It wasn’t the first case of multiple-mashing for the Logansport, Ind., native.
The righty-swinging fifth-year senior right fielder lofted two dingers May 10, 2018 against Manchester, two April 17, 2018 against Rose-Hulman, three April 16, 2019 at Rose-Hulman and two March 1, 2020 against Heidelberg.
On April 3, 2021 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Franklin’s John P. McDowell Field against Hanover, Bixler’s eight-inning clout made the school’s all-time homer king.
The Grizzlies are 13-5 overall and in the HCAC heading into twin bills Saturday, April 17 vs. Rose-Hulman and Sunday, April 18 at Anderson.
The HCAC tournament (site to be determined) in May will include all 10 teams this year with the top five seeds serving as the home team in best-of-three series. A five-team finals will feature a double bye for the top seed.
Bixler’s head-turning batting numbers so far for 2021 include a .449 (31-of-69) average with five homers, one triple, nine doubles, 25 runs batting, 31 runs scored and 5-of-6 in stolen bases. He owns a .576 on-base percentage and .826 slugging average.
“I look to do damage,” says Bixler of his offensive approach. “I just try to get the ball in the air or in the gap.”
While he has homered to center and right, he estimates that more than half of his long balls have gone out to left field.
During his Franklin days (Bixler played at Indiana Wesleyan in 2017 then transferred), he is hitting .354 (159-of-449) with 33 homers, nine triples, 34 doubles, 145 RBIs, 156 runs and is 32-of-38 in stolen bases. He sports a ..475 on-base percentage and .690 slugging average.
Bixler hit .321 with three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs in eight games in 2020..
In 2019, he was first-team all-HCAC and third-team all-region by D3Baseball.
“Maybe to start the game,” says Bixler. “As lead-off see as many pitches as you can for your teammates.”
Franklin coach Lance Marshall recruited Bixler while the player was in high school and welcomed him when he decided to transfer.
“Everyone respects him,” says Bixler of Marshall, FC head coach since the fall of 1997. “He knows how to win games.
“It’s a fun culture to be around for sure. This was the best fit for me.”
Bixler grew up playing baseball in Logansport and transferred to Lewis Cass after his eighth grade year. With the Kings, he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Marschand.
“He’s huge role model,” says Bixler of Marchand. “He took me under his wing and taught me almost everything I know today about baseball.
“He truly cares for each player. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”
Bixler was supposed to graduate in 2020. When granted another year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to play another season and took a class while also working as a salesman for Warweg & Co., Irrigation in Franklin. He is slated to graduate this spring with a Public Relations degree and a minor in Business.
At 23, Ryan is the youngest of Brad and Kathy Bixler’s four sons. Josh is the oldest, followed by Justin and Brandon.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
As soon as Blake Marschand could put one foot in front of the other, he was stepping on a baseball field.
From a young age, Blake was helping his father groom diamonds and other facilities.
Greg Marschand, a 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, has spent countless hours on fields at Lewis Cass High School in Walton, Ind., where he is still head baseball coach and athletic director.
“My dad got this etched in me,” says Blake Marschand, who played football, basketball and baseball for the Cass Kings and graduated in 1998. “This is all I knew. There was no sleeping in on the weekends when I was a little kid.
“Sports have always been a big thing to the Marschand family.”
Over the years, Blake saw his father’s work ethic and heard him talk about having a company that builds and maintains these places to play ball.
MAFS works on baseball, softball, football and soccer fields.
On the natural side of things, it’s construction (laser grading, adding DuraEdge infield mix, building mounds and bullpens, complete tear-offs, re-grades, re-builds and more) and maintenance (aerification, fertilization, overseeding, top dressing, deep-tine aerification, edging etc.).
As a regional representative, Marschand applies DuraEdge-engineered infield mix. The product is used on many Major League Baseball fields and throughout the nation. There are three main varieties — Classic, Collegiate and Pro. Each mix is engineered to certain percentages of clay, sand and silt.
Marschand and his crew also perform maintenance on artificial-surface fields throughout the Midwest for Sprinturf.
“I’m not totally against synthetic (turf),” says Marschand. “It’s got it’s place.”
Marschand notes that some schools may not have had their fields built the right or does not have the right equipment or knowledge to maintain those fields correctly.
“If the fields are built using the correct products and materials, it makes maintenance a lot easier,” says Marschand. “Basketball courts get budgeted to be re-surfaced every year, but outside fields often get put on the back burner.
“Outdoor fields being laser-graded every two or three years would be similar to having a basketball court re-surfaced.”
It’s all about maintaining a facility. It cuts down on that big project.
