Tag Archives: IIAAA

Becich welcoming new bunch of Wheeler Bearcats to varsity baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A new bunch of Bearcats will get a chance to make an impact on Wheeler High School baseball in 2019.

The 2018 squad had several seniors who had been playing for the school located in Union Township near Valparaiso, Ind., since they were freshmen.

Jake Armentrout moved on to Xavier University in Cincinnati. Clayton Sanders signed at the University of Saint Francis in Joliet, Ill.

Catcher Mason Diaz, a Northern Kentucky University commit who hit .388 last spring, is back for his senior year. Rex Stills, who hit .302 in 60 plate appearances as a freshman, is back for his sophomore season.

There will be opportunities for others to make their mark on varsity baseball for the first time.

How will the Bearcats go about doing that?

“We’re looking to do all the small things right and, hopefully, everything else falls in line with it,” says Kyle Becich, who is entering his ninth year with the program and fifth as head coach. “We’re rebuilding a foundation.”

Becich, who spent four seasons as a Wheeler assistant on the staff of Josh Long, counts Tommy O’Shea, Phil Sanchez, Christian Rosta and Payton Ball as assistant coaches.

The Bearcats generally have 24 players in the program for varsity and junior varsity squads. Some players swing back and forth based on the needs that day.

Wheeler (enrollment of about 540) is in the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Whiting as baseball-playing members).

Past non-conference foes have included Crown Point, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit, Hebron, Hobart, Lowell, Merrillville and North Newton. The Bearcats have met Hebron in the annual High School Baseball Challenge hosted by the Gary SouthShore RailCats at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.

Wheeler is in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Andrean, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox and Twin Lakes. The Bearcats last won a sectional title in 2008.

“It’s a tough sectional,” says Becich of a field which is full of traditionally-strong teams and produced the 2018 3A state champion (Andrean).

Wheeler plays its home games on its campus at Richard Wendt Field. Wendt, a former Wheeler coach, died in 2012.

Recent upgrades to the facility include re-building the pitcher’s mound,  installing a new home plate and pitcher’s rubber, leveling the playing surface, realigning the bases, adding new wind screens in the outfield and reworking the speaker system.

Every October, the Bearcats have a field day where players, coaches and parents put the field to rest for the winter.

During the current off-season period, the Bearcats are getting stronger in the weight room.

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, IHSAA and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association have been working together on a proposal to add an arm care program to the baseball calendar.

“I support that, especially for kids that have nowhere to throw right now,” says Becich, noting that some of his players can work out with their travel teams at indoor facilities but not all have that kind of access. “You only have one arm your entire life and so many bullets to throw. It’s best to protect it when you can.”

Wheeler baseball has also been building a relationship with Union Township Little League. Last season, players who hope to one day don the Green, White and Orange were invited to work out on the field and were treated to pizza.

Becich, 32, is a 2005 Munster High School graduate. He played baseball and football for the Mustangs then one football season at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. He finished his education degree at Indiana University in Bloomington. His first job out of college was as a social studies teacher and coach at Wheeler.

Becich credits former assistant principal Jack Schimanski for playing a major role in his development.

“He was a huge mentor for me,” says Becich of Schimanski. “I was picking his brain all the time, learning some of the minor details.”

Schimanski had been a head coach at Joliet (Ill.) Catholic High School and learned much from Gordie Gillespie, who won 1,893 games in his 58-year college coaching career.

Kyle and Kelsey Becich have two children — son Liam (4) and daughter Reese (3).

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Mason Diaz, a Northern Kentucky University commit, catches  for Wheeler High School during the 2018 baseball season. Wheeler is in Union Township near Valparaiso.

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Rex Stills crosses the plate for Wheeler High School during the 2018 baseball season. He is back for 2019. Wheeler is in Union Township near Valparaiso.

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Mason Diaz, Sam Beier, Jake Armentrout, Nate Gosbin, Adam Wagoner and Hunter Catherman line up for the Wheeler Bearcats at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. Diaz returns for Wheeler in 2019. Wheeler is in Union Township near Valparaiso.

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The Wheeler baseball team gathers during the annual High School Challenge at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. Wheeler is in Union Township near Valparaiso.

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Kyle Becich coaches third base for the Wheeler High School baseball team. The 2019 season will be his ninth in the program and fifth as head coach of the Bearcats.

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Head coach Kyle Becich (left) and assistant Tommy O’Shea watch their Wheeler High School Bearcats baseball team.

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Kyle Becich, head baseball coach and social studies teacher at Wheeler High School near Valparaiso, Ind., and wife Kelsey have two children — son Liam and daughter Reese.

 

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IHSBCA, IHSAA, IIAAA join forces on baseball arm care

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

In an effort to promote throwing and arm health, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association is joining forces with the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association to adopt an arm care/throwing program.

“We’re looking to educate our coaches so they can, in turn, educate their principals and athletic directors,” says IHSBCA executive director Brian Abbott. “We are working with the IHSAA and IIAAA on these proposals. We want it to be a collective effort and work within the confines of the process.”

The IHSBCA has submitted a proposal that would allow throwing under the supervision of a high school coach in preparation for the upcoming season. This is in addition to two hours, two days a week allowed during certain periods under the limited contact rules.

