as regional) and baseball for one season. He graduated from Indiana University in 2005, earning a B.S. in Exercise Science with a minor in psychology and a certificate from the Kelly School of Business.

Besides baseball, where he has served as a trainer in Bristol, Great Falls, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem prior to Birmingham, he has worked in the off-season with Baseball Europe and the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski team. He has also helped at the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University and Spalding University.

Tim and Alex Rodmaker reside in Georgetown with their three daughters — Eli (3), Frankie (2) and Von (9 months).

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONIONG ON A BUDGET

Tim Rodmaker, Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox Double-A Affiliate)

Sample Warm-Up

• Jog lap around the warning track (build up sprints and the end of stretch).

• Shuffle, side-to-side.

• Skip, forward, backward, side-to-side.

• Backpedal (with change of direction.

• Ankle circles (both directions).

• Lunge (with reach to the sky paired with (straight front leg) triangle pose.

• Up, Down and Around (both directions).

• Side-to-side (wide stance).

• Squat and reach (with twist).

• Knees to chest (marching).

• Quad stretch (with reach).

• Twists

• Arm circles (small/big, both directions).

• Pec stretch (ALL angles).

• Internal/external rotation at 90/90 (walk a lap after practice, then speak to group).

Agility

Circle drill

Goal – Increase confidence and ability to run on edges of feet/lateral lean/maintaining speed.

Short shuttle

Goal – Change of direction, body awareness, energy absorption and redirection.

Bonus

• Juggling solo or with partner.

Workout

• Sample workout.

• Split squats.

• Rotational lateral lunge.

• Split stance RDL.

• Squat jump with 1/4 or 1/2 twist.

• Push-ups/Cobra Push-ups/Pike Push-ups.

• Triangle.

• Windmill.

• Walkout to plank.

• Planks.

• Plank with touches.

• Arm walk.

• Pro/Re-traction Push-ups.

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Tim Rodmaker, a graduate of Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, Ind., and Indiana University has been a strength and conditioning coach in the Chicago White Sox system since the 2006 season.

 

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Westons share faith, fondness for pitching a baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Drew Weston chose “a quarter” and it changed his baseball life.

Weston was a left-handed relief pitcher at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University in the last two weeks of his senior season when he decided to experiment.

The 2013 Valparaiso (Ind.) High School graduate had been propelling the baseball from a high three-quarter arm slot. On this day in Cougars bullpen in 2017, he decided to drop down. He went from three-quarter to what he calls “a quarter” — a sidearm kind of delivery.

Weston was accurate and the new approach gave the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder some deception.

“It’s a little bit like Chris Sale, but the one I most emulate is Donnie Hart of the (Baltimore) Orioles. He’s a little bit lower even.”

Weston graduated from SAU in the spring of 2017 major in recreation and leisure management and minor in Spanish and went to pitcher for the Beecher (Ill.) Muskies in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League.

A solid starter with the Muskies, he was chosen to start in the league’s all-star game and then signed for the rest of the summer to play in the Detroit Tigers organization.

In five games (three as a starter) with the Gulf Coast League Tigers West, Weston went 2-0 with a 4.50 earned run average, 12 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings.

He was released by the Tigers in October 2017, but signed with the Chicago White Sox in April 2018.

At the start of extended spring training at the beginning of April, the White Sox were short on pitching so director of player development Chris Getz gave Weston a call and an opportunity to keep pitching as a professional.

“It’s such a cool opportunity to play the game that I love,” says Weston of the pro experience. “It’s a bonus to get paid for it.

“I get to play it at a high level with a lot of great guys.”

He made 32 appearances (all in relief) with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers and Arizona League White Sox and went 2-6 with a 4.87 ERA, 38 strikeouts and six walks in 47 1/3 innings. After a rough start at Great Falls, he had a streak where he gave up just one hit in six games. He was moved to Arizona with an influx of arms from the draft.

Weston, who turned 24 on Dec. 13 is now back in Valparaiso and juggling a busy schedule. He is working 40 or more hours a week while planning a February wedding and working out five or six days a week to get ready for spring training in March.

He is at the gym in Valparaiso most days, but occasionally drives over to the Chicago to work out with White Sox director of strength and conditioning Allen Thomas.

Right now, Weston is mostly lifting weights. He will begin throwing soon.

