Blade Rheinhart is leading the baseball program at his alma mater with responsibility and discipline as points of emphasis. “I like to keep kids disciplined — on and off the field — that creates better young gentlemen,” says Rheinhart, a 2014 graduate of Southern Wells Junior/Senior High School in Poneto, Ind., who took over the Raiders prior to the 2020 season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We do a lot of reflection.” Rheinhart expects to have 10 or 11 seniors in 2022 — many of them who played at what is now Blackford Youth Baseball coached by his father Art Rheinhart and himself, including little brother Branson Rheinhart. “They know my expectations,” says Rheinhart. “They know how things are going to be done and what it takes to possibly turn the program around. “We should be very productive.” Senior Evan Reynolds is to sign next week to study and play college baseball at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne and some other Raiders are considering their college options. Evan Huffman, a 2017 Southern Wells graduate who played at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, has joined a Raiders coaching staff which also includes Brett Vickery and Tyler Sonnigsen. Huffman was a high school classmate of Brennen Rheinhart, Blade’s middle brother and son of Art and Brandy Rheinhart. Southern Wells (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Adams Central, Bluffton, Heritage, Jay County,South Adams and Woodlan). In 2021, the Raiders were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. Southern Wells has not yet won a sectional title. The Raiders’ home field is on-campus and gets year-to-year maintenance. Southern Wells once had junior high baseball, but does not currently. Local players can go to three different youth baseball leagues— Blackford, Bluffton and Warren. Rhinehart decided he wanted to be a teacher and coach during his freshmen year at Southern Wells. He went on to earn an Elementary Education degree at Ball State University in 2018 and now teaches sixth grade math at Blackford Intermediate School in Hartford City, Ind. “I knew the path I wanted to take,” says Rheinhart. “I had excellent teachers throughout my whole career. I wanted their job. Sports a huge part of my life.” Rheinhart played baseball and basketball at Southern Wells. His head baseball coaches were Keith Kinder (2011 and 2012), Chad Smekens (2013) and Ben Mann (2014). Leading the Raiders in basketball were Ryan Thomas (2010-11 and 2011-12) and Brody Tarter (2012-13, and 2013-14). Another generation came into the Rheinhart baseball family this year. Two days before Southern Wells’ first baseball game in 2021, Blade’s son William was born. Three days later, the baby was at his first contest.
Kristian Gayday was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., and that’s where he learned about baseball and where he continues to share his knowledge. Gayday, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, is heading into his fourth season as an assistant coach at the University of Saint Francis, located on the Summit City’s west side. Growing up near Waynedale on the south end of town, Gayday played at Don Ayres Little League, travel ball for the Aboit Braves and Fort Wayne Cubs (coached by Cisco Morales) then played on the last four teams at Elmhurst High School (it ceased to be a high school after 2009-10) and four years at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne). He has coached in the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks travel organization (formerly Fort Wayne Cubs). Gayday played three seasons for Eddie Fields and his senior year for Zac Pace at Elmhurst, helping the Trojans go 18-7 and win the program’s first sectional title in eight years. A power-hitting shortstop, he was named all-Summit City Athletic Conference and all-area as a senior. “(Pace) did a good team with a senior-laden team,” says Gayday. Bobby Pierce was the coach of the IPFW Mastodons and Gayday played shortstop or third base from 2011-14. A righty swinger, he hit .274 (183-of-667) with 16 home runs, two triples, 31 doubles and 104 runs batted in 201 games. “He’s such a cool person,” says Gayday of Pierce. “He’s figure out a way to develop guys. He’d break down the swing and show different perspectives. “He taught me most of what I know today and was such a good mentor.” In 2015, Gayday played mostly as a corner infielder for the Sonoma (Calif.) Stompers of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. That team was managed by Japan native Takashi Miyoshi. Gayday, who has worked at The Diamond Baseball & Softball Academy in Fort Wayne, was called away from coaching a Fort Wayne Diamondbacks team to play for Sonoma. He anticipates coaching for the Manny Lopez-led D-backs in 2022. At Saint Francis, Gayday is on the staff of Cougars head coach Dustin Butcher. “He’s such a likable guy,” says Gayday of Butcher. “You know he has your back. “I’m grateful to have him around and being a mentor to me.” Primary duties for Gayday include working with USF hitters and infielders while also aiding in the running game. One of the keys for Gayday’s hitters is “being athletic.” To Gayday, swinging a bat requires attention to pitcher’s tendencies and the mental side. “We want them to stay back instead of trying to force their body to do something,” says Gayday. “We do not want them having a good approach and not being pull happy. “Instead of pulling, they can hit a curveball to right field and see what happens.” Gayday stresses a “prep step” for his infielders. “It’s a nice hop down into our legs so we can stay low,” says Gayday. “We want to set our feet and make a good throw. “Everyone is progressing the right way.” It also helps that