Andy McManama has learned there is power in precision when it comes to life and baseball and has demonstrated this as an an instructor/mentor at World Baseball Academy and assistant coach at Carroll High School — both in Fort Wayne, Ind. His father — Terry McManama — was a longtime assistant coach to Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of FamerMark Grove and a Business teacher at Churubusco (Ind.) High School that passed along the importance of structure to he and wife Marla’s only child. “It’s being on-time and being detailed,” says Andy McManama. “There’s work to be done. If we practice hard we can have fun and play games, but we have to make sure our work is getting done first.” His grandfather owned a horse farm and was involved in harness racing. Andy was a 9-year Whitley County 4-H Horse & Pony Club member and worked his way through the offices of secretary, treasurer, vice president and president. The fairgrounds are in Columbia City. “Growing up whether it was the baseball side or having a horse side it’s we’ve got some work to do to take care of things,” says McManama. “That’s always been a family thing — working hard for what you have.” McManama grew up attending many World Baseball Academy programs, played catcher at Carroll for head coach and NEIBA Hall of Famer Dave Ginder and graduated in 2009 — the same year he became a World Baseball Academy intern with the RBI program (now On Deck Initiative for underserved and at-risk boys and girls). Andy has applied his guiding principles as an instructor as well as Ginder’s bullpen coach. He has been on the staff since 2016. “I’ve enjoyed being in that program and just how much attention to detail there is,” says McManama. “It’s how my brain functions and is wired. “We dot our i’s and cross our t’s. Our kids play hard. That hasn’t changed since before (Ginder started leading the Carroll program).” The IHSAA adopted a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) that went into effect during the 2017 season and rule now includes all levels. “I think it works well,” says McManama. “It all comes down to player safety. With 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, their bodies are still developing. It’s really good from not overusing (their arms). “The IHSAA has done a good job. It’s regulated now. It’s not just a free-for-all or everybody can do whatever they want.” McManama notes that all pitch counts are not the same. “A 100-pitch seven-inning outing is completely different to a 100-pitch three-inning outing,” says McManama. “You could have three high-stress innings and that makes a big difference. “If a kid has 60 to 80 pitches through three he probably isn’t going to make it to his 100 or 120 unless you have to. Those are high-stress innings that don’t help the kids arm or body for sure.” Coach Mac has served in several capacities at the ASH Centre, including tournament director and director of operations. This year, he took a full-time job with Allen Business Machines but still provides group and one-on-one lessons at World Baseball Academy two times a week as well as helping at Carroll. “I enjoy working with catchers and pitchers quite a bit,” says McManama. “Lesson-wise we’ll do it all.” With World Baseball Academy, McManama traveled to Bulgaria and worked with the Bulgarian Baseball Federation in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 made a visit to Kenya in 2013. A group from Bulgaria came to Fort Wayne in 2014. “Those trips are eye-opening,” says McManama. “You see how other kids live and interact on the other side of the world. “It’s a humbling experience on how many things we have here that we take for granted sometimes. It makes you appreciate a lot more. “Being able to work with kids and see them grow — not just from an athletic perspective but as a young adult — is pretty gratifying to me.” Locally, the WBA partners with schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne through its On Deck Initiative. There are more than 1,000 kids involved in the program. McManama was raised as a Chicago Cubs fan and attended his first game at Wrigley Field while in elementary school. At the horse farm, the radio was often tuned to the Cubs broadcast with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the spring or summer and