Weston met fiancee Amy Kanyer at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton, Ind.

“We dated all this year long distance,” says Weston. “She’s learning quick (about the pro baseball lifestyle). She’s super supportive. I’m very appreciative of that.

“My mom did it for I don’t know how many years.”

Drew’s mother is Lisa Weston. Her husband of nearly 35 years (their anniversary is Dec. 31) is Mickey Weston, who played pro ball from 1982-96. A right-handed pitcher out of Eastern Michigan University, Mickey appeared in 23 games in the majors with the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. He went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 19 walks in 44 innings.

Since 1996, Mickey Weston has been the executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc., an organization founded by Tom Roy (now chaplain and co-head baseball coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) whose vision is to “work to reach, teach, and train baseball players for the purpose of sending them out to make disciples of Jesus who love God passionately and love others radically.”

A key Bible passage for UPI is Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

“We want to get them outside of themselves,” says Mickey of the ballplayers that come in contact with UPI. “The game of baseball can make us fairly selfish folks.

“This gets the ballplayers to think of others more highly than themselves.”

He notes that former White Sox right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink is now building wells around the world with Water Mission.

Mickey has worked in partnership with missionaries in more than 40 countries. This off-season, teams are going to South Africa, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala and Germany.

As a youngster, Drew accompanied his father on some trips. His first as a professional player came last fall in Germany.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Drew. “We got to teach kids about baseball and teach kids about Jesus.”

The group went from town to town and taught baseball skills.

“We met afterwards in dugout and talked about why we love the game and why we love Jesus,” says Drew. “It’s a cool segue opportunity.”

Drew was born in Detroit in 1994. When Mickey became UPI executive director, he moved his family to the headquarters in Winona Lake. Drew grew up playing ball around Warsaw.

Drew is the third of Mickey and Weston’s four children.

Eldest daughter Erica Harrigan and husband Rob live in Indianapolis where she works for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and he in human resources for Indiana University Health.

Second daughter Kayla Aanderud is an OBGYN resident in Michigan. Her husband, Brian, is the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Youngest daughter Marissa Weston is a violinist in graduate school at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh after graduating from the Jacobs School of Music at IU. Lisa, Erica, Kayla and Drew also play instruments.

When UPI founder Roy handed over White Sox chaplain duties to Mickey Weston and Bryan Hickerson, the two made the commute from north central Indiana to Chicago. To cut down on the commute, the Westons relocated to Valparaiso in 2008 when Drew was entering the eighth grade.

It’s 50 minutes from Valpo to Guaranteed Rate Field. Through Baseball Chapel, Mickey offers services to home and away players plus the umpires. Lisa serves the wives.

Drew played at Valparaiso High School. Dave Coyle was then the Vikings head coach. Current Valparaiso head coach Todd Evans was an assistant.

The lesson that young Weston learned from Coyle was to “really persevere.”

“He had a football mentality,” Weston says of Coyle. “To overcome adversity, that was kind of his thing.”

Mickey Weston has always been his son’s personal pitching coach.

“He’d talk to me about about how I did and how I could do better,” says Drew. “It’s cool to have him in my corner, encouraging me.”

Mickey was asked to assess his son’s pitching strengths.

“It’s control and being able to change speeds,” says Mickey. “He’s able to locate really well and he has movement.

“I didn’t allow him to throw a curveball until he was about 16 and it really forced him to develop his change-up.”

Mickey’s own baseball stock rose when he developed a sinker. It was his third year in Double-A. He was pitching in the bullpen in Tulsa.

“The ball came off my finger and dropped off the table,” says Mickey. “(Former major league right-hander) Glenn Abbott was my pitching coach and had been working with me.

“Less than a year and I was in the big leagues.”

Mickey Weston was a sinker/slider pitcher who created a lot of movement and hovered between 88 and 92 mph while inducing ground balls with his right-handed deliveries.

Ambidextrous as a toddler, Drew Weston fell in love with sister Kayla’s mitt. He wore it all the time. He even slept with it. As a result, he became the third lefty in the Weston household, joining Kayla and his mother.

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Drew Weston pitched from a high three-quarter arm angle for much of his career at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University. He later dropped down and is now pitching professionally in the Chicago White Sox system. (Spring Arbor University Photo)

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Drew Weston, a graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University, pitched for the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)

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Drew Weston (left) and father Mickey Weston share a moment when Drew was with the Detroit Tigers organization in 2018.