the hops at Cougar Field are getting smoother. “We’ve put a lot of time in that field to make it better,” says Gayday. Saint Francis, a member of the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League, went 34-22 and stole 73 bases in 86 attempts. Keys to success include reading the pitcher’s delivery (slide step, leg kick etc.) and his pick-off move. “We want to put momentum into our steal,” says Gayday. “Being a half step quicker is what we’re looking for.” While its currently a period where athletes are away from the coaching staff, there can be communication through calls and social media. When the team comes back from break in early January, the Cougars will hit the ground running in preparation for the 2022 season opener Feb. 4 at Bethel (Tenn.) University. Besides coaching, Gayday runs the shipping and receiving department for McMahon Best-One Tire & Auto Care in Fort Wayne and answers directly to Pat “Bubba” McMahon, who is also head baseball coach at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne. Kristian lost both parents — Elmhurst graduates Johnny and Christine — in 2020. He has two older siblings — John Gayday and Natasha Nestleroad.
Matt Kinzer has an eye for baseball talent. The former Norwell High School (Ossian, Ind.) and Purdue University athlete who played in the majors and the National Football League was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he became an amateur scout in 1995 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Kinzer was responsible for assessing amateur players in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario and Quebec. After five years with Tampa Bay, Kinzer spent a decade as a baseball agent for Reynolds Sports Management, whose owner and CEO is Larry Reynolds (older brother of big league second baseman Harold Reynolds). “I was his recruiting coordinator for the whole country,” says Kinzer. “We hoped these amateurs are going to make the big leagues and get paid.” Among others, Kinzer got the Upton brothers — B.J. and Justin — to commit to the company. LaTroy Hawkins, a Gary, Ind., native who pitched in 1,042 games over 21 MLB seasons, was also a Kinzer client and later went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Dan Jennings (who had been with the Devil Rays) hired Kinzer as a pro scout for the Miami Marlins. Kinzer went to minor league games and an occasional major league contest to evaluate players and file reports for potential trade opportunities. The first year he scouted the entire Midwest League out of Fort Wayne. During his five years with the Marlins, he also did international scouting in the Dominican Republic. While Kinzer was still with the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves called for permission to interview him to scout on the major league side and take on special assignments. He talked with general manager John Coppolella and accepted the deal. “That gave me a seat at the big table,” says Kinzer, who worked with top executives including president John Hart and senior advisor John Schuerholz in giving opinions and developing a preferential list of who could be traded and who was hands-off in the Braves minor league system. “It took us a couple of years to turn that club around.” Kinzer also did advanced scouting to check out possible playoff opponents for Atlanta. He had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League. Because of COVID-19 and budgetary reasons, the Braves dismissed the entire major league scouting staff toward the end of the 2020 season. Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics (which were postponed from 2020 to 2021), Kinzer selected by his peers to sit on the committee that chose Team USA. They started with a big pool and narrowed it down to the final roster. “It was hard assignment because you could only get guys not on a 40-man roster or had get permission from a club for them to play,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to be part of the decision-making for our country.” When Kinzer joined the process, Joe Girardi was Team USA manager. When Girardi became Philadelphia Phillies manager the job was passed to Scott Brosius and it wound up with Mike Scioscia. “I got to listen to Joe Girardi on how he likes to design a team and I said to myself, ‘this is pretty cool,’” says Kinzer. “It was a very humbling experience. You put all those years into working the game of baseball and someone has recognized your ability to evaluate.” More recently, Kinzer has lent his appraisal skills as a consultant for Program 15 — a part of New Balance Future Stars baseball tournaments. He lives in Lakeland, Fla., and writes player reports on weekends. Kinzer is also a special events coordinator and fundraising director for Major League Fishing — a circuit that features the world’s top bass anglers. He is helping prepare for a charity fishing event featuring current and former major leaguers Nov. 19-21 in Guntersville, Ala. “I’ve spent three decades in the game professionally building trust with current and former guys and their second love is fishing,” says Kinzer. “I grew up on a pond and I liked fishing.” Participants have baseball and angling in common. “There’s a connection there,” says Kinzer. “They have a tight fraternity. They’re good old boys.” Kinzer played youth baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and graduated from Norwell in 1981. As a sophomore, it was discovered how well he did in booting a football and he led Indiana high schoolers in punting as a junior and senior. He went to Purdue on a full ride in football and also played baseball. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 1989 at age 25 and went on to pitch nine games for the 1989 Cardinals and 1990 Detroit Tigers. He punted seven times in his one NFL game with the Detroit Lions with a long of 42 yards in Week 5 of 1987 against the Green Bay Packers. Kinzer, 58, has three sons who all played baseball and graduated from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. Taylor Kinzer (33) was drafted twice as a right-handed pitcher — once at the end of his high school career in 2006 in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals and then out of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) in the 24th round in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels and competed three seasons in the minors. Derek Kinzer (31) was an outfielder for IHSAA Class 4A state runner Homestead in 2008, graduated in 2009 and also played at Taylor. Jordan Kinzer (29) played junior college baseball and now serves in the U.S. Navy. Matt Kinzer, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer, was head baseball coach at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 1993 and 1994 and a volunteer assistant coach at Taylor 2011-14 and got to work with Trojans head coach Kyle Gould and assistant and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson. ‘Kyle is one of the best non-Division I coaches around,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to share a bench with Coach A. “The game itself creates a fraternity and a bond that lasts forever.”
IHSBCA members may vote for up to four coaches and two players/contributors. Deadline for returning the ballot is Oct. 31. Inductees will be honored at the State Clinic Jan. 14-16 at Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Steve Strayer (Active) A graduate of Prairie Heights High School, Manchester College (bachelor’s degree) and Indiana University Northwest (masters degree), Strayer has been a head coach at Boone Grove and Crown Point (current) and has a record of 641-238 with 15 conference, 14 sectional and nine regional titles. He has coached 13 IHSBCA All-Stars, 64 future college players (23 NCAA Division I). He is a six-time District Coach of the Year (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2019). In 10 seasons at Boone Grove, Strayer won 223 games with seven Porter County championships. His Crown Point teams have won 418 in 19 seasons with numerous sectional regional crowns and eight Duneland Athletic Conference titles. He has been IHSBCA president and was a North All-Star coach in 2005 and 2021. Strayer teaches math at Crown Point High School. Steve and wife Jennifer live in Crown Point with daughter Charlotte.
Lea Selvey (Active) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey has spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 32 as head coach — and is 515-343 with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 42 years — nine at Woodlan and 33 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 615 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 ears and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Mark Grove (Retired) A graduate of Bluffton High School and Ball State University, Grove won 513 games, nine sectionals, four regionals and was a semistate runner-up in 1995 at Churubusco High School. His teams won nine Northeast Corner Conference championships (four tourney titles) and two Allen County Athletic Conference crowns. Grove coached 40 players who went on to college baseball and one MLB Draft selection. He has coached 25 All-Staters, six North All-Stars and twice coached the All-Stars. He was a District Coach of the Year several times. A longtime IHSBCA member, he has served on several committees (co-chaired “Baseball Strikes Out Kancer”) and is currently helping at the state clinic registration table. He is a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer and has mentored many coaches. He is a willing participant/organizer of clinics and youth baseball events.
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., 26, Carlton, 22, Cooper, 21, and Easton, 16).
Doug Greenlee (Retired) A graduate of South Putnam High School, Indiana State University (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (masters), Greenlee won 503 games in a 28-year span, including 25 at Kankakee Valley High School with three sectionals, two regionals and seven conference championships. He was the 2013 IHSBCA North All-Star head coach and coached nine All-Stars and numerous future collegiate players. His Kankakee Valley teams were ranked No. 1 on three occasions. Greenlee has served on several IHSBCA committees and been an athletic director of 16 years at four different schools. He officiated baseball for more than 25 years and worked four State Finals.
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 400-142 in 19 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 10 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 22, Dresden, 20, and Jantzen, 17). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Jamey Carroll (Retired) A graduate of Castle High School (1992) and the University of Evansville (1996), Carroll played for Dave Sensenbrenner in high school and Jim Brownlee in college. He was an All-American in 1996 and Caroll’s name is in the UE record book 27 times. Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 14th round, he went on to a 12-year big league career with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Carroll posted a 16.6 WAR WITH 1,000 hits, 13 homers, a .272 average, 580 runs, 265 RBIs, 74 stolen bases, .349 on-base percentage and .687 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 2006 and plated Matt Hollday with a sacrifice fly in a 2007 NL Wild Card Game. Jamey and wife Kim have 11-year-old twins (Cole and Mackenzie). He works in the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.