Purdue football or basketball in the fall or winter. “I actually prefer the radio broadcast for the Cubs rather than TV sometimes,” says McManama. “(Hughes and Santo) kept it interesting.” Santo went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012. Hughes is the Hall of Fame’s 2023 Ford C. Frick Award winner. McManama was in Cincinnati when Sammy Sosa slugged his 500th career home run April 4, 2003. The clout came on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Scott Sullivan and the opposite-field blast sailed over the wall in right. More proof of his Cubs leanings: Andy has two female dogs named Ivy (8-year-old Australian Shepherd) and Wrigley (14-year-old Beagle/Lab mix). Andy resides in Fort Wayne and is engaged to Tabitha Marrs.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Cory Blocker moves up from varsity assistant to head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., in 2022-23. Borrowing a motto from another coach, Blocker wants the Knights to be “efficient.” “In practice drills, we’re not standing around but getting plenty of swings and taking game-like reps,” says Blocker, who wants to see efficiency in the field, on the mound and in the batter’s box. Southwood left 6.6 runners on base per game and committed 88 fielding errors in going 5-17-1 in 2022. “We want to make the plays behind our pitchers,” says Blocker. “We want to have an (offensive) approach and understand our job each time we go to the plate. We’ll try to put ourselves in the best position to achieve that job.” If the Knights have a runner on first base, the job will entail moving them at least to second base. “We want to make (opposing) pitchers work and make every out count,” says Blocker, who wants to see his hitters make contact and increase their batting average on balls in play. Pitching efficiency includes mechanics, throwing strikes and liming walks. Among Southwood returnees for 2023 is senior catcher Mo Lloyd, who hit .452 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in for 2002 and hitting .480 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs for a 22-7 team in 2021. Besides Blocker, the coaching staff features returnees Danny Lloyd and Christian Deeter and newcomers in pitching coach Kyle Zerfas and junior varsity coach Tanner Chamberlain. There were about 25 players in the program — varsity and JV — in 2022. Blocker is in his eighth year as a Southwood teacher. He instructs sixth grade math and is at the junior/high school building for the first time in 2022-23. He has been a baseball and football assistant for seven years. This fall, he was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach. The 2022 Southwood football team went 7-3. Because of when Blocker was named head coach and his football duties, there were no IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall. The Knights play home games on-campus on a facility sometimes called “The Launching Pad” for its cozy dimensions. Blocker says its about 280 feet down the foul lines. Wabash Little League serves Wabash County and feeds players to Southwood, Manchester, Northfield and Wabash high schools. Southwood (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). In recent seasons, TRC teams met each other once during the season. There is no conference tournament. The Knights part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield and West Central. Southwood has won five sectional titles — the last in 2021. A 2009 graduate of Huntington (Ind.) North High School, Blocker played four years of football, three of baseball and two of basketball. His head coaches were Rief Gilg (the Vikings went 8-3 in 2008, Blocker’s senior year on the gridiron), Russ Degitz and Eric Foister. “A lot of our time in baseball was spent with the little details,” says Blocker of Degitz. “He was a big fundamental guy. “They were all coaches that were hard on you but cared about you at the same time and made sure that was relayed in everything they did.” Blocker spent two years at Purdue University and four at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, graduating in 2015. Cory and Brittany Blocker have been married five years. The couple resides in Wabash and has three children — daughter Wrenley (3), son Wesley (1 1/2) and daughter Willow (almost eight months).