MAFS has been to fields all over Indiana and continues to pick up new business.
“We thrive on building and developing that honest relationship with customers,” says Marschand. “We’re not a huge business. I just try to keep it to a small core group of (four to five workers). That way we can be efficient.”
Marschand says that the initial important step in field construction or maintenance is using the correct products such as DuraEdge infield mix and setting the correct grade.
“Looking into the future, that’s just going to help in maintaining the field,” says Marschand. “On a renovation project, it sometimes can be tricky because we have to match the existing grade of the way the field was laid out.
“We’re trying to determine what percentage of grade that is to give them that efficient surface run-off, which is what you want.
“On the DuraEdge side, we shoot for a two-inch cap,” says Marschand. “That will give you a really nice, quality skin surface.”
Marschand says the best time to do field renovation work is in the summer and fall because the weather tends to be nicer and teams are not on the field as often as they are in the spring.
Even though the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has baseball — and other sports — canceled for the spring, MAFS has been busy working on fields.
But it’s not been a typical March and April.
“Usually springs are pretty stressful,” says Marschand. “Once you get those first sunny days, your phone’s ringing off the hook. Everybody wants you there that day. I get it. I’m not mad at them for that.
“The goal is to make your customers happy. You don’t want to keep them waiting.
“We’ve got all kinds of work in the books. I try to lay out my work on a first-come, first-served basis. When customers call I put them on a list and try to run down that list.”
There is not much grade work being done when it’s wet, but the crew can install mounds and perform other tasks.
“I also try to split it up so I’m not burning guys out on the same thing every day,” says Marschand. “That’s what’s so great about this work. It’s always something different. Every place is different and has its own needs.”
Marschand is appreciate of the relationships he has formed in the industry.
“Guys that are way more knowledgeable than me are always willing to talk and discuss whatever the situation might be,” says Marschand. “Having those relationships mean a lot to me and I’m very thankful.”
“I have a lot of good friends that I never would have met if I was not involved.”
Abbott, who grew up in Carroll County and graduated from Delphi (Ind.) High School in 1979, began his coaching career as a teenager at the local Babe Ruth League level. He led a group of 13-year-olds to the state tournament in Noblesville.
He pitched at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University), graduating in 1983, and served one year as an assistant at Brookville (Ind.) High School (now part of Franklin County High School) followed by 21 years as a high school head coach at Eastbrook and Huntington North. His teams won more than 300 games, seven county championships, four conference titles, three sectional crowns, one regional title and made one Final Four Appearance (1999 with Eastbrook).
“I always thought the (Mid-Indiana) Conference was tough when I first started,” says Abbott. “The teams were all good because their coaches were really good.”
Abbott had the distinction of pitching the first no-hitter on the new lighted Delphi diamond when he was a junior for the Oracles. He played for three coaches while in high school — Greg Fisher, Dave Young and Mike Lane.
Long before Abbott was associated with high school baseball, he regular at the IHSAA State Finals and remembers seeing Paul “Spider” Fields lead Lafayette Jeff to its second state championship in 1973. Another found memory is going with his father and grandfather to the Colt League World Series, an event organized by Hall of Famer Harry Bradway and staged at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. One year, he saw future big league pitcher Sid Fernandez compete there.
During the single-class era, Delphi played in an IHSAA sectional with Lafayette Jeff (coached by Fields), West Lafayette (coached by Hall of Famer Fred Campbell), McCutcheon (coached by Hall of Famer Jake Burton), Harrison and Lafayette Central Catholic.
Abbott and Burton first faced off back in the ‘70s Babe Ruth coaching days when Abbott was in Delphi and Burton in Dayton, Ind.
As a Huntington Forester, Abbott played for three head coaches — Jim Wilson, Fred Vonderlage and Tim McKinnon. Current HU coach and Hall of Famer Mike Frame was a third baseman and classmate of Abbott.
In Brookville, the hometown of Brian’s wife, Trisha Abbott, he got to work with another coach bound for the Hall of Fame — Jim Hughes.
“He was a good mentor to me,” says Abbott of Hughes. “He loved baseball. He loved sports. He was a positive person. He always had something good to say about everybody.
“He was one of those people you hate to lose.”
Abbott currently as a pitching coach at Huntington U. and held that position at Indiana Wesleyan University.
A math teacher for 37 years, Abbott currently instructs eighth graders at Riverview Middle School in Huntington. He holds master’s degrees in mathematics and administration from Ball State University.
He often drives to the nearby Crossroads League games himself. When Huntington makes weekend trips to places like Tennessee in February, Abbott and a friend get on the road about 2 a.m. and then come back to Huntington after the last game.
