Tag Archives: IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series

Watson putting premium on running as new Providence head coach

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

Tre’ Watson played for one state championship baseball team at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., and was an assistant coach for another.
Now he’s the interim head coach for the Pioneers. His promotion was announced in late October 2022.
Watson, who turned 25 in September, helped guide players through the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period and is doing so again this winter. There has been individual skills work, including hitting and defense.
“We’re pushing baserunning,” says Watson. “That’s going to be pretty big for us.
“We have a lot of speed and a lot of smart baserunners.”
The idea is to force the opposing defense into mistakes and capitalize on them.
“That was not our M.O. when I was playing,” says Watson, noting that Providence went 27-3 his final prep season with all three losses being by one run. “We had really good pitching and offensively were good at situational hitting.”
Watson was a key member of the 2016 IHSAA Class 2A state championship squad as a senior. He drew two walks and made two putouts while playing first base and third base in the state championship game and was presented with the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award.
After an injury-plagued stint at Vincennes (Ind.) University, Watson (who has had four knee operations and one hip surgery) moved closer to home, enrolled at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and joined Scott Hornung’s Providence baseball staff for the 2018 season.
Watson worked toward the Business Administration degree he earned in 2021.
Longtime assistant Scott Hutchins took over the Providence program after the 2019 season. The Pioneers won another 2A state crown in 2021.
Eli Watson — younger brother of Tre’ — was a senior in 2021 and also was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. Eli is now a redshirt freshman outfielder at Western Kentucky University.
Providence (enrollment around 350) went 18-11 in 2022 and is an athletic independent.
The Pioneers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Paoli. Providence has won 20 sectional titles — the last two in 2021 and 2022.
Home games are contested on Pioneer Field with its turf infield and Bermuda grass outfield. The synthetic surface makes rainouts a rarity.
Among the eight seniors on the 2023 team are three college commits — middle infielder Grant Borden (Mercer University), right-handed pitcher/third baseman Cody Jackson (Anderson University) and right-hander Grant Seebold (Oakland City University). Sophomore outfielder Cole Huett, who swings and throws lefty, is verbally committed to the University of Virginia. Grant Borden is the brother of Houston Astros minor leaguer Tim Borden II.
Other impact players include seniors Nathan Julius (outfielder), Casey Kaelin (middle infielder) and Brantley Whitlock (first baseman/third baseman) and juniors Jack Beyl (outfielder/right-hander), Luke Kruer (outfielder/right-hander) and Brian Wall (second baseman).
Watson, who expects to have 25 or 26 players for varsity and junior varsity squads, counts Jay Lorenz, Jared Clemons, Brian Jackson, Scott Hornung and Reece Davis among his assistant coaches.
Lorenz squeezed home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning in the 2016 state title game.
Hornung is Watson’s father-in-law. Tre’ married Jacquie Hornung (Providence Class of 2016 and a former volleyball player at Bellarmine University in Louisville) in 2021. The couple resides in New Albany.
Tre’ Watson was born in Louisville to Charles II (aka Chuck) and Denna Watson and was raised in Jeffersonville, Ind. He was part of successful all-star teams at Jeff/GRC Little League.
Outside of coaching, Watson is business manager of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in New Albany.

Brothers Eli Watson (left) and Tre’ Watson celebrate Providence’s IHSAA Class 2A baseball state championship in 2021.
Jacquie Hornung (left) and Tre’ Watson celebrate Providence’s IHSAA Class 2A baseball state championship in 2021. The two were married shortly after this game. Tre’ and Jacquie Watson reside in New Albany, Ind.

Gries cherishes memories of coaching at Evansville Central, Tri-State Hot Stove League