Kurt Kyle took over as head baseball coach at South Putnam Middle/High School in Greencastle, Ind., for the 2022 season. As he gets his Eagles ready for 2023, there are a few things he sees as important. “We want to continue to have a (junior varsity) and go down to the (South Putnam Youth League) and build our program back up,” says Kyle. “We want to make the routine plays. You should look to better yourself every practice. “Don’t beat yourself up on errors. Let stuff go or it’s going to haunt you the rest of the game.” As Kyle sees it, pitchers “have a job to do.” “Don’t let batters or runners get in your head,” says Kyle. “We have defense behind you. “I want to win, but I want to see you guys progress throughout the season.” A fan of “small ball” — things like bunting and hitting behind the runner — Kyle wants his team to put that into their arsenal. “A lot of teams in (the Western Indiana Conference) do it,” says Kyle. “It’s a lost art around (Putnam County).” South Putnam (enrollment around 385) is a member of the WIC with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, Indian Creek, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo. Each conference foe meets once each. The Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage and Southmont. South Putnam has won four sectional championships— the last in 2010. IHSAA Limited Contact Period activity began from the week of Labor Day and wrapped past week. With most baseball players in the school involved with football, Kyle had about eight at twice-a-week sessions. The Eagles play home games on Dalton Field, which is characterized by the short distance from home plate to the back stop (Kyle estimates 10 feet) and the left field fence (the coach guesses less than 300 feet). Bill Jackman is one assistant coach and Kyle says he hopes to bring in Mike Wolvin as the other. Gavin Eyster (Class of 2023) plays travel baseball. Kyle says he could play in college. As a feeder system, there is South Putnam Youth League (T-ball to 12U) and middle school club ball (grades 6-8) which plays its games at the high school. A 1994 graduate of Cloverdale (Ind.) High School, Kyle served as an assistant or middle school coach at his alma mater before taking over as head coach in 2019. He led the Clovers through 2021. Kyle played at Cloverdale for head coach Sonny Stolz. “He was old school an tough-nosed,” says Kyle. “He never let us get away with anything. “He was tough on me. I was a catcher all four years.” Kyle is employed by Crown Equipment Corporation in Greencastle, where he builds and repairs lift trucks. Kurt is married to Jessica. Between them they have four children (three girls) — Kendra (22), Kayla (20), Keenan (13) and Olive (9).
Fundamentals will be a priority as new head baseball coach Greg Taylor begins to make his imprint on the program at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind. Taylor has been guiding the Braves on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the current IHSAA Limited Contact Period. “We’re establishing fundamentals from the very beginning and preparing them for off-season drills,” says Taylor, whose players will take part in weight training, arm conditioning and have a chance to hit in the “barn” as Indian Creek gets prepared for the 2023 season. “Our strength and conditioning coach (Bram Wood) is fantastic. (Strength training) gives them the advantage of being physically fit and it plays into health. The boys miss less (play and practice time) and are not hurt as often.” Taylor notes that Wood’s training is sports-specific, even geared to positions within sports. Three assistant coaches — Chris Steinway, Mark Ferguson and Craig Davis — were part of the IC staff a year ago. Tim Guyer is new to the program. The Braves look to field varsity and junior squads in 2023. Indian Creek (enrollment around 625) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo). The Braves were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Brown County, Edgewood, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo. Indian Creek has won six sectional titles — the last in 2019. A fieldhouse, which will be used by baseball and other teams, is under construction at Indian Creek. The location of the softball field has been moved. Turf was added to the football field for this fall and is available for baseball and other squads to practice on when their diamonds are too wet. There is a movement to establish a middle school baseball program that would play as a club sport in the spring. Meanwhile, the high school staff is working with local youth league and travel ball players. “We want them to engage in our program,” says Taylor. “That’s an important thing — getting a feeder program following the same philosophy, fundamentals as high school.” A volunteer years ago at Indian Creek when Brian Luse was head coach, Taylor followed Luse to Franklin Community. Recent Indian Creek graduates who moved on to college baseball include the Class of 2018’s Dylan Sprong (Franklin, Ind., College) and 2019’s Dustin Sprong (University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.) and Wyatt Phillips (University of Indianapolis). For several years, Taylor has coached travel baseball. The last four years have been with the Shelby County Cubs. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Taylor is a 1992 graduate of Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, where he played four years for Spartans head coach Tom Muth. “We did a lot of fundamental work,” says Taylor, who was a shortstop. He played two years each for Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Jerry Blemker at Vincennes (Ind.) University and Gary Hogan at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Taylor was selected in the 40th round of the 1996 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. The switch-hitting middle infielder played through 1998. Future National League MVP Jimmy Rollins was a teammate on the 1997 Piedmont Boll Weevils and 1998 Clearwater Phillies and the two sometime roomed together on the road. A senior director in medical affairs for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Greg has been married to Kate for 25 years. Kate Taylor is in public relations and coaches diving at Indian Creek. The couple has two children — Ella (16) and Grayson (13). Ella Taylor is a junior diving and track athlete at IC. Indiana Creek seventh grader Grayson Taylor is in baseball, tennis, basketball, diving and track.