For several summers, Abbott has worked for Hammel Floor Service, sanding, re-lining and lettering basketball floors. He uses his math skills to put down and fill in the patterns.
“It’s really been neat,” says Abbott. “I’ve had a chance to go to a lot of different venues.”
“Growing up, he was a guy I respected,” says Abbott of Wooden, the coaching legend. “I read his book.
“I feel like I have a good feel of the high school land. I follow high school sports and I love baseball. Being in the association is a good role for me because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for a lot of different things.”
After serving as associate executive director to Hall of Famer Bill Jones, Abbott has spent the past eight years at IHSBCA executive director.
He was nominated for Hall of Fame induction by the IHSBCA executive council.
“I was very humbled by it,” says Abbott. “I’m a mule. I’ve coached.
“It’s been a really good experience.”
Abbott got his start in the IHSBCA when future Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson of Mississinewa invited him to his first State Clinic.
“Little did I know what he was trying to do,” says Abbott. “I didn’t figure it out until about a year later.
“I kind of got drafted into service.”
Atkinson would take statewide IHSBCA office and turn over his district representative duties to Abbott, who led the group that fed the old Kokomo Regional for years.
In that role, he got to know one of the association’s founders and leaders in Jones.
“Bill was very thorough and very complimentary,” says Abbott. “He was very nice to me. He would take me underneath his wing and teach me things.”
Abbott has seen the IHSBCA membership grow. Each January, the association’s state clinic brings around 500 coaches to Indianapolis.
The latest renovation at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper is almost paid off.
“We’ve been working real hard at that the last couple of years,” says Abbott. “The coaches association put in about a third of that money — in the $240,000 or $250,000 range.
Brian and Trisha Abbott have two children — Tyler (who is married to Chelsie and have a son named Quinn) and Briley.
Brian Abbott, the executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, will go into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2020 as a contributor/coach. He is also an eighth grade math teacher in addition to serving as pitching coach at Huntington (Ind.) University.
Chip Sweet (180th HOF inductee): The 1975 Shakamak High School graduate and retired Lakers coach led his alma mater for 21 years — in two stints. His final season of 2014 culminated with an IHSAA Class 1A state championship. His youngest son, Luke, was on the team.
“It was really a pretty special experience,” Sweet said of going out on top.
Older son Josh had been on Shakamak state runner-up teams in 2004 and 2006. The 2012 Sweet-coached Lakers were also state runners-up.
An outfielder as a player, Sweet left the Hoosier State for the Sunshine State for his college baseball experience. After never having been away from home, Sweet spent five years about 1,000 miles away with two years of junior college ball at Central State Community College and three at the University of Florida.
In 1979-80, Sweet coached at Oak Hill Private School in Gainesville, Fla., where the three sons of famed slugger Roger Maris played.
Sweet said Maris did not impose himself on the program.
“He let the coaches do their coaching,” Sweet said. “He was a nice guy.”
Greg Marschand (181st HOF inductee): The 1972 Lewis Cass High School graduate and current Kings coach and athletic director played his college baseball at Columbus (Ga.) State University, where he won a school-record 32 games and learned much from the leader of the program.
“Coach (Charles) Ragsale was a fantastic coach,” Marschand said. “He molded guys from all over nation into a team. But, most of all, he taught us to be men and, on top of that, he taught us to be Christian men.”
A sign on the Cass dressing room points to Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Marschand came back from Georgia to Walton, Ind., and through 36 seasons, he had amassed 556 wins with a Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2009.
One of the fitness challenges during Cass practices is called the “Victory Field Challenge.”
“Your ultimate goal is to get back there again (at the State Finals),” Marschand said.
One of his most memorable moments came during the Kings’ annual alumni doubleheader when one of his former players landed his Black Hawk helicopter in right field just to drop in to say hello to his former coach. The player — who Marschand chose not to identify — has since served his country overseas and thrown out the first pitch at a Kings game.
“In coaching, when those kind of things happen, they are more important than any wins, championships or anything else,” Marschand said. “That was a pretty emotional time for me.”
Thanking many family and school members, Marschand also saluted 28-year assistant Steve Ford. They’ve shared many a bus ride together.
Marschand said that when he was down with major back surgery, causing him to miss half the 2016 season, the records were dug out to establish his Hall of Fame credentials.
“What an honor to be voted on by your peers,” Marschand said. “I appreciate each and every one of them for taking the time to cast the ballot to make this happen.”
Paul Ehrman (182nd HOF inductee): The veteran umpire from Batesville and 1963 Carol (Flora) High School graduate began his 49-year career of making the calls in 1964 on the high school and college level after being cut by Ball State Teachers College coach Ray Louthen for being “absolutely too slow.” He had umpired youth games back in 1958.