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

Paul Gries has been a very active member of the Evansville, Ind., athletic community.
The Pocket City native taught for 34 years in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation — 10 at Plaza Park (K-8) and the rest at Central High School. His main subjects were Physical Education and Health.
Whatever the season, Gries was organizing and coaching youngsters in flag football, softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and more.
In 1978, he accepted an invitation to join John Wessel’s Central boys basketball coaching staff.
In 1980, he was asked to be a Bears baseball assistant.
“We hardly had a program at all,” says Gries, who took over as head coach in 1981 and began working in earnest on Central’s field.
“If you want to call it a field,” says Gries. “It was nothing. But I had dreams of what I wanted the baseball field to look like.”
With the help of players, coaches and parents, a diamond which was named in honor of Gries in 2016 (Paul Gries Field was dedicated in 2017 a few days after Gries underwent heart surgery) was steadily-crafted.
Gries, 79, was head baseball coach at Central for 21 seasons (1981-2001) before retiring at 58 and going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
His teams went 408-196 and earned the first seven sectional titles in program history (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997 and 1998) plus the first two regional championships (1981 and 1987) and only semistate crown (1987). Central lost 4-1 to the LaPorte’s mythical national champions in the ’87 state championship game at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.
Gries coached in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 1987 and was named National Coach of the Year in 2000.
“I had some good players (including 1985 graduate and future big league pitcher Andy Benes) and tied to get the most out of every player,” says Gries. “I was spending 14-hour days at Central High School. I was putting every ounce into it.
“It just wore me out.”
It was in 1987 that Gries was approached by longtime professional baseball man and Evansville resident “Singing” Ed Nottle, who had a daughter who was taught by Gries.
Nottle wanted to help Gries and other coaches raise money for their programs.
“We had car washes, candy sales and whatever you can image, but we were making making peanuts until Ed came along,” says Gries, who gathered all the high school and college coaches in town at the EVSC office and what came from planning sessions was the Friends of Bosse Field “Night of Memories.”
What began as a group of former baseball professionals who wanted to ensure that the history of Bosse Field would not be forgotten while fundraising turned into the Tri-State Hot Stove League. Gries served with that organization for 31 years, including stints as vice president and president, and is still involved.
One of the first “Night of Memories” guests was National Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Gries flew to New Jersey to bring Yogi to town.
Over the years, Evansville native and Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Don Mattingly aka “Donnie Baseball” was at the first special night and has only missed it on a few occasions.
Gries coached Taylor Mattingly (Don’s oldest son) at Central. When Don was playing for the New York Yankees, he would get in the batting cage take swings after winter workouts by the Bears.
“He’d say, ‘Paul, give me some situations.’ I’d, ‘man on third, tie game, one out in the eighth or ninth inning’ and Mattingly just hit those fly balls,” says Griese. “It was unbelievable how Mattingly prepared himself.”
The next Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in the Carson Center at the University of Evansville. A paid autograph session is slated from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time followed by a chat and live/silent auction at 6.
Featured guests include Don Mattingly, Jamey Carroll, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Barrett, Colson Montgomery, Elijah Dunham, Cameron Decker, Wayne Hagin, Denny McLain, Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles.
“He’s unbelievable,” says Gries of emcee Hagin, who has been a play-by-play man for the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. “People love listening to the stories.”
Among past guests: Mattingly, Carroll, Eickhoff, Barrett, Hagin, Gabby Allison, Rick Ankiel, Clint Barmes, Andy Benes, Yogi Berra, Raymond Berry, Lou Brock, Don Buse, Steve Carlton, Jack Clark, Roger Clemens, Danny Cox, Andre Dawson, Jim Edmonds, George Foster, Kyle Freeland, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Mark Grace, Bob Griese, Kevin Hardy, Keith Hernandez, Whitey Herzog, Paul Hornung, Al Hrabosky, Andruw Jones, Tommy John, Jim Kiick, Harmon Killebrew, Lily King, Ray Lankford, Tony LaRussa, Johnny Latner, Larry Little, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Plump, Ozzie Smith, Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Scott Rolen, Enos Slaughter, Frank Robinson, Andy Van Slyke, Lee Smith and Brad Wilkerson.
“They come from all over when they know Don Mattingly is here,” says Gries. “They can get close to him. People in New York can’t do that.”
College/Pro Football Hall of Famer Griese (Rex Mundi High School Class of 1963 and Purdue University Class of 1967) has been to many “Night of Memories.”
“We do this for the kids,” says Gries, who notes that the a non-profit group has raised close to $2 million for youth athletics and youth-focused organizations in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in three decades.
Gries says the event at its peak netted up to $90,000 in one day.
Some of the money has been given to Habitat for Humanity. Gries says Mattingly, Bob Griese, Brian Griese (Bob’s son who now coaches with the San Francisco 49ers), Calbert Cheaney (a 1989 Evansville Harrison High School graduate who played at Indiana University, the National Basketball Association and now coaches with the Indiana Pacers) and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan (who played at Evansville College and the NBA and was a longtime NBA coach) all
gave large sums to sponsor homes.
A 1961 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School, Gries’ prep baseball coach was Len Will (an Indiana Football Hall of Famer).
“He was the gentlest man that I know,” says Gries. “That was the example he shared with us (athletes).”
On the basketball court, Gries eclipsed the 40-point mark three times including a single-game record of 44. That was long before the 3-point arc was put in place. Mater Dei was led on the hardwood by Ed Schultheis in Gries’ freshman and sophomore years and Tom Gore in his junior and senior seasons.
Gries went to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) for basketball and baseball during an era when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity.
The injury bug kept biting him on the hardwood. He suffered torn cartilage working out early in his freshman year then experienced ankle and groin ailments as a sophomore and decided not to stick with the Duane Klueh-coached Sycamores.
On the diamond, Gries earned three letters (1963-65, helping the Sycamores go a combined 37-24-2) playing for Paul Wolf (who wound up as a member of both the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and ISU Athletics Hall of Fame).
One of his fond memories is playing catch with future IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tommy John and having John feed the pitching machine for him during preseason workouts before the 1961 Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School valedictorian reported to spring training.
Gries paced Indiana State in batting average, hits and runs as a junior in 1964 (.357, 25 and 20 ) and senior in 1965 (.413, 26 and 13). He hit .439 in conference games and was Indiana Collegiate Conference co-MVP with Ball State’s Merv Rettenmund (who went on to play 13 in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and California Angels and coached for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres twice, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers).
“The great thing about Paul Wolf is that he was old school,” says Gries.
Wolf was a minor league middle infielder 1926-33, including time with the Indianapolis Indians in 1930-31. He was able to pass on wisdom to Gries, who was a switch-hitting shortstop at Indiana State and moved to second base in his second of two pro seasons in the Washington Senators organization (1965-66).
“Pee Wee” (he was 5-foot-9 and 157pounds) spent much of the 1965 Appalachian League season on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after a collision at home plate.
It was during the Vietnam War era and Gries left baseball to joined the U.S. Army Reserves and got married for the first time.
“I got to see the difference between high school and college and college and pro,” says Gries. “What a big step it is.”
Divorced in 1989, Gries was single for 14 years and has been married to Mary, a fellow Catholic who moved to Evansville from Auburn, Ind., for 19 years.
Gries has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“They are the joy of my life,” says Gries. “I’m going to spend as much time with my kids as I can.”