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Mickey Weston (left) visits son Drew Weston when Drew was with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system in 2018. Former big league pitcher Mickey is executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc. and works through Baseball Chapel as chaplain for the Chicago White Sox.

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Drew Weston (right) and fiancee Amy Kanyer share a moment during the 2018 baseball season. Drew pitched in the Chicago White Sox system. The couple are to wed in February 2019.

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Dropping his arm angle helped Drew Weston earn a place in professional baseball. He played at Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor University. First signed by the Detroit Tigers, he is now in the Chicago White Sox system. (Phrake Photography Photo)

 

Former Delta, Indiana State, Louisville hurler Conway begins pro career in White Sox system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Gaining confidence and maturity have gone a long way in helping Austin Conway along his baseball journey, which has taken him into professional baseball as a right-handed pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Conway played for head coach Terry Summers at Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 2013.

“He taught you how to carry yourself on the field and have a lot of composure,” says Conway of Summers. “I was very immature as a freshman. I had a lot of growing up to do. Having him around really helped.”

From Delta, where current Cowan High School head coach Ryan Conwell was an assistant, Conway took his talents to Terre Haute to play for Indiana State University. That’s where he got to work with Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs.

“I was very raw coming out of high school,” says Conway. “I lacked at knowing the game. (Hannahs) was hard on me. But he wanted to get the most out of me.

“He helped me with the mental side. He made me grow up and become a much better baseball player.

Conway learned that college baseball moves at a faster clip than high school.

“(Hannahs) would take me to the side and slow me down,” says Conway. “He gave me tough love when I needed that, too.”

Conway figured out how to understand and control situations. He would figure out what was working for him that day and what was not.

He found out that sometimes the situation calls for finesse.

“You can’t blow it by everybody,” says Conway, 23.

Tiegs came on board for Conway’s sophomore season.

“He helped me on the confidence side,” says Conway of Tiegs. “The first bullpen he saw, I threw was really good. He was very relatable, easy to trust and get close to.

“He was really big on the health and mechanics side of pitching.”

Tiegs, who pitched at Sauk Valley Community College and the College of Charleston, implemented a weighted ball program/velocity program that helped develop mechanics and velocity.

Conway took to it and saw results.

“I started pounding the zone more,” says Conway, who played four seasons for ISU (2014-17) with the 2016 season shortened to six appearances and 15 2/3 innings because of a shoulder injury. He received a medical redshirt for the year.

The righty came back in 2017 and was named second team all-Missouri Valley Conference after going 2-1 with 12 saves, a 2.97 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and 11 walks over 33 1/3 innings and 28 appearances (all in relief). When he was done at ISU, he ranked No. 2 on the career saves list with 20.

When Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft offers did not meet Conway’s standards, he though he was done with baseball.

But his coach with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League — Harvey Shapiro — made a call to friend Dan McDonnell, head coach at the University of Louisville.

McDonnell extended an invitation to Conway, who was approved for a fifth year of eligibility.

He also enrolled in Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law.

Juggling law school and baseball, Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018.

“It was incredible,” says Conway of his U of L experience. “It’s one of the best programs with one of the best head coaches in the country.

“(McDonnell) expects so much from his players and coaches. He’s very demanding.

“But he’ll respect you, if you respect him.”

Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams did not try to change much about the well-established Conway.

“He was more hands off with me as a fifth-year guy,” says Conway. “It was cool to see how he operated with the young guys.

“(With all pitchers,) he made sure the confidence was there.”

Conway was getting his four-seam fastball up to 95 mph with the Cardinals and regularly sat at 91 to 95. In pro ball, he was at 90 to 93. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, he also employs a “circle” change-up and “spiked” curveball (which looks more like a slurve).

The White Sox selected Conway in the 31st round of the 2018 draft and split his first pro campaign between the Arizona League White Sox and Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers.

Two other Indiana products — Logan Sowers and Michael McCormick — also played for Great Falls in 2018.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder was a combined 8-6 with two saves and a 3.00 ERA. In 46 games (all in relief) and 71 1/3 innings, he struck out 64 and walked 28.

Comparing NCAA Division I to rookie-level pro baseball, Conway saw parallels in talent. Though the minors is sprinkled with raw Latin players with loads of potential.