Players/Contributors Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college in January to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Pardon the pun, but Brayden Risedorph is on the rise on the national baseball showcase scene. A fireballing right-handed pitcher from Kendallville, Ind., Risedorph took part Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Baseball Factory All-America Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. The event featured 40 invitees from around the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Taking the mound for the National team in the eighth inning, Risedorph produced a 1-2-3 frame with two groundouts sandwiched around a strikeout. On Aug. 2-5, Risedorph was a part of the East Coast Pro in Hoover, Ala. He was assigned to the Reds for that showcase. Risedorph, who is in the East Noble High School Class of 2022, was at the invitation-only Prep Baseball Report Pro-Case Midwest July 6 at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., where his fastball was clocked at 95 mph and sat at 93 to 95 during his simulated inning. This fall, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is playing for the Cincinnati Reds Scout Team with tournaments in central Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin and the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship slated for Oct. 7-11 in Jupiter, Fla. Risedorph drew some notice before, but really began turning heads in recent months. “I was always pretty decent, but this summer is where I took my biggest step,” says Risedorph, 18. “I just kept making a lot of little jumps and kept getting invited to bigger and bigger things.” After one of the games of the East Coast Pro, Risedorph was approached by Ben Simon, an advisor/agent based in the Cleveland suburb of Moreland Hills, Ohio. Knowing the reputation of developing pitchers by head coach Jon Goebel, Risedorph committed last fall to play at National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., beginning in 2022-23, but has been getting interest from larger schools. Risedorph is a two-way player at East Noble, manning one of the infield corners when not pitching. In 2021, he hit .329 (24-of-73) five home runs, one triple, six doubles, 25 runs batted in and 19 runs scored in 26 games for Knights head coach Aaron Desmonds. In eight mound appearances, Risedorph was 3-3 with 2.00 earned run average, 60 strikeouts and 18 walks in 35 innings. As a pitcher-only with 5 Star Midwest National. Risedorph went to PBR tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and LakePoint Baseball Complex in Emerson, Ga., and racked up five shutouts. Throwing from a low three-quarter overhand arm slot, which gives him much natural run, Risedorph throws a four-seam fastball which has maxed out at 96 mph. He also uses a slider, change-up and, sometimes, a curve or splitter. “It goes straight left with a lot of horizontal break,” says Risedorph of his slider. “It ooks like a fastball then at the last second it dives to the left.” It’s a “circle” change that Risedorph throws when taking something off his hard stuff. His curve is of the “11-to-5” variety. He uses his middle and index fingers and throws his splitter like his fastball and it dives at the plate. Born and raised in Kendallville, Brayden is the youngest of Randy and Iolet Risedorph’s four sons, behind A.J., Ryan and Eric. Former Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne pitcher A.J. Risedorph is the head baseball coach, assistant boys basketball coach and dean of athletics at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind.
It’s a team-first concept that Connor Wilkins is emphasizing as the new head baseball coach at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Ind. In June, Wilkins took over the Titans program started by Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Lance Hershberger. “Be a selfless player and put your team ahead yourself,” says Wilkins, who turns 29 in October. “It’s a team approach. It’s never individual goals. Are you willing to do what is necessary for your team to succeed even if you fail?” Wilkins has this in mind when looking for players to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II program. “We are very strict about how we recruit,” says Wilkins. “We see how they interact with their parents and their teammates. We coach the entire person. The results on the ball field take care of themselves.” With games and practices at Shoaff Park, Ivy Tech is currently engaged in fall ball. They have had six scrimmages and could wind up having as many as 28 — most of them on the road at such four-year schools as the University of Northwestern Ohio, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University. The Titans went 1-0-1 in the recent Puma JUCO Classic — a Prep Baseball Report showcase at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. There are nearly 40 players honing fundamentals and getting down the details of Ivy Tech’s offensive and defensive systems. “We start working on things now so that come spring time their mechanics and bodies are locked in,” says Wilkins, who is working toward a Masters in Exercise Science and Wellness with a concentration in Fitness and Performance through Liberty University. Wilkins’ assistant coaches are Scott Bickel, Drew Buffenbarger, Javier DeJesus and Mark Flueckiger. Buffenbarger was Ivy Tech’s first baseball