Paul Gries.
Paul Gries at the Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories.”

Willard follows father as Eastside Blazers head coach

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

Eastside Junior/Senior High School athletics has been a big part of Cade Willard’s world all of his 23 years.
His parents — Aaron and Kerri Willard — have both been employed by DeKalb Eastern Community School District.
Cade played baseball and basketball for the Butler, Ind.-based Eastside Blazers — Jason Pierce for the first two years (2014 and 2015) and his father for the last two (2016 and 2017) on the diamond and Ryan Abbott on the hardwood.
A right-handed pitcher, Willard played three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne (2019-21). He redshirted in 2018. He appeared in 92 games (all in relief) for the Mastodons. His head coach the last two seasons was Doug Schreiber.
“Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with good coaches,” says Willard.
Graduating in 2021 as a Business Management major and Marketing minor, Willard went to work at Eastside teaching Business and Computer Science and joined his father’s baseball coaching staff.
After an IHSAA Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2021, Eastside won another sectional title in 2022. The Kelly Green & White went 26-7 in ’21 and 21-8 in ’22.
Eastside (enrollment around 380) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview).
The Blazers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Eastside has won seven sectional titles.
Aaron Willard was a North coach and Owen Willard — little brother of former volleyball/softball athlete Madison (Willard) Shelter (Class of 2014) and Cade — was the MVP at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
At the end of the season, Aaron Willard kept his athletic director tag but passed the head coaching baton to Cade.
His decision to pursue business or education and coaching was made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I grew up around Eastside my whole life,” says Cade. “It seemed right.
“It makes it more special being in your hometown.”
Aaron and elementary P.E. teacher Kerri now have more time to see right-hander Owen pitch at PFW.
Cade is also an assistant to Ed Bentley on the Blazers varsity boys basketball staff. Willard found time to lead IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities (two days a week for two hours) in the fall and will do so again in the winter, beginning Dec. 5. He will roll right from basketball to baseball on some days.
“In the fall, we got better, got in a routine and got our hitting philosophies down,” says Willard, who had eight to 10 high schoolers at each session along with a handful of junior high players. “On paper, we had our starting infield out there.
“It’s important to get kids in before the holidays. We can see what numbers we have.”
Cade wants the ones who are able to attend to get used to his practice structure.
“The past few years we’ve been successful,” says Willard. “It’s about keeping the tradition alive.
““We’re always a scrappy team. I want to get our guys ready to compete. We have a few spots to fill. We were super senior-heavy last year.
“For some it will be the first time playing varsity baseball. Toward the end of the season we’ll be alright.”
Besides Owen Willard, Class of 2022’s Nick Snyder moved on to college baseball at Indiana University Southeast.
Willard has a mixture of seasoned and younger assistant coaches.
“I think it’s important to bring on experienced guys who know what to do in different situations,” says Willard.
Eastern graduate Tony Emenhiser — who coached with Pierce and Aaron Willard — is back. Alum Gary Kaiser was also on Pierce’s staff.
Conner Dove is junior varsity head coach and is assisted by Mike Gustin. Dove was an Eastside classmate of Willard. He was a teammate of Prairie Heights graduate Gustin at Trine University (Angola, Ind.).
Willard expects to have around two dozen players for varsity and JV squads. Among returnees is Class of 2024’s Loden Johnson and Ryder Reed and Class of 2025’s Jace Mayberry.
Pitchers will be asked to throw strikes and keep the ball low and away from he middle of the plate.
“Free bases hurt,” says Willard. “You can throw two pitches for strikes and get away with it and be effective with three.
“In our non-conference games we’ll see who can throw and who cannot throw. It’ll get us ready for rather get ready for conference in the later weeks.
There will be a lot of juggling (of positions) this year for sure. We want to put the best lineup out there for conference.”
Eastside plays home contests on-campus at Michael D. Fieldler Field. The diamond played host to a fall league and has had its dugouts upgraded with other projects in the works.
Bobcat Youth League locations at Butler and Riverdale-St. Joe develop players that end up at Eastside. Fifth and sixth graders travel to play area teams, including in Hicksville, Ohio. Butler is about four miles from the Indiana-Ohio line.
The non-conference high school season tends to include Ohio opponents like Archbold, Edgerton and Fairview.
A youth camp is planned at Eastside for the spring.
“It is important to get youth kids enjoying and playing baseball
doing it the right way,” says Willard. “Dad — being AD — says that’s an area you could blossom in with time over the long run.”

Cade Willard.
Cade Willard.
Aaron Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Owen Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Cade (left), Owen, Kerri and Aaron Willard.

Hall of Famer Kas heading into second season as Lafayette Jeff assistant

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

Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022.
It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff.
That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff.
Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23.
“I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.”
Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach.
“In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control.
“For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them.
“It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.”
It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff.
“We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.”
Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation.
“I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.”
The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play.
“Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense.
“I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.”
On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.”
“If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.”
Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters.
“That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.”
The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run.
Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort.
Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title.
He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend.
He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville.
Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan.
A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems.
Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School.
For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time.
He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family.
Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends.
Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan).
Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily.
Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there.
Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.