A double major in criminal justice and political science/legal studies at ISU, Conway completed his first year of law school at the U of L. He says his law studies will be on hold while he is pursuing his baseball career.

Born in Muncie, Conway played his early baseball around Albany, Ind., and Middletown, Ind. He was on the Shenandoah all-star team.

A football player, the only summer he really played travel baseball was with Muncie American League Post 19 Chiefs going into his senior year at Delta.

Austin’s father (Steve Conway) lives in Albany. His mother and stepfather (Brooke and James Runyon) are in Rockford, Ill. He has two stepbrothers (Jeff Dobbs and Josh Dunsmore) a half-brother (Dustin Runyon) and half-sister (Caitlin Runyon).

Using some of the exercises he learned from Tiegs at Indiana State, Austin plans to split time between Illinois and Indiana while working out and getting his arm ready to go to spring training in Arizona in early March.

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Austin Conway pitched at Indiana State University from 2014-17. (Indiana State University Photo)

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Austin Conway pitched at the University of Louisville in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)

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Juggling law school and baseball, Delta High School graduate Austin Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)

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Austin Conway, a graduate of Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, played one season at the University of Louisville and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)

 

Former McCutcheon, Indiana slugger Sowers displaying power as pro rookie in White Sox system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Logan Sowers has made a habit of clobbering baseballs since his days at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Ind.

As Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2014, the righty-swinging Sowers slugged 11 home runs while hitting .365 with 30 runs batted in and a .514 on-base percentage.

“I consider myself a power hitter,” says Sowers, 22. “I had pretty good power numbers in college and high school.”

That trend has continued in his first professional season with the Chicago White Sox organization.

Sowers was drafted in the 28th round of 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox after playing fours seasons at Indiana University (2015-18) and headed to the Short-Season Class-A Pioneer League to play for the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers.

“I’m really grateful I was drafted by the White Sox,” says Sowers. “They are first class.

“The coaches are really positive and know a lot about the game of baseball. They understand the grind. They know what we’re going through. They’re good about accommodating us in every way possible.”

Tim Esmay is the Great Falls manager. Eric Richardson, who played for the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks in 1994 and 1995, is the Voyagers hitting coach.

Sowers’ first pro homer came in his fourth game on June 20 against Billings.

Playing in the outfield, Sowers helped Great Falls win the PL North Division in the first half of the split season. Through his first 47 games, he was hitting .318 with seven homers, 11 doubles, 26 RBIs with .411 on-base and .518 slugging averages. He started in center field in the Pioneer/Northwest League All-Star Game.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Sowers says his power comes from a mixture of size, strength and bat speed.

The dimensions of Centene Stadium in Great Falls is 328 feet down the left field line, 415 to center and 335 down the line in right. Most of his road dingers have been of the opposite-field variety.

“I have long arms and can get great leverage,” says Sowers, who clubbed five of his first seven long balls away from Great Falls. “When I get extended I can hit the ball pretty far.

“Baseball going toward launch angles. But I’m just trying to hit the ball hard.”

Working hard is what was expected by Sowers’ head coach at McCutcheon —  Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jake Burton.

“He taught me work ethic and was a big stickler for showing up on time and behaving yourself outside of baseball,” says Sowers. “Was he old school? You could definitely say that.”

“Playing in high school was when I found my true talent for baseball. I was good growing up. Then I started putting it a lot of time outside of school practices.”

A third baseman on the freshman team in 2011, Sowers was an outfielder on the Mavericks varsity 2012-14.

Logan went to the batting cages with his father, Shawn Sowers, and got regular pointers during his  high school and college years from former Purdue University and minor league player Jordan Comadena (who is now bullpen catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates).

An IHSBCA all-stater who played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Richmond in 2014, Sowers was selected in the 31st round of that years’s MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. After weighing his options to go pro out of high school or attend college, he decided to attend Indiana University to play for the Hoosiers and study recreational sport management.

Recruited to IU by Tracy Smith, Sowers was given permission to talk with other schools when Smith left Bloomington, Ind., to become head coach at Arizona State University.

A meeting with incoming head coach Chris Lemonis convinced Sowers to stay committed to Indiana and he played there for four seasons (2015-18), hitting .281 with 37 home runs, 50 doubles, 137 RBIs, a .367 on-base and .480 slugging averages.