Steven Mirizzi enjoyed his previous coaching assignment, but has made a move that brings him closer to home. Mirizzi, who lives in Avon, Ind., with fiancee’ Tiffany Herr and three children (son Jackson, 9, daughter Mackenzie, 5, and son Keegan, 3) has gone from head coach at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind., to head coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School. He lives about 10 minutes from the Home of the Quakers. It was about an hour commute to Indian Creek. Jackson plays travel baseball (Indiana Bulls 10U Black with his father as coach) and Mackenzie is in competitive cheerleading. Steven Mirizzi balances family and his own lawn care service. “Leaving Indian Creek was really hard. I think they will have a strong shot at winning the (Western Indiana) Conference and the sectional (in 2023),” says Mirzzi, who led the Braves program 2018-22 with sectional crowns in 2018 and 2019 and a regional tile in 2018. “I am very grateful that (athletic director) Derek Perry, (principal) Luke Skobal and (superintendent) Dr. Tim Edsel gave me the opportunity to lead their program. They are some of the most-memorable seasons of my coaching career. “(Moving to Plainfield) came down to having a chance to compete at the highest level in a good conference.” Plainfield (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian and Whiteland). The Quakers were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Plainfield has won eight sectional titles — the last in 1997. Mirizzi was hired in early August and from the time of his call-out meeting through the IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices drawing 25-plus players each time out and now wrapping up with a Red-Blue World Series, lofty goals have been set. “We have high expectations,” says Mirizzi, who takes over a program that was 6-22 at the varsity level in 2022. “We want to win 20 games every year and compete for conference and sectional championships. “We want to win a state title.” Plainfield just broke ground on turf fields for baseball and softball, which are expected to be ready next spring. The baseball field already has stadium seating dugout-to-dugout and will get new fencing. “I want to get the community excited again about Plainfield baseball,” says Mirizzi. “We have a good dynamic for our coaching staff. We will be able to develop our guys through the program and make our varsity competitive.” The varsity staff includes Tyler Brown (pitching coach) and Eric Farley (former Indiana University catcher and local youth coach) with Steve Fuson returning as head junior varsity coach and Mike Harper back as head freshmen coach. Plainfield alum Noah Lane also returns and helps at also levels. Fuson is also a director for the Plainfield Havoc, which serves as a feeder program for the Quakers. Mirizzi and company are looking for pitchers who can compete in the strike zone to keep the team in games. “We want to let (defenders) make plays and limit walks,” says Mirizzi. “I’m excited about our defense and offensive lineup. We have strong senior group.” Among returning regulars in the Class of 2023 are Mason Birke, Noah Hessong, Maddox Holtsclaw, Cooper Martin and Bryce Pax.
Mike Werling sees a diamond in the rough. The new head baseball coach at Fort Wayne (Ind.) North Side High School knows there’s been tough times for the Legends and plenty of challenges lie ahead, but his is hopeful he can turn around a struggling program. “It’s going to take time,” says Werling. “We’re going to take our licks (in 2023). I’m looking for commitment and improvement from day to day. “We have the talent to compete. We might sneak up on people that overlook North Side this year. It could be a fun ride.” The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period is in full swing and the Legends work out Mondays and Wednesdays at Carington Field, which is about four miles southeast of the school. There are senior captain-led stretches, throwing projections with Tom Emanski drills, full infield/outfield cut-off work, drop-step drills for outfields and Pitchers Fielding Practice to name a few. “We want to make sure kids know what they’re doing now so it’s not an issue in the spring,” says Werling, who is helped by assistant coaches Reggie Williams and Dezmond McNeilly. Fort Wayne North Side (enrollment around 1,520) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne). SAC games are played in home-and-home series and some Saturday doubleheaders. “It’s a very big, very tough conference for baseball,” says Werling. The Legends were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Columbia City, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. North Side is seeking its first sectional title. Hamilton Park Little League feeds the Legends program. “There is a negative stigma for North Side baseball. It’s a matter of changing the culture and making the kids excited about wanting to come out there.” Werling says having Williams as Hamilton Park Little League president will help spread the word and lift up Legends baseball in a positive light. Two players from the Class of 2023 — righty-swinging shortstop/third baseman Gabriel Oliva and left-handed pitcher Christian Cox — have been getting looks for bigger colleges. Welling, who took his new post at the end of August, was pitching coach at North Side 2019 to 2021 and was junior varsity coach at his alma mater — Heritage Junior/Senior High School in Monroeville, Ind., in 2022. Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer Dean Lehrman has been a head baseball coach for 43 seasons — nine at Woodlan and the past 34 at Heritage. “Coach Dean is a special guy,” says Werling, who was a left-handed pitcher for Lehrman and graduated from Heritage in 2008 then at Ohio Northern University for one season and the Portland Rockets before a labrum injury caused him to stop. “There are mannerisms and ways about him he had then and nothing’s changed. They are the same drills and same workouts. He’s big on the little things and fundamentals. And there’s commitment.” “My Dean Lehrman comes out all the time in practice. He’s built a very successful program in his time there. What he does works.” Prior to coaching at North Side, Werling works 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at Sauder Manufacturing in New Haven, Ind., where he drives a forklift.
Ty Neal is the new head baseball coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School. While transitioning his wife and three children from southwestern Ohio to central Indiana, Neal embraces the expectations that come with leading the Greyhounds and performing in a community that demands excellence. “This is the only high school job in the country I would have moved my family for,” says Neal, a former Indiana University assistant and University of Cincinnati head coach who is married to Christine and has sons Silas (14) and Beckett (12) and daughter Paisley (9). “I owe it to myself and my family to surround us with high-level people. “I’m excited because it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.” Both Neal boys were born in Bloomington. “I’ve built so many relationships in Indiana,” says Ty Neal. “This is a great opportunity for my family to get back to the great state of Indiana.” The competitive environment and lofty standards at his new school district suit Neal. “The reason people are so critical of Carmel they expect so much out of everyone,” says Neal, who was hired in July. “As a coach that’s all positive. “I want be held under a microscope and perform at a high level every single day of my life.” After serving as the Director of Pitching at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., November 2018 to October 2019, Neal led the baseball program at Loveland High School (enrollment around 525) in the Greater Cincinnati area in 2020 and 2021. The Tigers did not play any games in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmel (enrollment around 5,225) is currently an athletic independent. The Greyhounds were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. Those schools have combined for nine State Finals appearances — two each for Carmel (1997, 2000), Fishers (2018, 2021) and Westfield (1998, 2009) and one apiece for Hamilton Southeastern (2019), Noblesville (2014) and Zionsville (2016) with state titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019. Carmel has earned 13 sectional championships — the last in 2016. Neal intends to bring consistency as he builds the culture of his Greyhounds program. “That starts at the top,” says Neal. “These are 14- to 18-year-old young men that have so many moving parts in their lives. “I want to be consistent in my demeanor, expectations and standards for them. We show up everyday and there’s no surprises. We’re not going to get in mid-season and change the way we do things. We’re not going to panic. “There’s a comfort level that comes with consistency where — hopefully — you can bring out the best in everyone.” Neal, who has targeted potential assistant coaches, conducted a recent player-parent meeting to shake everyone’s hand and is planning to start IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Sept. 13. Carmel plays its home games on Hartman Field. “I think it’s awesome,” says Neal. “It’s a brand new turf field with lights that I can turn on and off with an app on my phone.” To serve a community that features the Carmel Dads Club, Carmel Pups travel baseball and teams at Carmel Clay Schools’ three middle schools — Carmel, Clay and Creekside — Neal plans a five-week middle school camp. “I want to build relationships with the middle school coaches,” says Neal. “We’ll have similar concepts so we’re not starting from scratch freshman