captain. DeJesus, who played for the Fort Wayne Wizards, is the Titans pitching coach. Flueckiger, who played at Huntington College (now Huntington University), has high school and college coaching experience. A 2011 graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School, catcher Wilkins played for Steve Kleinschmidt as Cadets freshman and his last three seasons for Hershberger. Wilkins went to Rick Smith-coached NJCAA member Jackson (Mich.) College then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, where an L5 (fifth Lumbar Vertabra) injury on top of a preexisting back issue ended his playing days in the fall of 2013. His original career path was to follow grandfather Harry Wallace’s footsteps and become a chiropractor before he got the teaching and coaching bug. Wallace (who died in 2006) practiced for 60 years around Ligonier and Fort Wayne. Wilkins transferred from Indiana Tech to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and changed his major to Secondary Education through Indiana University. In the spring of 2014, he was on the baseball staff of Fort Wayne Northrop High School head coach Matt Brumbaugh. Before becoming head coach and an advisor at Ivy Tech, Wilkinson spent three years at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, where he taught History, Health Sciences and Strength & Conditioning. Connor is the youngest of Dan and Beth Wilkins’ four children after Danielle Molter (36), Matthew Wilkins (34) and Brianna Kompara (32). Dan Wilkins is a retired IT specialist at GTE (now Verizon) and Beth Wilkins is in customer service at Parkview Hospital Randallia. Connor and wife Alana will celebrate three years of marriage in October. Alana Wilkins is a Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School graduate and an insurance underwriter. The couple have a daughter — Rey (2).
Just at the varsity level, there are four players whose fathers played for Lehrman at Heritage. There are seniors Cody David (son of Chad) and Clay Gerardot (son of Matt) and sophomores Jackson Bearman (son of Wade) and Austin Buuck (son of Greg).
The 2021 season is Lehrman’s 43rd season as a head baseball coach — 34th at Heritage after nine at Woodlan.
At present, the 1973 Heritage graduate has 632 career wins. The ’21 Patriots are off to a 17-2 start.
“I got in this business because I love baseball and it’s a kids game,” says Lehrman, 66. “I wanted to pass that on to my sons and everybody in the neighborhood’s sons.”
The Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Bellmont (the 2021 host), Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Heritage has won nine sectionals (the last in 2015), three regionals and one semistate — all but a 1976 sectional crown on Lehrman’s watch.
“A bunch of blue-collar, hard-nosed, out-work-you kids” with no superstars earned a state runner-up finish in 2007 (losing to South Spencer in the 2A title game).
Lehrman’s Heritage teams have won numerous conference titles and he has often been chosen ACAC Coach of the Year. He has twice been Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District Coach of the Year and was on the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series coaching staff two times.
“In my mind we are still a 2A school although we’ve officially been 3A for several years,” says Lehrman. “It’s a numbers thing.”
Lehrman does not favor athletic specialization and embraces the idea of the multi-sport athlete. He enjoys a sense of cooperation between himself and fellow head coaches Casey Kolkman in football and Adam Gray with basketball and the sharing of athletes.
“I want my kids to be involved in as many sports as they can,” says Lehrman. “It seems that more and more they get funneled into one thing 365/24-7. That’s not good for kid. You get more kids getting burned out that way.
“We’re not pulling kids in different directions and telling them you’ve got to do this in the summer or you can’t play. I’m a firm believer that a kid has to be a kid. He’s got to be free to choose.
“He should be able to play football, basketball and baseball or whatever combination of sports you want to throw in there.”
Janice Lehrman has been a coach’s wife for all these decades.
“I can’t count how many uniforms she’s sewn back together and she still does it,” says Dean. “She just did it for a JV kid.”
Dean and wife Janice, who live in the country near Hoagland, have three children — Camryn, Derek and Ryne.
Camyn Klocinski is a social studies teacher at Summerfield Junior-Senior High School in Petersburg, Mich. She has traveled the world and is an expert on World War II.
Derek Lehrman is married with three children. He played football and baseball at Heritage (and was one of several IHSBCA all-stars coached by his father) and baseball at Eastern Michigan University and in the Detroit Tigers system.
He is now the Patriots hitting coach and serves on a staff with pitching coach Scott Lewis, a former left-handed pitcher from Van Wert, Ohio. Junior varsity coaches for 2021 are Heritage alums Jeremy Hullinger, Nick Bosler and Matt Saylor.
Ryne Lehrman (who gets his first name from Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg) played football and baseball at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. He and his wife are traveling physical therapists and have one child.
Youth leagues in Monroeville and Hoagland as well as the Harding and New Haven areas feed into Heritage.