“(Lemonis) was big on getting your school work done,” says Sowers. “You’re a student before you’re an athlete.”

Lemonis (now head coach at Mississippi State University) worked with IU’s outfielders and also let his Hoosiers know that time in practice is not good enough to get players to the next level. They had to find time between their studies and team activities to do extra work on their own.

In the summers of 2015 and 2016, Sowers played 38 games in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League — first with the Wareham Gatemen and then the Orleans Firebirds.

Sowers completed all his classwork toward his degree and now just needs to complete an internship, which he says he plans to do next baseball off-season.

Great Falls, which takes bus rides of up to four hours for North Division opponents and treks up to 15 hours for South Division clubs, wraps the regular season Sept. 3, followed by the playoffs.

At season’s end, Sowers says he plans to come back to Lafayette for a few days and then head back to Bloomington to train and pursue a part-time job.

Born in Royal Oak, Mich., Logan lived briefly in Indianapolis, but he spent much of his life in Lafayette, where his father is now a project manager in the IT office service management at Purdue University. Shawn and Valerie Sowers have three children — Madison, Logan and Adrienne.

Logan played travel baseball for the Indiana Pony Express, McCutcheon league and Indiana Eagles before one summer with the Indiana Bulls.

Michael McCormick, a pitcher and Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, is also a member of the Great Falls Voyagers.

After Great Falls, the minor league steps on the White Sox ladder are Kannapolis (Low-A), Winston-Salem (High-A), Birmingham (Double-A) and Charlotte (Triple-A).

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Logan Sowers, a former McCutcheon High School and Indiana University slugger, is putting up power numbers in his first professional baseball season. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)

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Logan Stevens was Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette and put up power numbers in four seasons at Indiana University. He is now with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers. (Tianna Stevens Photo)

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Logan Sowers was named to the Pioneer/Northwest League All-Star Game as a member of the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system. (Tianna Stevens Photo)

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Through 47 games with the 2018 Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers of the Pioneer League, former McCutcheon High School and Indiana University outfielder Logan Sowers was hitting .318 with seven home runs, 11 doubles and 26 runs batted in. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in June. (Tianna Stevens Photo)

 

With an individual flair, Speedway grad McCormick pitching in the White Sox system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Michael McCormick likes to do things his own way.

Just look at his mug on the MiLB.com website.

The former Speedway (Ind.) High School, Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and Eastern Illinois University pitcher now in his second minor league baseball season sports a handlebar mustache to go with his mullet.

“We have to be clean-shaven, but we can have a mustache,” says the 24-year-old McCormick of a Chicago White Sox minor league facial-hair policy. “I thought I’d add a little flair to to it.

“I’ve had the mullet — off and on — since high school.”

His father and high school head coach — Marcus McCormick — puts it this way: “Mike’s always been a little different. We say he has personality of a left-handed pitcher in a right-handed pitcher’s body.”

Michael McCormick made 11 appearances (all in relief) and went 2-5 with a 3.35 earned run average, 33 strikeouts and 26 walks at Parkland in 2015.

He pitched in 30 games (22 as a starter) the next two seasons at Eastern Illinois, combining for a 3-12 record, 7.01 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 81 walks in 120 1/3 innings.

McCormick, who was selected by the White Sox in the 34th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, began his pro career with 16 appearances (11 in relief) with the 2017 rookie-level Arizona League White Sox. He went 2-3 with a 2.68 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43 2/3 innings.

In 2018, McCormick is with the Short Season Class-A Pioneer League’s Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers. Through July 5, he had appeared in five games (all as a late-inning reliever) and was 3-0 with a 4.00 ERA, eight strikeouts and one walk in nine innings.

McCormick employs a cut fastball (that runs glove-side) at 90 to 94 mph, a slurve (combination slider and curveball) that is clocked around 78 mph and a “circle” change-up that generally ranges between 83 to 85 mph.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has long been driven to go as far as his work ethic will take him.

“Mike’s No. 1 quality is his willingness to work and his perseverance,” says Marcus McCormick. “He’s gone through a lot of situations and scenarios that have made him a tougher individual. When he identifies a goal, he’s got tunnel focus on that goal.

In high school, Michael McCormick gave up basketball his junior year to concentrate on pitching and took his fastball from 85 to 90 mph.