Dennis Kas. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)
The Bronchos baseball staff of 2022. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)

Sailors brings experience as new Lafayette Aviators manager

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

Jamie Sailors knows baseball aptitude.
He’s witnessed athletes with a knack for the game since he grew up in Logansport, Ind.
Sailors moved to Brookston in the ninth grade and ended up as a 1991 graduate of Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers. The left-handed pitcher was chosen that year to participate in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
Tom Potts was Sailors’ head baseball coach at Frontier.
“He was also a football coach and very organized in his approach to practice,” says Sailors of Potts. “He was very likable. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.”
Sailors got to appear in two Colt World Series at Lafayette’s old Loeb Stadium and had numerous other games at the stadium that was built in 1940 and replaced by the new Loeb (home of the Lafayette Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball) in 2021 in Legion ball.
“What I remember about the old park is that it was historic,” says Sailors. “There were signs on the wooden outfield wall and a manual scoreboard in center field.
“There was a light pole in-play in left-center when I played.”
At 15, Sailors spent the first of four summers playing for Eric Harmon-managed Monticello American Legion Post 81 and regularly competed against Lafayette Post 11.
Logansport won the 1991 IHSAA state championship. That team featured John Curl and Willie Hilton.
Both were selected in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Curl by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Texas A&M and Hilton by the Oakland Athletics out of Eastern Illinois University.
Sailors was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1992. He was with the Rod Lovett-coached Cobras for one season
“He was a very good recruiter,” says Sailors of Lovett, who had the most pitchers drafted at any collegiate level in 1992. Three of them — Juan Acevedo, Shayne Bennett and Mike Grzanich — made it to the majors.
That first professional summer, southpaw Sailors played for the Arizona Cardinals. In 1993, he was second in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, fanning 81 in 77 1/3 innings for the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals.
He split the 1994 season between the New York-Penn League’s New Jersey Cardinals and Midwest League’s Madison (Wis.) Hatters.
“I faced some really good players in the minor leagues,” says Sailors.
Along the way, the lefty played against future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Jim Thome, MLB standouts Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and long-time pro Ryan Jackson.
Joe Cunningham was Sailors’ manager at Arizona, Johnson City and Madison. Roy Silver was his skipper at New Jersey.
“I’ve been around really good players ever since I started,” says Sailors, who was recently named as manager of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators for the 2023 season.
“It helps to recognize talent and character.”
Sailors, 50, reached out to Aviators general manager David Krakower and then met with him and team ownership and was hired to lead in a diamond space where he is very familiar.
He spent four seasons managing in the same circuit with the Danville (Ill.) Dans (2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013). He split the job with Jason Watson the final summer. Danville went 41-19 in 2006.
Future major leaguers that played for the Dans when Sailors was in charge include Louis Coleman, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Roark and Danny Worth.
So what called him to the Aviators post?
“I just want to get on a baseball field again with college players,” says Sailors is responsible for recruiting much of the 32-man roster. He is doing it through coach recommendations and information gathered on the internet.
“They’re coming from everywhere,” says Sailors of the diverse Lafayette roster. “College coaches have a good gauge of knowing what we’re looking for.
“I’m lucky I have enough connections and my network has expanded in the past few weeks.”
While about two-thirds of players are signed, Sailors says he is looking for pitchers and might have to wait until spring to sign some of them based on their spring workload.
Sailors’ coaching staff includes Doug Gove (pitching), Tyler Brown (hitting), Andrew Pratt (hitting) and volunteer James Smith (pitching).
Beginning in 2008, Sailors coached and/or was on the board of the Northern Baseball Club before that travel organization shut down. Brooks Sailors — the second of Jamie and Sarah Sailors’ three children — played for the Northern Stars and graduated from Frontier in 2020.
All but one of the players in his final travel season went on to college baseball.
Brooks Sailors is a catcher/infielder at Purdue Fort Wayne. He took 2022 as a redshirt year and has three remaining seasons of eligibility.
Jamie Sailors was head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for five campaigns (2002-06) and UWP football assistant for three (2001-03) and pitching coach at Purdue University for two (2007-08).
Doug Schreiber — who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne — then led the Purdue program.
“I learned a ton from him about how he thinks baseball and his managing of games and practices,” says Sailors of Schreiber.
One of Sailors’ Boilermaker arms was future big leaguer Josh Lindblom.
After leaving Purdue, Sailors served as strength coach at Delphi (Ind.) Community High School through the fall of 2015. He was the Oracles’ head football coach for three seasons (2009-11).
Sailors was head football coach at Frontier for six seasons (2013-18) and served as Falcons athletic director from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2018.
He is in his third year as a physical education teacher and strength coach at Logansport Junior High School. He is also on the high school football coaching staff. The Mike Johnson-led Berries went 8-3 this fall.
The Sailors now reside in Battle Ground, Ind., just outside Lafayette.
In a very sports-minded family, Sarah Sailors (formerly Laurent) went from Watseka, Ill., to earn volleyball letters at Eastern Carolina University in 1993 and 1994. She now works for the State of Indiana in Child Protective Services.
Oldest child Madisen Sailors (Frontier Class of 2017) played two volleyball seasons at UW-Platteville and is now teaching and coaching in Wisconsin while attending graduate school at UW-Madison.
Fifth grader Ryne Sailors is the youngest.

Jamie Sailors.

’22 Evansville North grad Decker adapting to life with the Dodgers

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

Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey.
Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games.
“It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way.
“As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.”
While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter.
“When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.”
Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South.
A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college.
“My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.”
Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball.
“I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games.
“I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.”
The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base.
Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities.
“I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.”
Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind.
Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12.
Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder.
“Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U.
Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla.
Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract.
Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree.
Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A.
Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance.
Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021.
Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996.
Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother.
“We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).”
Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.