A 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Lehrman used his mechanics, wrist and forearm to generate velocity as a pitcher. His boyhood idol was Nolan Ryan.
As a coach, Lehrman encourages his pitchers to change speeds and the eye levels of batters.
“No matter how hard you throw if that’s all you do, they’re going to catch up to you,” says Lehrman. “Kids today are trained on pitching machine and you can se the machine to throw 90 or 95 (mph) and they can work on that — boom, boom, boom.
“To me, the change-up is the next-best pitch behind the fastball.”
Among the pitchers to come through Heritage are Andrew Saalfrank, a left-hander who hurled for Indiana University and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Branson Dossen, son of former pro Jarrod Dossen, played baseball at Heritage then Indiana Tech. The younger Dossen was a standout quarterback for the Patriots.
The IHSAA has been observing 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) since 2017. Lehrman has been tracking numbers for 43 years.
“We’re never going to hurt a kid,” says Lehrman. “I keep them in by book. At the end of the inning, I can tell you how many pitches he threw and what his first-pitch strike percentage was.”
Lehrman’s father — Donald — ran his scorebook for three decades and Dean now keeps it while his assistants coach the bases.
A teacher of mathematics after college, Lehrman retired from the classroom in June 2020.
“I was very blessed there because I had calculus and trigonometry,” says Lehrman. “I had good kids that wanted to be there and wanted to learn.
“That’s a huge reason I stayed in it for 43 years.”
He was coaxed back by alum Kolkman, who heads into his second season as Heritage head football coach in the fall.
“Casey was an eighth grader when I first started teaching here,” says Lehrman. “He asked me to help out. I said I’ll do it on one condition. I’m strictly a volunteer and as long as I’m having fun I’ll stick around and do anything you ask.
“Casey has turned the program completely around. Look for big things out of our football team the next couple of years.”
Heritage baseball’s full week began Tuesday, May 11 with a win against Bluffton. The Patriots are slated to visit Van Wert Wednesday, Jay County Thursday and Manchester Friday with a rare Saturday off.
There’s a place to get better at baseball and softball in Elkhart, Ind.
Opened in June 2020 and located in an eastside industrial park at 4411 Wyland Drive, the 22,000-square foot facility at D-Bat Elkhart has been attracting families, individuals and teams to train.
Owners are Shelbi and Jason Baugh and Eric Miller. Shelby and Eric are siblings.
Kaitlyn Frost became general manager in February and is in charge of daily operations. Most days she is at the front desk.
A 2008 graduate of Lakeland High School in LaGrange, Ind., Frost played three seasons at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne before serving as an assistant coach at Westview High School in Topeka, Ind., and has been a coach and director of softball for the Michiana Lady Scrappers travel organization.
The training space, which includes batting cages and areas for pitchers and full teams, has been named Francis and Nancy Taylor Fieldhouse to honor Shelbi and Eric’s grandparents.
The Baughs experienced D-Bat locations when they lived in California.
D-Bat baseball and softball academies began in Dallas in 1998 and now has around 120 franchises in the U.S. and China with about 20 more in the works. D-Bat Elkhart franchise is the company’s old one in Indiana so far.
Frost says owners have been discussing the possibility to installing a playing field — or at least a training area — next to the D-Bat Elkhart building, which also includes a room for birthday parties and other celebrations.
D-Bat Elkhart purchased the naming rights to the new turfed baseball and softball fields at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind.
Current D-Bat Elkhart instructors are Donnie Weatherholt, Jesse Zepeda, Judah Zickafoose for baseball and Heather Erlacher for softball.
Weatherholt was an all-state player at Concord High School in Elkhart and has coached extensively at the Little League, Babe Ruth and travel levels.
Zepeda was a standout at Elkhart Central High School (he was a junior starter on the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state champions) and Bethel College (now Bethel University). He is on the Bethel coaching staff and is the founder of the Indiana Black Caps travel organization.
Zickafoose played at Westview High, Arizona Western College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Erlacher played at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and Franklin (Ind). College. She has served as pitching coach at Elkhart Central and with the Elkhart Blaze travel team.
Frost says she is looking for more instructors.
“The biggest perk for our instructors is that we make the schedules and deal with the clients,” says Frost. “They don’t have to chase the money.”
Sam Troyer, who played baseball at Northridge and at the University of Evansville, has been working part-time and training at D-Bat Elkhart before resuming his professional career with the independent Pioneer League’s Missoula (Mont.) PaddleHeads. That team also features South Bend Clay graduate and former San Francisco Giants minor leaguer Aaron Bond.