“Mike’s never been No. 1 on anybody’s radar,” says Marcus McCormick. “Everything he’s accomplished has absolutely been through hard work and people he surrounded himself with — all the way back to when he was 12.”

Over the years, he’s worked with instructors Stan Lovins, Dustin Glant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Phil Webster.

“They’ve really shaped who is as a pitcher and a person today,” says Marcus McCormick.

Two summers ago, Michael went to Seattle to train at the Driveline Baseball facility. He got a bike at a pawn shop and rode three miles each way to the workouts.

Combining Driveline with White Sox programs has been beneficial to the pitcher who got his start at Eagledale Little League and played travel ball for the Indy Outlaws and Indiana Pony Express before graduating from Speedway in 2012 and later Eastern Illinois in 2017.

“It’s helped me out a lot as far as preparation, performance and arm health,” says Michael McCormick. “The bounce-back between outings is shorter. It helps with consistency as well. A big part of it to is having a routine that I’m able to repeat.”

As a pro — in a league where getting back from a road trip at 2 a.m. is not uncommon — McCormick has learned about discipline.

“You have to make sure you do the right stuff away from the field with eating and sleeping,” says Michael McCormick. “That’s just as important as the things on the field.”

Michael credits his father helping change the culture for Speedway Sparkplugs baseball. When Marcus took over in 2008, the program had not won a sectional since 2004. Since then, Speedway has reigned at that level in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

“It was a big disappointment not performing the way we wanted to,” says Michael McCormick of losing to Covenant Christian in the 2A Cascade Sectional championship game. “Then we bounced back senior year and closed the deal.”

Michael’s mother is Kelley McCormick. Younger brother Nicholas McCormick (22) is going into his senior baseball season at Arizona Christian University. He was an Eastern Illinois teammate to Michael for two seasons before transferring to the Phoenix-based school.

Back in Indianapolis, Michael has a fiancee and 2-year-old daughter — Teigan Flaws and Kolby Rae. Flaws, a Glenview, Ill., was a volleyball player at the University of Indianapolis.

White Sox minor league stops above Great Falls are at the Low Class-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Intimidators, High-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash, Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons and Triple-A Charlotte (N.C) Knights.

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Michael McCormick, a Speedway (Ind.) High School graduate, is now a pitcher with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system. (Great Lakes Voyagers Photo)

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The McCormick brothers — Nick (left) and Marcus (right) — share a moment in Arizona. Nicholas is heading into his senior year at Arizona Christian University. Michael is in his second year as a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox system.

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Marcus McCormick (left) and oldest son Michael McCormick spend time together in Arizona. Michael is a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization.

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Michael McCormick (center) is surrounded by parents Marcus and Kelley McCormick. Michael is a pitcher with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox organization. Marcus is the head baseball coach at Speedway (Ind.) High School.

 

 

Aggressive approach serves Munster, Indiana graduate Dedelow well in pro baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Craig Dedelow had the chance to begin his professional baseball career after his junior season at Indiana University in 2016.

The lefty-swinging outfielder blossomed in his third season with the Hoosiers, hitting .302 with five home runs, 16 doubles and 36 runs batted in and was selected in the 34th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dedelow was faced with a decision. Go pro or go back to IU for his last year of eligiblity?

He made the 3 1/2-hour drive from Munster to Bloomington consult with Hoosiers head coach Chris Lemonis.

“He told me I have a great opportunity,” says Dedelow of Lemonis. “He said we can get you bigger, faster and stronger and get you taken in a higher round next year.

“I put my faith in him and it worked out the next year.”

Dedelow soaked up plenty of knowledge in three seasons under Lemonis.

“He’s an easy guy to talk to about the ins and outs of baseball,” says Dedelow. “He taught me to think one step ahead like a chess match? What do I do if the ball is hit to me?”

Tracy Smith (now head coach at Arizona State University) guided IU in Dedelow’s freshmen season. The player compares him to his basketball coach at Munster — Mike Hackett.

“(Hackett) was a stickler and I responded well to that,” says Dedelow, who was a 6-foot shooting guard before he took a growth spurt and became a 6-4 senior forward in 2012-13. “That’s how Tracy was. He taught me to be accountable for my actions and how to carry myself on and off the field.”

Dedelow opted to don the Cream and Crimson again in 2017 and hit .258 with 19 homers, 12 doubles and 54 RBI. The slugging percentage for IU’s offensive MVP was .899.