year.” The Greyhounds routinely send players on to college baseball. Three alums — Ryan Campbell, Conrad Gregor and Tommy Sommer — are current or recent pros. Born in West Elkton, Ohio (Dayton area), former left-handed pitcher Neal is a 1995 graduate of Preble Shawnee Junior/Senior High School in Camden, Ohio. He earned four letters at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) 1996-99 and was team captain in 1999 and secured a Sport Management degree. Tracy Smith was his head coach. Neal served as Smith’s pitching coach at Miami in 2000 and 2005 and was an assistant to Dan Callahan for three seasons (2001-03) at Southern Illinois University while getting a Masters of Sport and Fitness Administration/Management. He was pitching coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League‘s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the summer of 2002. There was one season as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004) and four as head coach (2014-17). When Smith became head coach at Indiana, he brought Neal along and he was top assistant and recruiting coordinator for eight seasons (2006-13). He was also pitching coach for six of those campaigns and infield/third base coach for two. The Hoosiers went to the College World Series in 2013. “He gave me an opportunity to help the team,” says Neal of the coach-player relationship with Smith (who is now head coach at the University of Michigan). “I had to grow up a lot under him. “I learned from him to be agile and open to new things and learning. You change things when you need to.” Neal was Smith’s Quality Control Analyst at Arizona State University in 2018. While in Ohio, he created Serving Baseball Passion as a platform to share his knowledge with younger players. In addition to coaching, Neal teaches Special Education at Carmel High School.
Corey Scott — who is in his second stint as head baseball coach at Anderson (Ind.) Preparatory Academy — says the Jets are looking to establish a culture of success. “We’re still a relatively-new school,” says Scott, noting that APA opened as a middle school in 2008, grew into a K-12 school and had its first year of IHSAA tournament eligibility in 2015-16. “We want to get to when we can be competitive on a game-to-game basis.” Scott was an assistant coach when the Jets were still in a probationary period in 2015 and were not eligible to participate in sectional play after posting an 11-10 record. “We were pretty solid,” says Scott of that ’15 team. The 2022 team included 14 players with just one senior and two juniors. APA went 0-15. Scott moved up from assistant to head coach three weeks into the season. Scott is entering his 10th year at Anderson Prep, where he is also the head boys basketball coach. “We were extremely young last year,” says Scott, whose Jets went 1-21 on the hardwood. Anderson Prep (enrollment around 250) is part of the 10-member Pioneer Conference (with Bethesda Christian, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor, Seton Catholic and University playing baseball and International not having a program). The Jets hosted an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. APA has not yet won a sectional championship. APA plays home games at Memorial Field — less than a mile from campus on 29th Street. The Jets conduct most practices on the school’s practice football field. They worked out once each at Memorial Field and at Liberty Christian — about a mile away on Columbus Avenue — then hosted an IHSAA Class 1A Sectional at Memorial Field in 2022. Anderson High School just built two new on-campus diamonds. Scott is hopeful that will mean more access to Memorial Field. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15, but many players will be busy with soccer. Scott says he hopes an assistant coach — as yet unconfirmed — can lead baseball players through workouts this winter while he is occupied with basketball. Scott is a 1995 graduate of Daleville (Ind.) High School, where he played hoops for Broncos head coach Everett Gates and on the diamond for Mike Reese and was later his assistant for five years while Daleville won its first two baseball sectional titles (1999 and 2000). After high school, Scott played basketball for two years at Glen Oaks Community College (Centerville, Mich.) then transferred to Anderson (Ind.) University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and began coaching — first as a volunteer — and then as a paid assistant for basketball and baseball. Scott is an elementary Physical Education and middle School Health teacher for APA. Corey and wife Erin Scott have two sons — Jack (19) and Ben (17). Jack Scott played soccer, basketball and baseball at Anderson Prep. After finishing U.S. Army basic training, he will start his sophomore year at Ball State University. Ben Scott is an APA senior who plays basketball and baseball.