Current hours for D-Bat Elkhart is noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Frost says the facility may open at 10 a.m. weekdays when school lets out for the summer.
“What sets us apart is that we don’t require memberships (though there are nearly 300 current members),” says Frost. “We have non-member pricing.
“Memberships are good if you can come often.”
Memberships are month to month and can be suspended and resumed.
A $38-per-month Gold package includes 15 daily batting cage tokens (about 225 pitches) with discounts on camps, clinics and the pro shop for one person.
A $58-per-month Platinum membership includes unlimited daily swings and covers the whole family. There are bigger discounts for camps and clinics etc.
Non-members may purchase 15 tokens for $25.
Free 30-minute cage rental is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
As a company policy, D-Bat does not sponsors teams in youth or adult leagues or for travel ball.
“We’re open to all travel, high school, college and Little League (teams and players),” says Frost. Fast pitch and slow pitch softball players also train at D-Bat Elkhart.
Frost has been spreading the word about D-Bat Elkhart on social media and has reached out to nearby Riverview Park, where softball and youth baseball teams hold events.
To reach D-Bat Elkhart, call 574-500-DBAT (3228) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flemm is an alum of Veritas Christian Academy in Sparta, N.J., where he pitched for the Lions baseball team and graduated in 2015. He finished his course work at Cedarville (Ohio) University as a History major and double minor in International Studies and Bible in December and is planning to attend May 1 commencement.
He was contacted by former Veritas Christian administrator and current Elkhart Christian secondary principal Sean Bevier who informed him of the baseball coach opening. Flemm was working with the Sussex County Miners Travel Baseball 13U team. Besides coaching, he is substitute and study hall teacher at ECA.
Baker and Flemm, who are assisted by former Elkhart Christian players Mark Stevens and T.J. Tice, guide a group of 12 players that includes one senior (Matt Elmerick), no juniors and the rest sophomores and freshmen.
Some have played travel ball. Others have little baseball experience.
“It sounds cliche’, but we’re working on getting better each day,” says Baker. “We want them listening to what we tell them and trying to apply it on the field.”
Three — Elmerick and sophomores Jude Reynolds and Luke Schramm — split their time between baseball and the Eagles track and field team coached by Allen Lollis. With the help of athletic director Richelle Viront, game and practice schedules are coordinated to accommodate both spring programs.
Elkhart Christian Academy (enrollment around 160) is a member of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with IHSAA Class 1A schools Argos, Bethany Christian, Lakeland Christian Academy, South Bend Career Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Only ECA, Argos, Bethany have baseball teams this spring.
“We play a lot of these really big school,” says Flemm. “That’s going to set us up for success in the conference and a state tournament time.”
The Eagles are trying to develop pitchers and catchers on the fly. Many will get a turn on the mound.
“Everybody’s a pitcher until we figure out that’s not your forte’,” says Baker.
Something that was ingrained during Flemm’s travel and high school pitching career was the importance of control.
“Throwing strikes is the only way you’re going to succeed,” says Flemm. “Our second game (against LaVille) we had more strikes and that was awesome to see.
“It’ll just take a lot of refinement and more experience for the guys on the bump.”
Baker looks for ECA pitchers to develop a fastball and change-up and be able to hit their spots with it.
Flemm is upbeat about the future.
“We see a lot of potential,” says Flemm. “It’s been a blessing working with this group of guys.
“I’m excited for what’s coming and how we can develop these guys even more.”
As a private K-12 school, ECA does not always know who will be attending from year to year.
Flemm says there has been talk of starting a junior high baseball program. He has noticed interest in the game among students in those grades.
“It’s something, hopefully, Coach Baker and I can start.” says Flemm, who notes that he and Baker will lead a youth baseball camp ECA in early June. “We’ll get a chance to see what kind of talent we have coming in.”
The Elkhart Christian campus is located in an open area behind the school and next to the U.S. 20 By-Pass. A breeze seemingly never stops.
“We’re almost in a wind tunnel,” says Baker. “It can be difficult to hear (talk between players and coaches and players and other players).
“We need to work on communication and use our big-boy voices so people can hear.”
Turner played at Anderson High School, where he graduated in 2005, then two seasons at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill., before transferring to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He played one season (2009) on the field with the Warriors before an injury and spent eligibility put an end to the middle infielder’s playing career.
“I’m not going to lie, I cried,” says Turner. “It hurt.”