The three-time third-team all-Big Ten Conference selection was chosen in the ninth round of 2017 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox and played 65 games — 60 at Short-Season Class-A Great Falls and five at Low Class-A Kannapolis. He hit .306 with 13 homers, 21 doubles, 55 RBI and .894 OPS (on-base plus slugging) for 268 at-bats and was chosen as a organizational all-star.

Dedelow is back at Kannapolis in 2018. Through 50 games, he was hitting .289 with four homer, 18 doubles and 32 RBI.

Of late, he’s been batting third and playing left field for manager Justin Jirschele. Jamie Dismuke (who played for the 1995 Indianapolis Indians) is the Intimidators hitting coach.

“At the beginning of the year, I wanted to get off to the hot start,” says Dedelow. “I was big in my swing. But, lately, I’ve been more selective and it’s allowed me to hit the ball a little better.”

Dating back to his days at Munster High School and IU, Dedelow has been aggressive at the plate.

“I’m looking for a good fastball to hit,” says Dedelow, 22. “When I get two strikes, that flips.

“It’s been that way for a long time.”

As a Munster Mustang, Dedelow played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan.

“Coach Shinkan has always been good to me,” says Dedelow. “He’s always opened the weight room up and let me use the facilities when I was in college or since I’ve been in pro ball.

“We’ve got a good relationship.”

Dedelow played his early baseball for the Munster All-Stars, followed by Babe Ruth League then hooked up with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Seminoles the summer before his senior year at Munster High.

“That’s where I got my exposure,” says Dedelow of the Seminoles.

While at IU, he played for summer ball the Midwest Collegiate Baseball League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen in 2014 and Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s Amsterdam Mohawks in 2015.

The big differences Dedelow sees between college and pro baseball is the level of play, the number of games and the travel.

“The pitching is a little bit better (in the minors),” says Dedelow. “In college, we played three or four games a week. Now, we have a game everyday. But that’s the fun part.”

Kannapolis sometimes has to trek to Lakewood, N.J., which takes 10 or more hours to reach by bus.

When Dedelow was at IU, one of the Hoosiers’ longer driving trips was to Charleston, S.C. Most far-away games, including Big Ten series at Minnesota and Nebraska, were taken by plane.

Dedelow graduated from IU with a management degree. While finishing his schooling last off-season, he did an internship with Hoosiers Director of Baseball  Operations Roger Rodeheaver.

“There are so many thing the players don’t even see — like getting meal ready for them, gear when they need it and making sure the bus is there on-time,” says Dedelow. “It makes me appreciate everything they do for us in the front office.”

Craig’s parents — Darryl Sr. and Mary — are divorced. He is a union construction worker and she works in the Lake County, Ind., court system. He has two older siblings — Darryl Jr (who has an undergraduate degree from Wabash College, a master’s degree from Portland State and is working on his Ph.D. in Spanish at the University of Kentucky) and Sarah (a recent graduate of Calumet College of St. Joseph). His younger brother Nick is in elementary school.

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Craig Dedelow, a graduate of Munster (Ind.) High School and Indiana University, began his professional baseball career in 2017 at Great Falls and is at Kannapolis in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)

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Craig Dedelow, a Munster (Ind.) High School and Indiana University graduate, steps to the plate for the Kannapolis Intimidators. He is an outfielder in the Chicago White Sox system. (Kannapolis Intimidators Photo)

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Craig Dedelow, a Munster (Ind.) High School and Indiana University graduate, gets ready to hit for the Kannapolis Intimidators. He is an outfielder in the Chicago White Sox system. (Kannapolis Intimidators Photo)