Chad Patrick is in his second professional baseball season in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. He turned 24 on Aug. 14 and recently joined the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops of the High-A Northwest League. Patrick has been pitching more than half his life. The right-hander was an 11-year-old at DeMotte (Ind.) Little League when he first took the mound. For years, he got pitching lessons from Joe Plesac and continued to develop as he moved up through Little League, Crown Point (Ind.) Babe Ruth Baseball and into high school. Born in Crown Point, Patrick moved from Hebron, Ind., to DeMotte for grades 1-7. With a chance to play ball with his cousins and to be another generation of his family to be educated there he came back to Hebron. Chad Patrick and Tyler Patrick graduated there in 2017 and Travis Patrick got his diploma in 2018. The Hebron Hawks were coached by John Steinhilber. “I like John,” says Chad Patrick. “He’s always been good to me.” Hebron amassed double digits in victories in each of the four seasons Patrick was on the varsity, including 21 his junior year of 2016 and 29 in his senior season of 2017 with a pair of IHSAA Class 2A sectional and regional titles. Patrick was named all-conference, all-area and all-state. With a chance a consistent playing time and development, the son of Dan Patrick and Jackie Edwards stayed close to home for college and went to NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest, which has campuses in Hammond and Westville. As part of the the PNW Pride, Patrick played for head coach Dave Griffin and they became close. “I think of him as my second dad,” says Patrick of Griffin. “He took care of me there. He was there any time I had a question. “Right when I met him he told me I had the stuff to be a professional baseball player. He sold me on going to Purdue Northwest instead of D-I opportunities. “He gave me that confidence.” In four college seasons (2018-21), Patrick appeared in 32 games (27 starts) and went 12-12 with a 3.36 earned run average, 211 strikeouts and 64 walks over 166 innings. Patrick has about a year to go to complete a Business Management degree. Griffin, who runs Dave Griffin’s Baseball School (a training facility with travel teams in Griffith, Ind.), has that kind of diploma. “At some point I’d like to do that on the side,” says Patrick. “Not for the money but to give back to kids and whatnot.” His pitching coach at PNW was Shane Prance. “He’s become a really good friend of mine,” says Patrick of Prance (who is now head baseball coach at Portage High School). “He helped me out last off-season and will probably help me this off-season. It depends if I spend it in Arizona or Indiana.” The righty spent the summer of 2018 with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen (Whiting, Ind.) and the summers of 2019 and 2020 with the Northwoods League’s Traverse City (Mich.) Pit Spitters. Patrick was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He got into two games with the Low-A California League’s Visalia (Calif.) Rawhide and went 0-0 with 4.76 ERA, six strikeouts and one walk over 5 2/3 innings. Spring training for 2022 in Scottsdale, Ariz., saw Patrick break his right wrist. He was a part of pitchers’ fielding practice on a half field when he fell on concrete. He did a rehab stint with the Arizona Complex League’s Diamondbacks Black then moved on to Visalia and then Hillsboro. For the season, he had made eight appearances (five) and is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and nine walks over 21 2/3 innings. Patrick is part of a five-man rotation. “I’ve got a routine now,” says Patrick, who does interval training and some light running or biking on the day after a start, long toss and a bullpen session on Day 2 and then does lifting and works on his pitches leading up to the next start and a chance to compete. “That’s my greatest asset,” says Patrick of his competitiveness. “I’m going to have my best stuff. Nobody likes to lose at what they’re good at. “What I’ve learned about myself (as a pro) is that it’s a grind and I have the will to work hard everyday. I show up everyday with a good attitude. It comes pretty easy to me. “If you love what you do you’re not working.” The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder uses three pitches form a three-quarter arm slot — slider, four-seam fastball and change-up. His slider runs away from a right-handed hitter. His four-seamer gets up to 94 mph. “My change-up, I just learned in it Visalia,” says Patrick. “It’s probably my best pitch right now. It just dives.” Dan Patrick works for Area Sheet Metal in Hobart. Jackie Edwards is a Registered Nurse. Chad has three older sisters (Katrice, Taylor and Shanan) and a younger brother (Cole). The girls were in various sports at Kankakee Valley. Cole participated in swimming and track and spent two years each at Kankakee Valley and Hebron.