But the next day Indiana Tech head coach Kip McWilliams asked Turner to join the coaching staff. He’s been there ever since. The 2021 season is his 11th. It’s Williams’ 14th leading the Warriors program.
“Once you’re done playing, you can always spread the knowledge of the game to somebody else and make them better,” says Turner — aka GT. “I’ve got the privilege to be a college coach. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
“I’m not going to take it for granted.”
Turner calls McWilliams the “heart and soul” of the Indiana Tech program and somebody who is always learning something new about baseball and passing it along.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Mac,” says Turner. “He has changed the culture. He looks into (recruiting) high-character guys who are coachable. He’s done a great job over the years.
“It’s nothing but positivity. It’s a great environment. He’s got his standards and he holds his players and coaches to them.”
Indiana Tech has varsity and developmental players and the NAIA program typically carries a large roster that has counted as many as 65 players.
Turner is the head reserve coach and leads that team in games against NAIA, NCAA and NJCAA competition.
But while some might be varsity and other junior varsity, all Tech players are on equal footing.
“We try to keep our guys involved,” say Turner. “Our developmental guys practicing with varsity. We keep them on the same page. We don’t want anybody to lose focus.
“It’s like family. You don’t want to leave nobody out.”
Turner notes that 2016 first-team NAIA All-American Brian Hakes started out on the developmental roster.
Tech has begun its 2021 season. A typical week at this time of the year means taking Monday off if the Warriors are coming off a weekend series. This gives players a chance to rest and to catch up with their studies.
There are sometimes mid-week games with practices to fix flaws and stay sharp.
“We try to get outside as much as possible,” says Turner. “Sometimes we use the turf soccer field and field fly balls and ground balls and do PFP (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice).
“We work on anything (the coaching staff says) we need to work on.”
There’s also in-seaon weight lifting to maintain strength.
“It’s a grind for 55 games as a northern team,” says Turner.
In the off-season, Turner has worked at camps both at Tech and other places.
He is also a substitute teacher in Fort Wayne Community Schools. This year, was at Lakeside Middle School, where cousin Alan Jones (who played basketball at Muncie Central High School and Taylor University and earned his masters degree at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne) is the principal.
Turner, who received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana Tech in 2012, has taught multiple subjects, but favorite is social studies.
“There’s something about geography,” says Turner. “Show me a place and I’ll show you 10 different ways to get there.”
Turner has also helped Tech players in graduate school to get substitute teaching jobs.
Terry Turner, who has won two IHSAA state titles at Daleville (2016 and 2018), was the Anderson head coach when GT played for the AHS Indians.
“T-Squared — that’s what we call him — was very laid-back,” says Gordon Turner. “If he saw senior had leadership and were taking control of the team, he let it happen. He let us play our game.”
That doesn’t mean the veteran coach did not have control.
“He was holding guys accountable,” says Turner. “If you show up, he’s going to let you know.”
Turner played with some talented players at AHS. In his class was Michael Lucas (who went on to Lincoln Trail College and Ball State University) and Zane Sparks (who played at Kishwaukee and is now with the Anderson Police Department). A year ahead of Turner and his classmates was Brandon Meadows (who played at Anderson University).
Michael Earley, a Class of 2007 graduate, went on to play at Indiana University and in pro ball is now on the coaching staff at Arizona State University.
Turner played at Kishwaukee for Josh Pethoud (now an assistant at Northern Illinois University).
“You really had to be tough to play for him,” says Turner. He had a lot of passion for the game and he knew how to accelerate guys’ games.
“He was very intense, Off the field, he’d give you the shirt off his back. I had a very good relationship with that guy.”
Turner values relationships.
“There’s trust in knowing someone has your back at all times,” says Turner. “There’s someone to help you out during struggles.”
Since he was 15, Turner has occupied parts of his summer playing fast pitch softball. In recent years, he’s been with Anderson-based Diamond In The Rough.
Two nephews have excelled in sports. Lawrence North High School graduate Harold Jones is on the football team at Ball State. LN senior Anthony Hughes is a two-time IHSAA Wrestling State Finals qualifier.
Turner lives in Fort Wayne with girlfriend Shelby Knepper. Together, they have a daughter — Aria Grace Knepper-Turner (2).
Tuesday, March 2 would have been Charles Turner’s 67th birthday. Gordon’s father died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 16, 2018 — about a month before his daughter was born.
“Before he passed away he told me that he was proud of me,” says Gordon. “I’m trying to be a better man as every day comes.”