South Bend’s Haslers doing their part for White Sox pitching efforts

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

Two generations.
One common purpose.
South Bend’s Curt and Drew Hasler are both in the business of getting hitters out in the Chicago White Sox organization — father Curt as the bullpen coach for the parent club and son Drew as a right-hander in the minors.
Curt Hasler, 52, is in his 30th year with the White Sox in 2017 — the first as a full-timer at the big league level.
Curt was drafted by Chicago in the 21st round of the 1987 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Bradley University and made stop with the South Bend White Sox in 1988. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound right-hander pitched until 1991, making it to Triple-A Vancouver and a became pitching coach in 1992.
A roving coordinator of all White Sox minor league pitchers from the Dominican Republic through Triple-A the past few years, Curt will now serve the needs of manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper (who was Hasler’s coach for two seasons).
“We’re family,” says Curt of the Sox organization, noting that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive vice president Ken Williams and senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn are very loyal people. “You go out and do your business, do the right thing and keep your nose clean and you’ll have a job.”
Curt will be charged with many duties — from getting pitchers ready in the bullpen and creating gameplans to attack opposing hitters. He will let Sox hurlers know things like what pitch they like to swing at in certain counts and what the best put-away pitch is for a certain pitcher against a particular hitter.
“It’s a lot of little things behind the scenes,” says Curt. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to take a little of the load off of Coop.”
Having worked with many of the current big leaguers as they came up through the White Sox system, Hasler can provide insight for his MLB bosses.
“It does help to have a working knowledge of these guys from the start,” says Curt.
Drew Hasler, 23, pitched for Marian High School and Valparaiso University before being taken by the White Sox in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB draft. The 6-6, 240-pounder toed the mound at Great Falls, Mont., in 2015 and then Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in North Carolina in 2016.
“I started out wanting to be a catcher,” says Drew of his early diamond days. “Then I got older and smarter and wanted to pitch. My dad was coaching me all the way through. Recently is when he kind of backed off and let the pitching coach take it.”
Father and son went on several trips around the minors when Drew was younger and he got to meet players like Jon Rauch, Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand.
But being on the road so much, Curt did not see Drew pitch as much in Little League, high school or college as much as people would think.
“When I was there, I cherished it and I enjoyed watching him pitch,” says Curt. “Last year, I got to see him a lot. I saw him every time I was (at Kannapolis, where Brian Drahman was the pitching coach or Winston-Salem, where Jose Bautista was the pitching coach). In five days, everyone is going to pitch at least once.”
Used as both a starter and reliever at Valpo U. by head coach Brian Schmack (a former White Sox minor league pitcher), Drew has made all 55 of his professional appearances out of the bullpen.
He claims comfort in either role.
“To me, the mindset doesn’t change whether I start the game, come in halfway through the game or close the game, I want to get the guy at the plate out,” says Drew. “You might have to bear down a little more straight out of the bullpen to get your team out of a jam.”
Curt, who is planning to leave for spring training in Glendale, Ariz. Monday, Feb. 13 with Drew reporting to minor league camp in early March, says the White Sox don’t use label minor league pitchers as starters, long relievers, short relievers or closers.
“We want them to see different scenarios,” says Curt. “Roles get defined as they move up the ladder into Triple-A and the big leagues.
“You really need to develop to become big leaguers. To define someone as a closer and hold them to one inning all the time, that’s probably not to his best interest. He’s better off going two or three innings. He has to get outs. He has to use all of his pitches. He has to have command.
“Our goal is not to have a kid pitch 40 games and have 40 innings. It’s to pitch 45 games and have 75 innings. That’s better development.”
Roles at the majors are often defined by need as much as the talents of a particular arm.
“It’s constantly evolving for each individual pitcher,” says Curt, noting that Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale were used as relievers when they first came to The Show.
Both Haslers have been teaching lessons at the South Bend Cubs Performance Center, run by former White Sox minor league coach and manager and longtime friend Mark Haley.
The message given to young pitchers is the same that Curt heard from Cooper, Dewey Robinson and Kirk Champion when he was in rookie ball and it’s the same that Drew has heard from his father, college coach and professional coaches.
“Coaching and teaching is a steps process,” says Hasler. “The ABC’s of pitching, in my mind, will always be the ABC’s, whether it’s for Nate Jones or Drew Hasler or for Evan who’s 12 years old that I’m coaching at the Performance Center. Once we take care of the ABC’s, will can move on to the DEF’s.”
Those ABC’s include staying tall over the rubber and throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of hitters in the count by attacking the (strike) zone. The White Sox want their pitchers throwing fastballs, breaking balls and change-ups for strikes at least 65 percent of the time and driving the ball down in the zone.
Drew is pretty good at following these tenants.
“Drew goes from the stretch only because he’s a reliever,” says Curt. “He repeats his delivery very well. He throws a ton of strikes. That’s goal No. 1.”

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South Bend’s Drew (left) and Curt Hasler are both a part of the Chicago White Sox organization.