Cameron Decker. (Los Angeles Dodgers Photo)
Cameron and Chad Decker from the McCutchanville days.

Cameron Decker’s first Los Angeles Dodgers organization jersey.

Cameron Decker (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Tyler Norton in Glendale, Ariz.

Purdue righty Doorn makes most of summer opportunity

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

Carter Doorn enjoyed a super season in his first summer since becoming a college baseball pitcher.
The right-hander saw limited action at Purdue University in the spring then turned heads with the 2022 Lima (Ohio) Locos of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
The 2021 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., made four mound appearances for the Boilermakers (all in relief) and went 0-0 with a 9.82 earned run average, five strikeouts and five walks over 3 2/3 innings.
Combining the regular season, a 1-2-3 frame in the July 12 GLSCL All-Star Game in Mason, Ohio, and the playoffs, Doorn pitched in 10 games (eight starts) representing the Locos and went 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 23 walks over 48 innings.
During his award-taking summer, he was named the Lou Laslo Pitcher of the Year and Tony Lucadello Top Pitcher Prospect in the GLSCL’s North Division and was also chosen first-team all-league.
Doorn fanned 11 in six innings July 15 against the visiting Grand Lake Mariners (Celina, Ohio) and whiffed nine in six frames June 21 in a road game vs. the Muskegon (Mich.) Clippers.
In a one-inning stint in Game 3 of the league championship series July 31 against the Hamilton Joes, Doorn achieved a personal-best with a 96 mph four-seam fastball.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder landed in Lima thanks to a Purdue connection. Boilers volunteer assistant coach Daniel Furuto is a former Locos manager and is the brother of 2022 Lima manager Matt Furuto. Purdue infielder Ty Gill (Valparaiso High School Class of 2021) also played for the team this summer.
Doorn’s pitch selection has changed over time. With the Locos, he used the four-seamer (which sat 90 to 92 mph), sinker, slider, curveball and change-up. He went with the four-seamer, curve and slider in 3-2 counts.
When behind in the count, Doorn would often use his sinker (combination one- or two-seamer) that goes drops and gets on the hands of right-handed hitters.
His slider — thrown in the low 80s — is a mix of a cutter and traditional slider.
“It does not have much depth,” says Doorn, 19. “It moves a lot from right to left. It moves away from a right-hander.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, his curve drops almost 12-to-6 on the clock face. It goes away from a righty and into a lefty.
“My curveball is my best breaking pitch,” says Doorn.
A “circle” change-up moves into a right and away from a lefty.
Born in Chicago, Doorn grew up in Schererville, Ind. His 11U summer was his last at Dyer (Ind.) Little League and his first in travel ball with Morris Baseball. He played for some other travel teams in tournaments, but was primarily with Morris. He spent his 17U summer with the Dave Sutkowski-coached 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs (formerly the Hammond/Morris Chiefs).
“Coach Bush is really, really wise,” says Doorn of Sutkowski. “When he says something you have to listen.”
Doorn, who committed to Purdue even before that summer leading into his senior year of high school, respects how Sutkowski takes a different group of 17-year-olds year after year and helps them find a college baseball home.
“He shows how much he cares for these kids’ development and the career they have ahead of them,” says Doorn.
Carter is the oldest of Karl and Carli Doorn’s two children. Carpenter/contractor Karl Doorn played baseball and football at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., Veterans Administration nurse practitioner Carli Doorn played volleyball and basketball and Illiana Christian High School when it was located in Lansing, Ill. Indiana Wesleyan University-bound Mia Doorn (18) played four seasons of varsity volleyball at Illiana Christian, which is now located in Dyer.
Carter spent his first two prep years at Illiana Christian and his last two at Lake Central. His head baseball coaches were Darren DeBoer with the Vikings and Mike Swartzentruber with the Indians.
“He’s an awesome dude,” says Doorn of DeBoer. “He’s super, super caring for players and the program. Being athletic director and a coach shows his devotion.
“I never had a bad experience with him. He always knows what to say at the right time. He’s really good with words.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Doorn did get to experience Swartzentruber.
“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met in my life,” says Doorn of Swartzentruber. “He always wants the best for whoever he associates himself with
“He’s a gritty coach and you can always ask him questions.”
In his one season for Lake Central (2021), Doorn was an all-Duneland Athletic Conference honoree, Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District A Player of the Year and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series selection.
The pitcher/corner infielder was also finalist for IHSBCA Player of the Year after posting strong pitching and hitting numbers. On the mound, he was 8-1 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 94 strikeouts in 48 innings with a no-hitter. He struck out 12 and 14 in consecutive starts.
He also hit .406 with 47 runs batted in and a 1.212 OPS (.522 on-base percentage plus .690 slugging average) in 28 games.
Doorn spent the summer of 2021 living in central Indiana on weekdays training at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., and playing for the Greg Vogt-coached 18U Mambas on the weekend.
Deciding he wanted to throw a baseball harder, Doorn gave up basketball after his ninth grade year and hit the weights to put some muscle on what was then a 6-3, 135-pound frame.
His goal has been to develop year after year he got to work on becoming bigger, faster and stronger at PRP while continuing work with former Morris Chiefs coach Anthony Gomez.
Thinking he would pursue a path to become a dentist, Doorn entered Purdue as a Biology major. He has since changed to Construction Management Technology.
“I grew up on the construction scene on my dad’s job sites,” says Doorn for his decision to switch majors.
Doorn, who turns 20 on Aug. 24, plans to heads back to West Lafayette a week before that. A team meeting is planned for Aug. 21, followed by six weeks or so of individual work then full team practice.
With a number of graduations, transfers and pitchers being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Doorn expects Purdue pitching staff to look much different in 2023.
Gone are all three weekend starters — Jackson Smeltz (drafted in the 10th round by the San Diego Padres), Wyatt Wendell (signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks) and Troy Wansing (transferred to Texas A&M).

Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)
Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)
Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Carter Doorn (left) and Kyle Wade. (Purdue University Photo)

A thumbs-up from Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Kolks follows Behlmer as second baseball head coach in Oldenburg Academy history

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

Patrick Kolks has given more than a third of his 31 years to Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy baseball and now he’s in charge of the Twisters.
Kolks, who was athletic director at his alma mater the past three years, was recently named as head baseball coach and facilities specialist.
A 2010 OA graduate, Kolks played four years for the man who founded the program and led it for 21 years — Doug Behlmer, who won 226 games and five sectional titles as Twisters head coach (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2021) after he aided Jeff Greiwe in coaching Milan to the IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up finish in 1999.
“He has had multiple players at the next level and a lot of them come back (to visit Oldenburg),” says Kolks. “We want to keep OA baseball on the map like it’s been for the last 20 years thanks to him.
“It was pretty impressive (the building the Oldenburg team that started out with no seniors). We competed every year when I played. We finally got over the hump and beat Jac-Cen-Del in the sectional.”
For two summers, Kolks played for the Behlmer-managed Batesville American Legion Post 271 team.
So far Kolks’ first baseball staff includes 2015 OA graduate Tyler Hogg as pitching coach as well as Behlmer.
“He’s not ready to give up baseball all together,” says Kolks, who joined Behlmer’s staff in 2015 after graduating from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., in 2014. He was a lefty-swinging catcher for the NAIA-member Saints.
OA alum Matt Bohman stepped away from the Twisters coaching staff to tend to his growing family.
Kolks says he hopes to have seven or eight not playing a fall sport at Oldenburg to come to activities during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period Aug. 29-Oct. 15.
“It’s great,” says Kolks. “I can start building that culture.”
Some players are involved in a fall baseball league.
Two members of the Class of 2023 — Cy Muckerheide and Jacob Stenger — have shown interest in pursuing college baseball.
Kolks notes that the 2021 senior class — which includes Hanover (Ind.) College baseball players Chris Hautman and Andrew Oesterling — never missed a beat going from sophomores in 2019, deprived of a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then winning the school’s first sectional title in 11 years.
As facilities specialist, Kolks is responsible for all athletic facilities and some cleaning. There are upgrades planned or underway for the private Catholic high school’s gym as well as the softball and soccer fields. Land is being sought for expansion.
The Twisters share a baseball diamond at Liberty Park in Batesville, Ind., with Batesville High School and also practices at The Plex in Batesville. The park and training facility are about seven miles from campus.
With Behlmer working a day job in Batesville, the Twisters often did not practice until 5:30 p.m. This gave players a chance to experience a gameday routine, catch up on studies and form relationships with younger teammates by giving them rides to the field.
Oldenburg Academy (enrollment around 170) is independent for athletics.
The Twisters were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2022 with Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Rising Sun and Trinity Lutheran.
Born in Cincinnati, Kolks grew up in Brookville, Ind., playing in the Cal Ripken League there and representing Franklin County in all-star tournaments.
He attended St. Michael Catholic School in Brookville through eighth grade and then went to Oldenburg Academy.
Patrick and wife Emily Kolks married in July 2016 and reside in Lawrencburg, Ind., which is about 30 miles from Oldenburg Academy.
The couple met at college. She is the sister of Thomas More teammate Sam Schmeltzer (who was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state third baseman for South Dearborn and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series player in 2007).
“She loves baseball,” says Patrick of Emily. “She knows what it’s going to entail.”
The Kolks are weekend season ticket holders for the Cincinnati Reds.
Patrick is also an avid University of Texas fan. He and Emily visited the campus for his 30th birthday. He appreciates the impact made on and off the field by former Longhorns head baseball coach Augie Garrido.

Patrick Kolks.
Emily and Patrick Kolks with the 2021 sectional baseball trophy earned by Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy.
Patrick and Emily Kolks at the University of Texas.
Patrick Kolks as an Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy player.
Matthew Bohman, Patrick Kolks and Trevor Stacy with the 2010 sectional baseball trophy won by Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy.