“Arm care is a part of conditioning,” says Abbott. “The only way to condition your arm to throw is to throw.”

Noting that an engine has to warm up to function in cold weather, the arm needs time to be ready for the demands of the baseball season.

“Bad things happen when you try to go too quick,” says Abbott. “We have to have a progression.  “We’re fine with the limited contact. We just need to opportunity for our players, especially pitchers and catchers, to throw.”

The IHSBCA proposal has been submitted twice — last time on July 25, 2018 by a principal and it was requested it be considered an emergency by-law. It is Abbott’s understanding that emergency by-laws can be submitted for consideration at any time outside of the team sports proposal timeline/process.

The IHSBCA would like to amend the current rule 15-2.4 (Conditioning Program) to include the following wording:

“During the School Year Out-of-Season, a student who participates in the Team Sport of baseball may participate in an arm care/throwing program that begins on M-WK 30 and continues to the official start of practice (M-WK 37). This program will involve, but not be limited to: bullpens w/ a catcher; maintenance work (bands, med. balls, etc.); partner grip work; long toss; velocity training; and general throwing mechanics.”

Abbott offers the rationale for the amendment.

“We feel that many of the arm care/throwing programs need to be under the supervision of coaches as they are the ones with the knowledge of the material and the ones with access to the school facilities,” says Abbott. “This allows multi-sport athletes to condition their arm while playing another sport (i.e. a pitcher who is playing basketball) and allows flexibility to schedule the times to do that.”

The IHSBCA sees the arm care / throwing program as best suited for conditioning and not the “2-hour” activities.

“They made need to be performed several times a week in different phases and don’t need the time blocks granted under the Limited Contact Program.” says Abbott. “In addition, this allows the high school coach to stay relevant with his athletes and keeps the athlete from paying additional dollars to get advice, promises and techniques that may not be sound.

“Arm care is a process that involves awareness, rest, and specific throwing guidelines/programs to follow in order to facilitate the safety of our young players,” says Abbott. “While most authorities on the matter realize the issue may occur at a younger age than high school, we recognize it is still our responsibility as an association to train our coaches and do all we can when an athlete is in our care.

“If we don’t do this ‘in-house’ then some outside ‘expert’ will be implementing a program that could be detrimental to our athletes.”

In a related matter, the IIAAA sent a survey to IHSAA member schools in the fall 2017 about the reduction in the number of contests for baseball and softball.

Larry Kissinger, IIAAA member and Goshen High School athletic director, shared survey results.

Eighty percent of IIAAA members responded and it was found that 67 percent of Indiana high school AD’s favored baseball and softball reducing to 24-25 contests each spring, 12 percent indicated 26-27 contests. Current IHSAA rules allow for 28 games with no tournament or 26 games with a tournament for both baseball and softball.

Abbott and Kissinger devised a survey for IHSBCA members to see if the baseball coaches were interested in a games reduction. 77 percent of the schools (248 total) responded that they were not interested in reducing the number of games.

An additional part of the survey was to assess if the new pitch count rules in 2018 caused schools to reduce games.

79 percent of the schools were unaffected by the pitch count rule at the freshmen/C-team level; 79 percent were unaffected at the JV level; and 90 percent were unaffected at the Varsity level.

As a part of the games survey, coaches also shared their general thoughts on issues that surround high school baseball.

The following points were shared multiple times by the IHSBCA member coaches:

• Schools and athletic directors that want to reduce games can currently do so on a school by school basis. There is no need to mandate a games reduction when the flexibility already exists to do so.

• If schools are concerned about student-athletes playing too many games on school nights/being out too late, then the IHSBCA can encourage schools to play mid-week games closer to home and schedule more games on Fridays and Saturdays. These dates are currently being underutilized.

• In response to the IIAAA comment about ‘stress on pitching’, the IHSBCA mentioned that our Arm Care proposal would help alleviate that concern.  In terms of the IIAAA concern about limited practice time, the IHSBCA has suggested an additional week be added to the length of the season for practice and game dates.

• Several coaches would like to see our game more respected. Indiana produces great high school players and we have coaches who do an outstanding job teaching the sport. If the IHSAA wants our coaches to coach, then we need policies that support our coaches having contact with the players (both skill-based and conditioning wise). More contact with the high school coach means less involvement with all of the travel organizations in the off-season.

• Coaches believe we should play more games to promote our sport. An extra week at the end of the season would allow more opportunities to play games and reward the hard work our coaches and players put in to preparing for the season.

• It is time for our sectional tournament to be spread over a 7-10 day time period to promote arm care, accommodate pitch count, and allow for the best quality of play. While this is not a well-received idea, it is the right thing to do with graduations, travel, and for promoting our sport.

In closing, Abbott mentioned that, “the IHSBCA favors policies that promote the needs of each individual sport. We fully support the IHSAA guidelines, but also realize each sport may have specific needs independent of those guidelines. Arm Care fits into that category for baseball and that is why we are promoting that concept.”

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In an effort to promote throwing and arm health, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association is joining forces with the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association to adopt an arm care/throwing program.