Ehrman worked the first IHSAA state tournament in 1967. One of his most memorable State Finals came in 1978 and 1979. Future Yankees first baseman and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Don Mattingly was on Evansville Memorial teams in those years, winning the first one and seeing a 59-game win streak end in the latter.
A baseball and basketball coach and then an AD in the early part of his career, Ehrman became an insurance salesman while continuing umpiring at many levels. He worked in 10 different states and 57 different IHSBCA Hall of Fame coaches. He logged 45 sectionals, 26 regionals, 15 semistate and eight State Finals.
“There’s some really good things and some really bad things about being an umpire,” Ehrman said. “When you’re an umpire, nobody likes you.”
But enough coaches and athletic directors liked him enough to hire him and soon he was scheduling the umpires around southeastern Indiana.
“I enjoyed every minute that I worked,” Ehrman said. There were stretches where he was gone from home more than 40 straight nights while umpiring and appreciates the support from his family.
Married to Karen on June 5, 1965, he worked through many wedding anniversaries.
“She never once complained,” Ehrman said.
Steve DeGroote (183rd HOF inductee): The retired West Vigo High School coach came to Indiana after playing high school and college baseball in Iowa.
DeGroote was on IHSBCA Hall of Fame coach Bob Warn’s staff at Indiana State University before becoming a West Vigo assistant and then head coach from 1993-2013 before another stint on the ISU staff.
DeGroote went all over the U.S. and Canada to recruit players for the Sycamores. Over the years, he noticed more and more baseball talent has turned up on Hoosier soil that has gone on to the college and pro ranks.
One of the highlights of DeGroote’s coaching career came in 2009 with a Class 3A state runner-up finish. The Vikings went into the State Finals at 28-1.
“We had so many people there in green,” DeGroote said. “(The State Finals) was important to our people.”
West Vigo won 525 baseball games on DeGroote’s watch.
DeGroote played football, basketball and baseball in high school and college and his three sons — Cory, Culley and Casey — were also three-sport athletes.
“It makes you a better warrior,” DeGroote said of the multi-sport or non-specializing athlete. “You can work out, but you can never go through warriorship like you do in competition. We don’t have that problem (at West Vigo). We really back each other (as coaches) and try to share (athletes) the best we can and it works out for us.”
DeGroote is also thankful for the lack of outside interference when coaching his athletes.
“I had no problems,” DeGroote said. “They weren’t pampered. I kept telling them, ‘if you guys keep working this hard, you’re going to get my name in the paper.’
“I knew it was more about them than it was about me … All we want is respect.”
Bart Kaufman (184th HOF inductee): The benefactor from Shelbyville was introduced by long-time friend Del Harris, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer.
“My first love was baseball,” Harris said. “We all love baseball, but nobody loves baseball any more than Bart Kaufman … How many of you played until 72 (at a Dodgers fantasy camp)?
“He’s one of the most generous and caring people I’ve known in my long life.”
Kaufman, who was nominated by the IHSBCA Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and graduated from Shelbyville High School in 1958 and Indiana University in 1962, spoke about his appreciation for the game and what it has done for him.
“Baseball has been an incredibly important part of my life. It’s permitted me to make lifelong friends like Del Harris and Bill Garrett (the first African-American to play basketball in the Big Ten Conference) … (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and IU coach) Ernie Andres had confidence in me, especially against left-handers. I wasn’t so sure … I enjoyed coaching many boys and men and teaching them the game I loved. I used the discipline that I learned from many coaches … Carl Erskine was the first to suggest I go to Dodgertown in Vero Beach (Fla.) and learn baseball the Dodger Way. Carl has been a friend ever since … Like one of my children told me, if you can’t get inducted into Cooperstown, this is about as good as you’re going to get.”
Kaufman, an outfielder, led the Hoosiers with a .452 batting average in 1961.
One of his most memorable moments came during his junior year when he helped Indiana sweep Ohio State and then got pinned to Judy and they have now been married 54 years with four children.
He went on to play and coach in Indianapolis amateur leagues. He was appointed to a committee that tried to bring Major League Baseball in Indy by Mayor William Hudnut.
Through Kaufman’s philanthropy, baseball fields at IU and Marian University and a softball stadium at the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis all bear his name. Bart Kaufman Field at IU will be the site of the Big Ten tournament May 24-28.
(From left): Don Jennings, Steve DeGroote, Greg Marschand, Paul Ehrman, Bart Kauffman and Chip Sweet.