Former pro pitcher Wechsler hunts for gems as White Sox area scout

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

Justin Wechsler grew up playing baseball in Madison County, Ind.
Born in Anderson in 1980 and briefly residing in Texas, he landed in Pendleton and was educated there through high school at Pendleton Heights (Class of 1998.
As a right-handed pitcher, he excelled at Ball State University (1999-2001) in nearby Muncie and then had professional baseball adventures in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and in independent ball.
When his playing career was over in 2006 — the year he turned 26 — Wechsler became a car salesman.
But that wasn’t for him.
“I needed to get back into baseball somehow, some way,” says Wechsler, who spent a short time as a Ball State volunteer assistant before becoming an area scout for the Chicago White Sox.
Most days from February through the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (which was July 17-19 in 2022) see McCordsville, Ind., resident Wechsler on the road evaluating talent in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
After a short break, he goes into summer and fall coverage. He is currently in San Diego for the 2022 Area Code Games.
Wechsler uses a mix of analytics and the eye test when grading players.
“You have to know them both,” says Wechsler. “These metrics just give you another piece of information to dissect a guy. The more information the better.
“I dug in on that stuff when it came out so I could talk intelligently about it. That’s what we do. That’s our job.”
As an area scout, Wechsler does not have the authority to sign players.
“I put numbers on them,” says Wechsler. “At a certain point a cross-checker or a national guy will come in.
“You build the base so you’ve got a target in the spring.”
He wants to find players who can hit, run and throw, but there’s more to it than that.
“It’s not so much the physical tools, it’s how they’re wired,” says Wechsler. “Do they have the right make-up? Professional baseball is hard. It’s a grind. It’s long. It’s just tough. The tools are the easy part.
“Mental toughness is a portion of it. What kind of teammate are they? Are they self-motivated? Do they love the game or just like the game? Are they coachable?”
It’s often creating a portfolio that has a beginning, middle and end.
“You start to build a profile and see how they mature,” says Wechsler. “Can they handle failure? It’s a very humbling experience.
“It helps that I played and was in a clubhouse. I know that life’s like.”
Wechsler played at Pendleton Heights for Bill Stoudt, who went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2013, the Arabians’ diamond became known as Bill Stoudt Field.
“He was awesome,” says Wechsler of Stoudt, who saw the pitcher chosen for the 1998 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. “I had breakfast with Stoudty about a week ago.”
Wechsler has been known to stay at Stoudt’s Florida condo for a week at a time while attending spring training.
Wechsler met Anderson native Mike Shirley (who also played for Stoudt at Pendleton Heights) as a high schooler.
“He was one of those guys I met at a younger age when I needed guidance and advice,” says Wechsler. “I know I got lucky.”
Shirley is now Director of Amateur Scouting for the White Sox and operates The Barn training facility in Anderson.
Wechsler has been one of the pitching instructors at the facility and witnessed a long list of talent walk through the door.
“(Wapahani High School alum and St. Louis Cardinals left-hander) Zack Thompson grew up in our building,” says Wechsler.
John Miles was Wechsler’s manager with Anderson George H. Hockett American Legion Post 127.
“We were good,” says Wechsler of that Legion ball team.
At Ball State, the 6-foot, 255-pound righty learned from Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney. Over the years, he has watched him recruit players that went high in the MLB Draft (65 players have been selected 72 times with six first-rounders).
“He likes long athletic bodies,” says Wechsler of Maloney. “I probably didn’t fit his mold.”
Projectability is another key.
“You have to do that at that level,” says Wechsler.
The scout takes some credit for telling Maloney about right-hander Drey Jameson (Greenfield-Central Class of 2017), who came out of high school as a 6-foot, 145-pounder and pitched two seasons at Ball State (2018 and 2019) before being chosen in the first round in 2019 by the Diamondbacks.
“Drey is one of the most competitive human beings I’ve ever met,” says Wechsler. “He has a chip on his shoulder.
“He’s wired different than most guys.”
In 2022, 6-foot southpaw Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) was drafted in the fifth round out of Ball State by the White Sox.
“He was light-tossing lefty who dove in the weight room and brought up his velocity,” says Wechsler of Schweitzer.
Draft selections who were Wechsler teammates at Ball State include outfielder Larry Bigbie (a Hobart High School graduate who played the majors and Japan), catcher Jon Kessick, right-handers Travis Minix and Christopher Cabaj and left-hander Jason Hickman in 1999, Hickman, lefty Adam Sheefel and infielders Shayne Ridley and Jeremy Ridley in 2000, catcher Doug Boone and right-hander Jason Paul in 2001 and righty Bryan Bullington (a Madison Consolidated alum and the No. 1 overall pick) and lefty Luke Hagerty, righty Paul Henry and Boone in 2002.
Bigbie, Bullington and Shayne Ridley are in the Ball State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Wechsler took the bump 53 times for the BSU Cardinals (40 starts) and went 23-13 with a 4.69 earned run average, 219 strikeouts and 92 walks in 232 1/3 innings.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, Wechsler pitched for the rookie-level Missoula (Mont.) Osprey (2001), Low Class-A South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks (2002), High Class-A Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks (2003 and 2004) and Double-A Tennessee Smokies (2005). He was with the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots (Bridgewater, N.J.) in 2006.
His managers were Chip Hale (Missoula), Dick Schofield (South Bend), Mike Aldrete and Wally Backman (Lancaster), Tony Perezchica (Tennessee) and Sparky Lyle (Somerset).
Through Backman, Wechsler came to know Mark Haley (who managed in South Bend 2005-14 and is now 1st Source Performance Center general manager and South Bend Cubs Foundation executive director).
South Bend resident and White Sox bullpen coach Curt Hasler and South Bend Clay High School coach and former Coveleski Stadium groundskeeper Joel Reinebold is counted among Wechsler’s many friends in baseball.
Another Pendleton Heights alum and Ball State player — Aaron Etchison — is now a scout for the Cleveland Guardians.
Brock Huntzinger, who was drafted out of Pendleton Heights in 2007, was named last week by new head coach Tracy Smith as pitching coach at the University of Michigan.
Wechsler started 56 of 161 pro appearances and went 25-29 with a 4.32 ERA, 352 K’s and 169 base on balls in 426 2/3 innings.
Justin met Niles, Mich., native Ryan Davis when he was playing for South Bend and she was an intern with the team. The couple now have three daughters — high schooler Grace and middle school twins Madalyn and Makenzie.
Catcher Scott French, who played at Ball State from 2000-02 and has been an instructor at The Barn and an Indiana Bulls coach/director, was best man at Justin and Ryan’s wedding.

Justin Wechsler

Bradley’s Husmann makes habit of bashing baseballs

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

Carson Husmann was known to put baseballs in orbit while playing for the Satellites of South Central Junior/Senior High School in Union Mills, Ind.
The right-handed hitter belted 31 home runs during his prep career, including 14 as a senior in 2019.
Husmann was back at it in 2022 at NCAA Division I Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.
In 49 games (all starts), the corner outfielder hit .277 (52-of-188) with 13 homers, nine doubles, 45 runs batted in, 38 runs scored and .908 OPS (.365 on-base percentage plus .543 slugging average).
Batting in the No. 4 hole in the Braves lineup, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Husmann went to the dish with an idea.
“Hunt the fastball in the (strike) zone and don’t miss it,” says Husmann. “I can do damage with other pitches as well, but I really don’t want to miss the fastball in any count.”
While playing for the Josh Foreman-managed Moon Shots in the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park, Husmann batted .352 with two homers, eight doubles and 15 RBIs. He also socked a homer in the CSL All-Star Game and made the All-CSL team as an outfielder.
His offensive aim was to improve his small-ball two-strike approach.
“I was working on keeping the ball in the zone,” says Husmann. “Cutting down on the strikeouts is the biggest goal I had this summer.”
He fanned 67 times and walked 20 in the spring.
Husmann did not enjoy much success at the plate his first two seasons at Bradley (2020 and 2021).
In 28 games, he hit .189 (14-of-74) with three homers, two doubles, 14 RBIs and 14 runs.
“Freshman year was a blur with COVID,” says Husmann. “The following year I had an injury that no one really knew about that messed with me mentally.
“Baseball is a mental game for sure.”
Batting in the 5-hole and doing well, Husmann fouled a ball off his left ankle.
“It went down hill from there,” says Husmann. “It was something I was always thinking about.”
There was a persistent cramping feeling.
With air travel restrictions, Bradley had to hit the road.
“We went on 14-hour bus trips back-to-back-to-back and I formed a blood clot,” says Husmann. “I was taking baby aspirin.”
Husmann signed to play with the Duluth (Minn.) Huskies for the 2022 Northwoods League summer season.
But injury caused him to stay closer to home and he was with the Grand Park league champion Bag Bandits (managed by Caleb Fenimore).
That’s where Husmann began to get back on track.
“I got my head right and just went from there,” says Husmann.
At Bradley, he played for head coach Elvis Dominguez and works with hitting coach Kyle Trewyn.
“When I think of Coach D I think of how he’s created a family environment,” says Husmann of Dominguez. “(Trewyn) gets you in a good place to hit. As you get older you can do those things on your own. He always stuck with me. He’s helped me become a better hitter overall.”
Born in Valparaiso, Ind., Husmann grew up in Hanna, Ind.
He played his earliest organized baseball in Hanna then was in travel ball with the Chesterton Vipers, Michigan Blue Jays and Chicago-based Midwest Rangers and subbed with other squads.
“It was with the Blue Jays that I first got individual coaching and started to develop,” says Husmann.
As a four-year varsity player at South Central, he hit over .400 each season and drove in 112 runs in 100 games. He was a Class 1A first-team all-stater.
He was a classmate and teammate of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars MVP Kyle Schmack (now at Valparaiso University).
Ryan Kruszka, who pitched at Butler University was the Satellites head baseball coach. Former Valparaiso U. hurler Jared Miller was pitching coach.
“They had that college experience and were able to make us a better team because of it,” says Husmann. “Our conditioning was college style. It helped me know what to expect (in college).”
The first summer after high school was Husmann’s last with the Midwest Rangers.
In 2020, he was going to play in the Northwoods League with the Lacrosse (Wis.) Loggers. When that team played a modified season because the pandemic, Husmann was able to get in his reps with the Long Boarders of the San Diego League.
He learned about the SDL from Bradley teammate and San Diego native Connor O’Brien.
Husmann, 21, will head back to college with two years of remaining eligibility.
He is 10 hours shy of earning his Business Management and Leadership degree. He expects to be a graduate student in the spring while he works toward a Master of Business Administration.
“If the (Major League Baseball First-Year Player) Draft isn’t an option, I’ll use that fifth year for sure,” says Husmann, a regular on the Bradley Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. “I thought of getting a minor or a second major. But an MBA is a way to separate you from others.”
Carson is the second of Lance and Kim Husmann’s three sons. Cooper (24) played basketball and baseball at South Central and graduated in 2016. Cade (20) was in the South Central Class of 2020.
Former longtime union painter Lance Husmann works at Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Ind. Kim Husmann has worked as a teacher’s assistant.

Carson Husmann (Bradley University Photo)
Carson Husmann (Josh Schwam/Bradley University Photo)

Carson Husmann (Josh Schwam/Bradley University Photo)

Carson Husmann (Josh Schwam/Bradley University Photo)

Carson Husmann (Josh Schwam/Bradley University Photo)

Carson Husmann (Josh Schwam/Bradley University Photo)

Carson Husmann (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)

Carson Husmann (College Summer League at Grand Park Photo)